This is the season, between Christmas and New Year, when people look back onto a year about to end and forward to a year about to start. This is when future plans are conceived and new resolutions are made. This is the magical time when many people are almost ready to believe in miracles, snow whites and Santa Claus. This is the time when Stampler may speak to you. And when he speaks, he may say something like this:
If you don’t think Pop would trade Kawhi in .000001 seconds for LeBron you’re living in a fairy tale.
The ways of Stampler are mysterious to me, and I have no idea, where he gets his intelligence from, but no, I am not living in a fairy tale, not usually. I neither wield light sabers in strange buildings on distant planets, nor do I slay fire-spitting dragons attacking moss-covered rocks of the proud castle built by countless generations of my ancestors among the thick forests of Middle Earth. I don't travel through many levels of somebody's dreams to build a fantom city on the sea, where my wife and I could grow old. I didn't spend 25 years of my life studying esoteric martial arts in a monastery lost somewhere in Himalayas. At night I don't wear funny costumes to fight crime. I don't seduce exotic women I just met in strange foreign places, and I never ever won 10 million dollars in a hand of poker.
However, even though I don't live in a fairy tale, I long for one. Sports, a happy medium between fiction and reality, provides me with tales and stories, which would be hard to find otherwise. Of course, I need my heroes. Someone, who was growing up on an obscure island and went through a hardship and tragedy in his early life. Someone, who decided to stay at college for four years, even though he could get his hands on millions of dollars couple of years earlier. I am looking for a story of superstar, who embraces a rookie like his younger brother and team up with him to win an elusive trophy together. I want to cheer for a foreigner with unusual name and unorthodox game, who is drafted at the very end of his draft class and proceed to become an all-star, for a guy without ACLs, for a player struggling with his weight, his height or his confidence. I would like to see a guy from obscure university to become a starter and challenge superstars. I embrace a millioneer who rides public transportation. I want my heroes to stay humble in spite of all their achievements. The victories shouldn't come easy, they should overcome numerous obstacles, defeats and doubts, but they need to stay together as a team, get over themselves and keep trying.
Of course, you cannot have a fairy tale without villains. In fiction, villains commonly function in the dual role of adversary and foil to the story's heroes. In their role as adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones. A good villain should be scarily powerful. He must have everything he needs to prevail over the heroes. I like my villain to be a bully, more physically gifted than anybody else. I want him to get everything easy, like being a high-school phenom and a top draft pick. I want the villain to be worshipped like a some kind of a fake king, to have a ton of commercials, to get the biggest contract ever, and to dominate. Of course, I also want the villain to be immature and immoral, to cheat, to make bad decisions (pun intended) on and off the court. I want him to pout, to fight with teammates and coaches, to get in some kind of legal trouble, to be disloyal to his native city and to betray both his family and his organization. It certainly helps if he is ugly, despicable and full of himself. He should have a "brand", power, sidekicks, followers and ass-kissers. He should be a big shot and get away with his crimes, lies and indiscretions.
Both heroes and villains are essential for my fairy tales. Luckily, I can get both in the NBA, and keep my addiction going. If not for the stories and tales, what else am I supposed to watch for? Some really tall people shooting an orange ball through metal rings they call baskets? Now, that would be just totally silly, wouldn't it?