By Will Martin
For all intents and purposes not since June of 2011 when the eyes of the NBA world were upon us has the scope of viewership been as visible and as vibrant as it is going to be at least for the very next week, maybe longer.
The Dallas Mavericks gave us hardware to get all excited about for which 250,000 of us attended a victory parade in 100 degree heat and it was beautiful. Equally awesome was the way that the city of Dallas handled itself, careful to not recreate the same mistakes some twenty years earlier when the Cowboys won a Lombardi.
Not since 2008 has the American Airlines Center been regaled with two teams to keep the bartenders, parking attendants, ushers, cops, media and scalpers busy past the month of April. Last year was eerily quiet with nothing happening after mid-April.
The excitement is back! That feeling of the improbable being probable has now reentered the lexicon of the mindset for Dallas, Texas and outlying areas. A six year drought of the icy variety now but a memory. The Hardwood Boys took a year off to retool and now for the 13th time in 14 years basketball in Dallas goes into May win or lose.
To say nothing about an injury riddled baseball team that is flirting with first place over in Arlington and even a first place team with the best record in all of the MLS up in Frisco with FC Dallas. Winning truly is an amazing aphrodisiac.
Being close to the winning also brings out the passion and the true spirit of the fans. A never ending forever bonding moment etched in time when history can potentially happen at your feet and you can say under your breath, ‘I was there!’
Fans of the Dallas Stars can begin to start planning on a decade long dynasty of success with Lindy Ruff and Jim Nill putting together a great nucleus of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and a whole lot of youth.
Fans of the Mavericks, heck where do you want to start? The dancers? The constant video entertainment? A chance of seeing Mark Cuban going ‘Sharktank’ on a referee or a player? The great mind of Rick Carlisle? Oh yes the celebrity gawking that’s a mandatory requirement as you walk along the Platinum Level. Most of the sights in augmented and not diminished returns…
For over a decade I have been that fan. Now able (in the last three years) to carry a media approach to the fiesta of Texas sport. This time of the year is exciting. In a way it builds into a crescendo as you get taken into the fun of April.
Baseball, NASCAR, playoff basketball and hockey, going into May.
The Byron Nelson and then the Colonial before hibernating indoors with the A/C until that first exhibition game in August in Canton then onto football. The only real sport that matters in Texas even if you are not a Dallas Cowboys fan.
There was something these eyes noticed right before Game 3 as the Dallas Stars prepared to take on the Anaheim Ducks.
The energy, the anticipation, the passion, fire and desire. The very things Lindy Ruff talked about after a 3-0 shutout of the Ducks before 19,400 hoarse fans.
Yes, it’s weird that both playoffs teams had to get past Arizona teams to get to this point. It’s also convenient that each team plays in the same building, sometimes on the same day.
Now you add the dynamic of two #8 Texas seeds going up against very heavily favored #1 seeds to go all the way? You cannot script this any better. Yet, I digress.
An epiphany was felt right before the Stars vs. Ducks dropped the puck in Game 3 when the following thought fell into place.
1. Two Dallas teams with a system in place to compete yearly.
2. Two Dallas teams who will bring home a title sooner than later. 1999 and 2011 revisited.
3. Two owners who have a natural passion and love for their particular sport.
4. A fan base that-when winning-can get incredibly loud with the vocal support and being inside the game!
5. Trendiness aside-Dallas knows how to get into party mode for just about anything-including showing an ability to recognize true effort on an opponent.
I took this during the beginning of Game 4 right before the game began. Does this not give you chills? Does this not embody the essence of standing behind your team and showing support? Any question that Dallas has welcomed the Stars back into the fold of popularity based on all that they have done-even after a bad January start?
There’s that feeling in the air. Electricity, magic, hope, and a dream. Since the Mavericks evened things up in San Antonio in their series you’ll see a different form of the hardwood variety come the weekend of April 26th and 28th.
Part of it is like the investor who places his hard earned money into an item that now bears fruit. You now see the fruit grow and proceed to feed the hunger of many as you maintain a desire to maintain and nurture said item of interest.
A part of you may take on the role of a parent or guardian as you see kids start to blossom under the harsh lights of the cameras and like that parent you applaud unconditionally.
Maybe you’re a fan because you can no longer do what you once enjoyed due to aging but can see talent as it begins to build, learn, and grow.
Maybe you just want to be a part of the bandwagoning party since you’re not from Texas yet feel like that’s the thing you’re supposed to do. Now you know how sports are done in Atlanta, Phoenix, Anaheim, Seattle, even Miami.
It’s a moment, it’s an event, it’s a happening and it’s now! That now may not make it back here for a time to come so you make the most of it when it arrives. Witness how excited the fans were when Game 4 was about to begin?
If that doesn’t make the hair on your arms stand then nothing will! I was more impressed by the class of the hockey fans who saw a sickening Deja Vu of a moment early in the second period of Gamed 3 with the Stars vs. Ducks as Stephane Robidas fractured the leg he had just reconstructed.
In being helped off the ice you saw the assistance by Teemu Selanne and trainer and then there was the chant that grew louder. ‘Roby, Roby, Roby, Roby, ROBY!’ Right before Stephane walked past the Stars bench he looked up in amazement.
April brings you heartache and some strange incidents or accidents. April can provide the unexpected alongside the thrill of victory. Just when you think you have seen it all in sports a reminder about what makes sports so much damn fun to watch gets placed upon the lap.
That kid wearing the Victory Green jersey barely 5 years old in Section 326 with proud Papa learning to yell, ‘Lets Go Stars!’. The middle aged man who played as a kid in Windsor, Ontario for the Spitfires who recognizes a good team on the rise wearing his old jersey and cheering wildly.
The girls night out date of three Dallas hotties, probably blonde who knows who Jamie Benn is and await the video camera moment for the ultimate selfie pic. The scout from a rival team who sits by you in the Press Box, says nothing but recognizes these are not the 2009-2013 Dallas Stars.
That high school team from Southlake Carroll, Highland Park, LD Bell or Houston Clearlake who want to hone their skills as they watch a game with their coach and see the player they want to become. That proud Mom in the stands who understands more than anyone about the sacrifice laid forth by their sons as she sees her son play for the first time under the playoff glare.
That’s the playoffs, that’s April. That’s hockey, and that also applies to basketball. Giving the Stars a little more love as they have been away for a while. That intangible is always the same.
A connection to my youth. This will always be a young man’s game. For the player and the fan. It makes this guy’s heart smile when I see Stars fans root for the Mavericks and vice versa. May the #8 seeds continue to disrupt and defy the experts while a city basks in the spotlight and shows the world all of its charisma, chutzpah, allure, traditions, stereotypes (insert Cowboy Hat and Longhorn in front of car here), sights, skyline, and down home hospitality.
Thank You Dallas! Making me proud since 2001. I got here as quickly as I could. Keep shining and keep smiling for your current playoff teams.