Let’s start with the credentials. I am a diehard, birth-to-death fan of three professional sports teams: the San Diego Chargers, the San Diego Padres, and the Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) Clippers. I’ve also lived through 13 presidential elections, counting the one a few weeks after my birth that brought us Richard M. Nixon and the one in a few weeks that, well, has made most of us long for the good ol’ days of Richard M. Nixon.
What this combination of teams and years means is that I have a lot of experience with losing. And I mean a lot, both in terms of quantity and quality. I’m halfway through my fifth decade of fandom, and none of my teams has ever won a title. Heck, in 130ish combined seasons they’ve only made the finals three times (one Super Bowl and two World Series). For those scoring at home, this means that 97.7 percent of the time my hopes were crushed prematurely, and 2.3 percent of the time they were crushed slowly, in the most torturous way possible.
This doesn’t tell the half of it, though. For most of my lifetime all of these teams have been bad. Often comically so. This year, for instance, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Chargers lose two different games in which, during the 4th quarter, their expected win percentage was 99.9. The odds of them losing all four of the games they’ve lost, given the leads they held in those games, comes out to a cool 30 million to 1.
The Padres, meanwhile, are so cheap they’re the MLB equivalent of a guy springing for Taco Bell on a first date. The combined salary of the Yankees’ starting infield has usually surpassed the Padres’ entire payroll. And yet for most of my life, they weren’t even the biggest cheapskates among my three favorite teams.
Of course, if you were a Clippers fan in any decade before this one, you know damn well which team was. For nearly 30 years the Clips were the laughingstock of the NBA, an easy W for every opponent and an easy punch line for every late-night comic. Winning seasons came less frequently than an 80-year-old man without Viagra. Talented players bailed the instant they hit free agency. The owner was a racist slumlord, and that’s pretty much the nicest thing you could say about him.
As a connoisseur of terrible teams—a leading authority in the field of sports suckitude—I can say with the utmost certainty that being a Clippers fan was awful. Excruciatingly, nauseatingly, hopelessly awful.
But here’s the thing: Being a Clippers fan isn’t awful anymore. In fact, for the last six years, it’s been pretty damn great. Don’t believe me? Try this checklist.
Do they go into every year with at least some plausible hope of winning the title? Check.
Do we get to watch far more wins than losses every year? Check.
Are their games entertaining? Do they play a fun, high-scoring, high-flying breed of basketball? Check yeah!
For the last year or two, there has been some sentiment around Clips Nation (and Clipper Nation in general) that anything short of winning a title is failure, and that being satisfied with the status quo is a “loser’s mentality.” To which I say: Screw that. This is the first time in history when it’s actually been fun to be a Clippers fan, and given the contract statuses of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this could well be our last year in the sun before plunging back into the darkness. I, for one, intend to enjoy every minute of it.
Yes, it sucks that Kevin Durant ruined the NBA by making the winner a foregone conclusion. And yes, it sucks that the Clips’ window may be about to shut. Believe me, nobody gets that more than I. But watching the Clippers beat up on shitty teams (cough … Lakers … cough) is fun. Watching them play high-profile games on national TV is fun. Watching the playoffs with a real rooting interest is fun, even if the ending is painful.
If you’re a true Clippers fan who’s in it for the long haul, take these things for granted at your peril. Because no matter how young you are, trust me, your 13th presidential election is coming in the blink of an eye. And while you’re debating the merits of the 2036 race between (at the rate we’re going) Senator Satan and Governor Kim Jong Un, you might also be looking back fondly at the current era of Clippers basketball, wishing you had appreciated how amazing this team was, and hoping that someday you’ll have it this good again.