I don’t know what the world is going to look like in 2030. Chances are, you don’t know either. It’s a funny relationship, that of humans and the time-space continuum, one which gives us quite a lot of freedom on the space axis, but demands discipline as far as our progression through time.
This bugs us.
We like to believe we are ever powerful, ever in control of our own fate (I would use the word omnipotent, but when calling the Knicks-Kings game, Walt Frazier used that word to describe Carl Landry, so it doesn’t really feel right). And when we see an unmovable entity such as time, it pisses us off. That arrogant time. Not only does it refuse to bend to our wishes, but it outright ignores us! Just slugging along, second after second, same pace as ever. We’ll show it what’s what. Screw it.
Except we can’t show it what’s what. It’s physically impossible. I’ll admit, the whole DeLorean/flux capacitor premise looked real promising at first, but it somehow fell between the cracks.
And so, incapable of manipulating actual chronological fabric, we do the next best thing – manipulate our perception of it. Like those freaky fish with eyes on both sides of their heads, we bemoan the culmination of the past while simultaneously hyping the arrival of the future, pausing only to mention how much the present sucks. We write and read and tell stories of what has happened, failing to resist the temptation of carrying the narrative forward and predicting how events will continue to unravel. And then we study our own studies, call them “history”, and hope our children will pay attention when it’s taught in schools, because hey, it’s important.
But time doesn’t care. Smash your watch and eat the battery if you wish to be poisoned by the acid it contains, but never forget that those little hands represent something greater than you and me. And as much as you like to think you can use our oh-so-wonderful deductive abilities to survey the situation and find out what’s going to happen next before it arrives, you are wrong. Eventually, tomorrow will arrive, and it will do whatever the hell it wants, without even acknowledging the hopes and dreams that it stomps. Never vicious. Never cruel. Just present. Time cares not for malevolence or for spite. It’s too busy anyway. It has a busy schedule, appointment after appointment, and it can’t be late. It has a reputation to maintain.
Usually, we move on. We accept it. We like to grit our teeth and curse to the skies and swear that when we get our hands on that damn Father Time, when Christopher Lloyd finally gets off that busy schedule and gets that baby running at 88 miles per hour, oh boy, we’ll show him. But deep down, we know it’s all for show. We know that time does as it pleases, and we adjust around it.
But sometimes, it’s too cruel. Sometimes, that big pendulum at the bottom of the grandfather clock seems to go out of it’s way just so it can clang right into our collective crotch. And as we roll on the ground in pain, our eyes watering and our voices strained, we can’t help but ask: why? We know there are reasons, and we don’t pass judgement – after all, we’re fairly young, while you’ve been time for a long, well, time. But goddammit, this really hurts, and you don’t seem to care. As Joakim Noah would say, be sweet. Be sensitive
Time has been neither sweet nor sensitive to Greg Oden. It seems fairly apathetic towards Brandon Roy. That excitement in the city of Portland, that Team Of The Future, Team Of The 2010s – that seems to be just another narrative gone wrong. We’ve held onto it, as we usually do, but as microfractures pile over patellas which pile over meniscuses, even the strongest of grasps let go.
Look, injuries are part of the game. We know they are. Sometimes they take greatness and confine it to a short period of time, as with Bill Walton or Elgin Baylor. Sometimes they just deprive us of greatness entirely, as with Shaun Livingston. We hate it, but again, we can do nothing, so we live with it. Barely.
But this? Hitting down again and again and again on a spot so sensitive, one that we cared about so much? And for what? So Durant backers can be vindicated? They already were. So Minnesota fans won’t feel bad about their GM preferring Randy Foye? They already do.
And so you take a team with so much promise, the Thunder that preceded the Thunder, the team everybody loved – and you drive nails into it’s knees. And that future, that wonderful, marvelous future, becomes the past before it even happened. Just skips that whole “present” bit in its entirety.
Remember this. Remember, as you see Al Horford and Joakim Noah deservedly earn a combined 120 million dollars, that for that special night, even in a loss, Greg Oden looked better than the both of them. Remember, as you watch the new and diminished Brandon Roy labor around the court, still scoring, still leading, still damn impressive, that the old Brandon Roy was Kobe lite for that magical 08-09 campaign. Remember, as Rich Cho tries to sort out this mess – and I’m confident that he will do the best given the circumstances – that Kevin Pritchard had a damn good vision, and was damn good at realizing it, even if it didn’t turn out like we hoped.
Remember the Blazers. Their narrative was one to believe in, and that belief was found wanting. History will remember them as the team that could have been but wasn’t. But you know better. Remember them for the future that happened only in optimistic forecasts and Soccer Mom lairs, for the incredible will power, for winning games with their coach and half their lineup in a cast on the sideline. And pray that time’s twisted humor will somehow turn this around, that this somber chapter is just the crisis that precedes the climactic, heroic return of the Larry O’Brien trophy to Rip City.
And just to show you that time chooses which narratives to follow: I started writing this piece before the Oden injury. It was originally titled “an Ode to Roy”. Sometimes, time does help you write its own summary. But don’t mind thanking it. It has already moved on.