This is how Sacramento Kings games play out at my humble abode: My tissues by my side for the coming tears. My dog slinking away into his safe corner. My mother using terms like “spontaneously de-combust” and “was that the Cuz?” in order to describe the on-the-court happenings in real time. My dad is nowhere to be seen, not wanting to see a debacle like this. He is safe. The rest of us, unfortunately, are not. Our 4-13 Kings are playing again...Aw-oh.
This particular game against the Dallas Mavericks starts as I plop down with my Corona and lime and hope for the best. I may need a few more Coronas.
“Yes, mom. That was the Cuz.”
“He looks angry.”
“That’s because he is angry. He wants blood, ma.”
It’s business as usual at home except for one glaring discrepancy...The Kings are in the game. They’re not just in the game—they’re winning and against the Mavericks no less. Thanks to a less than stellar performance against the mighty Los Angeles Lakers the night before, a feeling of dread was upon me just before tip-off. Could it have been unfounded?
It’s a feeling I have had quite a bit this season with the Kings. Dread, mixed with an immense self-hatred, added to a burning sensation. Fortunately, the burning sensation is treatable. Unfortunately, the immense self-loathing at watching the Kings lose on a nightly basis is not and it is very life threatening.
Yet, the Kings are in this game. Hallelujah! There’s crisp passing, a flow to the game, basketballs going through the hoop instead of by it or under it. DeMarcus is playing like a man possessed and Tyreke has realized the season actually started and they’re not playing volleyball.
But I can’t get comfortable. I know the history. I know things, horrible things. And so I watch with my tissues close, my dog huddling in his dark corner, my mother still spouting of phrases like “Who was that supposed to go to?” and “I don’t know if he should have done that.” She is a basketball realist but still a more optimistic viewer than I. Because I know what is coming...She, along with announcers Grant and Jerry, delude themselves into thinking otherwise. I’m a full-on basketball pessimist because the Kings made me that way.
As the gap in the score gets slimmer, I feel that all too familiar feeling coming over me. It is the feeling of inevitability. And I don’t like it. As a loyal sports fan, I don’t like it one bit. This is a block of time where I can eat free food with my parents, let my dog out to pee and poop, and then for two-and-a-half hours at a time forget about the troubles of the world. Let go, completely. Just watch and enjoy basketball.
Don’t we need that? Entertainment, be it sports or films or T.V., to help take our minds off reality? Unemployment up, hiring down, the Lakers attempting a three-peat...Don’t we need a set block of time where these problematic things fade completely? We can just put our feet up and relax without worry.
But instead...we have our Kings. The fourth quarter comes and goes—a few more Coronas on the end table, the Kings with a last-ditch chance to tie or win the game, my mother burying her head into her novel—she can’t even watch.
The ball advances in from half court. Cousins makes a move to the hoop and the ball zigzags from player to player, in what appears to be a somewhat broken and ugly play reminiscent of something I ran as point guard in my eighth grade Comet basketball league. It didn’t work then, folks...
My dog hides his head underneath his paws; my mom tries to lose herself in her romance novel with a Fabio-looking fellow on the cover. And I watch, eyes wide, mouth agape...
This is it! This is it! The feeling in my gut says different but I’m a fan who is tired of being a pessimist. Tired of it! This is it! I need this as much as the Kings themselves do. Let’s break our six-game losing streak, break out of the second-worst spot in the entire NBA. Come on!
A small step in the right direction. A new outcome. Something. Anything. One small glint of hope on the horizon. Please, just put the ball in the hole! But it doesn’t happen how it’s supposed to because it never does for the Kings...Someone on our team passes it to someone on the other team—if that’s how the play was designed in the timeout, then it worked to perfection.
“Carl, I want you to throw it to the other team.”
“I’ve given up. Just throw it to the other team. It’s over.”
“But we can get the last shot. We can tie or win the game.”
“No, we can’t!”
I pull the tissues and as the tears flow, I realize, as Paul Westphal must as well, that the world is indeed a dark and unforgiving place. I just invested two-and-a-half hours of my time in an effort to be entertained. I expect certain things and when I don’t get those things I find myself questioning life.
Why am I always stopped at a red light when there’s no one coming from the right or left? Where did my pack of Cup of Noodles go and why does it smell like a Cheech and Chong movie in my house? If I were the last man alive and there was no competition left, would I finally be able to get a job? These are the things we think about when our entertainment fails us...
So how do we fix this mess? Because I need this. The world is trying to keep me down with a lackadaisical job market, lack of beautiful women in my small town, lights that are always red, roommates that watch 90210 and Melrose Place, and other roommates that smoke “tobacco” all the time and steal my food—a world that is trying to beat all of us into the ground, quite literally.
Is it too much to ask to want entertainment from the Kings? Is it? I find more entertainment in the hilarious back and forth from Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear before, during and after the game. These guys make true optimists look like life-hating Goths because they are so damn optimistic.
And according to them, the Kings made strides...I know that. With the Mavericks, they did. Even I can see that. But with me still blowing my nose into the wet tissue, I know the outcome wasn’t any different. I want entertainment. I need entertainment. We all do. I want good play. I want accountability. I want effort, on a night-in/night-out basis.
I want movement, rebounding, offense, defense, bench players, stars, heart, game film review, hard practices and mental as well as physical conditioning. I want them to finish games and while I know this is a lot to ask of a young team, I’d love to see it sometime in my lifetime. I just want to see a finished product for a team. If that makes me impatient, so be it.
In the end, it comes down to this question: How do we fix this for everyone involved, from the players to the coaches, the fans to the owners and everyone in between? How do we right a ship that appears to be sinking at a faster clip than Ben Roethlisberger’s pants on ladies night?
And in truth, I have no idea...I’m still busy consoling my mother—she may need to see the doctor after this one. My dad won’t come out of his upstairs room. He doesn’t want to read the Sacramento Bee and the aftermath of the game. He wants no more mention of the team in our household.
My dog loathes game times. Even he knows what the outcome will be even before the tip of the game, hiding his face in his paws trying to drown out Bill Walton’s extensive and maddening commentary. My dog has literally run through screen doors face first to get away from Bill Walton’s voice.
Meanwhile, I’m still trying to blot my eyes after this last heartbreaking performance. I’m trying to get my head around the issues while at the same time looking to the future for some small glimmer of hope.
We’ll fix this. We can. It’ll get better. It just seems like we’re at a standstill right now. Let’s get a bounce of the ball to go our way. Let’s get consistency going in the right direction. Hell, even a Christmas miracle would work for me at this point. Winning a game, just one. Let’s get something, Kings, to help raise our spirits during this rough and demoralizing stretch of losses.
For the love of all that is sacred, I can’t take much more of this. I don’t know how many of us can. Let’s get the ship righted. Whatever it takes, let’s get it done. Because, we as fans, are counting on you for more than you know.