I’d never been to a playoff game in my life, but luckily my friend Kevin decided to sell me one of his tickets for a reasonable price. My empty wallet screamed in protest, but I told it to shut its mouth because it’s the fucking playoffs and it’s on my fucking bucket list and don’t you tell me what to do I don’t give a fuck about no punkass overdraft fees.
So my friend Kevin and I met up around 5:30 on an unusually hot day for San Francisco. We braved a crowded and overly humid BART train from Mid-Market to Oracle, surrounded by the faint yet pervasive odor of claustrophobia. One woman commented that it smelled like something was burning. I couldn’t tell, I was experiencing flashbacks of my high school gym locker.
Sidenote: I despise the BART. It irks me that a place as urbanized and expansive as the Bay Area has a running staph infection for its major public transpo system. New York, Chicago, and D.C. maintain serviceable hygiene in their trains. Every time I’m in a BART train, I smell notes of bum fluids and I feel like my skin will melt off if I touch anything.
But therein lies the reason why I love sports. It allows me to meld into the mob without hating the other people around me. The older I become, the more I hate crowds of disconnected people. Clubs that corral people to a faceless mash of rhythmless people, buses where personal bubbles don’t exist, and sidewalks where you’re dodging faceless runners on your way to Point B.
At the arena, I’m not just this unique and beautiful snowflake with his own worries and career and aspirations. I’m a small but crucial yell that pushes a crowd into a deafening roar that lifts up the players on the court. I’m part of a machine that’s focused on one thing: willing our team to clinch the first playoff series played in this building in 6 years (and only the 2nd series in more than 20). Oracle Arena is a special place and the paradigm of how sports can bring people together.
The fans all around me are not strangers with indiscernible stories. They’re part of the same machine; we all fall together, we all cheer together, and we all go absolutely apeshit together. Ethnicity, age, supposed economic class, it doesn’t matter so much when you’re dissolved into that mob.
It’s one of the few moments when I see a mass of people come together for something constructive and good. There’s an argument that people place too much investment into sports, and they’re valid arguments that deserve consideration. But sports is such an important escape valve for some, a crucial sense of visceral and irrational joy for others, and a necessary luxury for all.
Sports bring a city together more than a local election can. Franchises are a beauty and beast construct that highlights the simple goodness and complex issues that come with being part of a society. A society that’s a million times larger (and harder to govern) than our ancestral villages.
Yes, there are reasons for concern when our citizenry is more well versed in sports terminology than local politics. I don’t know what my councilwoman will do about the homeless on Ellis Street, but I’ll rise up in arms over Jarrett Jack’s sketchy shot selection.
And the unifying force of the mob removes the repellents of people we’d much rather avoid. The fact that we can’t judge makes us closer to people we dodge on a daily basis. The double-popped-collar guy next to you might be a douche at the bar, but he’s someone that’s sharing in the same collective experience.
Besides, in a country where we’re constantly encouraged to be individualistic in the name of self-advancement, don’t we need a strong civic force to pull us together once in awhile?
When the confetti fell and the Warriors were headed for a 2nd round date with the intimidating San Antonio Spurs, I let out a long scream that tore up my vocal cords. I let myself become part of the rising swell that held the frustrations of years past and the hope for the coming days.
I turned off my brain and became a part of the mob, and it never felt so good.