When Ball Isn’t Life

I remember sitting in a middle school home economics course, barely paying attention to the video on the projector screen. I was too busy talking to my neighbor about the NBA Playoffs and how the Orlando Magic were going to handle the Chicago Bulls. This was during the ‘95-’96 season when the Bulls won 72 games and ended up sweeping the Magic … probably the first of many times my fandom would be blinded by reality, but that’s not the point here.

Someone who was more heavily invested in the video chimed in with a comment that has stuck with me to this very day… and especially today:

“Is that all you care about? Sports? I feel sorry for you.”

At the time I laughed if off because, yes, at that time that was all I cared about: watching and playing sports. Sports, sports, sports. What’s the Pythagorean Theorem? Probably has something to do with what Vince Carter did to Frederic Weis (you know… because of how Carter was the two side angles of the triangle and Weis was the base?).

And that didn’t change from middle school. I did well in high school, but I cared more about game days than my GPA. In college, I cared more about Big Monday and Super Tuesday/getting really drunk during Big Monday and Super Tuesday than waking up for class. Professionally, don’t let me have Wi-Fi or unfiltered Internet access: I need scores.

In some ways, being a big-time sports’ fan is healthy. Every now and then, the rigors of real life become too stressful, and sports has always been a good fallback option for me. Bad day at work? At least I’m not Stephen Curry, right? Not only is his team on the verge of one of the biggest letdowns in sports history, but there’s a crazy meme at every turn, including this one that, even as one of Curry’s biggest fans/borderline apologists, made me chuckle:

Note: only possible in Hot Tub Time Machine

I was going to write about this today. Had a whole thing planned about how I was mad at Steph for, despite coming off of an injury, not playing like an MVP. It was going to be more like a “Justin Cherot Kiss of Death” motivational speech with the intention of @-tting him on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s face it: my favorite player in the league… maybe of all-time… is on the verge of going through a summer of embarrassment if the Dubs don’t win three straight games despite winning an NBA record 73 regular season games. Surely, a professional basketball player with back-to-back MVP awards needs words of encouragement from someone who no reputable company will even bring in for an interview to save their fledgling website.

“Is that all you care about? Sports? I feel sorry for you.”

I can rattle off stat after stat about why Steph deserved to win a unanimous MVP award this season, or why the argument about Michael Jordan being the best ever transcends a simple “yes” or “no”. Unprompted, I can do this off the dome.

But it took a lot of effort to remember the last face-to-face conversation I had with my God-Sister. And when I really thought about it, it makes me sad that it was in 2012.

Going up to Martha’s Vineyard was a yearly tradition for our families. Not only did I spend my first birthday up there, but I also spent my 21st birthday there, too. If you’re reading this somewhere, Kim, there’s no B-Day like your 21st, and I can honestly say that there’s no one more qualified to escort me through that kind of debauchery. You dealt with me in diapers, you can deal with me in “Inebriation Mode”.

Anyway, in 2012 we had an overlap. The prior summer, you, JC and I actually got the chance to spend a week and change together. In 2012, whenGabby Douglas and Co. were lighting up the gymnastic world during the Olympics, I believe everything was condensed to one night because we arrived as you and your family were leaving. We talked awhile about everything: sports, married life and the necessary steps to married life, the Vineyard, etc. In retrospect, while everything was going okay, I expressed how I was frustrated about not having a job in my field yet despite being out of school for two years. You re-iterated how much you believed in me, and how sometimes these things take time. It’s one thing hearing it from my parents, family and friends. But it was somehow it was more re-assuring coming from you. I saw how you and JC raised your girls. It wasn’t easy, but the proof was in front of me: you did everything in your power to make sure those girls lived an awesome life. You and JC were proof that being top-notch parents was an attainable goal. I’d be lying if I said you weren’t partially responsible for helping me get my daughter into soccer after seeing what it did for your children.

I never thought that when you guys left that night that I would never see you again. Sure, over the course of those years we would talk via text or phone call, but for whatever reason we wouldn’t connect in person. I just know that if I knew that was going to be the last time I saw you, I would have hugged you a little tighter.

Still in shock, I posted one of the last texts you sent me on my Facebook wall today.

“Is that all you care about? Sports? I feel sorry for you.”

33-years-old. I finally understand why that kid feels sorry for me. Whether or not Steph and the Warriors can come back from a 3–1 deficit pales in comparison to children losing their mom. A mom losing her daughter. A husband losing his wife.

A Justin losing his “Pimmy”.

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