On Being an Orlando Magic Fan

Last edited on 5/1/11, 10:48 a.m.

It was 1996 and I was discovering the NBA for the first time, spending all my allowance on cards, memorizing stats, working on my dribble. Growing up in North Florida, my hometown team just happened to have two of the league’s hottest young stars, who happened to have made the finals last year. I couldn’t help falling for the Orlando Magic. We were just good enough to believe in. I was convinced that year that we could get by the Bulls, 72 wins and all.

Just good enough to believe in. Well, we had our asses handed to us, Shaq left us for L.A., and to be honest, that’s when I really fell in love. Ever-conscious of being dismissed as that team Shaq left, I learned the true meaning of being a fan. Now a preteen that didn’t quite fit in, always the shortest player on the basketball court — I came to identify with the Magic’s heart and hustle. They helped me understand it was okay to be different, understated.

By the time we signed Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill, I had started to discover girls. And I guess I got sick of Grant Hill’s knees crapping out, because I tuned out entirely for most of the 2000s.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I started following basketball again, when an upstart Magic team captured my heart. We had three deserving all-stars, insane depth, Turk, Pietrus, Courtney Lee, Gortat. We took the corner 3 over the sensational dunk; we preferred defensive switches and ball rotation to individual brilliance. We were smart, we played to our strengths and had an eye for detail. We were more than the sum of our parts. And it wasn’t just the team itself — it was knowing that we were under the radar. We didn’t look as good on magazine covers as Lebron, and we knew it. No one expected us to make that run to the finals in 2008, but attentive Magic fans knew we were more than capable. How sweet it was when they came through — coming within a layup of going up 2-1 in the finals.

Becoming a sports fan in my 20s was an extremely self-conscious process for me. In my teens, I developed a distaste for the machismo and bravado of the prototypical fan. I came to think of sports as little more than a petty proletariat distraction from real issues. By college, I had nearly given up on sports entirely.

But the Magic, nuanced, just good enough to believe in, and the perennial underdog: they offered me an in, a way to engage without compromising my self-identity. Finding likeminded critical basketball fans, and learning to appreciate the excitement of the NBA on my own terms has been an enormously rewarding experience for me — one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

This Orlando Magic team was always just good enough to really believe in. Up until a week ago, I would tell anyone who listened that if we would just play the kind of ball we’re capable of, we could beat anybody.

Well, it’s time to acknowledge that they’re no longer good enough to believe in. I’ll always be a Magic fan, don’t get me wrong. But a team with Arenas and Turkoglu taking up over half the cap isn’t winning a championship. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but with good management and some luck, we’ll be back soon enough.

History will forget this team, and that’s okay. But I’ll always remember them — as the team that helped me understand and embrace fandom, as a team I could believe in despite the odds, and as a team that really had a chance. I will always love the 2008-2011 Orlando Magic.

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17 thoughts on “On Being an Orlando Magic Fan

    • I bleed blue and silver, bro. Magic fan til I die. I merely intended to say I have secondary teams I’ll be rooting for in the meantime. I actually edited that bit out because it seems it was distracting from what I really mean to say here.

  1. weak article. sorry i read it. we went to the finals in 2009 not 2008. hopefully that was just a typo. but i do like the optimism. but unfortunately I don’t have much. I wish I was Otis, or Bob, or Rich. I would sit Dwight down and ask “What can we do to keep you here? We’ll do anything we can. Our franchise starts and ends with you. Please believe in us and we’ll return the favor”. GO MAGIC!!!!

    • The season began in 2008 and ended in 2009. If anything, he’s only guilty of being too lazy to type out “2008-2009 season”.

      My Magic fandom has pretty much followed that exact same path. Shaq and Penny got me into basketball when I was a young kid growing up in TN with no other teams around. Then, when I moved to Tampa in 2005, I found myself closer to the team and able to actually watch them on TV. Fell in love again. Though, this year’s trades left me shaking my head, I still tried to have faith. Still don’t know why you take a team that wins 59 games and has the second best record in the league the year before and completely tear them apart…

      Didn’t work out, but here’s hoping that we get creative in the offseason and do whatever it takes to return us to championship contention again.

  2. I am here. This Article is what summoned me.

    BANDWAGON SMASH!

    sorry dude, we cheer for the city on the front.

