The final horn has sounded. The last-second desperation heave from three-quarter-court harmlessly bounces twelve feet from it's intended target. The game is over. Your team has lost.
At some point in their lives, fans of every NBA franchise will lose something near and dear to them: a playoff game. To help those of you that do not understand their grief, I've outlined the five stages they go through to cope.
STAGE ONE: BLAME THE REFEREES
Blaming the referees is the only permanent stage of grief. An imagined slight by an official can cause a wound so deep it never heals. The pain caused becomes unresolved emotional baggage resulting in episodes of schizophrenic paranoia. Subjects will claim to have "evidence" of a vast NBA-wide conspiracy (involving David Stern, network executives, the Premier of China, and the Illuminati chapter of the Freemason Society) to fix the outcomes of NBA games.
Referee Paranoia is uncurable. Once you notice symptoms, it's already too late. The damage has been done. The condition is permanent and can only get worse. In some extreme cases of Referee Paranoia, subjects become so despondent they quit watching professional basketball altogether, even going so far as to compare it to the WWE.
If you notice a friend or loved one complaining about NBA officials at local taverns or internet fansites, contact a doctor immediately. You need to invest in a set of prescription ear plugs.
STAGE TWO: FIRE THE COACH
The second stage of grief focuses the blame away from outside forces and onto the other perceived cause for the loss: the head coach. Individuals in this stage of grief believe the local team needs to be the opposite of what it is now. If it's a slow-paced team, they should focus on fast-breaking more often; if their offensive-oriented, they should become defensive-oriented. They believe the only way to address these issues is to fire the coach.
This stage is treatable, but only by firing the coach. Once treated, the grief is resolved until the next playoff loss when the individual goes through a similar stage of grief called "Fire the GM".
STAGE THREE: TRADE THE PLAYERS
This is another delusional stage of grief where the individual believes that an opposing team will accept a combination of bench-players and second round picks for their franchise's go-to guy. In certain situations, such as a trade with Kevin McHale, these delusions can turn into an extended period of euphoria.
Behavior during this stage consists of four-hours stints on ESPN's trade machine, posting hypothetical trade scenario blogs on internet fansites, and managing over three fantasy baskeball teams.
STAGE FOUR: DRAFT SAVIOR
During the fourth stage, the individual becomes convinced that the solution to the playoff loss is a can't-miss sleeper, easily obtained late in the draft, who predictably went to their alma mater.
STAGE FIVE: THERE'S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR
In the final stage, the individual analyzes his teams deficiencies and makes excuses for why it will be different next year. Often times the perceived solutions are a new player, coach, or draft pick obtained during the off-season, though that's not always the case. Sometimes it can be explained-away as the team having time to "gel" or the "re-dedication" of on oft-troubled and lazy star.
The individual believes that next season his team will be an invincible juggernaut, only able to be stopped by crooked referees.
Please help raise awareness about how to deal with playoff grief by reccomending this blog as early and often as you can. Blazer fans will need to know these stages to help better understand the Rockets fans' behavior after they lose game seven.