Psst. Guys? I will let you in on a secret: we are all going to die. Maybe the afterlife will be a paradise of leather-bound books and dulce de leche ice cream, or maybe we will only live on as chemical energy inside a worm's stomach or in the chromosomes we pass on. But that's besides the point - we should all focus on what we know for certain.
We will all die. I'm positive.
Mortality is either the best joke or the worst tragedy, depending on how jaded you are and how close to death you feel that day. What's more important to me, however, is that death is the ultimate source of value. I cherish every day with my family because I know, even when it's only a passing feeling in the back of my mind, that our time together is finite. Everything we experience is a non-renewable resource, and in this analogy there's no solar power to appease the hippies.
And if there's one thing in which anyone visiting the blog can recognize this mortality, that's the Spurs. The entire value of our team is based on the fact that their days are numbered, and the empty tank warning light is already flashing on the dashboard of the Spurs bandwagon. The reason that we can all rejoice in Tim Duncan's surprising agility is that we know it is incredibly rare in players his age. By losing twenty pounds and cashing in countless positive karma points, Duncan extended his career for at least four years, four wonderful gifts for us fans of the Ageless One. Every time he does something spectacular in the court, something that should be unattainable for a geezer who collected numerous plantar fascitis DNPs five years ago, I simply smile and think to myself: "Thank you, Timmy. You didn't have to, really, but I appreciate it."
Unfortunately, the careers of basketball players don't just expire in the blink of an eye. You see them struggle to keep a handful of sand in their hands, but little by little every grain slips between their fingers. It's not graceful. For great players, the first thing that goes is perfection. Everything looks as it did before, but it looks like a bad carbon copy. We used to see signs of that when Tim was incapable of driving to the middle of the lane for that painful-looking hookshot we all know and love. He did not command double teams anymore - he was earthbound and mediocre. We see it now in my beloved Manu Ginobili, whose every brick brings forth throngs of naysayers. "He was doing great in the Summer, guys! I swear it," I wail as I close my eyes and "lalalaaaaaahhhlalalacan'thearyou". Despite little statistical evidence that his assists have regressed, his unorthodox, risky playmaking that was once the sole flourish of a methodical by-the-numbers offense is now often lambasted as the reason for the Spurs' struggles.
Me, I love it. I want Manu to play 48 minutes per game, if only to see two more between-someone's-legs bounce passes, or an unexpected steal in a key moment of the game, or maybe just a rare euro-step dunk. Manu has always been the most mortal of our heroes, and injuries have robbed us of many great moments, but it was partly this frailty that made his headfirst lunges into walls of rock-hard muscle that much more special. It was this deceptive quality that earned him nicknames like "contusión" and "sickness" - we gave them to him! Another season marred by injuries and a couple of games with abysmal shooting seem to have completely erradicated everything else he has done this season. Less than two weeks ago he had three buzzer-beating three-pointers, a couple of dunks and approximately a trillion beautiful passes. It is impossible to watch a "top 10 best plays" clip at NBA.com without seeing Manu dribble between some poor schmuck's legs. But when we lose to a couple of lottery teams a few weeks before the playoffs start, it is difficult to remember these highlights.
We have all expected for a long time to see Manu break down after one too many bruises, and this recent stretch of subpar performance is simply confirming it. Me, I will allow myself the luxury of hope. Manu has always been a player that can only perform when he risks his anatomy, saving nothing for tomorrow. As the playoffs approach, the danger of yet another untimely injury must weigh heavily in his mind before every penetration, leaving him with his streaky jumper. His most valuable asset, irrational confidence, is at an all-time low. And yet our chances for another ring still depend more on our delicate Argentine daredevil than on our bet for the future, Kawhi Leonard. I am ready to give Manu the benefit of the doubt. You know why? Because, as Pop would say, he's Manu Ginobili.
I have followed this team long enough that the journey matters to me more than the destination - the dearth of championships in the last six years has been disappointing, but they don't invalidate the enormous enjoyment I felt during the hundreds of victories, the thousands of beautiful plays. When Pop, Manu and Tim are gone, maybe winning will become once again the be-all end-all of my basketball life... Maybe, but I hope not. Spurs fans have been blessed with 15 years of relevance in a league that chews up and spits out good teams in the blink of an eye. It's a precious gift, and should be cherished.
So cheer up, guys! Enjoy the game! Kiss the person next to you and hug an unattractive stranger!
After all, we are all going to die.