"4 a : to impair the disposition or character of by overindulgence or excessive praise b : to pamper excessively : coddle"
How, exactly, does a person become spoiled? When I began approaching the question of are Spurs fans being spoiled, I began contemplating the meaning of the condition. I started considering how it starts in someone.
Does having too much of something spoil someone? There are people who have large sums of money that are extremely generous and use their wealth to benefit others. So is having too much of a good thing really enough, by itself, to spoil someone?
Perhaps having too much of something without earning it causes someone to be spoiled. There are, however, those who have unexpectedly come into money or influence suddenly, and they express tremendous gratitude and also seek to help others. So it would seem someone can't become spoiled simply by having a lot of something they didn't earn.
Maybe it's having a lot of something you didn't earn for so long you forget what it was like to not have it. You expect it to be there. You expect large amounts of it to be there, all the time, even though you've never worked for it. You feel entitled to it.
After careful consideration, I'm confident the preceding progression would lead to most people becoming spoiled. Nevertheless, Merriam-Webster's definition – and the definition of several other major dictionaries – have clearly spelled out the exact state of being spoiled. The definition states that character has to be impaired by overindulgence or excess.
That raises an important question: can a team win too much? If excess is a necessary component in spoiling someone, is it fair to say that winning can ever exist in excess? If a team wins 75 games in a year, but their division rival wins 74, doesn't that mean the unusually high numbers of wins were all necessary? What if they had the number one seed in the conference secured at 60 wins? Were those last fifteen wins overindulgent?
If the point of the game is to score more points than the other team, doesn't that make playing to the objective of the game (winning) necessary every time? It would seem that winning cannot occur in excess within pro sports.
The definition of spoiled also states that character must be impaired. Impair suggests to damage or diminish. It's hard to make judgments about a large and diverse group of people, especially when it comes to their collective character, if such a thing even exists.
Can we honestly say that the character or disposition of Spurs fans has been diminished because the team they cheer for has won a lot of basketball games? Wouldn't that be levying a charge typically reserved for unappreciative children who spend their wealthy parents' money on frivolous entertainment in amounts that approach what the average person makes in a year? Spurs fans expect their team to perform well, but I don't think they've spiraled down as far as having actual character deficiencies as a result of win percentage.
Spurs fans are surprised. They're shocked at a level of play that is inconsistent with a decade long performance ranking among the best in professional sports. The Spurs aren't playing horribly, but they are playing sub-par, according to their own standards, and that's a distinction Spurs fans are still able to make. The Spurs are like a light that has shone so brightly over the past ten years that when they diminish in radiance, even slightly, people notice. That makes Spurs fans observant, demanding at most, but not spoiled.
The (almost) Exceptions
There are always exceptions. The fan base of a professional sports team is too large and too wide spread to be entirely free of idiots. Though I believe they are in the minority, there are people whose disposition is affected by whether the Spurs win or lose. I still don't believe they qualify as being spoiled, due to the specific criteria the word's definition requires, but their character certainly seems diminished in the wake of half a season only slightly less impressive than ones that have come before it.
How does it happen? How does someone who has nothing to do with the outcome of a game or season become so emotionally dependent on the result? I think it starts with them taking pride in their team; there's nothing wrong with that. At some point, however, that pride becomes personal pride. They believe because they route for the team that wins, that somehow elevates them personally. They feel personal pride when their teams wins, and conversely they feel some level of personal shame when their team loses. They have no effect on the outcome so their frustration is two-fold. Their feelings of personal worth are being affected by a sports team they can't directly help. These people are, obviously, unhealthy and unfortunately they also tend to be excessively vocal during a season like this one.
Most Spurs fans, aren't spoiled. The ones that are having their whole lives ruined because the Spurs aren't winning as many basketball games as they have in the past, those people are just noisier than the rest of us.