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Waiting for Nightfall

What would it take to achieve greatness

The Annual Perseid Meteor Shower Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA viaGetty Images

There’s a short story written by Isaac Asimov called Nightfall. It’s always been one of my favorite short stories in science fiction. It can be read in its entirety here, but I’ll be summarizing it below. It was written in 1941, so I feel OK about spoiling it.

The premise of the story is a group of scientists trying to figure out why their planet has a history of similar societies that completely collapse every 2,500 years. There’s no explanation or record explaining what happens but it happens like clockwork, and always ends with the societies being destroyed by fire.

Throughout the story the group of scientist develop a theory. Their planet is orbited by six suns, and as the 2,500 year mark is approaching only one currently sits in the sky. They theorize that what must be happening is an eclipse, and their planet being subjected to a darkness that nobody knows how to handle. Along with this, they theorize there may be other suns out there based on ancient religious texts that talk about stars.

As the eclipse begins to happen they’ve prepared themselves for the idea of up to 6 stars being in the night sky. When darkness falls, they’re aghast at the millions of stars in the sky, and the sheer insignificance of their planet in the vastness of space. They go mad. Their cities burn.

They had no way to mentally prepare for what they would experience.

10 years after that story was published the Rochester Royals won the 1951 NBA championship. The Kings haven’t been back to the Finals since.

Today SB Nation’s twitter account asked a seemingly simple question.

Like a man who has never known darkness being confronted with his own insignificance in the universe, I was completely unprepared. I see teams rise and fall in the NBA. I theoretically know how a team is built and becomes an NBA Finals team. But when I look at this roster and our history, I’m ill equipped to even consider this. Like a man prepared to see 6 stars, I’ve just been trying to figure out how the Kings could become an 8th seed.

I’m suddenly shattered by the Kings’ insignificance in the NBA.