For much of the world, modern professional sports are often points of social and cultural contention. For the athletes, there is a greater sense of camaraderie, the feeling that practice pays off. But a fan’s blind devotion to a team, when examined from the outside looking in, can sometimes be seen as barbaric and uninspiring. After all, it is just a game.
My assignment was to cover the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 2 watch party Thursday night at Cuatro’s restaurant in West Campus. I figured I could sit like a fly on the wall and talk to a few people when I needed a quote or two, file the story and forget about it. Simple enough.
Cuatro’s defied the dead of the University’s summer campus. Basketball fans, namely Dallas Mavericks supporters, packed the restaurant’s outdoor patio like sardines. One waiter brought in extra tables out to accommodate a group of girls in Dallas apparel while the rest of the wait staff took orders from multiple tables. This was still a “slower game night,” said restaurant General Manager Anna McNeal.
Eventually, a group of men who I could tell were going to be leading the Maverick fans’ cheers showed up. Clad in blue and silver jerseys with the names of Maverick greats on the back, the seven-person group snagged a table front and center and turned their chairs to face Cuatros’ mammoth television. I knew these were the fans I wanted to talk to.
Unlike many of the rest of the Mavericks supporters who sat down strained with anxiety and helplessness over their team’s understood — but never stated — underdog status, this group of guys in the front never showed a drop of sweat despite the sweltering heat of the summer.
Ed Brown was the most confident and most curious man of the group. The 49-year-old, ex-military man had a lot to say to me as I sat down next to him in the first quarter. He chatted about his 22-year-old obsession with the Mavericks and how much he thought the team deserved a ring, while his college-aged son and friends simultaneously watched the game and laughed along with his drunkenly prophetic statements.
“I am 100-percent sure the Mavericks will win this game,” Brown said. “If the refs decide to stop handing the game to the Heat, then we will win this game. Tell them Ed Brown told you so, damn it.”
Brown talked at me through the first half of the game. He told me stories of his long history as a Mavericks fan, and I sat quietly and jotted down every gem he lobbed at me.
“If the Mavs win this game, I will scream like a 13-year-old girl who just saw Justin Bieber,” he said to his son and I, but not before turning his attention to the game to direct a profanity-laced rant at the referees.
He turned back and looked at his son who, when the chips were stacking against his precious Mavericks, was standing up praying at the TV screen for a miracle.
“Jason Terry is my boy’s favorite player,” he said to me, before turning his attention back to his son and then to the screen.
I left the table of rowdy men and continued to pursue what I thought was still going to be a run-of-the-mill account of the watch party. After talking to a few other fans, I went back to Brown’s table.
By then, it was the fourth quarter and Dwyane Wade had just sunk a 3-pointer from the corner of the floor that flattened the air out of Cuatro’s. Despite his team being down by 15, Brown was unimpressed.
"Eh,” he said. “I’m still 98-percent sure we are winning this game."
“Why only a 2-percent drop?” I asked.
“You’re right, I’m back to 100 percent. What do you think son?” he asked the younger Brown, Eddie.
“I’m with you, Dad,” he said.
And 10 minutes later, Brown’s prediction was coming true. The Mavericks, riding the tailcoats of Dirk Nowitzki’s dominance, stormed back to take a three-point lead with under a minute to play.
“Come here, Dad,” Eddie Brown yelled to his father, who was nervously cheering from his chair. He chanted “Dallas! Dallas!” and everyone followed his lead.
With the game tied, Dirk Nowitzki capped off the miraculous comeback with a simple left-handed layup and the Browns, even more than the reenergized restaurant, went wild.
I sat as calm as I could and watched the two hug and celebrate for a few minutes as long as my ear drums could handle it, before the younger Brown continued celebrating with his friends.
“What did I tell you?” the father yelled at me. “I was 100-percent sure we were winning this game. I said it, my son said it, this guy said it, that guy said it — we all told you. Ed Brown told you so. Come here, son!”
For those who play professionally, sports are partly about what separates one athlete from another. For fans, it is generally the opposite. Sports unite fans not to cheer for a random team, but so they feel like they are part of a group as well. It brings people together for all the right reasons. For Ed Brown and his son Eddie, the Mavericks were that source of bonding that so many fathers and sons share.
Ed Brown told me so.