`Tis the season, as they say. You can tell because the warm, fuzzy articles are starting to roll from the presses. No doubt there will be a steady stream of them about every player from every angle you can imagine all the way until late October, broken up only by reams and reams of pre-season picks. If form holds true, everybody's assessment of the team's renewed chances will raise by at least 10 wins between now and November, only to plummet by 20 in the cold light of mid-December.
The worst part of the off-season is surely the August dead period we just went through, but a close second for me is this patch we're entering. At least right after the season ends there's draft talk and plenty of semi-hard evidence for analysis. All we'll have for the next six weeks is hype and speculation bolstered by folks who hope we've all forgotten that we went through the same false dawn the year before this...and the year before...and the year before.
As a public service to keep you (and your fellow fans) sane through this process, we offer today these Ten Commandments for Pre-Season Fans:
- THOU SHALT NOT believe anything you read in glowing reports about returning players until thou hast seen it demonstrated with thine own eyes during the regular season...repeatedly. Everybody is talented in the off-season.
- THOU SHALT NOT put any stock whatsoever in any team's pre-season record or what it might indicate.
- THOU SHALT NOT clamor for a player who gets 22 minutes a game in pre-season (for purposes of evaluation and giving the veterans a rest) to get that same 22 minutes once the regular season starts.
- THOU SHALT NOT pass judgment on the current year's draft picks until at least an entire season has passed, preferably two or three. Pre-season is too soon!
- THOU SHALT NOT judge veterans by whether they show up for unofficial pre-training camp workouts with their teammates. This does not guarantee team cohesiveness or better play. The classic example is the 1996 Indiana Pacers who, after going 52-30, winning their division, and losing the Eastern Conference finals in 7 the year before, showed up to a man a month early to train together. That year they played inconsistently, finished with the exact same record, and bowed out in the first round. Rookies and young guys need to work early. If vets want to rest their bodies, let them.
- THOU SHALT NOT believe that a guy who comes into camp out of shape can play his way into shape during the season. That used to be true but the pace and intensity of the game has changed. Only two things happen to guys who come in out of shape nowadays: either they get benched and don't play a lot or they do play a lot and get injured.
- THOU SHALT NOT give too much credence to stories of personal reform. Guys who have truly reformed don't tell everybody about it beforehand and expect immediate credit for it, they hush up and let their actions speak for them.
- IF THOU HAST SPENT the entire offseason convincing everybody in earshot why thy previously putrid team hast improved, thou shalt not abandon said position in disillusioned cynicism when they getteth off to a 3-10 start. And thou certainly shalt not then regale us with stories of how they really suckest! It's early in the season, improvement is incremental, Rome wasn't built in a day. If thou expectest more than that, it is thy problem, not the team's.
- Similarly, IF THOU HAST SPENT the entire offseason predicting that thy team will stink, thou shalt not gloat, nor even be happy, shouldst thou turn out to be correct. Realistic analysis is fine, but be a fan first, a smug smarty-pants second.
- THOU SHALT NOT brag that your pre-season predictions are holding true in Week Two. Period!