The Bay Area is changing. Young, college-educated individuals are moving west from all over the country for tech jobs, competing for seats in groovy restaurants, and most importantly, everyone is vying for Warriors tickets. This was not always the case.
Up until a few years ago, the Golden State Warriors were famous for one big reason: being bad at winning basketball games. The Warriors have a historic, diverse fan base spanning the region, with a special tie to Oakland— a rapidly changing city in a rapidly-changing region. Thus, we begin a series of conversations between the old and new—two fans who meet serendipitously before a Warriors game.
BART arrives at 24th and Mission
Enter Ian Wexler— a 26 year-old who recently moved to San Francisco to work for a fledgling start-up. His co-worker, Catherine, gave him her ticket to the game because her friends spontaneously planned a dinner date at a new restaurant in the Fillmore. Ian, who loves basketball, jumped at the chance. After his office happy hour (THEY HAVE KEGS IN THE OFFICE), he boards the train on his way to watch the best team on earth.
BART arrives at West Oakland.
Enter William McManus— an 80 year old Oakland resident. He’s now retired, living off his pension and still pays for season tickets to Warriors games. He’s attended games by himself for decades, but now passes them down to his adult son, Lando. He sits in the handicapped seat next to where Ian stands on BART.
William opens his newspaper to the sports page.
Ian bobs his head to the music in his headphones. Texting vigorously.
William covers his mouth and tries to muffle a few sharp coughs. Clears his throat and readjusts the paper to take a closer look.
WM: (mumbling to himself) Everybody wanna shoot threes now hm.
IW: (ignores him, continues listening to whack-ass album)
WM: (shaking head slowly) How you gonna have more three pointers attempted than free throws attempted? It’s a closer shot…nobody even guarding ya…
IW: Did you say something? Or were you talking to yourself?
WM: (peers over half rimmed glasses and forcefully clears throat) Uhh no...no not at all. Talking to these boys playing in the NBA (silly abrupt chuckle)...fools just out there jackin’.
IW: I’m on my way to my first Warriors game, but have followed the team for awhile. Seems like they know what they’re doing though yeah? They win.
WM: Yeah well they the only ones winnin’ and that’s because them boys are into the art form of shootin’. These other fools out here, like I say, they just jackin’ it up.
IW: I just read a 538 article by Nate Silver on why the Warriors should continue doing it though. It’s more efficient.
WM: 5 O’what?
IW: It’s a website. You know, like the internet?
WM: (frowns) First of all, yes, I know the internet. I’m not that old. And wait a minute, did you just say this is your first Warriors game you said you was goin to?
IW: Yeah I just moved to San Francisco. Actually this will be my first time into Oakland. My mom just texted me and said be careful. Should I be worried?
WM: (raises newspaper back up) Yeah, you should be.
IW: Why’s that? It seems like there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. A bunch of my friends just moved there.
WM: (talks through newspaper) I bet they are. Everybody movin’ in cuz folks is moving out.
IW: I mean yeah, it’s cheaper. Do you live here?
WM: (half lowers newspaper) Been here last 69 years. Originally I lived right over there by Mills College. Now I’ve been over off Adeline in West Oakland with my wife for the last 21...wait...is it 21? (looks up to ceiling while mouthing numbers) No, it’s 22 years because Lando was 15 when we moved. 22 years.
IW: That’s a long time. Did you play basketball growing up?
WM: (lowers newspaper to lap) Oh yeah. Yeah. Everybody in my neighborhood played growing up. I actually got a chance to start as a junior in high school over there at McClymonds? You know where that is?
IW: (shakes head)
WM: You know, over there by the Boys and Girls Club? Off Market?
IW: Like I said, first time in Oakland. Don’t know much other than the Warriors play there and there are some really great restaurants.
WM: OH yeah, that’s right! You’re fresh off the boat! (chuckles and shakes head). I tell you what, you’re in for a treat. Oakland ain’t all bad like folks say it is. But like I say I went to McClymonds, but back in the day we kids called it “Mac.” You know, like the movie “The Mack”?
IW: Uh no. Never heard of it. Sorry are you thinking of “Like Mike?”
