Per Webster’s New World Dictionary: Fan n.
Short for fanatic. Unreasonably enthusiastic; overzealous. A person enthusiastic about a specified sport, performer, etc.
People who follow sports, teams and players are fans. But what do you call people who follow one particular team that continues to lose over and over again? People who spend their hard-earning money on a team that has disappointed them for over three straight decades?
Lunatics. I know, because I am one.
A lunatic is an insane person. Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I’m pretty sure he was talking about us long-suffering Warriors fans. We watched on TV or bought tickets year after year (some for over 30 years), hoping … waiting … expecting them to finally win. The4y never did. Until now.
In 2014-15, they won at the NBA’s best rate with a 67-15 record (39-2 at Oracle). Warriors fans showcased why they are often described as the best in the league on a national stage this past Saturday as the Warriors defeated the Pelicans in Game 1 of the first round playoff series.
Now that the team is winning, I’m interested in the individual fan journeys that got them here. How did they endure all the losing and continue to pack Oracle with fanatical noise? Through the years, you would hear comments like, “This team sure sucks, but their fans are amazing.” How bad were the Warriors? If you don’t know, read this for a quick history lesson.
With three straight playoff appearances, an admonished fan base is finally being rewarded for its loyalty. I spoke with a few long-time season ticket holders to find out why, through the years, they continued to spend their money on such an awful product and what it feels like now to finally experience winning.
Here are their stories.
Bram: The Santa Cruz Day Tripper
I was born and raised in Oakland, and have always been a (far too) passionate sports fan who grew up playing basketball. Following the Warriors always seemed natural to me, even when it felt like paying someone to punch me in the face.
There are two major factors that kept me invested during the Chris “The Worst Sports Owner in the History of the Words Owner and Worst” Cohan years:
- I’ve always been strangely and over the top loyal (amongst many other neurotic tendencies). If my son was ugly, I wouldn’t disown him. When my team was ugly, I watched every game.
- Basic math always said that in a league where more than 50% of the teams made the playoffs, the Warriors would escape the $hitburger doldrums at some point. I kept rooting under the idea that that point would come, and I’d be able to (a) finally enjoy the team I followed forever; and (b) make myself seem more important by saying things like, “I’ve been here since the beginning.” By the way, have I mentioned that I’ve been here since the beginning?
I used to drive 3.5 hours to and from Santa Cruz when I was in college to watch the Warriors lose by 30. I honestly can’t justify why the hell I would do that now, but it was damn fun then. At least once a month I’d convince (i.e. con) someone from school into driving to Oakland to catch a game. The pitch was always easy and the same – let’s spend $10 to get in the building, then immediately sneak down to the first 10 rows and catch the Warriors up close. I called them the “10 dollar baller seats.”
The drive itself was like riding to Vegas.
Trip there – all promise.
Trip back – depressing and crazy long.
It turns out that a 30-point loss and enough beer to make you tired equals a $hitburger 1.5 hour drive. I still remember my friend riding shotgun on the way home after the game and breaking a 45-minute period of uninterrupted silence by saying, “I have no idea how the F$%K you talked me into this.”
Josh: From Hard Hats to Hard Luck
Basketball has always been my favorite sport growing up both playing and watching, so I was a fan regardless. When you’re a 10-year-old kid, you don’t know any better. You root for the local team no matter what.
As I got older, the Dubs would always seem to be on the brink of being good but then just never overcame the hump. The whole Chris Webber fiasco was especially frustrating. I guess if any one event would have turned me from being a Warrior fan that would have done it. But I stuck with them.
In the 90s, I remember watching them the season they played in San Jose when Oracle was being renovated. One game in particular stands out when I didn’t have one single reason to cheer. There was not one play where a Warrior did something that got me out of my seat. Compare that to now where it seems like there are 10 plays a game that get you pumped to be a Warrior fan.
There is always a special place for the Warriors. They’re my team. Regarding Cohan, and why we all stuck with him, I just don’t think we knew then how bad he was and how important ownership is. We just didn’t know how poorly run the basketball operations were. If we had, maybe we wouldn’t have gone to games to put money in his pocket. But again, if you love basketball, what are you going to do? Leave the team you’ve rooted for all your life? To the real fans, that is just not an option.
Jesse D: Bay Area Basketball Love
I think the Bay Area is such a vibrant basketball scene. Everywhere you go, you see people who love the game. The Warriors being the only true local team, fans have stayed true and have been loyal after all these years. The fans are very passionate.
John: Video Killed the Radio Fan
I grew up in Berkeley and remember listening to the ’75 Finals on the radio when I was in 8th grade. The games were tape delayed back then, so if we wanted to keep up live, it had to be on the radio. And Bill King was simply the best ever at basketball radio play-by-play.
I’m probably more a fan of the sport of basketball itself, but since the Warriors are our local team, they’re the team I follow. The reason I bought tickets is that even though Chris Cohan and Bobby Rowell comprised a HORRIBLE, INEPT and bumbling front office, I still liked the NBA product. Watching games live from fairly close to the floor is still a great experience. And the team was only truly terrible a handful of seasons. That was one of the worst things about Cohan/Rowell – they were often just good enough to miss the playoffs, but not bad enough to get really high draft picks.
They could still sell enough tickets because the Bay Area is a huge market with tons of basketball fans (especially from the rich college legacy), so they were the “only game in town.” We hated giving Cohan/Rowell our money, but we wanted to see the best athletes in the world play the best sport in the world. We also figured that eventually a quality ownership group would emerge and buy the team, which has indeed finally happened with Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.
