If It's Springtime, We're Engrossed
In the Delicious NBA Playoff Drama
We all have our favorite sporting traditions. Millions of folks annually overdose on the near frenzy of March Madness, the college hoops tournament (which I wrote about some time ago in this book review). And during a recent breakfast conversation, my friend Terry was sharing his visceral love for the NHL hockey playoff season also now underway. He has one of those wonderfully expressive faces that masks little of what he's feeling, and his passion for hockey came through loud and clear. But for me, the sporting sun rises and sets on the NBA playoffs, which have just begun. Ah, nirvana.
I would enjoy it this year as I do every other no matter what, but when your favorite team is considered among the favorites to win it all (certainly the first time for that), it takes the experience from merely wonderful to a state of near rapture. It helps, in an odd way, when your city has a famously tortured history with its major league sports teams, as mine does (I wrote all about that here three years ago).
The NBA season is way too long, and there's sometimes far too little drama during the regular season, when most of these pampered millionaires seem to be playing on auto pilot. But when the playoffs begin, you quickly find out which individuals and teams are just hanging around for the paychecks--or have one foot in the game and the other in the Bahamas, as one TV commentator so pungently put it tonight--and which ones have deeper sources of inspiration and pride upon which to draw. It's the clash of those giants (whose success is built at least as much upon their character and work ethic as it is on their athletic skills, the latter of which is a given) that makes playoff basketball such a treat. There's so much ballet, brute force and athletic improvisation blended into the final product that it's a joy to watch. So for the next six weeks or so, you'll have to excuse my divided attention.