Month: October 2016

Wearing the Scarlet Letter: Learning How to Accept That the Warriors Blew a 3-1 Lead in the Finals

 

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors

I have spent over four months trying to forget that night. Standing in front of the TV, I watched as the Cleveland Cavaliers ran onto the court in Oakland, as they had just won game 7 of the NBA Finals. I could feel my girlfriend staring at me from behind, waiting for me to explode with rage like your typical sports fan might do. Instead, I watched as the celebration on TV began, I nodded as if I was trying to convince myself that what I had just seen was real, and then I uttered two words: “That’s it.”

I couldn’t even enjoy the Game of Thrones episode that aired that night. I had been waiting almost three years to watch Jon Snow kill Ramsay Bolton (spoiler alert: Jon Snow kills Ramsay Bolton. Unless you’re someone who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones and has no idea who Jon Snow or Ramsay Bolton is, and in that case please carry on) and I couldn’t even enjoy it. I could only stare through the screen, my body numb and my mind wandering. The Golden State Warriors had just blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

There isn’t any way to prepare for a loss in sports, especially one with the magnitude of last year’s NBA Finals. I am sure there are plenty of sports fans out there who can attest to the absolutely crippling dread you feel the moment you realize the outcome will not end in your favor. It is like a withdrawal from the greatest high you could ever know; that feeling of invincibility when your team is winning that feels like anything but temporary. Yet, even the great teams have even greater falls.

Take the 2007 New England Patriots, for instance. An almost perfect team defeated at the hands of Eli Manning, a man with, objectively, the worst face of all-time. Yes, he was a perfectly decent quarterback who turned it on when it mattered most, but he was also known for his sporadic play and quite mediocre regular seasons. Now, imagine for a second that the Patriots were defeated by entire team of Eli Manning’s and you now have yourself the result of the 2016 NBA Finals.

The Warriors weren’t just a good team, they were a great team. One could even argue they were the greatest team of all-time. Golden State had mastered the pace and space offense, if the pace was a full sprint and the spacing, more specifically, was a team of jump shooting monsters. Match that with quite possibly the league’s scariest defense and, oh, maybe the first ever unanimous MVP in Steph Curry, and you have the first NBA Voltron.

You never see the fall coming, though. Sure, you may see signs of weakness along the way; Steph Curry’s mobility and quickness were clearly limited due to his knee injury, and Steve Kerr couldn’t seem to inspire more than five consecutive minutes of basketball out of Festus Ezeli. Yet, the Warriors, time and time again, had overcome those obstacles and pulled out victory from the jaws of defeat simply because they were just better than everyone else, and we as loyal fans never dared to question the madness. We had survived Oklahoma City with one of the most spectacular playoff games of all time in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. We had utterly dismantled the Cavaliers during the first four games of the finals. The euphoria of not only winning, but watching as the greatest season of all-time unfolded in front your eyes was beyond anything I could attempt to describe. We really did feel invincible.

 

The NBA season starts in just a few short weeks, and I haven’t watched a single second of Warriors basketball outside of a couple of summer league games; I’m not sure my mind is fully capable yet. Sure, Golden State now has Kevin Durant and has already assembled a team far superior to the 73-9, record-breaking team from last year. The Warriors have gone full Monstars and have put together a real life basketball wet dream. With three of the greatest shooters of all time in the starting lineup, the league’s most unique two-way player in Draymond Green, an upgraded bench, and a promising rookie in Pat McCaw, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the Warriors could even beat their previous regular season record from the year before. So, why is there this ominous weight that takes over whenever I hear them mentioned?

Becoming an internet meme is a lot harder on the psyche than one might imagine. The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals, and it appears everyone on this planet is here to remind one of that fact. As a “Crying-Jordan” meme aficionado, and as someone fascinated by the trends in social media, especially pertaining to our culture’s relationship to memes, I did find the aftermath of what happened to the Warriors to be quite amusing. Although it took several months, the creativity to which people on various social media platforms had implemented that particular headline has evolved in a way no other sports moment has before. However, there is still a pain that is triggered every time that phrase is uttered.

