The NBA season started a week ago. I’m entering my 25th season of NBA fandom. Or it might be my 24th season. Maybe my 27th. Somewhere in there. I don’t get paid to be a fan, so I can’t tell you for sure. I was probably 11 when I started really caring about the Celtics. When I watched every game I could watch (even though we didn’t have cable, and mostly got to see away games).
I love NBA basketball. I love the Boston Celtics. I love tiny point guards, skittering their way into those canopies of behemoths under the rim. I love goofy seven-footers, who struggle to run without losing their balance. I love the last few minutes of the half and the game, when the intensity rises. I love momentum swings, all the more common in today’s NBA than in the slow-paced game of the 1990s and early 2000s. The 2-minute runs which wipe out the other team, leaving all 10 men breathless as they head toward the bench when the too-late timeout is mercifully called.
As I write this, I’m exhausted. I have been exhausted for about three weeks. I am a teacher and this time of year (pre-Thanksgiving break) is always a demanding time. After today, there will be two more school days (Thursday and Friday) that will involve me leaving my house before sunrise. Sunday we set the clocks back an hour and the sun will rise at 6:35.
Being a high school teacher is usually exhausting. Fortunately, my schedule this year allows me to leave school early four days a week. I should enjoy the flexibility. But teaching is draining, and there are zero days where you can sit at a desk and read articles online, drink coffee, and generally just float through. If I expected less of myself, I would show a movie and ignore my students. Then, I suppose I could drink coffee and just float through. But that’s not what a good teacher does. If you show a movie, you keep an eye on the crowd. Who fell asleep? Who is on their phone for ten straight minutes? Who is messing with other students? If you show a movie, you stop the movie and ask questions. You have students summarize. You help students connect the dots. But all of this has nothing to do with the NBA and everything to do with the fact that I’m exhausted.
The flow of an NBA game is so different than a baseball or football game. It is constant. It’s not a headache to forward through commercial breaks. You can watch a full NBA game in an hour, sometimes less if you skip free-throws. If you live on the west coast and you’re a Celtics fan, you can start the game at 8:30 and be done by 9:30 or 9:45.
The NBA season guides me through the winter and into the spring. The Celtics are good again. I can expect more satisfying endings and fewer gut-punches. 82 games is a long season. They’ve played three.
Maybe its the feeling of possibility that each sporting season represents. Yep, that definitely adds to the allure of sports. The older we get, the less possibility seems alive in things. You have to fight to keep believing in possibilities. Especially in this endless swamp of an election season. Teaching teenagers keeps me believing in the necessity of hope, even if I seem more hopeful than many of them do at times.
A new season. Sisyphus and his boulder or a sea of endless possibilities? Both.