Toros Season Three, Take Two; Plus Blog Contest for Fans!

Don’t look now, but the Austin Toros are 4-1.

I’m going to type that again: The Austin Toros - a team that has been plagued by enough injuries, dashed hopes, jailed mascots, and untimely deaths over the course of its two-year tenure to drive their fans to drink; a team that suffered through a fraught 2006-'07 season that included a stretch in December during which they couldn’t buy a victory, not with Euros, not with Canadian dollars, not with gold bars; a team I was beginning to think was born under a cursed sign in a cursed year - is sitting on a 4-1 record. 4-1. Not to tempt the gods here, but I think a little light celebration may be in order.

Here’s a quick list of the individuals and organizations most responsible for this turnaround (I disqualify myself, as I haven’t been to a game this season and don’t think my transformative powers of positive thinking can transcend physical absence … yet):

The San Antonio Spurs:

Back in June, the reigning NBA champions purchased the Toros (for $30 and a lifetime supply of tortilla chips), becoming only the second team in the league to own their own minor-league franchise. Suddenly the Toros, whose loyalties were spread among three different NBA teams during its first two seasons and whose coaching techniques and playbooks were their own, were privy to all the offensive and defensive schemes of the most successful franchise in American sports. The same system Gregg Popovich has used to lead the Spurs to four championships over the last 10 years is being run every day in Toros practice. Which means soon enough the Toros will be both the most dominant team in the league and the one most likely to be called “boring” by people who don’t care about basketball.

On that note, I’ve decided it isn’t the Spurs who are boring but rather the guy in charge of crowd motivation at their home arena. I went to a few games last season and couldn’t help but notice that the only thing the sound system and Jumbotron screen did was alternate between two chants – “Go, Spurs, Go!” for offense; “De-Fense!” for defense – back and forth for two and a half damn hours. By the third quarter I was looking for a rafter to hang myself from. At what point in history did basketball fans become so lethargic and indifferent that arena managers decided they would only stand for memorizing two imbecilic chants before a full-scale riot broke out? Personally I could do without the chants and the Jumbotrons and the Thundersticks and the white-bread mid-Nineties dance music and all the other maddening accoutrements of the modern-day, family-friendly NBA basketball experience, but if the circus has to be in town, the least we could do is learn a couple new songs, right? Look at the English soccer team Liverpool FC. Every week, their stands are filled to capacity with 80,000 drunken Brits singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” “You’ll Never Walk Alone”! By Rodgers and Hammerstein, for chrissake! And all we get is “Go Spurs, Go”? It doesn’t make sense.

So here’s what I’m going to do: We’re going to have a contest. If there’s anybody out there actually reading this, send me suggestions (via the reply link at the bottom of this entry) for songs that would work well as chants or sing-alongs at local basketball games. The winner will receive a prize of some kind, and I will give you my word that I’ll take the winning suggestion to the people I know in the Toros organization (I don't know anyone in the Spurs organization, unfortunately) and see if I can’t get that song played during a home game. Then we can all show up at that game to sing along and convince the keepers of the PA system at the Austin Convention Center that we as basketball fans are ready for a slightly more sophisticated minor-league chanting experience. Let’s see if we can’t start a movement here.

New Faces:

Only two players from last year’s lineup returned this season – guard Justin Bowen and center Anthony Fuqua (former Toro and D-League Honorable Mention guard Cheyne Gadson was just recalled by the Toros and will be ready to play this weekend) – so there’s plenty of new blood to give credit to.

Since the beginning of the season, the Spurs have assigned rookies Ian Mahinmi and Darius Washington to Austin, hoping to get them more time playing basketball and less time slapping Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the back. Mahinmi is the Toros’ leader in blocked shots while Washington leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, rebounds, IQ, baking ability, love of old movies, ocular acuity, name-memorization, and height-to-shoe-size ratio.

Joining Washington in the back-court is six-foot-four-inch former Kansas Jayhawk Keith Langford, who is averaging 24.8 points per game on 53% shooting while leading the team in minutes played. Ignore the fact that Langford shoots free throws like I shoot free throws (59%) and three-pointers the way my mother shoots three pointers when she’s injured (27%), and it’s easy to see why the Toros picked this Fort Worth native as one of their allocated players.

Together these guys are creating a new winning culture in Austin. Well, them and ...

The Capital City Dancers:

Lovely, talented, and completely enamored with Ryan Gosling weepy The Notebook, the Capital City Dancers are once again in playoff form. With their skimpy outfits, permanent smiles, and provocative dance moves, they were a consistent ray of sunshine during last season’s perpetual overcast, and I have to believe that their relentless positivity and belief in the power of hand-clapping and free-T-shirt distribution has become the lifeblood of the Toros organization.

Anyway, they’re the cream in my coffee.

And remember, send in your song suggestions.

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