13 April 2007

There's A Battle Ahead

An enterprise, when fairly once begun, should not be left till all that ought is won.
- William Shakespeare

I've lived in Orlando my whole life, and I swear I've had the following conversation at least 50 times:
Stranger: So, where are you from?
Me: Orlando.
Stranger: Oh, so you must go to Disney all the time then, right?
Me: ...no.

Here's what I want that conversation to turn into at some point in the near future:
Stranger: So, where are you from?
Me: Orlando.
Stranger: Oh, yeah. Go Magic!

Is that really so much to ask? I really don't think so. I bet New Yorkers get this one a lot:
Stranger: So, where are you from?
New Yorker: New York City.
Stranger: Oh. Yankees or Mets?
One of the most identifiable and integral parts of New York is the tradition of sports excellence, although you wouldn't know it by watching today's Knicks play. I'm not saying we need to be New York; that's incredibly unrealistic, considering the fact that NYC is essentially the Capital of the Known Universe. But what I am saying is that I know plenty of Orlandoans who are sick of their hometown being known for Mickey Mouse and "that giant golf ball thing."

What is it going to take to make Orlando renowned for its sports? Probably a lot, considering that the Magic is our only major sports team. The fact that UCF hasn't been remotely competitive since Daunte Culpepper turned pro doesn't help The City Beautiful, either. But I know what could help the city and its image, and it involves the Magic:

Fans. Passionate, yelling, screaming, flag-waving, jersey-wearing, wallet-opening, blue-and-silver-bleeding fans.

If you've been to a Magic game lately, you know that there aren't too many fans of that sort attending. The Orlando Arena -- I refuse to call it by its sponsored name -- can get dreadfully silent during a basketball game. The only times fans make noise are when they are prompted to by the either the Noise-O-Meter on the JumboTron or by public address announcer Paul Porter. Otherwise, they sit and stare in silence, even when the team is playing well. What kind of boring way of supporting a team is that?

I know that people have given up on the Magic. They're sick of losing, they're sick of Brian Hill, they're sick of crappy personnel moves, they're sick of the whole arena fiasco, et cetera. I posit this question to those "fans" who cite any of those reasons as justification for abandoning the team: What the hell did the Magic ever do to you to make you so bitter?

I know it isn't easy, guys. Believe me.

I still remember Nick Anderson's missed free throws in our lone NBA Finals appearance.

I still remember the day when Shaquille signed with the Lakers; ironically enough, I was staying at a Disney hotel with my parents when I heard the news.

I still remember when Penny staged a player revolt and drove Brian Hill out of town the first time.

I still remember the Heart-And-Hustle team of 1999/2000, which featured Ben Wallace, Chucky Atkins, Darrell Armstrong, and nobody else in particular.

I still remember when we signed T-Mac and Grant Hill to twin $93 M contracts seven years ago and the future looked so bright, only to have the bottom drop out on it once Grant's ankle started acting up.

I still remember when we lost nineteen straight games in 2003/2004 and the franchise got turned on its head once more.

I still remember when T-Mac demanded a trade and then insulted the whole franchise by admitting that he didn't give his best effort here.

I still remember when we wasted our no. 11 pick in 2005 on Fran Vasquez, who's still playing in Europe.

In short, I HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE SAME SHIT YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH. And I haven't given up. Why? Because I've stuck through that much, and a few more losing seasons aren't going to keep me down.


If you're going through hell, keep going.
- Winston Churchill
I know it's not easy to be a Magic fan right now, especially considering how our league-best 13-4 start devolved into today's mediocre 36-42 record. But then again, when has it ever been easy recently? The glory days may be gone, but that doesn't mean it's time to write off the franchise.

We have Dwight Howard, who hasn't developed into half the player he will be and yet is already the second best player in the league at his position.

We have Jameer Nelson, who could come off the bench to be the next Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson -- he heats up in a hurry.

We have Trevor Ariza, whose raw athletic ability and incredible defensive intensity could make him an All-Star if he develops his offensive skills.

Most intriguingly, we'll have $15-17 M to spend this offseason on a premier free agent, like Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Gerald Wallace, or Mo Williams.

Could one of those players be the final piece of the puzzle? Well, if you jump ship right now, YOU WON'T KNOW. Sure, you could start cheering and yelling and jump back on the bandwagon and perhaps no one will know the difference, but you will. You'll know that you're a fair-weather fan. And that takes some of the fun out of it, doesn't it?

This season, ESPN's NBA television coverage carries the tagline "Will You Be Watching When...?" and I find it to be appropriate for Magic fans. Orlando, will you be watching when Dwight Howard and co. hoist the team's first Eastern Conference Championship banner since 1994/1995 to the rafters of the Orlando Arena? Or will you read about it in the paper the next day, hit with the realization that you gave up too soon?

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