A funny thing happened after the San Antonio Spurs dismissed the Los Angeles Lakers from the 2012-13 NBA Playoffs on Sunday night.
We live in a competitive society and professional sports leagues are the pinnacle of competition, where champions are trumpeted and losers are heckled, and upon defeating their chief rivals for the last decade and a half, the Spurs pitied the Lakers. Here’s Tony Parker on the victory:
“It was just a weird feeling. Obviously, I am happy we won, but it was just weird. They were missing a lot of guys, so we’re just happy to go to the next round.”
And more, from head coach Gregg Popovich:
“Obviously, it wasn’t a fair fight. When you’re a competitor, you want to compete on an even basis, and the Lakers weren’t able to do that. … Even though it wasn’t a fair fight, we still want to win the series, and I’m glad we did. Our focus was great.”
I had a similar experience recently, where a justified win just didn’t feel right. In the adult basketball league that I play, my team actually lost a playoff game, but we advanced on a technicality because our opponent used players who weren’t on the official roster. I felt much like Parker; in the end, I was happy that the other team didn’t get away with cheating, but it felt weird that we didn’t get a chance to earn it on the court.
Therein lies the dichotomy. It’s strange, but our competitiveness devalues wins that aren’t garnered at the height of competition. A win is a win is a win, except when it isn’t. Pity, that.