When the Novocain of March Madness wears off, a significant portion of basketball fans will be left facing the painful reality that their pro team's season is over. Fear not, fans! Embracing a multitude of teams and narratives is now a perfectly acceptable alternative to the tribalism of yesteryear. If your team is on the outside looking in, I'm here with an assist from State Farm to help you in salvaging your 2014 playoff experience.
I know it may pain you to cast your lot elsewhere, but a little emotional investment will grant you great returns in the form of bonding with loved ones, basketball nostalgia, and, of course, watching more games. There are several types of teams from which to choose.
The Team of Legendary Veterans
Choose the team whose "mature" players are on One Last Job. While you may occasionally weep at the inevitability of old age when their bodies betray them, this only sweetens the opportunities you'll get to fondly recall the glory of years gone by when these veterans show flashes of their former brilliance. These guys are leaving it all on the court – and they're leaving a legacy behind for young players on the rise. Taking this emotional route is sure to satiate your appetite for heist movies (except in this case the outcome is actually in question), and you can also count on getting a few opportunities to regale others with stories about these players when they were just young whippersnappers.
The Team That Isn't Afraid of Hard Work
Throw your weight behind one of the grind-it-out, hard-nosed, defense-first, 110-percent-effort, hard hat, lunch pail teams. It may not be a sexy choice, and we aren't just talking about tornado jumpers, but when teams who fight for every rebound and every loose ball get that W, it's all the more satisfying.
The Little Team That Could
Perhaps you didn't get enough of your fill of the thrills of rooting for small schools in the tournament. Recapture the magic by rooting for one of the new kids on the playoff block. That team that was supposed to tank this year but has been surprisingly good? Yeah, they qualify. That team that was supposed to still be "one year away"? They do too. That team under .500 that still made it because they're in an embarrassingly weak conference? They don't. Look, it's human nature to love a good a good underdog story, but we've got to have some standards, right?
The Cross-Town or Cross-Bay or Cross-State or Cross-Interstate Rival
This experiment in selflessness is all about being practical. Chances are you have a significant other, friend, boss, and/or co-worker who loves that neighboring team you can't stand. While it might be fun to watch them fail, trash talking won't be all that enjoyable since you don't need another reminder from your obnoxious friend that your team didn't even make the playoffs. Here's your chance to be a grown-up and realize that if people around you are happy, it might be beneficial to you, too. Even if that happiness is contingent upon sports.
The Team with the Most Compelling Point Guard
Gone are the days of cranky gripes about the lack of offensive orchestrators in the league; we're in a point guard renaissance. Whether it's an explosive young gun, an underappreciated conductor, or the maestro, there's somebody for everybody. Seize this opportunity to deepen your appreciation for the acumen of these floor generals by choosing the team with your favorite PG. Then relish every hesitation, every subtle turn of the shoulders, every angle created.
The Team Chock Full of Stories of Redemption
When a player who years ago had a devastating injury (one so gruesome that you actually skip that video on your YouTube basketball clip rabbit trails), works his way back to become a key cog in a playoff team, it's worth following and celebrating. Maybe the story of a former heir apparent who turned into a notorious malcontent north of the border redeeming himself by aging gracefully as a key team-first contributor off the bench gives you the warm fuzzies. Or perhaps you prefer the tale of a once heartless gunner who journeys to the Lone Star State and matures under the guidance of a masterful coach. Either way, I'm sure you can find a playoff story that will restore your faith in humanity.
So there you have it. Have fun choosing your substitute team.
If rooting for a team that's not truly your own feels too disloyal, play playoffs bingo. Select events to keep an eye out for during games. Things like:
Then add them to a DIY bingo board and you've got your playoffs strategy.
- When a notoriously surly coach cracks a smile.
- When an allegedly fake tough big man flops.
- When a commentator references his playing days with the most iconic basketball player ever.
- When a defensive specialist with no handles gets a steal and turns it right back over trying to go coast-to-coast.
- When a specific play is run, e.g., every time a team runs "elevators."
- When the tired (albeit somewhat valid) narrative of the servant unseating the king from his throne is mentioned.
Whatever strategy you choose, I hope that despite your team's tragic absence, you'll still be able to enjoy the excitement and drama of the playoffs.
Now that you've got your playoffs assist, head here to learn more about how State Farm can assist you in your endeavors off the court.
[Image by Alex Cannon, Studio@Gawker]
Felix Huang is a LA-based writer. His work often appears in Dime Magazine.