POST-SCRIPT:The 2017 NBA finals were unfair, but so is life

The Golden State Warriors are the evil super team, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the heroic underdogs. Of course, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers four games to one in the 2017 NBA Finals. Photo by RAMIN RAHIMIAN FOR ESPN


POST-SCRIPT:The 2017 NBA finals were unfair, but so is life

ALWAYS RIGHT NOW - Alex Almario (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2017 - 4:00pm

Basketball reminds us that the odds are always stacked against an overwhelming majority and there’s nothing we can really do about it.

I have a paradoxical relationship with sports. I watch games to dull the pain of daily existence; to lose myself in pick-and-rolls, zone blitzes, serve-and-volleys, and other minutiae that, in a world seemingly teetering on the brink of chaos, offer the sensation of order and meaning. But I also watch sports to remind me of real-life truths. Hard work pays off. The higher the risk, the greater the reward (and the more disastrous the repercussions). And perhaps most importantly: good guys are fun to root for but they rarely win in the end. Often, my primary reason for, watching sports is overpowered by my secondary reason. And this is always certainly the case in the annual existential opera that is the NBA Finals.

In case you missed it: The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to one in the 2017 NBA Finals. The Warriors are the evil super team led by entitled rich kid Steph Curry, soulless shooting cyborg Klay Thompson, annoying mouth-breather Draymond Green, and the cowardly traitor Kevin Durant; while the Cavaliers are the heroic underdogs led by all-time great LeBron James and his ultra-fun human-video-game sidekick Kyrie Irving. Listen, these are the facts and I’m just here to report them. That’s what we call myths now, isn’t it? Facts? I can’t keep up anymore.

Nike, the overlord of the sports-industrial complex, wants to take control of the narrative. Long before the final piece of yellow confetti fell on Oracle Arena on Tuesday, they dropped Durant’s championship ad called “Debate This,” a 60-seconder dramatization of the Warriors star’s career as described by his critics, convened at a giant round table as if members of an intergalactic senate of hot sports takes. It ends with Durant finally winning a championship — a prospect so certain, that Nike spent real dollars for a commercial anticipating it — and the critics falling silent. It was funny how a supposedly badass ad could betray such gross naivete on the nature of sports discussions (I actually kept misreading “debate this” as “delete this”). Nike’s image is predicated on beautiful single-statement simplicity. Nothing in the history of capitalist sloganeering beats “Just Do It.” But there is nothing simple about this Warriors title. Winning, weirdly enough, isn’t everything.

Conflicting Reasons

The 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors is where my conflicting reasons for watching sports collide in a sort of traumatic sports fandom vehicular accident. The minutiae of their game is beautiful in a way that is simply unmatched in basketball history — position-less basketball finally realized, leading to a constant and seamless flow of cutting, passing, screening, and shooting. The parts were already interchangeable even before Durant’s inclusion, but the seven-foot basketball Swiss Army knife unlocked the Warriors’ god mode. As Danny Chau of sports site The Ringer wrote, “Durant essentially took Steph’s, Klay’s and Draymond’s powers, combined them, and became Captain Planet.”

But the Warriors as metaphor for life completely sucks. In theory, all of us would want to win all the time, and possibly even the certainty of winning all the time. But on a deep existential level, no one honestly wants this. Getting everything that you want is antithetical to the idea of a life worth lived. The Warriors adding Durant is like when a friend wins the lottery — sure, you’re happy for the dude, but that friend of yours is now super boring. He was far more interesting to talk to when he had to work overtime at an office almost all week and regale you with stories of douchey co-workers, unrequited office crushes, corporate intrigue, and dreams of backpacking across Europe for an entire year because he hates his job so much. Now, he’s actually backpacking across Europe and can no longer relate to any of your real-life angst. The Warriors, as personified by the slight but exceptionally talented Steph Curry, used to be the fragile powerhouse, explosive but delicate, otherworldly but inevitably human. That’s what made them so charming. Now, they’re as bland and uncompelling as Superman.

A stupid debate

The debate — which, believe it or not, Nike failed to end — consists of two camps: those who think Durant took the easy way out, so of course the Warriors had to win and those who think Durant and the Warriors deserve their success. It’s really a stupid debate because both are true. The only true debate left is whether or not the Warriors are good for the NBA; if their dominance makes the league boring or if their excellence is worth watching in and of itself. And this is the more important question because it gets to the heart of why we watch sports, especially at a time when real events are getting — as kids would say — too real.

Maybe it’s not sports’ resemblance to life that I’m really interested in; maybe I want sports to be this platonic ideal of what life should be. And in this era of everyday terrorism, insensitive leaders, empowered hatred, and the general feeling of evil triumphing over good, it’s the only valuable role left for sports. I want basketball to show me that defying the odds is possible, that the underdog can plausibly win, that struggles are unavoidable but conquerable. I don’t need basketball to remind me what is already too obvious: that the odds are always stacked against an overwhelming majority and there’s nothing we can really do about it.

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. They’re bound to win the next three or four titles and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. I’ll probably keep watching because I frankly don’t know how else to operate. And perhaps for the first time, basketball will remind me not of how life ought to be, but of how it really is.

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Tweet the author @colonialmental.


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