While walking the streets of New York — the city, not the pizza joint — many things run through your head. Most of which start with, “I really hope that half-naked guy isn’t walking in my direction.” But I digress.
A lot of those things seem pretty mundane or second nature at the time, as you’re just trying to navigate the hoards of people in an effort to cross the street without getting hit by one of the many overzealous cabbies more willing to curse at you than a Lakers fan visiting US Airways Center. It’s not until you are a few steps — no pun intended — removed from the situation that you really see there are life lessons to be learned from the concrete jungle that is Manhattan.
As was the case with me. After returning from the NBA Draft Lottery in Times Square and reflecting on the experience, I realized it actually taught me a thing or two about the process the Suns and their fans will be going through to rebuild the franchise.
The first lesson was that being meticulous and calculated in your moves is the best way to get ahead. If you’ve ever walked a crowded sidewalk in Manhattan and needed to get anywhere fast you understand this concept. If you rush to get there and try to run, you’ll get nowhere due to the overwhelming amount of people. If you slow down and are thoughtful about your moves you can navigate the crowd with ease even though it might not be the most desired pace.
The same can be said for the way fans need to look at the roster moves the Suns need to make. Sure, you can try to get a fast fix but you’re more likely to get nowhere fast than actually right the ship. It takes time, planning and strategic moves over a period of time to get it to where you want it to be.
Another thing the trip taught me is the biggest tourist destinations draw the largest crowds and cost the most, but it’s the hidden gems that can turn out to be the most enjoyable to see and experience.
In professional sports a similar strategy applies. The biggest names draw the most attention on the market and cost the most but sometimes it’s the second-tier guys that can be the best values and make the largest impact on a team. Yes, everyone wants to see the Empire State Building or Times Square, but sometimes it’s the Paley Center or a small Italian restaurant off the beaten path that makes for a better experience. For a team searching for an identity, it’s going to be building a strong base of those type of players that will start to turn things around.
You also need to remember that at times the journey may be painful but the destination is worth it. I made the mistake of only packing business shoes and flip flops on my trip. Since black dress shoes look about as good as OJ Simpson in a court room — he looks like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float of himself — when you pair them with shorts, I had to wear flip flops while walking dozens of city blocks at a time. That obviously led to a few blisters and rubbing the skin on my foot raw. You know what though? It was worth it when I reached 30 Rock to see Jimmy Fallon practice his monologue, or Central Park to sit while reading a book.
As Suns fans it’s the same way. At times the journey of building the team from the ground up and the right way may be painful, but it’ll be more than worth it when it leads the franchise to glory.
The last lesson NYC taught me, as Ferris Bueller said, was “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” If you’re so busy worrying about where you’re headed in the city you could miss out on something cool. Take me for example. I was rushing to get to the next thing on my list in the city. Randomly I decided to slow down and look around. At that moment I was across the street from a book store and at that time Phil Jackson just happened to be doing a book signing. If I hadn’t slowed down and looked around, I would have missed a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell an 11-time NBA Champion just how much he and the Bulls crushed me as a young man in 1993.
There is no doubt that the franchise’s ultimate goal is to win a championship. As a fan, though, you can’t get so caught up in that that you miss great moments happening around you like a Goran Dragic buzzer beater, a stellar Markieff Morris dunk or a plethora of other things that are bound to occur. Those moments are what make us fans.
Phoenix may be a world away from New York, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it. In fact, it may just hold the secret to enjoying the Suns more.