Agony and ecstacy

The ball would go up, and there would be a hush. The ball would come down, and there would be either raucous cheers and yelps or a deflating moan coupled with slamming hands on the bar and a smattering of curses. A couple times during the second overtime period, I saw people’s knees buckle as they almost crumpled to the floor, anguish etched on their faces.

The crowd in this neighborhood bar was duplicated all over the city, if not the region. The Kings’ fanatics were riding the roller coaster during the playoff loss to the Mavericks.

I felt disloyal by just sitting at the bar and eating a sandwich. Who could eat at a time like that? The home team was leaving it all out on the floor, and even the bartenders were not in the mood for small talk. I admired the shooting ability of the Mavericks but was afraid to mention it. Hey, it was the Kings, and the city had everything on the line.

When the last agonizing free throw was missed, and the emotional elevator had taken the Kings’ fans to the bottom floor, some shots of alcoholic numbness were called for.

Hey, everybody, it’s really only a game; shouldn’t there be some balance here? Aren’t there more important, pressing things that call for that kind of involvement and dedication? Well, of course there are, but sports fanaticism is easy. Buy a jersey, follow the stats and learn to talk Kings talk. And besides, it is fun to see people get emotional about something in their lives.

What isn’t easy is the course taken by a young Sacramento man who wants to be a professional basketball player. He is starting at the bottom. A pro league in western Mexico is a far cry from Arco Arena and the million-dollar lifestyle that pampers athletes like modern-day gods. If you want to see real dedication to sport, read our cover story, “On the rebound” by Dave Wielenga.

With sports, as in all things, commitment and dedication should be admired. But be wary of fanaticism.