WM: (squints) Magic Mike?
IW: No Like Mike. It had Lil’ Bow Wow in it. Anyway.
WM: (slightly frowns) No I don’t know that one. But yeah I went to Mac, got to play with big Bill Russell. You heard of him right?
IW: (nods) Yeah I have. He won a lot of championships. But also there were fewer teams in the league right? Like you think he’d be good today?
WM: (bursts out in loud, obnoxious guffaw)
IW: What? What did I say? (ultimate white boy guilt way of apologizing, other riders glare at him)
WM: (folds newspaper, still cracking up) Maaan, let me tell you somethin. Bill Russell was the kinda guy who cou--wait, what’s your name son?
IW: Ian Wexler. You?
WM: William. William McManus. (extends hand)
IW: (shakes hand and nods) Nice to meet you.
WM: (holds handshake and dramatically increases pressure) Ian...Bill would do this move where he would dribble the ball with one hand, grab your hand, just like this, like a real awful handshake--
IW: (Tears form around his eyelids)
WM: And just use your own body weight to throw you out the way! Just straight toss ya! Like Bruce Lee. Ain’t nobody doin’ that today, man. (still holding ultra physical hand grip).
IW: That can’t be...(glances at hand, starting to turn purple)... much fun.
WM: (notices Ian glancing at hand and quickly drops it)
IW: (shaking hand) How many Warriors games you go to each year?
WM: I used to go to ‘em all. Now? I may catch two or three in person. I gave my season tickets to my son Lando for his family. It’s too much work and noise to be going all the time, and then you gotta worry about getting up and waiting in line to take a piss. I ain’t got time for all that. Plus, them kids love them some Steph Curry.
IW: Wait. Your son is named Lando? Like in Star Wars? Drives the Millennium Falcon.
WM: Never seen it.
IW: That’s too bad. I mean the team is so good. Don’t you want to watch this team? Steph, Klay, Draymond, and Durant are just incredible and they could be the best team ever this year. I’m planning to go to lots of games! My work actually gives out tickets.
WM: Oh I watch them now! Believe that. I just turn on the big screen and eat some of my wife’s cookin, her name is Patty, maybe have a beer or somethin’. (readjusts in seat to face Ian better) Wait, your job is giving out tickets? They got applications? (slaps Ian’s shoulder playfully)
IW: (flinches slightly, then smiles broadly) Uh, well yes actually. Well not job applications, but we... It’s a small startup. We’ve developed a product for people to to find dog walkers on-demand. We are still in beta though.
WM: (raises eyebrows) You must be a pretty smart guy. But you need to work on a app that helps you get some basketball knowledge (chuckles warmly). Now, Steph and them is somethin’ else but let’s not start calling them the best TEAM ever just yet. You play ball?
IW: I played freshman basketball in high school, then watched every game at my college. I went to college in Connecticut and played pick-up.
WM: Which school?
IW: It’s called Yale.
WM: (dismissively shakes head) Yeah now I see why you don’t know nothin about basketball. Let me tell you somethin, I loved the Warriors since they first came out here. Yeah, they doin the damn thing. But they need to be more careful because all that jump shootin’ can go cold and then what they gon’ do?
IW: But, like...Steve Kerr is a genius! There’s no reason to believe the shots will stop going in.
WM: (scowls and slaps knees) You don’t have to be a genius to coach no damn basketball game! All you need is some good players.
IW: But it’s not all on the court. Think about Kevin Durant and all his tweeting problems and Draymond Green getting technical fouls all the time. Swaggy P was even dating Iggy Azalea. They need someone to make sure the team flows. These guys have egos.
WM: (starts a short, barking cough) I think that boy need to get off that Tweeter first of all. (cough intensifies)
IW: (leans back initially, then feels terrible and extends a hand to pat William on the back) Are you okay man?
WM: (covers mouth as coughs die down, bending over in seat, nodding his head energetically) I’m good, I’m good. Lord! (clears throat).
IW: (stops patting Billy’s back and watches concerned) You were saying about the tweeting?
