A Bum with Heart

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His Spurs.com column will appear every Wednesday.

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Ed Knight is a Baseline Bum with a history. He’s been around so long, he can’t remember exactly when he joined the drum-banging, cowbell-ringing fan club of the Spurs.

Was it 1973? Maybe 1974? All Knight knows for sure is he became a Bum briefly in the 70s, quit for several years, returned in the early 80s and has been cheering hard ever since.

"I think I’ll be able to keep going another four years," says Knight, who is 77. "After that, I don’t know if my knees will hold up."

How to Become a Bum

The Baseline Bums have a limited number of vacancies and are currently accepting membership applications for the 2010-2011 Spurs Season. In addition to the application, those interested will be interviewed by Bum membership committee members to ensure they understand what the requirements are and review Bum benefits. The Bums are looking for die-hard Spurs fans who are willing to donate 25 hours of Spurs designated volunteer work in lieu of discounted season tickets, pay $35 annual membership dues, and support the Spurs in an enthusiastic, positive manner.

If you'd like more information on the Baseline Bums or would like to apply for membership, please contact Giovanni Rosselli at (210) 444-5570 or grosselli@attcenter.com

In the beginning, Knight was a Bum who harassed and heckled, the kind who sat behind the opponents’ bench and tormented the visiting team. "You hear stories about how the Baseline Bums used to spill beer on opposing players," he says. "Well those stories are true."

Today, he is a Bum with spirit and compassion, the kind who raises money for charity and spends 25 community service hours each year on behalf of the Spurs. "We collect blankets and jackets and give them to the poor," he says. "It is very moving because the people are so appreciative."

Knight joined the Baseline Bums before Tim Duncan was born 34 years ago. He’s been around basketball even longer than that. He took up the game as a boy in the 1940s and played for Fox Tech High School in the early 1950s. Knight spent four years in the Navy – serving after the Korean War and before Vietnam – returned to San Antonio and began knocking down shots in the City League.

"I played ball all the way ‘till I was almost 40 years old," he says. "I hated to stop but my fingers and legs weren’t holding up."

Back in the day, he worked as an illustrator at Lackland Air Force Base and then at Fort Sam Houston. He made drawings, posters, slides and illustrations for books. "It was pen and ink work," he says. "Black and white."

He retired as an illustrator and became a water color artist by day, a Baseline Bum by night. You may see Knight’s work displayed at a Starving Artist show. Or you may see him whooping it up with fellow Bums at the AT&T Center. He can tell you stories that pre-date the George Gervin era.

"I used to go to basketball games before we even had the Spurs," he says. "They used to bring the Houston Rockets over here to play about three games a year. We got all excited about being able to see pro ball."

Knight has seen a lot of pro ball. He’s attended Spurs games in three arenas across parts of five decades. He remembers the Bums from the 70s were an edgier, quick-tempered bunch. Once at a bar in the old HemisFair Arena, Knight says, a fellow Bum slugged it out with a Houston Rockets fan over a disparaging remark about the Spurs.

“If you said something against the Spurs in those days,” Knight says, “you were in for a fight."

Current Bums don’t throw guacamole at visiting coaches, as another generation of Bums famously did in 1976. Today’s Bums volunteer at charitable 5K runs, usher school children through the AT&T Center and help raise money for the Gervin Academy, the Spurs Foundation and other non-profits.

"We do quite a few events," Knight says. "If anyone from the Spurs organization says they need help, we volunteer."

Over the years, Knight has become a fine volunteer. He’s been a fervent fan from the beginning.

“Every year it seems I get more excited,” he says. “This year I’m really anxious to see the team. I think we’ve got a good contender, even though other teams like Miami and L.A. have built up. I think our nucleus is just as strong as when we won the championship.”

He’s most excited about the arrival of Brazilian Tiago Splitter, who won Most Valuable Player honors in the Spanish League last season and played well against NBA competition at the recent FIBA World Championships. Knight imagines Splitter and Duncan as Twin Towers 2.

“I almost have the feeling of David Robinson and Duncan all over again,” he says. “Two big dominating guys. I have such a good feeling about this year.

“I wish there was a game today.”