HERE I GO, leaping upon a cart-like conveyance of musical instruments. I am a woolly, ruminant quadruped, suddenly displaying my devotion during this period of favorable atmospheric conditions.

Indeed, the drought is over, and the Warriors are in the playoffs for the first time since 480 B.C. Oh, right. Wrong Warriors. But close.

They even won Game 1 Sunday night! So now it's time for me to step up to the proverbial overpriced concession stand of life and become a fan. Bandwagon. Sheep. Fair-weather. I don't care what personal fouls you push at me. I can handle them, baby, like Baron Davis handles the ball with his mad, mad, mad, mad skills.

I must say, faithful Warriors fans are a commendable bunch, never flinching despite years of headlines referring to their team with such terms as "disaster," "joke" or "debacle." Fans of the Dubs ain't no sheep. Masochists maybe. But definitely not sheep.

Personally, I haven't given the Warriors much thought since about 1997, when I did a story about an Oakland car salesman circulating petitions to get the team name changed to Oakland Warriors. The effort failed, but the guy went on to great fame playing "Big Vinnie" in Round Table Pizza commercials, and I lived happily ever after without the Warriors in my life.

Oh, but now. Now they're hot, and I want in. Yet it's been so long. I don't even know what their colors are anymore. Is their mascot still Thunder? What about the tubby guys who would waddle out on the court between quarters and shake what their mamas gave them, plus what they added themselves with large doses of garlic fries?

Bewildered, I turned to some experts for things one must know/have/be to be a worthy Warriors fan:

1. "A LOT of patience," said Jon MacBeath, 34, of Oakland. "And I mean a LOT. You have to be able to withstand the torture." See? Masochists.

2. Warriors colors are blue and gold and sometimes orange, unless they are wearing their throwback "The City" jerseys, reminiscent of their S.F. days, in which case they are blue and gold. No orange. Which is confusing, and I'm not sure how the orange got in there unless they're Protestant Irish or working for Caltrans on the side.

3. A must for the fashionable fan is indeed a "City" jersey or commuter mug, key ring or doggie dish. "Nothing says 'fan' like spending 50-plus dollars in merchandise," according to the crew at the fan site http://www.GoldenStateOfMind.

com.

4. Thunder is still employed as team mascot. He is a blue, superheroish creature with an artificially (foam? cotton? bricks?) enhanced physique. Picture The Tick in the Blue Man Group, doing trampoline dunks.

Thunder was actually a welcome replacement to Berserker, I'm told. Berserker, back in the mid-'90s, was some kind of fuzzy creature not found in regular nature, possibly a reference to Norse warriors who would wear bear pelts and rampage a lot. He too did trampoline dunks, but once broke his nose in the process.

Oh, and the fat guys still show up sometimes. But generally, the game entertainment is left to the Warrior Girls — some kind of gorgeous human females not found in regular nature.

5. You must know to chant "We want Foyle!" in a blowout game. After every big win you yell, "Unstoppable, baby!" After every big loss you yell, "Unstoppable, baby!"

6. At games, be on your guard. At any moment, catlike reflexes might be needed to catch A) flying pizzas being thrown into the stands, or B) parachuting Thunders-in-effigies. "Last season in the fourth period, they'd strap little parachutes to Thunder dolls and drop 'em from the rafters," MacBeath said.

7. Eat garlic fries.

8. The coach du jour is Don Nelson, but you can call him Nellie. He was the coach before — about nine coaches ago. The team goes through coaches like Britney goes through husbands, wigs and rehab clinics.

9. The hottest player is Baron Davis, possibly because he has the best beard in the NBA.

10. Lastly, Oracle now has the naming rights to the Oakland Arena, so there are a few subtle signs here and there, like the GIANT ones that scream ORACLE all over the building, which could very well confuse Keanu Reeves were he still searching for guidance.

OK, so now I am equipped to be a Warriors fan. Don't expect anything extreme like painting my house blue and gold and sometimes orange, or purchasing Thunder bedroom slippers ($20 in the online team store). But I shall indeed cheer them on.

Nice weather we're having. Baaaa!