California’s nick name is the “Golden State”. It dates back to the famous Gold Rush in 1848. But if you enter the phrase “Golden State” into any search engine, you are likely to come up with references to the Golden State Warriors. For those of you who are not in the know, the Warriors, as the locals call them, have won the National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship in 2015, and were off to a fantastic start in the 2015-2016 season.

Reading the local press, and judging from the comments made by some of my California friends, the Warriors winning streak has been a source of pride and joy for many. But like Rhet Butler told Scarlett O’Hara in the epic ‘Gone with the Wind’ movie  – “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

The first NBA basketball game I ever watched in person was a Warriors game. It was in 1991. I came to California for a job interview, and Golden-State-Warriorsfriend, who also helped me with my job search, told me his boss has extra
tickets to a Warriors game.  The three of us drove to the Oakland Coliseum and watched the game. The game wasn’t very exciting for me, and I don’t remember what the score was. But I do remember the huge parking trouble I got into after the game.

I had a rental car, a silver Toyota Corolla, which I parked outside the stadium.  The parking area around the stadium is shaped like an enormous oval. Foolishly, I didn’t jot down the exact location where I parked the car. When the game was over, I found myself circling the stadium over and over again, looking for a silver Toyota, likely the most common car model at the time in California. It wasn’t until an hour and a half after the game was over that I finally found the car. It was among the very few vehicles that were still standing at the parking lot after most of the fans left.

No, that parking incident is not why I don’t overly rejoice in the Warriors recent success. After we moved to California I attended a couple of other Warriors games. I learned my parking lessons and always made sure I took note of where I parked the care. But frankly, I found myself almost as bored with the games as I was the first time.

During most of the time I lived in California, the Warriors were the laughing stock of the league. They hardly ever made it to the NBA Playoffs, which pit the best 16 team in the league against each other in a “best of 7” game series. The Warriors just weren’t good enough. However, their fortunes started to shift towards the end of my California adventure. This was also the time when the team leading duo – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – became known as the “Splash Brothers” for their amazing 3-point shots.

It was quite an amazing turnaround. A team that was scratching the bottom of the league started to improve its record steadily. And as its roster matured, it captured the NBA title with a splash. I am sure there were many factors involved in the Warriors resurrection. It takes a solid management, excellent coach and a talented and hard working team of players.

But just as I didn’t root for the Warriors when they were the underdogs, I don’t root for them as champions. I do like watching basketball games every once in a while, and I loved watching Michael Jordan play – it felt like watching an artist perform. But I don’t quite get the sense of “local patriotism” when it comes to a sports team, especially a professional one.

I didn’t check the records of all the players on the team, but I am guessing few of them are native to the San Francisco Bay Area. Stephen Curry, the Warriors star, was born in Ohio and grew up in North Carolina. His ‘Splash Brother’, Klay Thompson, was born in Southern California, moved to Oregon, and then back to Southern California – far from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Golden State Warriors are hardly a “California team”, let alone a San Francisco Bay Area team.

I can understand why some people become avid fans of a specific sports team. Identifying with a team helps one experience elation when it wins, and despair when it loses. Just as with rollercoasters, there is a thrill that comes with the ride.  But at the time when teams are made of players that come from all over the country, or even the world, why would anyone bother to identify with a team that happens to be located in his area of residence? If I live in California, and the Golden State Warriors win, how does that reflect on me and my neighborhood personally? Beats me…

I must confess that at the time I considered myself a fan of Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team. Their first ever European basketball championship in 1977 was a real celebration. It meant that Israel has finally achieved recognition within a major European sports event. Maccabi’s then captain, Tal Brody summarized it all: “We are on the Map!”; I, along with most Israelis, felt enormous pride and joy that day.

But since then I have come to realize that Maccabi Tel Aviv isn’t really a “local team”. Its roster includes many players from abroad; mostly Americans, but occasionally also Europeans. And even some of its supposedly “native players” grew up outside Tel Aviv and played for other teams before being recruited by Maccabi Tel Aviv. So much for “local patriotism”.

Sports teams have become global – they aggressively recruit players from anywhere in the world. It therefore makes sense for sports fans to follow their lead and become global too. The fact that someone lives in the San Francisco Bay Area shouldn’t make him or her a Warriors’ fan by default. They should survey the world and pick a sports team they personally like. The important criteria would include players’ ability, management proficiency and team character; Locality is no longer a key factor.

But what about the joy of actually attending a game you ask? I just shiver when I think of the hassle of driving, finding a parking spot, standing in line and experiencing an over-crowded stadium… You can actually see more of the game sitting at the comfort of your living room, especially as TVs displays become bigger, sharper and more realistic. And if it is the company of other fans you seek – simply go to a bar in your neighborhood where other team fans gather.

Finally, with the enormous progress made in social networks and virtual reality, you will soon be able to stand “shoulder to [virtual] shoulder” with your comrades, watching a real game being played somewhere in the world, from the comfort of your Smartphone. The world is truly becoming a Global Sports Village…

 

 

 

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