Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns clinched their first playoff berth in 10 years. The combination of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton have proven a formidable bunch, rising the Suns to the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference. And as impressive as their run has been, this is not what caught my attention. I heard an unfamiliar familiar sound with about eight minutes left in the 4th quarter. Something that immediately sparked joy in my soul. The sound … cheering.
While fans have been allowed back in stadiums throughout the country intermittently, this felt different; it felt to me like everything was normal for a split-second.
This was the first time I felt the energy from the crowd in a long time, and it felt damn good. As a diehard hoops fan, I’ll always love the game of basketball. Something is mesmerizing about an extra pass, a perfectly set screen, and a player diving on the floor. (Can you tell I’m a youth basketball coach?) And alright, the 360 dunks are kinda cool too.
But a game is just a game, and without fans in attendance something vital is missing.
What’s missing is the passion, pride, and ultimately love that devoted crowds bring into stadiums on a nightly basis. Without fans, arenas are a really cool multi-million dollar complex where athletics occur. With them, it’s home.
It’s a place where family traditions are upheld, strangers hug and yelling like a madman is accepted. It is one of the purest things in our society today.
I don’t know if I really realized how much I missed the fans until Wednesday night.
I mean, let’s all be honest here for just a second. As amazing as the NBA is, their season is long drawn out, and playoff seeding is usually decided toward the end of the year. Even with two elite teams playing, my interest started to wane. But that’s when I heard the thunderous yells echoing throughout Phoenix Suns Arena.
I couldn’t put a paperclip on it, but maybe it brought me back to my childhood. A simpler time where it felt easy to get lost in the moment. My superhero was on the court, Dad by my side, and huge pinkish-blue cotton candy in my hand, injecting sugar into every orifice of my body.
And something tells me I’m not alone here.
See, sports aren’t about remembering the exact stat of every player, who’s got the biggest TV, or the newest authentic jersey. They’re about family and interconnectivity.
But it’s not just limited to our immediate relatives. There’s also a second family we are all initiated into when we enter into this magical world called fandom.
It’s the conversation with the random person at the store about the game last night, secretly cheering against your best friend’s favorite team and connecting with someone 20 years older than you.
Few things in our society bring people together like sports. A cohesive passion that almost transcends reality.
Wow … all this from a random midweek basketball game.
This is the power of the fans in the stands.