As a kid growing up in Alamo, a small Texas border town, San Antonio was my Disneyland.
I was 11 years old when my folks and I stayed fancy at El Palacio del Rio. I was competing in the National Twirling Championship at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center – the part that is now torn down – as the only Mexican-American in my age group. The only Mexican-American as far as my eyes could see. I won fourth place. My mom and dad were thrilled. They loved that I twirled, loved the River Walk. Loved San Antonio.
It took me a while, but soon after I moved here about fourteen years ago, I fell in love with San Antonio, too. Specifically, I fell in love with conjunto music and the Spurs. How can you live in this city and not fall in love with los eSpurs? Tim. Manu. Tony, especially: I love you.
I spent twelve years in Dallas and never fell in love with the Mavs. They’re not lovable like the Spurs.
Tim. Manu. Tony. Is this an end of an era? I kept asking myself as I watched the end of Game 6 against the Thunder Thursday night at El Chiliquil, a Mejicano restaurant the features karaoke en español four nights a week. A Pedro Infante look-alike was singing a classic dame-tequila-I’m-in-a-cantina type of song as my comadre and I walked in. If the Spurs were going to lose the series, I was in the right place for heart break.
I had been at the Guadalupe Theater earlier in the evening to catch Nicolás Valdez in his one man show, Conjunto Blues. I loved it. It was the opening night of the Tejano Conjunto Festival and the teatro was aflame with Chicano pride … and cell lights from audience checking on the Spurs game.
The Spurs bring this city passion, heartbreak, despair. Just last week, I watched the Spurs at the Friendly Spot for the first half, Beethoven Maennerchor for the second. Que chiflada, I know. Both places featured grown men and women of all colors and social strata high-fiving each other, swearing at the refs, and praying for a miracle during those crucial final minutes of the game.
The Spurs onda unites San Antonio as one. Income inequity does not unite us. Education disparity does not bring us together. Chronic diabetes in our barrios? No. It’s our love for the Spurs that enables us to like our neighbors, at least during play-off season.
San Antonio has a love affair with the Spurs. Admit it. We expect our Spurs to extend our poraso from Fiesta into June. Somos chilfaldos – spoiled.
Springtime brings Fiesta and, despite its good ol’ boy beginnings, I end up watching baton twirlers and marching bands like the 11-year-old me. My body clock quickly transforms into Spurs playoff mode, and for the first time all season, I end up watching the Spurs on a big screen in public, a bucket of beer close by.
Every sector of our beautiful city celebrates Spurs playoff season in a unique way. The Westside shows its pride with Styrofoam cups lined up along a chain-link fence to spell out “Go Spurs!” The Northside shows their love with gargantuan Spurs flags flying in privileged breeze. The Southside? Nombre, the Chili’s at South Park Mall is rowdy during the games. And, let us not forget the Eastside, where the AT&T Center is located, although we often do. Most fans get in and get out of as fast as they can for Spurs games.
Mas triste: every sector of my life is impacted by the Spurs play-off season.
Confession: I didn’t just fall in love with conjunto music and the Spurs when I first moved to San Anto; I fell in love with a man who dances to conjunto and works for the Spurs. His employment was a definite plus during courtship – invites to the game and conjunto dancing after at Salute. Classic San Anto nights.
A baby, a break-up, and 10 years later, and our visitation schedule depends if the Spurs win or lose.
Thursday night the Spurs lost to the Thunder 113-99.
Pero sabes que? Spurs fans are still in love.
Here is a collective call to San Antonio: let us continue to bond together, even after play-off season. We need it before the presidential election rips us apart again. Go out, high-five your neighbor, dance some conjunto this weekend, and have yourself a classic San Anto night.
A version of this story originally aired on Texas Public Radio’s Texas Matters.
Top image: Spurs fans celebrate in downtown San Antonio after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, June 12, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.