Those of us who are Warriors fans attempt to laugh with the jokes, most of the time. We do our best to spin our own narratives of the Finals, such as Steph Curry’s health or Draymond Green’s suspension, as some sort of defense mechanism to facing what really happened; we choked away a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals for the first time in the history of organized basketball. It is the Scarlet Letter that we must bear every single day, regardless of the free agents we acquire or the regular season games we win this upcoming season. To accept what happened to Golden State during those last three Finals games is to accept that the euphoria of that season was, ultimately, for nothing. This does not mean we won’t win four straight titles with the team we have now, but we will never have that 2016 Title.

As a Warriors fan, all one can do is accept and learn from our mistakes. I don’t just mean the mistakes the players made, either. We, as a fan base, achieved a level of arrogance only Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees fans might be familiar with. We were uncomfortable playing the villains, though, even as we prepare to enter that role once again next season. For years, we had been the laughing-stock of the league, only to become its revered, up-and-coming franchise that managed to bring itself out of the darkness with smart front office moves and draft picks that fit the system in mind. Yet, when it came time for breaking records, “#ArrogantSzn” seemed almost forced and unnecessary. We were the last picked kid in sports who had hit an enormous growth spurt over the summer, and we just couldn’t wait to brag about it in front of everyone else. The hubris was intoxicating because it was engrained in the team’s style as well. Yet, when that style no longer works, that hubris no longer seems welcome or logical.

That isn’t to say what the Warriors organization and its fans should learn from last season is that confidence and swagger should be removed from this upcoming season, but rather it means that we must channel that confidence into something more sustainable. The squandered 3-1 lead in the Finals is made worse by the fact that, for as confident as a team the Warriors seemed, they buckled when it mattered the most. That is the only real lesson the team and its fans can learn from. In order to truly be as great as they can potentially be, the Warriors need to learn the difference between greatness and the appearance of greatness. That is a lesson even we as fans should also learn; arrogance and confidence are not the same as arrogance is ultimately rooted in insecurity, and if there is anything to be said about the Warriors, it is that insecurity with winning has always been to their fault. Even when we had won the championship in 2015, both we as fans and the team felt as though they needed to prove to everyone that this was a winning culture and not a fluke. That chip on our shoulders eventually became so engulfing that running other teams off the court was not only uncomfortably satisfying, but also allowed us to mask our ever-present insecurities in braggadocio. It, ultimately, was a recipe for disaster that we thought we were smart enough to avoid.

It is quite possible that the Warriors crash and burn again this season, and we as fans will continue to bear the burden of last year’s embarrassment. Clearly, the Warriors organization is fully committed to being even better, yet it still remains unclear whether the dismantling of last year has been fully realized in an attempt to learn from it. For me, that scarlet letter, the never-ending meme that haunts me every day, is something, as a sports fan, that I want to be rid of more than anything. As a fan, all I can do is accept the past for what it was, do my best to grieve for what was lost, and look ahead, modestly, towards another chance for redemption. Then, just maybe, I can make a meme out of someone else’s team.

 

We Deserve Donald Trump

trump-3

 

As I sat down to write this article, I thought of several different ways I could go about beginning what I wanted to say. I thought about posting a politically relatable quote about the state of our country after last night’s Presidential Debate. I considered starting, as I usually do, with an off-the-wall analogy that I would then EXPERTLY tie back into my main theme (shout out Freshman year English class). None of these options made me feel satisfied in my approach because, to be honest with you, satisfaction in this political year may be a pipe dream.

The town hall presidential debate that took place last night between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was, objectively, two of the worst hours you could imagine spending. It was full of crude jokes, lies, denials of actual facts, and then Hillary Clinton also got to talk at some points. It was like watching your parents fill their divorce papers out in front of you for an entire evening. However, nothing stood out more than a remarkably horrifying moment when Donald Trump, commenting about Hillary Clinton’s emails scandal, retorted that, if he were president, he would have her prosecuted and thrown in jail. This line was met with applause. I don’t think I’m capturing that moment correctly. A presidential nominee threatened to throw the other nominee in jail and a crowd that had been silent until this point erupted in cheers. That moment still hasn’t left me.

