Spurs Fans Light Playoff Hopes With A Candle

May 14, 2014

**Correction: It has been brought to our attention that the Protección candle showcased in this story was not created by the unidentified source that claimed to have done so. A corrected update is now included in this story immediately following the incorrect portion that was originally published.

Spurs fever is becoming an epidemic. Serious and even superstitious fans are busting out good luck charms and invoking personal rituals to help push the boys in silver and black over the edge. We took a look into the charms, prayers, and supernatural bids of support offered by the dedicated as another attempt at the "drive for five" continues.

Rituals and superstitions

About this time of year you start seeing Spurs gear in excess: Banners that say ‘Go, Spurs, Go!’ hang from tall buildings and cars are decked with one or maybe even two spurs flags.  It’s almost as seasonal as Halloween, the 4th of July or even Fiesta decorations.

For some, watching the games is simple as that, but others take a more supernatural approach.

The Friendly Spot on South Alamo is a common meeting place for fans on game nights. Four hours before the game and it’s already packed with people waiting to watch it on a projector.

"I have to watch the game in the same place the whole time. 'Cause if I move, they lose, and I don't like losing."

Rebecca Casalas is sitting with her family. She said she can’t watch the game until the fourth quarter.

“The other day they were down by ten points and as soon as I got home, I went to the bathroom, changed, came back out and they were up by ten points," Casalas said. "To me now, what I do is I don’t watch the game until the fourth quarter.”

A few tables away is Dustin O’Connor, who said he has to sit in the same place every game.

“I can’t get up and in the middle of the game, leave and go somewhere to finish the game. I have to watch the game in the same place the whole time," O'Connor said. "Cause if I move, they lose, and I don’t like losing.”

It’s common for sports teams to have fans that have these dedicated rituals. But there’s a common ritual among the religious or spiritual though that is catching fire, literally, among some die hard spurs fans.

Lighting a candle.

Papa Jim's Botanica caters to those with all types of candle needs. It’s filled with incense, spiritual talismans and rows upon rows of tall candles with the visage of religious figures like saints, the pope, and the Virgin Mary. Manager Yulia Gomez said they’ve seen selling anywhere from 25-100 themed Spurs candles per day.

“A lot of people, they just need something to believe in," Gomez said, "and at this time the Spurs fans already know what they can come get.”

The candle is about ten inches tall, it’s covered in blue paper with a basketball and the words "Go Spurs Go," and comes with instructions on how to use it, especially for any money pools or bets.

“It’s going to have on here to put the score that they want, so they are able to do that as well,” Gomez said. “A lot of people use them not just for Spurs, to help the team, but in case they’re doing a pot, it also helps for that purpose.”

Gomez said there is also a fixed (blessed) version of the candle to a boost of spiritual power.

Artistic interpretation

The Protección Spurs candle on display.
Credit Joey Palacios / TPR News

Several local artists have created their own customized spurs candles. At the Pearl on Broadway is a boutique called Leighelena that sells retro and vintage clothing and knickknacks. Keeping with the local culture they also sell candles.

In contrast to Papa Jim's, however, this candle has the word “Protección” written on it along with a skeleton wearing a Spurs jersey with the number of one of the team members. Amanda Moloette, who works in the store, said these have also been in high demand.

“They’ve been selling really well here. People ask us about the candles and we have people who buy three or four of them at a time,” Moloette said.

**Correction: The following section was posted as part of the original story and is incorrect. A correction update is available immediately following.

The "Protección" Spurs candle was designed by a home décor company called Vela Reina. In a message via Facebook, the person who designed the candle, who did not want to be identified, said she came up with the idea last year:

“Being born and raised in San Antonio & coming from a Catholic back ground I've grown up with my Grandma lighting a candle for everything. If she was praying for something in particular I would always see a candle lit in her room on her dresser burning day and night.  Coming from a family that loves the Spurs it just made sense that combining the two.”

**(Updated correction: 5/16) The artist that created the Protección image is Jamie Stolarski. In a telephone conversation, Stolarski said he created the decal in 2007 during the NBA playoffs.

“I had made one for my dad during half-time with a sharpie and a piece of paper and I quickly masking-taped it to a candle he had,”  Stolarski said. “I decided to do a nice fancier version for him and I had it on my blog for people to download.”

Stolarski's image features a copyright on the side but has made the image available for free for people to make their own candles. The Vela Reina version of the image has the copyright blacked out.

Julie Torres is the owner of Vela Reina and claimed she created the candle in the initial version of this story. Stolarski said he has interacted with Torres and asked her to stop distribution.

Stolarski has created graphic design images for Spurs Sports and Entertainment but the Protección decal is not officially affiliated with the organization.

(Original Story:) Next door at Melissa Guerra’s Latin kitchen is yet another version of the Spurs candle. Guerra said after seeing their popularity she signed up to sell one designed by local artist Robert Tatum.

“They have die-cut stickers with a praying pair of hands that say ‘Spurs’ on it and everybody likes them because they’re clean, they’re very classic and they’re not usually what you see like in your grocery store candle," Guerra said. "It’s just a pure clean light and a very clear message: Got to pray for our Spurs.”

Tatum, the artist, said they were originally designed for a promotion at bars for a shirt he has with a similar logo, but the candle is creating a unity.

“It’s bringing all different cultures together: guys, girls, different nationalities and different faiths,” Tatum said. “A sport can do that? That’s pretty strong you know.”

It may not be hard science, but maybe there is something to this candle business.