I was ready for a Championship night on Tuesday night after Game 6. I felt as optimistic as I did before Game 5, and not apprehensive like I did before Games 1-3. All day long, as I went through my business day, I felt the game approaching. And it was a good thing.
Monday night, on my way home, I'd found out that a big business deal was falling through, but on Tuesday morning it was back on! I had a conversation with a buddy of mine about Spurs/Heat (it was as full of his trademark faux negativity as ever because he sets himself up for failure to cushion the blow of defeat, yet doubts his own arguments all the while so that he can enjoy the flush of victory) and I talked myself into quite a sense of impending victory.
And then there was Tuesday's late lunch, and the epic tortilla soup cheese moment. I was wearing one of my favorite shirts, and the cheese I'd dumped into my bowl of cafeteria soup had taken it over the top from enjoyable to delicious. But it was sticking together and making it hard for me to consume my lunch, causing me to focus on eating, instead of being about to ignore the act of eating, as I tend to do when using my lunch time to catch up on my always-ongoing reading.
So it happened, as I approached the end of my soup, that my concentration wandered, and as I brought the spoon to my mouth, it was still connected to a long string of cheese that hovered in the air before swinging toward my shirt. I paused in horror, knowing that it would separate from the spoon and land with a sickening blotch on my shirt -- only it didn't. The cheese held and my shirt was saved.
Elated, I took note of the time in order to be able to reflect on it after the game. I'm not one for omens and portents, but I was excited about the prospect of a fifth ring for Tim Duncan, and decided to make a metaphor of the reprieve of the food/clothing disaster, and the coming win.
Now I just wish that the stupid soup had ruined my stupid shirt if it just meant that the Spurs would have beaten the Heat on Tuesday night.
My final thoughts on the season follow in the "And I" section.
The following are some moments that I savored and saved through the playoffs to put a kind of coda on the season. I wish there were a few more at the end that I could share them with you, but alas, that's not what happened. Please enjoy them anyway.
Timmy just can't look away from the childish show that is Dwight Howard during the first round.
Manu and Duncan end RJ's trolling of CJ in the second round -- and this story about it.
Duncan stifles a smirk in the WCF, as Marc Gasol expresses frustration.
Duncan is locked in and focused on the prize.
The Big Three huddle up after denying the Heat in Game 1
J.A. Sherman, editor of Welcome to Loud City, sent me the following quote with a note that said, "This might be the best quote about Kawhi I've ever seen."
"I have so much respect for them," Dwyane Wade said last night when he was asked about the Spurs. "We went through that whole series and a couple of those guys, I ain't heard their voices yet. They don't say nothing to ya, they just kick your butt. No trash-talking. Kawhi Leonard, I don't even know how he sounds. But he's a bad boy."
After Game 7 had ended, Fred Silva sent me a text that said, "Feels like my senior year in high school when we finally lost. Relief. I think too much. Glad it's over." Which would have been such an odd thought to me under normal circumstances, but which I completely understood on Thursday night. See, I was a mess from the beginning of Game 6, all the way through the game and the aftermath, all through Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, all day Wednesday and Thursday leading up to Game 7. Every time I thought about the Spurs my system would send a shot of adrenaline to my stomach. I didn't have my normal appetite, and felt on alert for the better part of 48 hours.
Living under that kind of stress really screws with you: physiologically, mentally and emotionally. By Thursday afternoon, I was really ready for it to be over, one way or another. So when I got Fred's text, I understood what he meant, but the relief he spoke of -- it wasn't what I felt.
I hardly felt anything. I was numb. It felt as if my emotions were thrumming like the strings of a guitar that had been smashed with a mallet nearly hard enough to splinter the instrument, but not quite. There was no music being played, but the strings were vibrating, and an indistinct sound was carrying, fading, drifting beyond audible sound.
I had no idea how to reply to Fred because I didn't know what I was feeling. I finished and posted the Quickcap, and found that Mrs. Wilco had put all of the jrwlings to bed, before crashing too. I walked out the front door into the warm, humid, near-midnight Austin night. "Let's see," I thought, "what does this feel like to me?"
It wasn't long before I realized that I'd felt this way before. It was just like moving out of my dorm halfway through my junior year in college because my parents couldn't afford the cost of my classes and on-campus housing, so I had to move back in with them. I was the only one packing up my things as everyone else was prepping to go home for the Christmas. Classes were over, the holidays were approaching, everyone was full of relief and expectation -- but me.
It was such a sense of arbitrary finality; and the death of something that was never really alive. The school year wasn't over, but college wouldn't be the same again. I'd have to commute when the Spring classes started, and much of the "college experience" ended for me that day. Many of the people I'd hung out with for hours on end; well, they were hard to locate or nearly impossible to reach after that. And that it all pivoted around the lack of money seemed so arbitrary.
But that didn't make it any less final. I moved home, and when my senior year started my parents helped me get my first apartment. And even though college life isn't something that's actually alive, I suffered the death of it that day. Just like Duncan experienced (right there in front of the cameras and everybody) the grief of the end of the season when he pounded the floor with his hand after missing that layup and tip-in at the end of the fourth quarter of Game 7.
It was an arbitrary end to a fantastic series; that thought seemed to mesh with Mike Breen's joke about how they were waiting to hear back from the league offices about extending the series to 11 games. Why should the Finals be over now? Once upon a time, someone decided seven games were enough. That decision, whether good or bad, is an arbitrary one. And with it came finality. The season was over. One team gets the trophy, and the other goes home empty handed.