The Spurs, Heat, basketball, and life

USA TODAY Sports

Basketball is a silly game. It is a sweaty piece of performance art. A drama in four acts, sometimes five. Actual life isn't really like that. Life nearly always ends with a whimper. An NBA championship always ends with a bang.

MY TRIBE

I hate losing. I'm a primate. I want my tribe to win. The other tribe is the enemy. I don't want them to beat my tribe. I want to win.

I don't believe in mojo. Still. During Game 2, I took a walk around my neighborhood, checking the score on my phone along the way. Tonight I took the same walk, in the opposite direction. After Bill Russell yawned, I stopped watching entirely and went to play and read with my son, just like I did in Game 1. That was my contribution to the mojo.

Basketball and other silly games were what I shared with my father when I was a kid. We watched a lot of sports together. I never allowed my Dad to leave a game early. A few times we were rewarded. Watch all the way to the end. You never know.

Watching sports and playing sports, I learned early on that there was a right way to play. Play hard, don't take shortcuts, give yourself up for the team. Suffer, for the team. It took me a lot longer to learn that the basketball gods don't necessarily reward moral superiority. You don't do things the right way because it will result in victory. You do things the right way because then you will be doing things the right way. If you are lucky, you'll win, too.

Nobody deserves to win. Somebody is better, that's all. Both teams may be good. One of them is better. The end, and Amen.

Sports is love and rivalry. Love, I firmly believe, matters a lot more. The things you share with your teammates, the struggle, the win, the defeat. Even the love you have for your opponent, who is not truly your enemy after all. Both teams are diving thrillingly into life, and after the last horn sounds, there is a cheerful appreciation of the experience both you and your temporary enemy have shared together. You both have played against the game, both played against the moment, the pressure, the merciless clock, the gawking audience. Those are the more real enemies, the obstacles that always and forever prevent any of you from achieving perfection. You and your opponent are comrades in arms against those actual foes.

And this is really where sport stops being a metaphor. Each of us combats every day those hindrances which forever make perfection a fleeting ideal. This is what most binds me to Tim Duncan, to Kawhi Leonard, to Manu, to Tony, to Pop. And yes, to LeBron and Dwayne and Ray. This is what binds me to every Spurs fan and every Heat fan in the world. We homo sapiens so rarely touch perfection, or even glimpse it. It's fit that we seek inspiration by watching these gifted young men display moments of perfection, however brief. Perfection in a silly children's game, sure. But perfection of any kind is wondrous.

Anybody who might have thought this Spurs team would come into Game 7 dejected or filled with doubt don't know these guys. Nobody was going to roll over and play dead tonight. A team was going to have to go out there and win it, and it wasn't likely to be pretty. These teams were both tired, and both knew their opponent very well.

Losing is painful, but it's part of being alive. And being alive is wonderful. The best part of life is the people you love, and on some level, for me and for anybody reading this, that tribe you love includes the Spurs, in victory and maybe especially in defeat. This is my team. They did something special this season. Even right now, that's a lot more than enough.

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