It’s NBA playoff time! I know, I know, it’s a niche sport, not everyone is into it, the NBA isn’t even played in this country … why are you even writing about this?!*
(* Don’t make me write another cricket piece!)
Well, apart from the fact that half of the visitors to this blog are from the good ol’ US of A, this time of year ‘holds a special place in my heart’, I guess you could say.
You see, it was at almost this exact time, 2011, when I became overwhelmed by the amount of sporting options at my disposal. Frustrated with the constant lack of inspiration that came from immersing myself in a world of sport, this was the catalyst for what became the Year Without Sport.
An 82 game NBA season (not a typo) brings about fluctuations in team focus, health and care factor. Tune into a nationally televised game and you’re more likely to get two teams who go all out in their endeavours to win, but there are limits even there to their enthusiasm.
Sure they don’t want to be embarrassed with the whole world watching, but at the end of the day, it’s just another game with 81 counterparts. Oh, and there’s still a party going on afterwards that they’ll have to get to with enough energy to see through until dawn, giving them 90 minutes sleep before the next day’s practice. (Again, not a typo.)
So, while their incredible skills are undeniable and there will be a number of times per game you will think, ‘How the hell did he do that?!’, there remains indisputable inconsistencies in the overall level of effort and there are no guarantees whatsoever that you will get a good quality game.
And if you need any further proof, take the example of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. For the biggest nationally televised game of the season between his first placed Spurs and the Miami Heat, Coach Pop decided that the rigours of a six-game road trip were insurmountable and sent five of his stars home!
Coach Pop and the Spurs had different goals in mind and copped the $250,000 fine on the chin accordingly.
The playoffs are the other goal in mind! Here, every team is poised to make their tilt at the title. Players put their bodies through enormous strain, withstanding injuries, going amazingly hard every single play, even leaving the parties at 3am instead of 5…
You can’t tell that obviously during a season how different the intensity is. But believe me, watch a playoff game and then tune into an older regular season game. The regular season game will be borderline unwatchable. I did it once; didn’t last a quarter…
How can you strike a balance??
So, how, in all of this, in a game I love and have played since I was seven, can someone withstand the intensity and the saturated coverage and actually strike a balance in the coming weeks? There will be at least one high quality game on every night until deep into June. We have possibly the best player in the last 20 years at the peak of his powers. My Lakers are gone; I can actually enjoy this thing.
Did I mention that it’s also footy season?! Make all the drug jokes you like, but I’ll take 6 and 0 and the chance to watch us actually win games and be competitive and aggressive any day of the week! (Not literally, of course. Have you been reading this piece!?)
Oh, and that I have a wife and a son with whom I would like to maintain a relationship before July springs up.
Two years ago, all this became too much. This year, I’m not going to let that happen again…
You can’t cling to every playoff or footy game and maintain a sense of entitlement that you can view them all. The Bombers played a team of easybeats on the weekend, so I stayed away from that one. (Ironically, they almost threw the game away…)
A whole new series of playoff matchups kicked off today, in the NBA conference semi-finals. So, some counters need to be in place in order to maintain perspective and balance –
The first few games of the series I’m going to have to give a miss altogether, other series I won’t watch at all (I’m looking at you, Indiana Pacers). For the genuinely enticing contests, I will have to wait for pivotal games and then make a balanced choice as to which one has the honour at being at the receiving end of my recliner… I can’t have them all!
Challenges in the midst
That process of giving up is something which I undertook over a twelve month process. Coming back was always going to throw up some challenges, and this rich season of NBA gold is one of them.
Just this last Saturday afternoon, there was the second half of a game I wanted to watch. But an unhappy little ‘un (and an almost equally unhappy Mrs YWS) saw the wise decision made to cast off the unimportance of a distant basketball contest and just be present with the family. And no, I didn’t need to be told!
Sometimes just being around, supporting, cleaning up a kitchen, chipping in with the little prince; it just lightens the load for everyone. There’ll be other games. (Plenty of them.)
Often what we think will give us energy and help us shake off the cobwebs of a challenging week don’t help us at all – excessive drinking and eating, shopping therapy, screaming at the umpires at a game, lazing about on the couch…
Sometimes going for a ride, heading out for a coffee, cleaning out a garage or just switching the box off to see what happens is enough to turn the corner on our mental health.
I never really intend to re-do the year without sport. It’s conquering challenges like this one with the NBA that give me the confidence to say that. If it gets out of hand again, however, I wouldn’t hesitate to make some kind of significant alteration. Maybe not as drastic as 365 days without.
But sometimes to show what’s really important, we have to strip back everything that is not.
Even just for an afternoon…