Wednesday, August 6, 2014

That Paul George Moment

Life, Changing
By now, I hope you've somehow missed the brutal leg injury that Pacers star Paul George suffered during the USMNT tryouts for the upcoming international championships. It's going to cost George and the Pacers at least a year of his NBA career, fundamentally changes the balance of power in the East to make things even easier on the Bulls and Cavs, and has seemingly taken years off the lives of everyone who has seen the footage. Finally, it's led to the inevitable Whack A Mole moment from Mark Cuban, who has never liked the notion of NBA players playing for their country, because there is no country in Mark Cuban's life that can ever hope to compete with Mark Cuban. (Before we throw him in too deep of a hole, it's more or less the same attitude that any wildly rich man who lives here shares. Something from "Tale of Two Cities" goes here.)

Anyhoo... let's leave aside the idea that NBA guys shouldn't get hurt unless it's in an NBA game, because, um, they are grown men and they'd be playing anyway, because, um, you don't get to the NBA without playing a lot of hoop outside of the regular season and playoff games. Let's also leave aside the idea of who should own these country v. country games, because, um, I don't care and no one else should, either. FIBA or the NBA or the IOC or whatevs, it doesn't really matter unless you really need to buy the merch or go to the games, and, well, no one really needs to do that.

Rather, I want to talk about the actual public reaction to George getting hurt. Pacer Fan is, of course, devastated, because George is their favorite player for cause, and their only hope to actually get to, or win, a Finals. It's not much of a hope, really, but he's the only guy on the roster that's ever seemed like he could be the best player in the Association. And sure, he'd need multiple tragedies and a quantum leap in his game, but he was 90% of the way there, and that last 10% seems close even though it really isn't.

There are people praying for George's recovery, and, well, that's their choice. There are other people saying that since George makes a lot of money, those prayers aren't valid, or justified, and that this is indicative of a greater sickness in America, that we assume a commonality with the rich and famous that just isn't there. These latter folk, who you mostly run into looking for clickbait or occupying the Provocative part of your Idiot Sports Radio dial, seem all kinds of uncharitable to me, but again, not what I want to discuss.

Rather, I want to point out the nature of this injury, and the impact involved. When a football player goes sideways with an injury, it's awful and you cringe, but it also happens, um, just about every damn game. When a pitcher goes down, especially in mid-game, there's almost an inevitability about it, because the act of throwing a baseball is so rending, it just seems like every arm has got a finite number of pitches in it. When a boxer goes down, that's what you paid to see. And so on, and so on.

But basketball? The players don't wear any helmets or pads. We feel like we know them, because the court is so compacted and the cameras so omnipresent. They play the vast majority of their team's plays, unlike the other major American sports. They don't take big hits, and many can go their entire career without suffering a significant on-court injury. Many of them have been around for a downright unseemly amount of time. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have all been playing basketball longer than my eldest child has been alive, and she's starting high school in the fall. And so on, and so on. They wear out, they get banged up, they get old, but they don't just go bang in the noonday sun and disappear. For the most part.

So when a player in the prime of his career just suddenly goes away, potentially never to return? It startles. It seems wrong. It makes faithful people pray.

And it reminds everyone that while life seems long, and predictable, and that teams will rise and fall over a course of years...

It's all illusion, and can all change at any time.

And if that makes you act emotionally, or feel bad for a man who makes more money (in a year, compared to your whole damned life) and has won all kinds of lotteries before this setback...

You aren't wrong. You're just humane.

Unlike, well, some other people.

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