40 Years of Fun and Counting

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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Paul Feola doesn’t remember the day, the month or the year. But he remembers the time the Spurs taught him a lesson he’ll carry to the grave: Never give up on the Silver and Black.

The Spurs were trailing the Phoenix Suns by eight points with less than 40 seconds to play in the old HemisFair Arena. Feola and his buddy, Morris Bundick, rose from their seats in anger and stomped off to the parking garage.

As the car descended from the upper level, one of them turned on the radio. The Spurs had tied the game. Astonished at the turnaround, Feola and Bundick found a parking spot on the second level and dashed back into the arena.

They settled into their seats and watched the Spurs win in overtime. The couple sitting in front of them couldn’t resist a jab. “They called us fair weather fans,” Feola recalls.

Feola and Bundick are anything but. They’ve owned season tickets for 40 years. They paid $5 each to attend the first Spurs game in history -- San Antonio vs. the San Diego Conquistadors on Oct. 10, 1973. School teachers at the time, Feola and Bundick went to one game after another until they decided to buy season tickets.

“We were in our mid-20s and on top of the world,” says Bundick, now 64 and retired. “We loved the atmosphere, the rowdiness of the Baseline Bums, the lovableness of the team. There were some great characters.”

The long ago Spurs-Suns game forever changed the fan experience for Bundick and Feola.
They stopped leaving early no matter the score. But the couple that called them “fair weather” continued the teasing. “We became good friends with them,” Bundick says. “But they never let us forget that.”

Bundick and Feola have seen it all. Well, almost all of it. There was the time Bundick had to work late and gave Feola his ticket. Feola took his son Josh, who witnessed the craziest start to a season-opener in Spurs history: the water cannon gusher of Nov. 4, 1994.

During an indoor fireworks show at the Alamodome, a high-pressure water cannon unleashed a torrent that soaked hundreds of fans and reached the court. Many scrambled for dry ground. Not Josh Feola. He thought the deluge was part of the pre-game show.

“He thought it was hilarious,” says Paul, whose grown daughter, Jamie, lives in Europe and cheers hard for the Spurs. “When he went to games, incredible things seemed to happen.”

There was the day in May 1999, for example, that Bundick couldn’t attend. So Josh went in his place. Father and son watched nervously in the final seconds as Portland led the Spurs, 85-83, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Then Sean Elliott lofted a shot from the corner that fell through. “I kept telling Josh, ‘That was a 3! That was a 3!,” Paul recalls. “But we couldn’t hear anything. That was beyond incredible. I took my son to the Memorial Day Miracle.”

Bundick fondly recalls the original Spurs, the group of guys who suited up when the team competed in the old ABA. Forward-center Eugene “Goo” Kennedy was a favorite. So was guard William Rodney “Bird” Averitt. “The nicknames were wonderful,” Bundick says.

The best nickname belonged to Bundick’s favorite original Spur, James “Captain Late” Silas, also known as “Si.” As a student at St. Mary’s University, Bundick watched Silas and Stephen F. Austin beat his beloved Rattlers twice in 1970 by a total of four points. “And it was all because of James Silas,” Bundick says. “So it was neat to see him play for the Spurs.”

Paul Feola cherishes memories of the early Spurs as well. But for him, nothing eclipses Game 7 of the 2005 NBA finals between San Antonio and Detroit at the AT&T Center.

“I’ve never been in a crowd that didn’t sit down the whole game,” he says. “I’ve never been in an atmosphere like that in my life. It went down to the last four minutes before it started to turn our way. I was drained, I was sweaty, I was hoarse when it was over. That may have been the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen in Spurs history.”

After 40 years of cheering, Bundick does not plan to stop attending games any time soon. “It all starts with the enjoyment of the game and the type of players we have,” he says. “We started out as lovable losers, with guys you could identify with. Blue collar. But then we transitioned to a very competitive professional organization. As long as I’m healthy and financially able, I’ll continue to be a season ticket holder.”