Take away, for a second, the fact the comment was even made. For what it’s worth, Donald Trump is basically a racist, hate enfused label maker, spitting out various one line phrases towards anyone standing in his way. The most encapsulating moment of that entire debate was the sound of the applause upon delivering that line. It became clearer than ever, at that moment, that Donald Trump is exactly the type of person we deserve as president, because we as a country have failed to stop him from getting to that exact moment in time.

The blame, though, isn’t just on who you think it is. When I say all of us, that blame spreads far and wide among every political sector one can imagine. There are, however, varying degrees to which we should carry the blame. It isn’t a blanket over the entire system, but if there is one thing Donald Trump has succeeded at, it is forcing every single one of us to confront the flaws within ourselves that have allowed parasites like him to infect the entire political body. So, let us take a look at who is responsible for what:

 

Liberals

I want this article to go well, very much, so maybe it is in my best interest to earn your trust by starting with myself and others like me. Do liberals and the Democratic Party deserve a massive amount of the blame? No, but the responsibility of Hillary Clinton’s failures, as well as our inability to unite ideologies under the liberal banner in a more effective way. In other words, yes, I do take blame for Donald Trump shouting things on my TV.

Hillary Clinton is a very flawed candidate. Rhetorically speaking, there remains much to be desired, as one of her weaknesses is her ability to inspire the people she is speaking to. With Hillary, it always feels as though she needs you to believe that she is as good as she says she is, rather than having her record speak for herself. That is NOT to say that we should ignore the fact that she is a highly decorated, WOMAN politician, in a male-dominated system, who more than likely has to fight uphill every day to get her accomplishments across to the American public. That is also not to say that she hasn’t been burned with the sins that Bill Clinton made while in office that unfairly carried over into her career.

However, that does not excuse the fact that, when you need Hillary the most, her ability to articulate her points on issues, such as trade, health care reform, and foreign policy, never seems to make you feel as at ease as it should. She has all the experience and potential, but yet she seems to have never felt comfortable expressing it. The fact that she hasn’t been a better candidate falls on the shoulders of Democrats everywhere. We had eight years to find someone better to run, but instead we decided the Clinton family was the rightful heir to the throne, and could only be challenge by another extremely flawed candidate in Bernie Sanders.

Liberals this decade, if anything, have been more disjointed than ever on major issues. It seems as though we don’t know where to plant our feet on social reform, how to take responsibility for the shortcomings of the Obama administration, and most of all, we have failed time and time again to capitalize on a political atmosphere more liberal than ever in the fear that we will displease a part of our base. However, when you continuously trip over your own feet, you leave yourself open to be stepped over.

 

Conservatives Who Denounce Trump But Will Not Vote for Hillary

The Republican Party, as we once knew it, does not exist and that disaster lies at the feet of the modern conservative voter. We saw the signs of this during the 2008 Presidential Race when Sarah Palin was brought onto the ticket with John McCain. Palin, a dangerously vacant individual, riled up crowds nationwide with speeches about “Real America” and bringing the U.S. back to a place of prosperity. They were rhetorically empty speeches aimed at only further dividing Liberals and Conservatives from each other by shrouding every word in racial undertones and directing messages of “otherness” at Barack Obama. Conservatives had their chance then and they failed.

Donald Trump, the man of the hour himself, in 2011 began what was known as the “Birther Movement” against Barack Obama, in an attempt to get him to release his original birth certificate. This was an extremely racist ploy to get the President of the United States to prove that he was a natural-born citizen of the United States. Yet, very few prominent Republicans decided to address the issue and, instead, continued to block President Obama’s policies from being enacted at every turn. While one may be able to understand the political strategy of a Republican-controlled congress, the outright ignorance of the “birther” movement by prominent conservative figures was, again, another massive failure on the part of the Republican Party.

