Growing up along Tobacco Road, I've always been a big college basketball fan.
Growing up just down the road from Charlotte, close enough to attend a Hornets game their inaugural season, I've been an NBA fan off and on.
But now that I'm all grown up, and hearing the groans coming from NBA fans of every team not named Golden State, it only serves to remind me why I'm such a big NFL fan.
I fondly remember the college hoops-like hysteria that enveloped the Hornets in their inaugural season nearly three decades ago, when North Carolinians divided come ACC Tournament time united and passionately cheered on Muggsy Bogues while hopelessly cheering for the likes of Dave Hoppen and Tim Kempton. The Hornets may well have been the ultimate lovable losers that season, a honeymoon period full of hope for the future.
Well, the honeymoon is over. The Warriors, led by the son of an original Hornet with an unbelievable shooting touch of his own, have now won two of the last three NBA titles in impressive fashion and are forecast to win at least 20 more. Given my love of N.C. State basketball in my youth (think 1983), I never count out the underdog, and so I can't help but believe the idea that the rest of the NBA is simply playing for second place is overstated.
Still, when it comes to hope springing eternal, the NFL fan continues to enjoy its day in the sun.
The Westgate Las Vegas has installed the Warriors as the biggest preseason favorite in the history of all four major American sports leagues. Golden State is a 1-to-2 favorite to win it all in 2018, meaning a wager of $100 of monopoly money (hey, the Raiders aren't in Vegas just yet) would net a $50 profit.
In the NFL, where the Patriots are coming off their latest Super Bowl victory and have been praised throughout the offseason for their potential to be even better in 2017, New England opened as the favorites at 6-to-1. That same $100 bill would earn $600 and a hotel on Park Place.
The Patriots' Super Bowl ring reportedly contains 283 diamonds, something that simply can't be a coincidence. Recall that New England fell behind the Falcons 28-3 before mounting an epic rally. Recall it for this reason: The Patriots, like the Warriors in the NBA, are currently the standard bearer for the NFL. But to repeat, they were down 25 points in the Super Bowl to an Atlanta team that hadn't made the playoffs since 2012.
There are other things about the NBA versus the NFL that occasionally set me off, but they mostly have to do with the way the media laments the league.
I shook my head every time I heard someone ask if LeBron's subpar performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals would tarnish his legacy. I can see it now: James' shrine at the Basketball Hall of Fame featuring an asterisk that reads, "Inducted despite the tragic events of May 21, 2017."
And not so much this year, but I've always marveled at the constant chatter about the disaster that would ensue if two small market teams simultaneously snuck into the NBA Finals. The media sometimes makes it sound like if San Antonio makes another title run, the league might go bankrupt.
Legacy is part of the NFL chatter at times, but it's usually contained to the quarterback position and doesn't typically paint one game as irrevocably haunting. And as far as I know, no one has ever freaked out about the Super Bowl ceasing to exist because the smallest market team (the Packers?) crashes the big game.
But, as I'm apt to do, I digress. To put the focus back where it should be, the Panthers coming off a 6-10 season have such a better shot at winning the NFL title this upcoming season than any team with an equivalent record in the NBA.
That, in itself, is a fact worth celebrating.