Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It’s Official—I have no idea how to handle good news

I’ve obviously been a sports nerd all my life. My first memories—aside from breaking my femur bone slipping on a Bert & Ernie puzzle when I was 2—was of watching Tony Dorsett run the ball for the Cowboys and of watching Marcus Dupree run the ball for OU so well as a freshman (before getting hurt like 18 different ways). I was hooked on sports early on.

But, growing up in Western Oklahoma, not wanting to just adopt all the Dallas teams as my favorites (I did have quite the crush on the Cowboys for my first 10 years or so), and growing horribly sick of OU due to my obsessive relatives (“Charles Thompson was framed!”), I started picking out my own favorite teams in the mid- to late-‘80s. I was born in Columbia, MO (dad got his doctorate there), and I loved Norm Stewart, so I quickly adopted Mizzou. I loved the Bonds/Bonilla/Van Slyke outfield, so I adopted the Pittsburgh Pirates. I loved Dan Marino and Mark Clayton, so I adopted the Miami Dolphins. I loved Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler, so I adopted the Portland Trailblazers.

Think about this for a second. Swear to god, here are my top 10 favorite sports moments:

1. Mizzou beating Nebraska at Faurot in 2003.

2. Mizzou coming from 21 down to beat South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl.

3. Mizzou beating UCLA in 2002 to go to the Elite Eight.

4. Pittsburgh coming from 3-games-to-1 down against Atlanta to force Game 7 in the 1992 NLCS.

5. Corby Jones to Eddie Brooks to give Missouri the lead over Nebraska in 1997.

6. Portland coming from 3-games-to-1 down against the evil Lakers to force Game 7 in the 2000 Western Conference Finals (and going up by double digits going into the fourth quarter!).

7. Portland going to the NBA Finals to face the Bulls in 1992.

8. Julian Winfield’s jumper to give Mizzou the lead over UCLA with less than 5 seconds remaining in 1995.

9. Mizzou basketball’s defeat of Iowa State, 112-109, in 4 OT’s in 2001.

10. Dan Marino’s fake-spike TD pass against the Jets in 1994.

Yup, those are some good memories. For grins, let’s see what followed each of those great memories.

1. Mizzou loses the Independence Bowl *.

2. Mizzou jumps to a 7-1 start in 2006...and finishes 1-4.

3. In the Elite Eight, Mizzou loses for the eleventy-billionth time in a row to Kelvin Sampson’s Oklahoma team...made horribly bitter by a) the wretched shooting performances of Clarence Gilbert and Arthur Johnson and b) my extreme hatred of Kelvin Sampson.

4. Francisco Cabrera.

5. Matt Davison.

6. Portland blows a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter of Game 7; Shaq throws Steve Smith into the 4th row without getting called for a foul.

7. Michael Jordan.

8. Tyus Edney.

9. Mizzou loses 3 games in a row.

10. The Dolphins beat the Jets, lose in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. Woo.

Other than proving that I’m a total masochist (and bringing to wonder why it is exactly that I’m a sports fan), what does this prove?

Basically, that I’m a pro at bad news. I know how to handle, rationalize, and move on from bad news.

Good news, on the other hand? Does not compute. My brain just freezes up. I wait for the other shoe to drop. Actually, no...I wait for the other shoe to kick me in the face.

This was on display last night as the Blazers, fresh off of one of the best drafts of all-time in ’06 (rarely do you manage to turn Sebastien Telfair into Brandon Roy, draft the Rookie of the Year, draft another all-rookie team member, and draft your potential point guard of the future on the same night), won the biggest NBA Lottery since the mid-‘80s.

My reaction (as The Beef can attest)? “Huh…”

That’s it. Granted, I’ve gotten more excited since then—my morning was spent reading “Oden vs Durant” articles and Zach Randolph trade rumors—but I seriously do not know how to process good news. And I need to learn quickly. If the Blazers do indeed trade Randolph (my favorite rumor involved Randolph and a sign-and-trade with Seattle for Rashard Lewis...who definitely wouldn’t be needed in Seattle if the Sonics got Durant), they could have a starting lineup of...

PG – Jarrett Jack/Sergio Rodriguez
SG – Brandon Roy
SF – Rashard Lewis
PF – Lamarcus Aldridge
C – Greg Oden

...for the near and distant future. That’s unbelievable. While I’m relatively pumped about this, I need to learn how to get excited. Portland’s about to have the most exciting young team (full of good people, no less!) in the NBA! Missouri’s about to have the most exciting football (and maybe basketball) team in the Big XII! The Mizzou/Nebraska game on 10/6 might kick off at 8pm (greatest tailgate ever!!)! Pittsburgh’s...okay, well, screw them. But there are plenty of reasons for me to shed the darkness and cynicism of the last 20 years, and it’s time for me to learn how not to be scared of success.

But you have to admit—my fear is well-founded. Seriously...I was on the wrong side of Francisco Cabrera, Tyus Edney, the kicked ball, Fifth Down, about 18 AFC Championship losses to the Bills, and the blown lead against the Lakers in 2000, all of which took place in my most formative decade. I was seriously ready to take hostages in 2000. If there had been anybody in the hallway of my dad’s apartment complex in DC when Shaq threw Smith into the stands, I’d be in jail right now. more! New beginning! I will only look ahead!

Until my next “What If...” write-up, anyway.

* It’s not very fair to the 2003 MU/NU game to summarize it like that. I did get to make snow angels on the 50-yard line after the game (it was wet, and those plastic pellets stick everywhere!), I did get to profess my undying love to Sonny Riccio during a TV interview, I did get to exorcise the 1997 demons, and I did get on the “Victory!” poster that they sold in stores after the game (I think I did anyway...I was wearing a gold hat and black jacket, not exactly the most distinguishable attire, but I think I see myself in it). It just says something that the sports highlight of my life was a home win in October against the #9 team in the country. The bar hasn’t been set all that high. Time to exceed it.