Being a fan is such a weird and visceral experience. At times you find yourself advocating for the trivial success of a sports team — and consequently, for the demise of their adversaries. But you never quite understand why you’re rooting for this team. You never know the reason why you spend hours debating their possibilities of garnering a title or why you stay up late to watch them beat their division rival. Sports are a brief, but euphoric, escape from the real world. They allow us to enter a realm dominated by 6-foot behemoths and when the team that we choose to root for is winning there’s not a care in the world.
Now here comes the juxtaposition for Celtics fans: Should we be actively rooting for our team’s failure?
It’s a difficult question with an answer that not many fans will be behind. The ethics underlying tanking is a discussion that many fanbases are having at this very moment.
Phoenix, Philadelphia, Orlando are just a few other teams that have already been put on #TankWatch2014 this season. Former Celtics Executive Ryan Mcdonough made noise recently by trading away Marcin Gortat to Washington for an injured Emeka Okafor and a top 12 protected 1st round pick while Sixers GM, Sam Hinkie has been progressively stripping the Sixers roster and his new coach said he’d be surprised if Nerlens Noel got on the court at all this season — you know the guy he traded Jrue Holiday for.
As a tanking proponent it’s easy to say to an anti-tanking fan that this is the best course of action. But, in reality, both sides want to accomplish the same thing. I understand the plight of the anti-tank fan, it’s not easy to stomach purposefully losing or not getting to see your favorite player for half the season.
You don’t want to come home after an eight hour shift and watch Avery Bradley try to play point guard or stare at Marshon Brooks and wait to see if he ever smiles. You want Jeff Green slamming on guys, Rondo dropping triple doubles like it’s 2009 and Bradley finishing layups off easy cuts. Rooting for the failure — or success, depends on how the draft turns out — of your favorite squad is almost blasphemous, and it’s hard to come to terms with after being blessed with 6 years of success.
The real difficulty that lies within being pro-tanking is realizing your apathy towards mediocrity. The notion that a team could better itself by essentially not trying goes against most of the lessons you were taught about “try hard and you will succeed”.
With tanking comes a host of questions which are nearly impossible to answer. Will Rondo return to form and if he does will hinder or object to the tanking strategy? Will Ainge be able to trade Gerald Wallace’s awful contract? Can Kelly Olynyk live up to expectations? Will any of these so called “sure things” in the draft have success in the league? In a league with so much variance and factors to account for, you really can’t answer these questions. With just one injury or one lucky draw of a ping-pong ball you’re entire trajectory can change. In this case you just have to roll the dice.