CYCLOPS: Jazz fans should be grateful for their fine seasonJul 01, 2021 02:10PM ● By Bryan Gray
Within 10 minutes of the Utah Jazz being ousted from the 2021 playoffs by a depleted Los Angeles Clippers, the rage was burning on social media.
“Coach Synder should be fired”… “Get rid of Mike Conley – he’s too old and injury-prone”… “What a colossal collapse! The team embarrassed all of us fans”… “Trade a bunch of them and get some defense”… “The Jazz are a joke!”
It is understandable that fans are disappointed – but it’s something else to be angry and vitriolic. I have never understood those men and women who get so carried away by a professional sports team that their life – their habits, their routines, their personality, their outlook on life in general – is colored by whether or not a team wins. There are so many events in life (legislative actions or employment regulations, for instance) that have a greater impact on their lifestyle and families. Yet for every one Utahns who can identify Donovan Mitchell, fewer than one can tell you the name of their state legislator.
The demand that a team wins and doesn’t “embarrass” their fans is numerical folly. Most pro leagues have 30-40 teams. Only one will be a champion. To me, that doesn’t mean that every other team is comprised of “losers” or an incompetent coach.
Part of the Utah Jazz’s dilemma is that they have been generally competitive for an extended period of time. Since the Stockton-Malone era, the team has routinely made the playoffs or come comfortably close.
And that creates a challenge in that unless a trade is accomplished, teams with winning records do not get the opportunity to select the most coveted draft picks. The Jazz and the Jazz system has to create talent through savvy trades (Conley, for instance, and an untested Rudy Gobert) or giving a chance to players who have bounced around with other teams (Jordan Clarkson or Joe Ingles).
The Jazz management should be congratulated for slotting non-superstar players into a system which led the league in total wins. It was also a season in which the team had few injuries until the waning days of the schedule.
The Jazz looked awful in surrendering a 25-point lead in their final game, but players are human. Like all of us, they are not 100% productive every single day or every single quarter. More importantly, it’s foolish to make professional athletes essential role models. I can admire John Stockton for his talent, lunch-bucket demeanor, and loyalty to the team, but I cringe when he becomes a spokesman for the anti-vaccination movement. Likewise, I support Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s induction into the Hall of Fame even though voters have kept him out based on his post-retirement right-wing political rants and conspiracy theories.
In another four months, the Jazz will return to the NBA floor for another season. I doubt the team will look patently different than it did this year, and once again the Vegas oddsmakers won’t favor them to win the NBA championship. There’s nothing wrong with hope springing eternal as long as it doesn’t turn to fury and rancor.
At least the team is competitive. That’s something for which fans in a host of other cities can only wish for.