The conservative movement failed its supporters time and time again, and Donald Trump was just waiting for his moment to move. The rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, a parasitic branch of the GOP, remained attached to the GOP as an ideology hellbent on preventing any sort of liberal legislation from being passed into law. However, the roots of this movement came from a much different place than just political opposition, but rather out of hate and contempt for the President and the party in power. Furthermore, as the GOP transformed from a party of principled, and structured ideas of where the country should go to a party of scorched-earth narratives about where the country was headed, it was clear that Republicans had now allowed a virus of bigotry and hate to spread from within.

The virus is no longer spreading, because that would imply there is a host left for it to infect. There is no more Republican Party, and the conservative movement lives in the shadow of the “Real America” that Sarah Palin and Donald Trump promised to bring prosperity to. Sure, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still has an “R” next to his name, but do not mistake for one second that he has the power that he could have. Instead, he, along with many other prominent conservatives such as Ted Cruz (a man with a face that looks as if it is trying to turn itself in for a crime), Marco Rubio, and Mitch McConnell have now become collaterally infected by the disease they chose to ignore. They are hostages to the twisted, and contorted narratives they were once indifferent to. Now, they can only watch as Donald Trump rips them in half from within.

Yet, they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. Principled conservatives like to spin the narrative that what Donald Trump represents is despicable and dangerous to the party. However, when asked to either vote for Hillary or at least remove their support from him, they refuse. Is it out of fear of disbanding the party even more? That would be an acceptable excuse with almost any other candidate, but in this case only proves that they are too afraid to admit they are afraid at all. Sure, Donald Trump’s comments on women are disgusting, but conservatives would have you believe that they could never physically write down Hillary’s name on election day, as if they were Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar with the red pen.  Top conservatives watched as their prison was built around them for eight years and now, with cell door slightly cracked for them to slip out, they are too scared of freedom.

 

The Media

This isn’t going to be another rant about the shortcomings of the major news channels, I assure you. The media isn’t just CNN or FOX News. Rather, it spreads as far as Facebook and Twitter as well, and we are all partly responsible. For a long time, Donald Trump was a joke to us. We thought a campaign where, when the candidate announced he was running, he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists could possibly gain any sort of ground. To us, Trump was just the dude on The Apprentice with the really terrible hair and a mouth that looked like a tanned asshole (ironically, he became that). We decided, instead, to focus all of our energy on everything BUT what really mattered. CNN decided its best course of action was to give every single Trump narrative as much airtime as possible, even once being conned into what they believed to be a policy press conference only to end up showing Trump validating Obama’s birth certificate (this happened). They also decided, that to be as fair as possible, political pundits like Corey Lewandowski (Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, who was still being paid by the campaign) needed to be put on air to gain perspectives from all sides.

On social media, political fairness took the form of trying to falsely equate Hillary’s shortcomings to Trump’s in a way of protesting our current political structure. Nearly half of all of our timelines are filled with posts and pictures about how doomed we are no matter whom we vote for, because both candidates would ruin the country. However, if one were to press the issue on someone posting these types of remarks, it was a rarity to find someone who could articulate just what it was about Hillary that equated to what Trump was horrifyingly doing every single day. “Trump said we should target the families of known terrorists with drones (war crime)? Well, what about the Clinton Foundation (Clinton doesn’t run it)? Trump used phrases of sexual assault? Well, both have said pretty terrible things, I’m sure. We are screwed either way.” The false narrative of equivalency between the two candidates only further diluted how little anyone actually knew about either of the candidates, and one can only attribute an approach like that to one thing: laziness.

We hate to admit it, but the most underlying problem of this entire election is that most of us really do not care about how the election process works, and it’s a lot easier for us to just pretend everyone is terrible and blame on politics as a whole. Why fact-check the lies that Donald Trump says when you can just take him for his word? How could he possibly be lying that much? This is the type of thinking that leads to disaster. Hillary Clinton, by no means, is a perfect candidate, but you will seldom find a person who can actually tell you why without using talking points. You find, very quickly, that the emperor has no clothes and that most of us on social media would rather leave it up to someone else to figure out how to fix the country.

