Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are 18 seconds of game time (approximately 13 minutes of real time!) away from winning their well-deserved and elusive championship rings.
I have not seen one second of it.
And this has hurt.
You see, aesthetically, NBA basketball is, for me, ‘The Beautiful Game’. Sure, soccer claims that title, but even 27 years after starting to play it and 22 years after starting to watch it regularly, I have constantly been in awe of basketball players’ talents, their unbelievable athleticism and their ability to make shots with hands in their face, in their way, on the ball, whatever the obstacle may be…
And this season has been more engrossing than most. ‘The Decision’ – Lebron James’ infantile public dislocation from Cleveland to Miami rightfully earned/earns him and his teammates the scorn of the basketball universe. My Lakers were (unsuccessfully) aiming for their third straight run to the Finals and Kobe’s 6th ring, matching Michael Jordan. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder were ready to take the next step, and did (kinda). Could the Celtics maintain their longevity (no), would Derrick Rose and the Bulls step up (hell yes!) and who would be the Cinderella stories (Dallas, Griffin, Memphis, Dirk, Rose, Spurs, the Knicks) and the major disappointments (Orlando, Bosh, Milwaukee, Shaq, Spurs and Knicks again!)??
For most of the season, I kept up, immersed myself. Dissected everything. To a point. ‘The Decision’ (my one this time, not Lebron) came about just at the beginning of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
This is a tenuous time for any ‘non-single’ (!) human being and requires Kofi Annan-like mediating abilities to enable smooth viewing. It was intimidating and exhausting to contemplate, making time every night for up to two weeks to view an entire game.
The match-ups were enticing – Chicago and Miami on one side and Dallas and Oklahoma on the other. Both series ended up being competitive enough (4-1 in both series), but the results were lopsided enough numerically that I didn’t feel like I was missing out.
Then came the Finals…
I have read no game recaps, but I know the scores of the games and who won what game in what order. From all accounts, I stepped away from a classic. Not only did one of the better and more beloved players – Dirk and to a significant extent Jason Kidd, and franchises – Dallas, finally get their just desserts, but it came at the hands of the enemy of all basketball fans, the ‘Big 3’, or as Shaq so rightfully called it, ‘The Big 2’ at Miami.
I have imagined how I would have reacted seeing this play out – slapping the armrests of my recliner, joyously watching Lebron shrink into himself yet again and high fiving my mates after incredible ball movement saw Dallas players nailing open 3 after open 3.
At times, it has been surprisingly freeing (a startling common theme throughout my first month) to ‘step off’ (George Costanza) and be available to people, to make time for the other parts of my life that I want to devote time to.
But for the most part, although I wish I could say that I was immersed in other activities, oblivious to what was going on on the other side of the world, that would not be true. Missing those games was really, really hard. Not watching at this very moment players and a franchise that I have admired and respected for years celebrate a fantastic victory is deflating and disappointing.
Why do all this?
‘Just watch it for a little bit’ could be the counter. ‘Just a 4th quarter here and there and the celebrations afterward. You don’t have to watch every quarter of every game.’ But I know better. It draws you in and before I know it, I’m back where it all began. So, trust the cycle and know that within a couple of days, everyone will be looking for next year’s winner, and next year’s star, Cinderella team and disappointment machine…
I wish I could have seen it, but I hope that I am setting myself up for something bigger; to make space for people and a realisation that even at the end of a great sports-based night, there is a distinct disconnect between what I am viewing and my own life. The players and I are not mates and in 10 years, they in all likelihood will not care about the club or franchise like I do.
I am not bitter about this – I have never set sportspeople up as role models in my own life. If I am able to maintain my friendships (more on that in a later post) and put energy and creativity into developing these without the sporting element as a central part of it, I will be doing ok.
An sms came late Thursday night from a good friend, “We’ve had a late invite to a party. Our kids will be in bed. Wanna come over tomorrow night and chill at our place and mind the kids for us?”, the first answer that came into my head wasn’t “It’s St Kilda – Bulldogs in the AFL and Game 5 of the NBA Finals – what on earth is he thinking?!!”, my answer was, “Yes … yes, I can do that…”
I wonder what Dirk would think…