    Not the name on the back. If you grew up in Orlando maybe you would see that.

    • aw c’mon now. Never said I’m not a fan anymore. I keep editing the piece because I feel like people are taking away the wrong things, but maybe I should just let it be.

      • Aw man its cool. Just opinions over the interweb. For me at least, being raised in Orlando we only have 1 team and that’s it. So while other fans of more fortunate cities have 4 chances a year to taste the title glory(NHL MLB NBA NFL) We Orlando fans only have 1 shot once a year. Its crappy, but it makes things like 2009 that much better. Yes I like KD and Russel Westbrook but cheering for them is not nearly the same as cheering for the Magic. You don’t feel as genuinely good as you do when you cheer for the Magic and they are successful(again to me). I definitely think you know your stuff and hold no grudge, just stating that Dwight leaving is what it is, That won’t affect how I feel about my team and the city they represent. Also who cares if people misunderstand your message, its still yours and they are reading it. Hope you are not discouraged by this and here’s to a good week man.

      • Yeah, don’t take my earlier words personally. I apologize…I posted that when I was drunk and upset. It’s just a hard pill to swallow losing and the prospect of losing Dwight Howard at some point in the future is devastating. Your description and writing of a lot of it was very well written. Good luck and keep putting your thoughts down on paper or the internet. Writing on blogs or writing anywhere about anything is tough because as you said people just focus on the wrong things and tend to respond controversially. A person who disagrees with anything is more likely to respond than the people who agree. Good luck and take care!

  3. Don’t edit, people take away the wrong things, just the way it is. How can they complain if they were to pay attention, if someone pays attention the intent gets through.

    I agree with you. After Shaq left I payed attention for a few years but more important things came up. I checked the sports page and internet for the Magic but that was about it for the bulk of the ’00’s. I would get excited about changes they made, but that was about it. And really, you can’t take anything away from the team, they always play hard. Management just sucks. Always has. They get a player in a trade that becomes a force on the court and makes no money. When they don’t do much anymore and their contract runs out the management gives them a bigger contract than they deserve as payback, this leaves them untradable. Letting Turk go because of Peitrus, wtf? let a starter go for a sub and then not start the sub? Management just makes no sense.

    Then came the 08-09 season. My son got old enough to ask about basketball, we watched a few games on tv, he wasn’t that impressed. Then we went to a watch party during the playoffs, he was hooked. We watched the rest of the playoffs intently. I got back into it more because of him. Then they lost the finals. I knew what was coming, management would screw things up. So a drop into the lottery wouldn’t surprose me.

    I love the Magic, but hate the management.

    And to the comment about following the city not the player, free agency made it cool to root for your favorite players teams and not just one team.

  4. I have watched the Magic since day 1, sat through the T-mac, D Armstrong years, lived in Central Florida my whole life and in Orlando for 11 years. These last three years have been the most full-filling living in this city. I am really disappointed by the fans who say they will never watch another game if Dwight leaves. You probably hadn’t been watching before, and I’d rather not have fans like that represent my city. Watching and cheering through the bad times will make winning a championship that much sweeter. If you want to always win go watch the Lakers.

    • I have to admit, for the most part Orlando fans are pretty terrible. Just take one trip to a Magic game and you’ll see that. They pay more attention to anything they possibly can besides the game. Most don’t even know what’s going on.

      I had partial season tickets this year, because I live about 1.5 hours away, and sat next to a man who had the same package, so we were able to discuss our team, our chances, and the league in general. It was refreshing being able to talk with another intelligent fan. Unfortunately, he’s the only one within my presence I could do this with. All of the other “fans” spent more time texting, playing games on their phones or just being completely absent from their seats, then they did watching the court.

      Oh well… at least we get full audience participation when they do the “Kiss Cam”.

      Good times.

  5. Just good honest fandom. Sometimes you just have to accept that changes need to be made realistically. You shouldn’t worry about what other’s say about your fandom, it’s yours not theirs. I agree with you about the upcoming season, barring some help from a new CBA and some hard hard work put in over the off-season from guys like Arenas and Turk, this team is lacking the championship edge. Dwight keeps them at dark horse status, but Turk and Arenas could elevate them.

    I really would look for the real improvement from the current squad has to come from Ryan Anderson and bringing in a player much like “Peaches”.

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