There is no reasonable way to conflate the playoff journeys of the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks, what with them being to each other as cheese is to shoes, but Sunday night left us with the germ of an idea – light years away, we grant you, but viruses have to start somewhere.
And yes, we cheerfully acknowledge that we have gone DefCon 1 on farmer-before-horse-before-cart here.
The Warriors, who throttled Portland, 118-106, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series in a relatively staid (by Warrior standards, anyway) arena, are defending not only the title they won but the reputation they have built and burnished as sport’s irresistible force.
They have reached 31.3 percent of their goal, which is to choke-slam the National Basketball Association.
The Sharks, who beat Nashville in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series in a freshly filled and noise-y arena, are trying to make the difficult transition from being haunted by ghosts to being the ghosts who haunt others. Their history says no, but a year ago, the Warriors’ history said no in larger letters and in Old English font for extra gravitas.
They have reached 37.5 percent of their goal, which is to gobsmack the National Hockey League. And, frankly, the rest of us.
The parallels are few, other than geography, and by most measures largely favor the Warriors. Golden State has gone from mythical kingdom to cultural sporting icon, and this past fortnight did it without much more than the slightest hint of their iconiest icon, Wardell S. Curry. They are the team the networks go full Pavlov to air in the prime watching areas, the one that casual fans can jaw-drop to watch most easily, and the Sawed-Off Bridge logo is almost omnipresent.
The Sharks, on the other hand, were once an overblown myth that could never make the magic it advertised. Cups were rumored but never seen, Cup finals threatened but never achieved. Unlike the Warriors, who made few playoffs but exceeded expectations in the ones they did, the Sharks made lots of playoffs and disappointed in most.
Now they are together, doing their deeds simultaneously – well, kind of.
The two teams have made the playoffs in tandem only six times in their mutual histories, and the third time they have reached the second round together. Sunday was the first time they’d ever won a playoff game on the same date, let alone within an hour’s drive – and maybe that’s where the idea that they have meaningful commonalities arose.
But maybe these Sharks are where the Warriors of two and three years ago were – playing the intriguing upstart that at their best can irk teams that would seemingly be their betters. Maybe they have no Curry-level star, but they have the odd Klay Thompson in Joe Pavelski, the Andre Iguodala figure in Joe Thornton, and an amalgam of supporting pieces that fit far better than we at first suspected.
Except of course for Brent Burns, who is comparable to no Warrior (or most living humans, for that matter) unless Bob Myers is planning to sign a yeti in the offseason.
They are not really fighting for the same space and time in the area, to be honest. The Warriors will win that battle hands down. Plus, the landscape is always crowded with fans of niche sports like professional football and baseball (Trolling! Get Your Indiscriminate Trolling Here! Get It While it’s Hot! Get It While It’s Buttered!).
So this isn’t really about popularity, or audience size, or anything other than that rarest of all animals – imagining far for before it should be imagined, to be sure – two teams from the same area playing in their respective finals. The urge to compare them and regard them as equals is too great to ignore, and too strained to take seriously.
No city has ever done the parade double (Dallas and San Antonio did the state double in 1999, and they’re the equivalent of Oakland to Bakersfield), and only three metropolitan areas have even gotten teams to the finals together, most recently Newark (Devils over Ducks, Spurs over Nets) in 2003.
And we’re not even 40 percent of the way there yet, making this particularly silly. But in rebuttal, three points:
1) It’s Monday, and you’ve got nothing better to do.
2) It’s Monday, and you haven’t done your 2017 NFL mock draft yet.
3) It’s Monday, and you take your premature and counterfeit glories where you can, because let’s face it – there’s no such thing as a good Monday.