If you are anything like me (and the fact that you’re reading this suggests we likely have at least one thing in common - love of the Rockets) then you watch a lot of basketball. You also read about it. Perhaps you listen to podcasts about it. You may get the tiniest bit sad when the weekend comes and you know that there will be nothing new from most of your favorite basketball writers or podcasters for a few days.
The pursuit of basketball, at this level, is more than a bit like a romance, except with a sport, played by very tall men with a ball, inside a building.
In that pursuit of ever greater intimacy with basketball, you become like a lover obsessed with a beloved. How is it going, objectively? (Is the team healthy? Are we winning? Do I like their parents (coaches)?) Are there positive milestones? (Is making the playoffs like saying “I love you.”?) How does the team seem to be feeling about everything? (Are our affections misplaced? Do they at least want to make us happy? Are they happy? Will some of them need to move on, and how will that feel?)
If it is all going well, you dare to dream. You dream of a future with you and your team fulfilling an unspoken promise made years ago, when you wondered if this sort of interest, this sort of commitment, could be worth it. Would winning the title be like walking down the aisle, everyone smiling, everyone happy, and a joyous party to follow? (Yes, it honestly would, in a small way. The Astros reminded me.)
Here we have a purity of intent on the part of the team and you. Yes, of course, they’d like you to buy a ticket, or league pass, or a jersey, but you never thought romance would be free, and who wants to be cheap with the dear one? You’re willing to put in the effort if they are. And usually, the Rockets do put in the effort. They get dressed up, they keep fit, they try hard, and they win. What more can you reasonably ask?
This sweet relationship may have stumbled onto slightly dangerous ground, though. You might have introduced mercenary motives, financial motives. You might bet on the team, or on other teams. That’s fine, but it changes expectations. Where a win satisfies the pure of heart, only a cover satisfies the gambler. Your team isn’t just your team, it’s an odd sort of investment. Expectations change, and delight is financial in part. That’s the way of the world, it’s realistic, but where once lay only your heart, now there are dollar bills. Is money the only thing that really excites you these days?
But there’s another sort of lover of basketball, one who is out on the dance floor every night, who crunches the numbers win or lose, who gets dolled up for preseason, because happy or no, that’s how they pay the bills. This lover is the true professional, the writer, the podcaster, the TV Personality, The Talent. This is the Member in Good Standing of The Basketball Commentariat. Don’t mistake me, no one goes into journalism, particularly basketball journalism, without a deep love of the game. All the same beware, lover, their aims aren’t the same as yours.
This brings me at last to a key point. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey through this little conceit of mine, as I also hope you are enjoying the journey through the regular season with a superb Rockets team to watch play the best sport on earth. Because the journey through the season is the romance. It is life, and a part you have to treasure.
The joy when the beloved does something to delight you, something small that maybe only you noticed. The idea that every game is a chance for wonder, or at least enjoyment, because these elite entertainers are there to take your mind off your cares, and the cares of the world, for a brief time. Appreciate it. Savor it. Don’t be in a rush, don’t try to skip to the end. Don’t let these small joys wither because you have a bad feeling about how it will all turn out.
Skipping to the end, being in a rush, seeking ultimate satisfaction is precisely what the pros, The Basketball Commentariat (TBC), seem obsessed with today. They, too, have a feeling about the outcome. They professionally profess that if you aren’t in an Area, with a Bay, the NBA might not bring you ultimate satisfaction.
They seem to have become the reader that part way through the book starts saying “Well the characters are great, the story is great, but do they slay the dragon? Do they live happily ever after? Who ends up being Queen? Why am I bothering with this, we all know the dragon probably wins, it’s a damn dragon.”
All true, and so what? I am not sure why professionals should be that way, honestly, but they almost all seem to be right now. They are paid to watch the game, to talk about it, to think about it. They are there to talk about the whole story of a season, not just the part at the end. Not just the part past the end where people change employers.
Are the stories trite because they think they’ve guessed the ending? Guess what, Basketball Commentariat? We did too, so tell us something interesting instead. Is each game merely a weary postponement of the inevitable? Is someone getting a check signed by a different company really the most interesting part?
You read the book to read the book. You watch the season to see great basketball. Of course there is a goal, a final outcome. Of course you want to turn to your team and say “And they won the title, and everyone lived happily ever after! (Until four months later, when it all started again.)” Do you think that on every date? With every romance?
To switch the metaphor a bit, who wants to be on a date with Ultimate Satisfaction Guy? The guy who wants to get to “the good part” not realizing the dinner, the dancing, the wine, holding hands and kissing, is also very much “the good part”. TBC needs to take a step back and spend a bit less time worrying about ultimate satisfaction. Even if they think they’ve solved the mystery, even if they know most of the delirious teams waltzing around the hardwood are headed for a bad breakup.
Tonight there is music (BUM, bum bum bum BUM), there is dancing, wine, and basketball. That should be enough.
Off topic, but would a podcast with me talking to athletes about wine, libations, travel, interest you?
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