Context and other things etc. etc.: This is an article written by me, on a site that I used to run which has now fallen into oblivion. Thinking about the events of today, I decided it may not hurt to take this one out of the ol’ personal archives and present it to anyone who may be interested. I wrote this article on April 28th, 2012, the day that Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL. While the situations of Rajon Rondo and Rose differ, the emotional impact of losing your favorite team’s best player to such a devastating injury has its parallels nonetheless. Celtics fans may not relate as much to the more Bulls-centric parts of this article, but I left it as is anyways. I was told by some Bulls fans that this particular piece helped them out during that time, so here it is. And here’s to wishing Rajon Rondo a full recovery.
Attitude, resilience, composure and why I love this team more than anything.
I never thought I’d use this site to vent. Obviously, I’m still venting about sports. And of course, it’s about the Chicago Bulls. I’ve been a little lazy and a lot busy for the past few months, but I promised myself I’d do write-ups of every Bulls playoff game. After tonight’s “victory”, I was a little too distraught and partially in denial. Instead, I’ve decided to write this to make up for it.
I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around everything that’s happened today. Anybody who follows me on Twitter has witnessed my state of…well, distress. I’ve learnt two things today, though, one of which has made me feel like I’m insane and another that deters my insanity and fuels my optimism.
1. The attitude of your team’s best player and your team’s coach matters more than anything else.
2. I, and most of everyone who is reading this, care way too much about professional sports teams.
I’ll start with number two, because like everything that’s happened in the past 36 hours, it doesn’t make sense. Let’s face it, I’m aware of who my audience is. This isn’t on the front
page of ESPN. If you’re still reading this 100 words in, you’re either a really great friend (thanks, pals!) or you’re a die-hard basketball fan.
The importance we place on the ups and downs of our favorite sports franchises and athletes is massive, and at times a bit unhealthy. Some people say they like to watch sports because it’s a stress reliever, an outlet to which we can guide the negatives of our daily lives and vanquish them. A relief.
But today, for me and a lot of fans, it was quite the opposite. For the past two years, a Bulls loss has meant that I’d be a not-as-pleasant person to be around. A Bulls win, on the other hand, wouldn’t make me as happy as it did when it meant that they were one step closer to qualifying for the playoffs. The Bulls winning a first-round playoff game three years ago? Greatest feeling ever. Getting all the way to the Eastern Conference finals and losing last year? Fetal position for the next two days. I guess as expectations change, our happiness towards the success of our favourite teams changes. Maybe we’re all better off cheering for mediocre, loveable teams. But such is life, and maybe in life too, we are happier without the constant desire to triumph over our opponents, but to take pleasure in the little victories we achieve everyday. It almost warms my heart that that’s what the Bulls will be for the next six to nine months: mediocre, loveable, striving for little victories. Almost.
I know I’m not the only one feeling what I’m feeling today. I’m also sure that I’m not the only one who really doesn’t care that I care too much. I’ve gone through the Kubler-Ross model of grief and have decided to accept that my feelings will always be tantalized by the happenings of the Chicago Bulls, a sports franchise that I have yet to watch live, of which I have never met any of the players or coaching staff and has done nothing to directly impact my life. For some reason, I’m still writing on my NBA blog, trying to become a successful sportswriter. My question is, why are me and millions of other people this insane? Why isn’t cheering for a sports team considered as a form of self-mutilation? As I think about the things that could have gone differently, I keep reminding myself that I never had control over the decisions and occurrences. Sometimes, the players didn’t either. For someone that’s always wanted to decide my own fate, I’ve invested a lot of energy in something completely out of my control.
As for the second realization I had today: I’ve always carried the belief that the attitude of a team’s best player will extend to the teams mindset to an extent, but I never realized how much it mattered until today. Although, I guess a lot of it remains to be seen until Tuesday. I included Tom Thibodeau as well, because I had to. Despite the questionable decision to leave Rose in the game so late Thibs has a profound impact on the resiliency of the Chicago Bulls. Today isn’t about him, though. Today is about a kid from Chicago that wants nothing more than to bring his hometown a championship.
Everybody knows all about what a great guy Derrick Rose is. People talk so much about how humble, hard-working and resilient he is that it’s almost become a running joke. It’s been talked about to death, there really isn’t a need to discuss it.
Here’s why it matters, though: Every single player on that roster would go to war for Derrick Rose. They’d scrap at every loose ball, go for every tip-in and extend their hands to contest every shot. Even before Dwight Howard’s, um, debacle, could you really say that about the Orlando Magic? If Rose was about to drop 81 points, the rest of the guys would be much more excited than they were here. Not doing everything you can in your power to win a playoff game with Rose would be like watching your best friend scrap around for spare change when you’ve got a five dollar bill in your pocket. In other words, you just won’t do it.
So what happens when the Bulls’ heart, soul, and best player goes down for the rest of the season, and it’s questionable whether he’ll ever play at the same level again? For most teams, they’d fold. They’d probably be far too deflated, emotionally scarred and discouraged to believe that they could make a difference. Not this team though.
Kyle Korver had a message for Bulls fans that he posted on Facebook:
After reading those words, I don’t think I’ve been so proud to be a Bulls fan. It brought a tear to my eye and reminded me that this team might just be okay (yeah, once again, this is what helped restore my sanity. I think I need professional help). Derrick Rose has a must-win attitude and so do the Chicago Bulls.
Still don’t believe that the attitude of the best player matters that much? Check out rookie Jimmy Butler’s twitter. His #DoitforDerrick hashtag has become a motto for the entire locker room. You can’t just watch somebody you care about work so hard and want something so bad to not do something about it. Not do everything about it.
It’s things like this that make it impossible to not love this team. Before this injury, before this outpour from the Bulls players that’s made Bulls fans collectively remember that where there’s a will there’s a way, I still believed that this team was special.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a full season and loved a team as much as I love this one. Watching the first half of the Bulls’ win against Miami, sans Rose, was probably the most awesome time I’ve ever had while watching basketball. From Noah’s poster-slam to John Lucas III’s impossible shot over LeBron James, it was the perfect example of mustering greatness in the absence of greatness.
On the other hand, there were nights that Derrick Rose just refused to let the Bulls go down without a fight. The step-back jumper against Brandon Jennings, the buzzer-beaters against the 76ers. The Clippers game. The second half against the Spurs. A healthy Bulls team could have led the league in offensive and defensive efficiency, assists, and rebounding. Watching the guys “find a way” every night was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been privileged to watch.
Everything in life was unstable and uncertain. A Bulls win, however—that was steadfast. It was a guarantee. Perhaps that’s why it was so much more devastating every night they lost. 2012 champs? Maybe not. The team I couldn’t feel more privileged to cheer for? Absolutely.