COVID-19 Blog Days 55-365: A year measured in basketball

As what I’ve convinced myself is some kind of self-preservation mechanism, I’ve measured the past year through the lens of the National Basketball Association. This is probably primarily because the moment I knew we were insurmountably fucked happened during a basketball game I couldn’t have cared less about on March 11, 2020. 

I saw it in Mark Cuban’s stupid fucking face. As the NBA announced that the season would be suspended, Cuban looked at his smartphone like his assistant didn’t book him on the private jet he liked. With a quarter left, Cuban and the rest of us plebs all got to watch Luka Doncic and the Mavericks aimlessly score on Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. I don’t know who won, because it truly didn’t matter.

This is when my COVID ticker began. And basically for the last year, I’ve measured our time in quarantine through the NBA. 

For those first five months, I was adrift. Every day began to look the same as the one that came before it and the one that came after it.

There was no basketball. I was stuck inside binge watching Marvel movies and The Sopranos. After networks reran every single Super Bowl, we were provided a little taste of sports by the means of Korean baseball. And somehow I was excited about this, which doesn’t make any sense, because I don’t watch American baseball.

Hell, I watched NASCAR. The only nice thing about NASCAR is that the tracks are generally surrounded by scenic rural areas and the races are generally held in warm weather so you can imagine what it’s like to be outside.

My entire sense of time was off. I can’t tell if we’re nearing summer unless the NBA playoffs have started. Unless I’m watching the Milwaukee Bucks sweep the Orlando Magic in the first round, it’s basically the dead of winter in my mind.

I was finally provided relief after months without basketball in the form of the greatest public health achievement we’ve seen in the past year. The NBA Bubble. In a year, when critical institutions have let us down time and time again, the NBA is the only one that hasn’t failed me. 

The federal government until basically a month and a half ago was barely protecting us from self-injecting bleach. Every college in America thought their students were smart enough to successfully naviate the pandemic. (I don’t care how smart your 18-year-olds are, they’re going to try to smooch each other and underage drink.) The MLB was basically trying to play their season like nothing was wrong and then acted surprise when they were forced to cancel games.

But the NBA is the single greatest institution on the planet and you are not allowed to say anything against it. A bubble using an almost vacant Disney World? Brilliant. (Theme parks also failed us. Are you going to tell me Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is an essential service? I’ve been, it was cool, but it’s not the reason I’m alive and breathing today.) It took us five months to come up with this? I would have moved everyone to Disney World on March 12th if I was the NBA. Kick those tourists and families on spring break out. We need basketball.

And they pulled it off. The rolling reports showed 0 cases even as teams left and friends and family came in. Yes, my Sixers got swept in the first round, but I could handle it. The thing about me and basketball is that I’ll watch any game. For instance, right now I’m watching the Nets play the Rockets. There’s always something happening. I can look away for five minutes, get a beer, attend to work, or have a conversation and always come back and tune into some action.

As the bubble succeeded, there was always new and exciting basketball. We got play-in game between Memphis and Portland. Denver went on a crazy run where they were on the brink of losing twice. Giannis lost to a Shane from Jimmy Neutron and the world’s tallest thirteen-year old. It had everything we needed without putting anyone’s life in danger.

In the end, LeBron and the Lakers won like we expected. And I will never be upset to see LeBron win. I don’t just think LeBron is the great basketball player of all time, I think LeBron James is the greatest living person. The guy builds schools. He’s vocal and active on social justice issues. He routinely embarrasses himself on Instagram like the father of three that he is. He probably save millions of Clevelanders (I’m going to assume that’s the demonym.) from the terminal condition of being from Cleveland. 

The league being optimistic wanted to get the NBA back to its normal schedule and end the next season in June so we were only out of basketball for like two months. So yeah, I watched the NCAA continue to exploit unpaid teenagers and the NFL pretend nothing was wrong like all 32 teams were based in Florida. 

I don’t necessarily agree with how the NBA proceeded to do business post-Bubble. I’m doing my job effectively working from home and all my coworkers are, to the best of my knowledge, doing their jobs effectively from their homes. Even if we were all getting regularly tested, I wouldn’t recommend I have daily in-person meetings with a different coworker everyday. It’s not a perfect metaphor but you get the point.

For the most part, it’s working. There have been a few cancelled game and reduced rosters, but the procedures are effective. Maybe don’t severely punish Kyrie Irving for trying to celebrate his sister’s birthday and create a police state, but we’re playing basketball now aren’t we. And any way of doing business that put’s my team on top is a good one.

However, now that it has been a year, it’s time for the NBA to finally let me down. We didn’t need an All Star Game. Yes, I love the All Star Game, but have we considered even with rigorous testing how insane this is. The NBA was barely working to have two teams where everyone is coming from practically the same two cities to meet at an arena in one of those two cities. Then, Adam Silver wanted to take all the top players from 18 teams for one game, then six players for a three-point contest, three players for the dunk contest, and six players for something called the Skills Contest. (What is the All-Star Game if not a skills contest, riddle me this NBA?)

We all knew something would go wrong, but of course, of all the players who showed up the All State Arena, only the two from my team were the ones to get sick. So now the NBA has got me like this:

Regardless of the impact of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmon’s COVID diagnoses, it truly feels like we’re turning a corner. I pre-registered for my vaccine this week and my dad is finally getting his. My fiancee and I now feel like we can have our wedding in the fall. It’s great to finally feel joy outside of basketball. So I thank the NBA for seeing me through this past year.

***

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve to be treated to an actual music blog. It might be March, but I feel obligated to always share my favorite records of last year.

Favorite Albums

  1. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. 3
  2. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
  3. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
  4. Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
  5. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
  6. Soccer Mommy – color theory
  7. Taylor Swift – folklore/evermore
  8. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake/Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World II
  9. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
  10. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Favorite Songs

  1. Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”
  2. Dua Lipa – “Levitating”
  3. Taylor Swift – “cardigan”
  4. Waxahatchee – “Lilacs”
  5. The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”
  6. Tyler Childers – “Long Violent History”
  7. HAIM – “Don’t Wanna”
  8. Samia – “Big Wheel”
  9. Caribou – “Ravi”
  10. Sada Baby – “Slide”

What I’ve enjoyed so far this year

  • Black Country, New Road – For the first time
  • Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
  • Pooh Shiesty – Shiesty Season
  • The Weather Station – Ignorance

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