So, yeah, we spent our hard-earned money, but it was still fun. Some people spend money on the opera, some spend money on the theatre or symphony. I choose to spend my entertainment budget on MY favorite kind of live drama – NBA action.
What is “special” about Warrior fans is we love the game as much as the team. That’s why they’ve stuck around so long. That’s also why Oracle is such a special game experience. It’s not casual fans cheering the obvious home run or touchdown – it’s fans that appreciate good basketball.
And for us “long-suffering” Warrior fans, what we are experiencing this year is pure, unadulterated basketball bliss.
Gary: Movin’ On Up
I started out as more of a basketball fan than a Warrior fan specifically. Myself and some friends from school used to go to the games a lot in the late 70s and early 80s. We would walk up on game day, buy cheap seats and move down to sit in seats within 10 rows of the court.
Then, I let my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, tag along with us to a game and she was hooked. When the Warriors drafted Mullin, she convinced me to get a mini plan so we could still sit in good seats because we couldn’t just walk up and move down anymore. After a couple of years of mini plans we converted to the full season. The Run TMC team really made us huge Warriors fans. Win or lose, the games were always exciting.
I think having been a basketball fan for so long kept us going through the lean years. We had a daughter in 1994 and we started taking her to games at an early age. She really liked going as she got older. Her developing fandom was probably the main reason we kept our tickets. Also, in my section, the same people have sat around me for a long time and we are kind of like a little Warriors family. We have seen each other’s kids grow through the years.
Max: The Family Man
Both my parents were basketball fans growing up and they decided to jump on season tickets. For how bad they were, we actually found them entertaining to watch. We had accepted that the Warriors were bad but going to the games was something that became a family outing that we could all do together. That is what prompted us to keep going even though not much winning was taking place. The atmosphere at Oracle has always been welcoming to families and we became close with the people around us who have had season tickets just as long as us – it became our Warriors family.
This year has been really surreal. I never thought the Warriors could turn into, not only the most exciting team to watch, but also the best team in the league. I firmly believe that Stephen Curry is the best player in the NBA.
Thomas: The Man Who Rocked the Caffey Jersey
I became a fan in 1992. I got a Mullin jersey (NBA JAM had something to do with that) and started watching Warriors games any chance I could. My dad would take me until I could drive myself to games. It was a great experience to be around smart basketball fans – you could tell they loved the hell out of their Warriors. It really solidified my love for the Warriors, and I’ve been die hard ever since.
Remaining a loyal fan through bad years had more to do with my love of basketball than anything. Being a Warrior fan became part of my basketball identity. I was that kid who wore his Jason Caffey jersey (garage sale pickup) to school when everyone else had their KG, J-Kidd or Jordan jerseys. I was committed to my team no matter who played for them. Kids at school made fun of me about the fact I still loved the Warriors. Caffey’s jersey symbolized perfectly what being a Warrior fan is all about.
I watched my friends jump on the Bulls, Lakers or T-Wolves bandwagon while I rooted for Muggsy Bogues, Bimbo Coles and Nick Van Exel (I was actually excited about him – good grief). I came to expect my Warriors to disappoint me in every way imaginable, all while supporting them through everything. They were my disappointing child who I gave all my energy to with the hopes that one day they would click and repay me for my energy.
It brought me to now, where I am privileged to watch the best Warrior team of my lifetime with all the other amazing Warrior fans. It’s made it that much sweeter. It’s why I truly and honestly believe this is the best fan base on earth.
With the playoffs now underway, how do you feel about the Warriors’ chances?
This entire year has been surreal and too good to be true. Ethan Sherwood Strauss said that it felt like a slot machine that just kept kicking out money.
At this point, I’m torn. On one side, I feel this team is built for long-term success and has earned every accolade to date. On the other, I feel like the Coyote from the Road Runner Cartoon walking across a canyon on air – one look down and this whole thing may collapse.
But I believe the Warriors will win the championship. I’d be lying to say that as fan who watched this team fail for three decades, I’m not a little concerned with a collapse. But that era is done. Over. Buried alongside Thunder, Mike Dunleavy’s old hair ties, Patrick O’Bryant’s NBA card and a video of Adonal Foyle dancing to the “Great Time Out” theme. This team is too good, too deep and too well coached to be denied.
This year has definitely been surreal. You just expect them to win every game, and when they don’t, it gets you down. So much different than in the past when you expected the opposite to happen. Like everything would happen AGAINST them for them to lose.
Regarding the playoffs, I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t want to get a big head and get cocky. Of course I want a championship, but as long as they get to the Western Conference Finals, I think this season is a success.
This year has been incredible! I feel like our team has been getting better over the last few seasons, so I’m not shocked at how well we’ve played. I am all in with this team, but I’m also staying reasonable with our expectations. I think the championship is in our reach, but they need to focus on each series as they come. Western Conference Finals is a great goal to achieve – anything after that is beyond respectable. The West is tough, and you have to respect any team you come across. I feel a date with the Spurs is inevitable, and I’m excited to see our team step up to the challenge!
This year’s basketball product is close to as pure as I have seen from any team in my lifetime. The passing, the defensive prowess and the beauty of Steph Curry is a gift for Warriors fans’ patience and devotion. I have no doubt this team will fight their tails off to win an NBA title, and little doubt that they will accomplish it. If they don’t, I will be disappointed and hurt, but I will be optimistic and proud. Pride and optimism are feelings I haven’t associated with the Warriors in my lifetime.