WM: Yeah the tweeter and whatnot. (pulls out a handkerchief from inside of jean pocket and wipes mouth) But like I say, the coach ain’t got nothin to do with all that! You see, back in my day, players knew how to act. They knew how to box out, and they knew how to control the emotions (stuffs handkerchief back in pocket). You think the Warriors the best team of all time?
IW: Yes. Definitely. Not even a question. I know Michael Jordan was the best. But this is a team.
WM: Michael was the “best”? Maybe “best marketed” (derisive throat clear as eyes tear up from the coughing). Michael wasn’t doing nothing like Wilt or Kareem. Ain’t no “big men” left playing like those real big men. Wilt Chamberlain woulda averaged 85 points and 56 rebounds on these lil’ dudes!
IW: Joel Embiid, Karl Anthony-Towns, even Lebron would just play faster than Wilt. The game is speeding up. They can shoot.
WM: Speeding up?! Wilt, Kareem, Russell, Nate Thurmond, they didn’t have to speed nothin’ up. A real big man makes the game adjust to him! How fast is the porch light bug zapper, son?
IW: Um. Probably pretty fast…. (looks around nervously). I bet that goes pretty fast?
WM: (cracks up laughing and makes eye contact with other riders) This boy is cracking me up! Whoooo, my goodness. (turns back and grins at Ian as riders glance over briefly) Yes, there are.
IW: (tilts head in nervous confusion)
WM: But let me ask you somethin’. What’s the point of a basketball game?
IW: Well my mom always told me it was to have fun, but that was just my Montclair, New Jersey rec league (shrugs). But in the NBA it’s to win.
WM: (nods vigorously) Exactly. And to win you need the most... (slowly gestures hands in the air encouragingly)
IW: Points (rolls eyes)
WM: (claps hands once) Ladies and gentleman we have an intellectual on our hands! (BART riders rest their eyes on the two fans) Stay with me now. So with scoring, is it easier to make a layup, or a three point shot?
IW: I see what you’re saying. But the Warriors...
WM: (interrupts excitedly) EXACTLY! A layup!
IW: No, but William. There’s a lot of data out there that….
WM: (barrels through Ian’s statement, holding one finger up) And who makes the most layups? Big men. They SHOULD always be around the basket for easy offense, they can rebound and put it back, all kinds of ways to make easy layups ESPECIALLY, if he’s got a little guy on him. Warriors best players are all little! You think KD or Draymond stopping Wilt? (derisive hand wave)
IW: Okay. I hear you. And I’m not going to win this argument right now.
WM: (absentmindedly eyeballs two teenagers in hoodies stepping onto the train) Uh huh.
IW: Let’s say this. The season is still early. Let’s go to a game soon. I can get tickets from my coworker named Catherine. I actually have a crush on her so this works perfectly. Maybe you’ll get what I’m saying. And maybe you can show me some of Oakland. It seems like you know what’s going on here.
WM: (eyes dart back to Ian) Well. Uhh. That sounds nice, I’m just uhhh....well I’m going through something right now. Medically. And ehhh.. I don’t get out too much right now.
IW: Listen, I got tickets, beer, everything. Just show up on BART. Pick the game. I’m new here. You seem like you love the NBA. I do too. And my friends would rather smoke in Dolores Park and eat tacos.
WM: (chuckles) Damn...well, I mean, somebody gotta teach you that there’s more to basketball than just shooting threes all day, like a gotdamn carnival game or somethin.
IW: Excellent! (high fives little lady standing next to him) Here’s my number. Text me what game you want to watch. Can I have your phone number?
WM: Uh, yeah, yeah that’s fine. (gives phone number)
IW: I’ll give you a call.
WM: Oh, alright, yeah that works. I kinda have this thing going on with my lungs right now (weak smile). It’s something me and my family are dealing with, and so. Yeah. Don’t be surprised if I start coughin (forces a stronger smile)!
IW: It’s all good. Don’t worry about it.
WM: (nods and extends hand again) Call me Billy Mac. That’s what my friends call me.
IW: Thanks, Billy Mac.
WM: (interrupts) You know, like the movie, “The Mack”?
IW: (nods and walks off the train)