Fandom is a funny thing. Sports are one of the few places on earth where people legitimately have no idea what is going to happen on a given night. They’re the one subject in which we’re allowed to turn off most of the more rational parts of our brains and let loose. The combination of these two things lead to people getting far too emotionally attached to sports, as the ebbs and flows of games and how organizations operate serve as a bit of an escape from the hell that surrounds us on a daily basis.
This emotional attachment can be good. It’s what leads to the communal experience that makes sports such a wonderful and unique thing — parents sharing the cultural tradition that is fandom with their children because they felt it with their parents, cities rallying around teams and players, etc. This does not exist anywhere else unless, like, you’re from New Jersey and Bruce Springsteen releases a new album.
On Thursday, we got an example of where this can be a bit of a bad thing. Kawhi Leonard made his return to San Antonio, suiting up in his old building for the first time as a member of the Toronto Raptors. The Spurs went on to run Leonard and co. out of the building, but not before the Spurs faithful booed Leonard like the fate of the world depended on it despite Gregg Popovich’s wishes that this would not happen and the organization’s attempt to quell the situation with a tribute video to Leonard and Danny Green.
It, of course, stems from the fact that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio following a lost 2017-18 season in which trust between team and player was, apparently, irreparably broken over a quad injury. Leonard said he wanted out, Leonard got out, and both sides are better for it than they would be if he stuck around this season and bolted in free agency. As we’ve seen in the NBA a handful of times over the years — Leonard in San Antonio, Paul George in Indiana, Chris Paul in Los Angeles — big name players are increasingly deciding to say they will seek greener pastures when their contract is up instead of waiting until free agency to leave.