So the Hornets traded Tyson Chandler today.
That may seem like a lame way to begin this, but really, it’s something I had to do. ‘Cause every time someone says it or types it, I’m still getting this little jolt, like, “Wait, what? Tyson isn’t on our team?” I guarantee you that when I go back up the the top to proofread this post, I’ll think, “Wait, what? Tyson was traded?” despite having written about it for however many paragraphs. And it’s because of that jolt that I have to type it out.
mW said I should talk about the bullshit the Hornets organization has tried to put past us, the emails we’ve received from the official Hornets mailing list that claim this move was made to “add more size” (From 7-1 to 6-10 is more size now? I guess I should claim to be 5’9 then, while we’re at it, if that’s the way math works in this strange Hornets PR twilight zone) and “more rebounding” (so Tyson was having a down year– neither Smith nor Wilcox can equal his rebounds). Do I wish they would just be honest and say it was about cutting salary? Yes. Do I think sending out these B.S. emails and making Bob and Gil be falsely and gratingly cheerful on the broadcast is akin to treating fans like they think we’re stupid? Of course.
But you know, I’m not going to talk about that. Partly because I don’t have the energy. But mostly because there’s a guy out there who doesn’t deserve that junk mingled into a post that should rightly be about him.
I know many of you have either read the About section of this blog, or heard my story of how I became a basketball fan. Then you’ll have a little perspective on where I’m coming from. Because, man, I honestly can’t tell you when I last felt this betrayed by a team. I mean, this is probably going back to when Dominik Hasek screwed over the Buffalo Sabres in 2001, so we are talking eight years without major sports hurt for me. I think what stings the worst for me is we all imagined that CP-DWest-Tyson was the nucleus, the young guys you build around. Of the starting lineup, Peja seemed like the one who gets supplanted in a year or two for youth, perhaps by Julian Wright. And– this is the crux of the thing– if I thought that, if most of us thought that, what did Chris Paul think, when he signed that three year extension last summer?
Photo by Matt aka Storm Surge Photography
I don’t know.
I know I thought this was a guy who was gonna be with us a while. But I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about those early days, back in the beginning of last season when New Orleans Arena was sparsely dotted with 8,000 fans, back before no one believed. I didn’t really want to be there. mW bought the tickets for me, and I felt sort of like I was being dragged to games every other day. I had never thought much of the NBA. It wasn’t the stereotypes for me so much as that the game itself seemed trite. Growing up in hockey rinks, where a goal meant leaping-out-of-your-seat everything, how could I think much of a game where you could score 100 points and shrug them off as nothing? I thought it would bore me, and for about a month and a half, it did.
But then something subtly changed. I think it was shortly after mW bought a Peja Stojakovic jersey. He said I should get one too, and we could match. And logically, it made excellent sense, seeing as Peja and I share a similar former-Yugoslavian heritage. Except I told him I didn’t want one. Because I’d decided that Tyson Chandler was my favorite Hornet. Maybe it was the hops, maybe it was the aura of good-natured goofiness around him. Maybe it was the energy he brought to games. And who can forget his hilarious blog posts? And Jannero Pargo dubbing him the Ceiling Fan Repair Man?
I’m going to talk about my best Tyson moment. It was last year, in the game at Golden State. TC had 22 points and 22 rebounds, and the Hornets won 116 to 104, but the highlight was this one dunk. He caught the alley oop from CP, threw it down, and then turned to the crowd and absolutely growled and swaggered. He just had this monster crazy staredown for everyone around there. Man, we were out of our seats.
Which reminds me: we need to pause and have a moment of silence for the Crescent City Connection. (For those of you not in the know, that was the infamous Chris Paul-to-Tyson Chandler alley oop combo, nicknamed after a local bridge.) You would have thought the roof was going to come off the building when TC caught one and threw it down… which he did, over 100 times last season, the most in the league. For a big guy, Tyson could run with the best of them, and he and CP just seemed to have an sixth sense for knowing where the other guy was on the floor.
He could fire up a crowd. He knew how to. He liked doing it.
You can tell me I should know it’s a business. And I do. I haven’t watched the NBA, but I’ve watched sports long enough to know that. Like AI said it was practice, it’s sure enough a business. Business, man. We talkin about business. Business. I know that. I do.
But in the end, he was my favorite guy on the team.
And I do not believe in this whole newfangled “liberated fandom” trend. I don’t. And don’t accuse me of not being deep. I majored in philosophy, OK? I get what Free Darko is saying, and I get the levels on which they’re saying it. But I’ve largely come to the conclusion that it’s not for me and will never will be. Because I don’t understand how you can go to each and every game and not get attached, and not form opinions of players– more than players, really, people— based on what you see. And not then take those opinions and merge them into some messy whole, tied together in your head, just those guys and you and a basketball court and a small glowing screen. And so, OK, maybe we’re lucky as Hornets fans, because we can have our likable lightning and chaos combined with our intense partisanship– after all, not everyone has a CP. We can have our flash and our alley oop and go home feeling like what we saw was somehow more than the money, than commercialism, than marketing. We can push down the guilt. Or we could. Until something like today happens, and it’s there, exposed, like how it would feel to momentarily glimpse the timbers that hold up your house and realize they’re rotted through. And then the floor stops being see-through, and another great play happens, and suddenly we’ll find ourselves distracted once more.
But the trend is objective, objective, objective. Feel free to enjoy the game as art, but actually caring about it is passe. Well, I care about it. And I’m not a journalist. I’m not a theorist. I’m a fan, and that’s the philosophy on which I started this blog. Let everyone else break down the facts. We’re going to react. And you know, what is wrong with that? What, are we living in an age where we’re too cool or too numb to feel? Or wait, even better, you’re going to tell me I feel more open to reacting to things because I’m a girl? Bullshit.
Basketball is something we watch. And if we watch enough, we start to feel a sense of ownership. “Our” team. “We” won tonight. And we start to project things onto it that may not be entirely realistic. So then it’s this massive startling jolt when something business-y gets done.
Like my favorite Hornet player getting traded today.
And you can say it was just the beginning for me as an NBA fan. You can say I’ll have other favorite players.
But he was the first.
And I guess, for that, I want to say thanks. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your humor. Thank you for representing our city. Thank you for wearing New Orleans on your shirt, if only for a couple of years.
Good luck, big man. I hope you make your All Star game one day… ’cause I’ll miss you.