This will be the last time until the All-Star break when there is more than one day between Sixer games, so here is something to think about until then. It's been interesting to observe the comments on the blog so far in this young season, because the Sixers have been led by stellar performances from two of their more unpopular players (Hawes and Lou) and their most polarizing player (Iguodala), while three of their more popular players (Jrue, Thad, Turner) have struggled at times. So we've seen, from opposite ends of the spectrum, both reluctant praise (e.g., for Hawes) and reluctant criticism (e.g., for Jrue). This got me to thinking about the nature of rooting for athletes and teams.
Most of us who comment regularly on the blog root for the Sixers as our favorite NBA team. There are different reasons why a particular team might become our favorite: it's closest geographically to where we live, it's the most successful in the season we first noticed the sport, it's the team our favorite player plays for. And then that team stays our favorite either out of habit or because it connects us in a visceral way to our youth.
We also root to varying degrees for the players on the Sixers. Sometimes, for favorite players, we root for them even when they are no longer Sixers. If I examine my own rooting tendencies, I'll always root for the Sixers to do well, but I'm actually just as loyal to my favorite Sixers. I was sad when Cheeks, Barkley, and Hawkins were traded and continued to root for them on their new teams. It will be the same way for me if Iguodala gets traded. And I'm constantly surprised on the blog when most commenters want the team
to succeed and don't really care which players get them there. This isn't to say one way is better than the other; it's just that the concept of rooting for a team independent of its players is difficult for me to grasp. I've always been partial to players who get drafted by my favorite team (whether Sixers, Eagles, or Phillies) and come into their own, becoming solid players (or better) with that team. Even if a certain player's style isn't entirely to my liking, longevity breeds a certain degree of loyalty (Lou Williams is a good example for me -- can you believe this is his 7th year with the Sixers?).
Anyhow, I was thinking that there are approximately four different categories that we can use to classify our rooting interest in different players. I'll assign letter grades to the categories, along with descriptions of the categories, and then give my "rooting grades" to the current Sixers.
- A ("Favorite"): I enjoy when he succeeds, am sad when he fails, will notice his good points over his bad points, will defend his play against critics, will criticize him reluctantly, would be sad if he is traded
- B ("Liked"): I enjoy when he succeeds, am disappointed when he fails, will notice his good points more than his bad points, will praise his play more than criticize it, would be disappointed if he is traded
- C ("Accepted"): I acknowledge when he succeeds, am annoyed when he fails, will notice his good and bad points equally, will praise and criticize his play equally, would be indifferent if he is traded
- D ("Disliked"): I grudgingly accept when he succeeds, become angry when he fails, will notice his bad points more than his good points, will criticize his play more than praise it, would be glad if he is traded
Among current Sixers, my "rooting grades" are as follows: Iguodala A, Thad B+, Jrue B, Turner B, Lou B, Meeks B-, Brand C+, Hawes C (rising from C-/D+), Speights C-, Nocioni C-, others all C. I don't remember any true D's among recent Sixers, but I know that Antoine Walker would have been in that category had he been traded to the Sixers as rumored around 2004.
So, if you've read this far, I'm interested to know your thoughts on the following:
- Why did you start rooting for the Sixers? Why are you still rooting for them (if you can articulate an actual reason)?
- Do you root for the Sixers independent of who is playing on the team? For example, if the Sixers switched rosters with the Heat right now, would you gain enjoyment from their title run?
- What are your "rooting grades" for the current Sixers. If you gave out any A's, would you say that you root for that player unconditionally?
- Are there any Sixers that you dislike so much that he can't "win you over" no matter how well he plays?
Since this post has been stat-less thus far, I'll leave you with one stat to end: after this week, the Sixers play five consecutive weeks on M-W-F-Sat, though there is an additional game on Tuesday 1/10 (meaning a back-to-back-to-back next week). Thus, this will be the last time for a while that there won't be a game to discuss on a Tuesday ...