1.25.2017

#TrustTheProcess

Given how sports-crazy I was as a kid, that version of me would be mortified at how little time and energy I devote to sports now.  As work and family responsibilities have piled up, sports have receded to almost nothing.  I play nothing competitively or even recreationally.  I don't gamble and am not in any fantasy leagues.  I don't even have time to blitz-watch games on TV.  In the past 12 months: zero baseball except for one work-related trip to the ballpark, 3-4 football games at hyper-speed the morning after, and 7 games of Cavs-Warriors also on fast-forward, and maybe 10 to 15 minutes a day of highlights/articles on ESPN/Ringer/YouTube.  So that's a grand total of maybe 100 hours of sports consumption over the last 365 days, which I probably regularly reached every 2 weeks when I was younger.

When I dream about retirement, thoughts of season tickets come to mind, if only because watching multiple games, live, in their entirety, just seems like a decadent luxury that belongs in the "I will bust my tail now to achieve to that level" realm of activities.  For now, I'll have to live with very thin slices.

With that drastically condensed consumption comes a reduced ability to take in information, ironically at a time when sports offerings, news, and stats are everywhere.  In my early teen years, I could've rattled off multiple years' worth of stats for countless players.  Whereas last fall, when my co-workers took me to a Pirates game, I couldn't even name a single player beyond Andrew McCutchen.  (I was informed that Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla are no longer on the roster.) 

With that drastically condensed consumption also comes a shift in what interests me and who I root for.  Generally, I've become one of those "grand narrative" fans, who doesn't have enough time or information to pick up on all of the interesting subtleties and nuances across a vast empire of teams and players and strategies and sabermetrics, and instead gets amped over the very small handful of stars and dramas that dominate the headlines. 

Specifically, I still root for the A's and Raiders - way too many hours spent in my childhood agonizing over them to not have a place in my heart for them - but both teams are threatening to move from where I grew up, in the Bay Area, and the combination of that potential loss of geographic rootedness and my geographic distance from them makes those allegiances faint if not still dear. 

But my greatest love is probably hoops, and long ago I abandoned the Warriors, who I loved in the Sleepy Floyd and Run TMC days and then grew irreparably disillusioned with when they started sliding after that.  Obviously, the modern day Warriors are both dominant, fun, and likable (or, even if villainous, at least interesting and relevant), but it seems so far in time, distance, and identity from the team I once rooted for, for me to jump back on the bandwagon.  So, in recent years, my hoop allegiances have been with LeBron, a transcendent and polarizing player whose highs and lows have made for great drama.

But, before this season started, I felt a pull to join the 76ers bandwagon.  Former GM Sam Hinkie was unceremoniously canned last year in the midst of implementing a controversial long-term strategy of being intentionally bad, harvesting high draft picks, and playing the long game as it related to player availability/injuries.  After three historically bad years, it seemed like the arrival of a healthy Joel Embiid and a potentially game-changing Ben Simmons could get the 76ers into the 30-win level, still way below the playoffs but two to three times more wins than previous years. 

Of course, 76ers management was careful with Embiid, Simmons broke his foot, and the 76ers ended calendar year 2016 at 8-24, which translates to about 20 wins, still twice as many as last year but still quite short of talking playoffs.  I quietly walked back on my prediction of 30 wins at that point.  But since the calendar has flipped to 2017, though, the team has been on fire, winning games in dramatic fashion and finding in Embiid both a franchise-level titan and a social media darling.  Thirty wins seems achievable, and many folks are whispering "playoffs" to boot.

Philly is a great basketball town, and after multiple years in the wilderness, it's electrifying to experience some success, some relevance, and some excitement.  Count me among their fans.  Here's hoping for a championship parade someday soon.  It's what I'm trusting the process for.
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