There’s a phenomenon that occurs with almost every fan base, especially the ones that aren’t winning all the time. As fans, we want results, and we want them now. We lack patience. So when losses start stacking up quicker than wins, we clamor for change.
But that can be expected: after all, we’re the ones paying for seats. We’re the ones ultimately paying for these lofty athlete contracts. So we should have some say in what’s happening with the team. Sometimes, though, fans don’t see things correctly. We start to skew reality in our minds. And typically, this starts to skew towards one player—the backup.
To illustrate my point, I’m actually going to switch sports for moment to football, where the backup QB is the most beloved player on the team. If the offense isn’t executing, the blame falls on QB1. Once it gets bad enough, the fan base becomes certain that the other kid on the bench must be able to deliver better. Even if he can’t, in their minds, anything is better than the current situation. And so it goes. This notion festers in your mind: the more you hate the starter, the more you love the backup.
Back to basketball. I think you could make an argument for many of the bench players as the “favorite.” Derrick Favors comes to mind. Demarre Carroll. #freeAlecBurks. I could go on and on.
There were times this year and last year when people were even ecstatic about Jamaal Tinsley. He showed flashes of brilliance at times, coming off the bench to spark the offense, and even dribbling through the legs of opponents. He was exciting, but more than anything, fans were frustrated with Mo Williams, or Devin Harris the previous year. There comes a point when anything else starts to seem like a better option.
Another great example of this phenomenon is Paul Millsap. Think back to the heart of the Boozer years: our old buddy Carlos was in and out of injuries, showing up some nights, but disappearing on most. Completely vacant on the defensive end. When out of a familiar, smaller Louisiana school comes little ‘ol Paul. A double-double machine. He was the anti-Boozer, and fans couldn’t get enough of him. Fast forward to now. While still beloved by most of Utah, becoming a starter hasn’t exactly helped his street cred. If anything, in the eyes of the fans, he’s become the largest deterrent in the development of Mr. Favors. Maybe he should have stayed a backup.
There is only truth to this principle, however, with a losing team. No one was ever calling for John Stockton to be replaced. No one ever asks about the guy backing up someone like Tom Brady. Winning takes care of everything.
Win, and your starting role is secure. Lose, and the fans may (and probably will) turn on you.
Until the franchise gets back to that stage, at least the new jumbotron looks nice. Right? And jumbotrons don’t have backups.