Dirk is never late nor early. He arrives precisely when he needs to.
Each and every one of my distinct sports fandoms (the Rangers, the Packers, and theMavericks) was established well before the aughts kicked in and, clearly, one of those ended up overtaking the other two in terms of fanaticism at some point, given that I'm writing this (and you're reading this) on a baseball blog. There's no doubt that I've invested many more hours cumulatively into one than the other two combined over the last 15 years.
But before I ever took up any interest in baseball, and before the seedling of my Packers fandom fully germinated, I was an obsessive Mavericks fan. They were my first true sports love.
I watched damn every game of the 1994-96 seasons and was so spellbound by the Three J's that I invented my own primitive basketball scorecards so that I could go back and rifle through my notebook full of them and relive the memories of those occasions when they actually did win.
I stomped around in front of the television at the age of eight, pretending I was Dick Motta directing his troops around -- and, later, I pretended I was a far less endearing Jim Cleamons.
I remember George McCloud raining down three-point attempts from the heavens as though his life depended on it.
I remember being utterly devastated and driven to tears when my first legitimate sports hero, Jason Kidd, was shipped out of town right around Christmastime '96. I've still got a plaque encasing his Upper Deck rookie card buried somewhere deep in my closet.
There are probably "better" Mavericks fans than me out there (at least in the sense of closely following even the tiniest bits of minutia and watching damn near every game, as I used to), but I'm reveling as much as anyone else in this truly joyous and special night that, frankly, I had serious, deep-running doubts I would ever see happen during the Dirk era.
And let me go ahead and confess something right now, if you'll allow me that opportunity -- I'm still a Rangers fan, but not the same way I used to be. Four-plus years of writing on a virtual everyday basis, of trying to absorb every sabermetric principle and scouting guideline possible, of trying to learn everything I possibly can about the game ... it has eroded my Rangers fandom. I wish this wasn't the case, and I understand why you probably can't relate to where I'm coming from, but it is what it is and I can't change it no matter how much I might want to. I realize this probably isn't the case for guys like Jamey and Adam (though I obviously don't want to speak for them), but I also know for a fact that my condition is not unique among the baseball literati.
The reason I bring this up now is because, as far as I'm personally concerned, there's no such burnout effect with basketball. I don't have to look at basketball from an analytical perspective and stare at every play with a keen and discerning and totally objective eye and point out the faults and strengths of each player. I can simply sit back, enjoy the pure beauty of the game and cheer rabidly like an eight-year-old again ... which isn't to say I don't still do that with baseball at times, but, again, it's just not the same it used to be.
And that, for me at least, is what helps make this so damn special. More special than an eventual Rangers World Series title? Maybe not. But maybe so.
I'd have to know what it feels like first before making that determination.