Sunday, June 08, 2014

Anything Can Happen (It Usually Does)

I woke up on Friday morning at 5:30 AM, overly eager for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Heat-Spurs Part II, to commence. I fed my dog, cooked some cheese* ramen, watched TV for a spell, and after all that it was only 6:30, still three-and-a-half hours before tip-off. Dammit.

Like a restless kid, I fidgeted and couldn't keep my attention on any specific thing for very long. It was as though I had woken up early on Christmas morning and couldn't wait for my parents to wake up so that I could unwrap the gifts Santa Claus had left under the tree.

By eight o'clock, I started to get drowsy, so I set my phone's alarm for 10:00 and hopped into bed to take a nap.

I woke up at 9:59. But I was as groggy as I can recall being in years, which was weird. I blame it on the cheese ramen, that giver and taker of vitality. Nevertheless, I fired up League Pass and sat down to watch the game. I don't need coffee to wake me up when basketball, the true sport of Kings (James, Bernard, et al.) works just fine.

And that first half was amazing, what every NBA Finals game should be like: the two best teams in the league going toe-to-toe, each side attacking, each one countering. It was beautiful. I think the Heat were down by four points at halftime, but that was pas de problème.

Something seemed off, though, and during the halftime break I realized what it was. Flash, my dachshund, who always sits on my lap during games and licks my face whenever I cheer at big plays, was asleep on the sofa, totally zonked. This was not normal. It was decidedly abnormal.

I don't subscribe to many beliefs or theories concerning religion, conspiracies, the paranormal, or the restorative quality of rice porridge**, but I've watched enough basketball games with my dog to know that if he's not in the mood for roundball, something bad might happen.

I can count the number of times Flash has been reluctant to watch a game with me on one hand and still have two fingers in my palm***: Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals when the Celtics went up 3-2 on Miami; Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals when the Bulls stole the opening game in Miami; and this past Friday morning, when the broken air conditioning at the AT&T Center ostensibly caused LeBron James's legs to cramp so badly that he couldn't walk and had to sit out during the latter half of the fourth quarter.

During those final three minutes of the game, as the Spurs kept raining 3-pointers, I looked at Flash. He had the hangdog look after which his species' expression is named, and I was convinced he knew all along how Game 1 was going to end. He just didn't want to hurt my feelings by spoiling it.

In the 48-plus hours since Game 1, it's been interesting to gauge the reaction from the media and fans -- and anti-fans, who only cheer for the Heat to lose -- to LeBron's injury. Suddenly, we're back in time to 2011, and most non-Heat fans are questioning him again, and the man himself is saying that he's the "easiest target in sports." The guy will never catch a break, it seems. This, after two straight NBA titles and a consistent record of clutch moments. Whatever; the sharks smell blood, and they're eager to start a feeding frenzy.

Tomorrow, I will wake up at 7:00 AM and go to work. I won't be able to watch Game 2, which starts at 9:00 AM here, but I'll follow it, obsessively, via ESPN's Gamecast. Anything can -- and probably will -- happen: maybe LeBron has a monster game; maybe he fouls out in 13 minutes; maybe Mario Chalmers hits a game-winning 3-pointer; maybe Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli combine for 50 points; maybe Danny Green builds upon his Finals resume and has 10 3-pointers by halftime; maybe Tim Duncan gets a technical foul from Joey Crawford in the Spurs locker room.

Everything is in play. I just hope I don't have to come home tomorrow evening to a sad dachshund whose face says, "Damn, we're in a 0-2 hole."

* It puts the cheese in the ramen or else it gets the hose again.

** So please, kindly, stop soliciting me, Mormon 9/11 truther ghost hunters.

*** I don't care if that makes grammatical sense; I like how it sounds.

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