My wife doesn't really understand why I obsess about basketball the way that I do. She supports me and she's never complained about it, but I know she doesn't understand it. In fairness to her, I find it difficult to explain. I've loved basketball since elementary school, when it was the game of choice in the playground. But something fun at recess doesn't usually carry over into adult life. After all, I don't blog about freeze tag.
(Note to self: Start blogging about freeze tag.)
I love basketball. I understand basketball. But most of all, basketball serves as a distraction. I've always been someone who worries about things. There are days when I make the mistake of reading the news, and I'm overcome with so much dread and worry that I can barely function. I worry about the state of our country, our economy, and the senseless tragedies that fill the 24 hour news cycle. It sickens me. I worry about the world I brought my son into. I'm afraid of the terrible things that happen and the terrible people who exist. It scares the hell out of me.
I obsess about basketball because it provides an escape. Sometimes basketball crosses over into the real world. Sometimes we have to hear about alleged rapes and scandals about computer hacking, but these are rare. Our most common villains are players with bad attitudes who don't try as hard as we would like them to or who don't appreciate what they have. Our villains are greedy owners and players who are trying to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that serves their interests and might cause us to miss a few games of our favorite distraction. These are our villains, and that's OK because in the grand scheme of things they are minor villains.
Beyond the minor villains, basketball gives us heroes. The joy I felt last season when Tyreke Evans hit a half-court buzzer-beater to beat the Grizzlies was an incredible high. It offered a distraction from anything that was wrong in the world. But there are heroes in other lights as well. In the midst of a lockout, with future paychecks uncertain, Ron Artest (once an on-court villain) announced he'd be giving half a million dollars to charity over the next two days. This wasn't in response to anything other than, perhaps, getting voted off of Dancing with the Stars. This is also the guy who just changed his name in an effort to promote World Peace.
This morning I read a story by SLAM on Delonte West. He's been maligned, and painted as the villain in recent seasons. But then I read this part of the story:
One of the smallest boys in the room raises his hand and, after being called on, shyly asks, "Do you know any other basketball players?"
"I know too many basketball players," West says, walking toward the camper. "Do you play?" The boy, Andrew, nods meekly. "Well," West answers, "now I know one more."
As the little man smiles and as the counselors clap and the campers cheer, West takes the boy’s hand in his and says, "See this hand here? This hand has shook with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett…and now it’s shaken yours, too." Andrew’s face couldn’t contain his pride at that moment.
That gave me chills. CNN and Fox News and the rest of the 24 hour news channels don't have stories like that. Sure, they throw in their puff pieces, but they never explore subjects in-depth. They need to hurry up and get back to people yelling at one another. This isn't about political affiliations, I can't watch any of those channels. I'd rather read about Delonte West doing good things for kids and speaking out to raise awareness of bi-polar disorder. I'd rather read about good people.
Perhaps I'm burying my head in the sand and ignoring the real world. Perhaps I should spend a little more time on current events and little less time on basketball. But I prefer my heroes and my minor villains.