 

Independent and “Undecided” Voters

Ah, yes, the “undecided” voters share a large part of the blame as well. If you are someone who has yet to decide whom you will vote for, let me ask you one simple question; do you honestly give a shit about any of this? It is not my intention to place all of the blame at your feet, but rather to open your eyes to the gravity of what you are claiming. If this election has shown us anything, it has shown us that there are two candidates (no, Gary Johnson does not count so please stop) running that many people find very displeasing. It also shown us, though, that there are two kinds of people. There are those who are voting for Donald Trump and those that will do everything in their power to make sure he does not win. So, explain to me what about him you feel up in the air about. What exactly would he need to say to either gain or lose your support at this point? Is the bigger issue that you just honestly do not care and would rather post videos of dogs doing the Stanky Leg (those aren’t bad)? What more can we do to motivate you at this point, or are you just too afraid to admit that this kind of thing just doesn’t affect you?

I want to add to this that it is perfectly fine to not have a decision made, or to sit out of the election entirely. However, with that indecision comes a price and a responsibility. There is a man running for president right now that represents some of the worst ideologies in the history of American politics, and, with him, is a base of supporters that refuses to be checked by the rest of the country. If you remain on the fence to the point where you choose not to vote at all, with it will come a price of a Donald Trump presidency that you willingly chose to not care about. Say what you will about Donald Trump supporters, but at least they will vote on election day. Maybe you are someone who feels discouraged by the current structure, yet how does remaining undecided and not voting for anything help that cause in any way? No one is telling you to vote for Hillary Clinton, but by not voting you are, in turn, placing a vote in the hands of Donald Trump and you seem to care too little to be bothered with it.

 

Trump Supporters

It is far too easy to blame Donald Trump supporters, for they already know the bed that they have made for themselves. Trump supporters do not care about logic, fact, reason, or knowledge regarding policy. The truest thing Donald Trump ever said was that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support. If you question his lies to his supporters, you are met with immediate defenses about the politically correct culture of our society or “liberal bias”. One never actually receives an answer to the questions they ask, but rather receive a myriad of talking points coated in racism, sexism, and Islamophobia. The blame is inherently within the Trump base, so to expel energy on trying to reiterate that is obsolete. The only thing that will come out of such discussions is empty rhetoric about Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, her health, Bill Clinton, and various other distractions used by his supporters to evade having themselves look at the candidate they support and, furthermore, look at their own morals and values.

We are past a point where we can pretend that Donald Trump’s core base of supporters are people who hold much of anything outside of hate in any sort of high regards. It is more important to win than to do the right thing for many of them. Admitting that they were wrong doesn’t compute, because Trump will never admit he is wrong. It is a base of hatred and bigotry that, with a deeper look, is filled with self-hatred about one’s own value in American society. It is a wave of insecurity and fear that has manifested itself in the very worst of our society and as much as those who are devout to Trump deserve him, we too deserve him for making light of the danger they represent.

 

So, there I was, listening to the applause as Trump spouted about placing Clinton in jail for a crime that was never proven. An encapsulation of everything morally wrong with this election, and the ignorance to the seriousness of his claims once again. It was a crowd so seduced by the entertainment of Trump, that they didn’t even realize the ramifications of what they just approved of.

We all deserve Trump for different reasons. Many of us didn’t care enough to begin with. We chose to believe politics was beneath our attention, and that nothing we could do would actually matter. Some of us deserve Trump for not preparing for this moment with an effective strategy, but instead choosing to remain naive to the power of racism and bigotry of others. We chose to believe love and hope could always outshine hate no matter what, yet never prepared ourselves for the glitch in the system.

Many of us deserve Trump because we are lazy and choose to remain uninformed. It wasn’t just the idea that we care enough about Trump, but that anyone who ran against him had to also be just as terrible, because that was just more comfortable for us to believe. There were plenty who watched the debate last night and, before any sort of analysis, decided that both candidates were equally terrible, rather than choosing to analyze how much destruction Trump had created. He has infected every single one of us in some way, and the responsibility lies at our feet for choosing to let him spread. That moment of applause will never be forgotten.