It was an incredibly well written television series that ran for seven seasons from 1999-2006. The brainchild of Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing was must see TV, particularly for political nerds like me. And while the dialogue often bordered on the absurd--who can have a conversation like that, for so long, with such precision, at all hours of the day, anyway?--it sustained its success over the course of its time in the spotlight.
There is danger in creating a show like The West Wing because the star of the show, and subsequently the show itself, has a defined shelf life. It would be silly to get attached to such a show because you know the end is always just around the bend. Right? I mean, that's just crazy. Who would hitch their wagon to something that they knew would someday end?
But by the creative genius of Sorkin, and the talented writers and consultants he surrounded himself with, the show was a perennial hit and lived its entire life at the top of the television heap.
As one who would prefer order and who has never been particularly adept at dealing with myriad problems at once, I was always envious of the final scene on those Wednesday nights. President Bartlet would sit with his staff as they marveled at his ability to steer the country safely through another crisis. But he had no time to celebrate, he was on to the next problem or challenge that lie ahead. Reaching for a file from one of his aides, the episode would often end with President Bartlet asking "What's next?"
I've been reminded of President Bartlet and those closing scenes over these last several days as the circus has come to town. Now you guys know I'm not a grizzled veteran at any of this. I haven't been through thousands of hours of press conferences or media days that left me jaded. I still look at these events with naive eyes, but if nothing else I try to soak in as much as I can.
So believe me when I tell you that the Spurs are the only calming influence in this madness that is blowing through San Antonio right now.
On Wednesday at Media Day there was a clamor of activity and the air was electric. Guillermo from the Jimmy Kimmel Show was walking around with a Slim Jim and Mardi Gras beads. There were reporters and cameramen and hangers on from all over the world snapping pictures of players and NBA Finals logos and each other. It was like an adult Easter Egg hunt as media scrambled from corner to corner of the AT&T Center trying to get the perfect quote or perfect shot.
But while that was going on the Spurs were there, quietly doing Spurs things. One in each corner, and one in the big media tent- each saying basically the same thing in unison. Those of us that have been here all year--or for several years-- are used to it, but the national guys get flustered. They want to see an acknowledgement of the circus and the big stage, and when they don't get it they lash out. Not in the moment, mind you, but in print or on the airwaves later. The Spurs are boring because they frustrate the national guys that want to come to town to watch the Spurs dance for them.
Entertain us, Spurs! Acknowledge our presence, Spurs!
And you're never going to see a more telling example of this attitude than in the hours following the Spurs' win over the Heat in Game 1. These national media guys came to San Antonio and were forced to endure a Finals game under such adverse conditions? For shame, San Antonio! We will pierce your greatness with our pens and biting sarcasm.
So you'll be subjected to story after story describing in excruciating detail how hot and sticky it was inside the AT&T Center and how unbearable the playing conditions were for the players. You'll read how this is an abject travesty thrust upon society and LeBron James. But at the end of the day remember it's just a bunch of media illuminati that are squealing the loudest.
Because the real story is that the Spurs overcame a dismal 22 turnovers and won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. The real story is that the Spurs withstood extremely impressive performances from Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, who seemed to pick them apart and find their way to the basket time and again.
The real story is Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, held scoreless in the first half, but who shined down the stretch to the delight of a very enthusiastic crowd. A crowd that deserves credit for choosing to overcome less than ideal conditions to provide the home court advantage that the Spurs desperately needed as the minutes ticked away.
The real story is that these Finals have the makings to be legendary. Wade and Allen seem determined to be a driving force and we all know LeBron James will play like a man possessed in Game 2. The Miami Heat are champions and they are squaring off against the Spurs in what will likely be a brutal, exhausting battle. That's the real story.
And the real story is Tim Duncan, who once again put this team on his shoulders and willed them to a win. A win that seemed unlikely a few minutes into the fourth quarter as the Heat made a run to go up by seven and seemed to be pulling away. A win that Duncan and his teammates snatched from the proud champions. And now the only number that matters in their world is simply "3."
After the game Duncan pointed out that both teams had to play under the same conditions. Both teams were playing under less than ideal circumstances. He was then asked if this was the most uncomfortable game he'd ever played in.
"Yeah," he said. "I don't think I've ever played in anything like this since I left the islands. It was pretty bad out there."
So that's all there is to it. The circus is in town, grinding, searching, prodding for the next story to write. And on top of that now we have the GREAT HEAT GAME OF THE 2014 NBA FINALS. I'm sure theme music has already been created.
The Spurs are fine with that. The circus of uncertainty and manufactured crises can swirl all around, but just like President Bartlet, they know the road ahead is all that matters. They know there is only one question that has any merit left.