Played softball last night. Arrived home from the park about 9:30 p.m. My wife was watching Star Trek and, exhausted, I settled into the couch next to her. Like an alien force, a species previously unknown to man, I was sucked into the Enterprise, a vapor existing only in the big ship's computer grid.
When the Enterprise was safely on its way again, I returned instantly to human form and suddenly remembered Game 7 of the NBA’s final contest of the season.
That’s the point of this screed.
I went upstairs and turned on the television. When the picture came up, I saw a long shot of the court from high in the arena. The players were returning to the court from a time out. The announcer told me the game was down to the last 39 seconds. It seemed like it took half an hour to play those 39 seconds – in reality, well… it may have. I didn’t put a clock on it. It was good basketball – tough, smart, skillful… full of fury, joy, despair, and balletic feats so contrary to the laws of gravity they were bound to amaze even the most jaded watcher.
But those 39 seconds were all I needed. I didn’t pine for the other 47:20. I didn’t hope for overtime. I didn’t wish for another game. I didn’t regret missing entirely four games of the series. Those final 39 seconds were quite enough.
Yes, the NBA has problems.
And, I’m not a casual basketball fan. I love the sport. In winter, the smell of the gym was ambrosia to me. I sat parked on the floor in front of our black and white television countless Saturday afternoons in winter watching Russell and Chamberlain do battle. A freight train could have rumbled through the living room and I wouldn’t have budged. I didn't miss a single game my alma mater played this past college basketball season. Not one.
But, somewhere along the line, professional basketball lost its luster for me. Maybe it began to seem too easy for the players. Maybe the chest bumps and styling to the sideline cameras got old. Maybe it’s the simple fact that the finals are played in June -- on the longest day of the year -- when my body has retooled completely for summer, for outdoors, for sun and wind and cottonwood in the air.
Whatever the reason, it was surprising to me to realize those final 39 seconds were all I wanted of professional basketball for the year.