HEAT 93 – TRAIL BLAZERS 91: SUFFERING FROM SUCCESS

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The Blazers lost. Again. And it was pretty sad. Again. Oh man was it SAD. Before the game, I didn’t expect it to be sad, or really sad at all. I thought the Blazers would lose, sure. They were playing the back-to-back NBA champions on the road, after losing their last game to the Bobcats, who are not the back-to-back champions of anything, by 30 points. But the expectation of loss was supposed to protect me, and all of us, from the feelings of loneliness and emptiness and powerlessness that result from defeat. We were supposed to have a blanket of realism to keep our emotions lukewarm and the tender parts of our souls shielded from the elements, and I guess we did for a while. Then the Blazers and LeBron James and Chris Bosh ripped that blanket off us like our mom waking us up early for school and we were left there clinging to our last pillow of rationalization as our emotions wore only a pair of tattered basketball shorts and shivered in the cold morning air.

The first quarter was the good time, which is rare for the Blazers. Normally, the Blazers start with some Robin Lopez post-ups, opt against the defensive aspect of the game out of kindness, then force up three-pointers once they find themselves down by a score of something like 23-9. But not tonight! No way, Jose! The Blazers came right out passing the ball quickly and aggressively – that’s an important distinction, by the way: passing the ball around the perimeter with aggression and purpose rather than with fear or resigned necessity. Anyway, Damian Lillard played well. He dunked a couple times. One was an alley-oop finish on a lob from Nicolas Batum. The other was a driving two-handed dunk in which he navigated around Ray Allen in mid-air like one of those acrobatic airplanes sponsored by a particular bovine-named European energy drink company. Both were quite impressive. He would finish with 19 points and 6 assists.

Nicolas Batum also played very well. He pulled down some more rebounds and hit some shots and it seemed like he would be giving LeBron James everything his crown could handle.

Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out. The game started to open up in the second quarter thanks to a lot of Blazer turnovers and LeBron started getting up and down like a formula one semi-truck driven by that clown from Twisted Metal and really it was very scary. LeBron would finish with 32 points and 6 rebounds and 5 assists and 4 steals.

The third quarter was pretty much the same. Turnovers. LeBron. Blazers down by 11 points going to the 4th. The Blazers would fall behind by as many as 17 points early in the final period BUT IT WAS OK WE STILL HAD OUR BLANKET OF EMOTIONAL INVINCIBILITY.

But then, things started happening. Thomas Robinson was discovering fire. Mo Williams discovered the good within himself. All of a sudden it was back to 10 and at least the Blazers would make the margin of defeat a respectable margin even though they would most certainly still lose.

With a few minutes left, Terry Stotts switched to an aggressive 2-3 zone and wouldn’t it you know it but the Miami Heat looked like Kansas on Sunday trying to solve a crossword puzzle written in another language. Wes Matthews for three. Damian Lillard for some free throws. WES MATTHEWS FOR ANOTHER THREE and somehow this is a 5 point game. AND THEN NICOLAS BATUM HITS AN OFF BALANCE THREE THAT NEARLY GAVE ME A SEIZURE AS THAT BLANKET WAS TORN OFF MY EMOTIONS AND SET ON FIRE AND I DIDN’T EVEN CARE CUZ THE BLAZERS WERE GONNA BEAT THE CHAMPS IN THE DUMBEST WAY EVER, A 2-3 ZONE. Two Mo Williams free throws made it a tie game. Bless the zone.

With 30 seconds left and the game newly square, the Heat called timeout and I imagine Miami coach Erik Spoelstra just used that time to draw caricatures of his players with big heads and little bodies on the white board and then right as the timeout was up, he laughed and was like, “Yeah just throw it to our giant one-of-a-kind aircraft, the Spruce Goose AKA LeBron James, and let him spruce their goose.” LeBron attacked the rim and finished over Robin Lopez to give the Heat a two-point lead with 11 seconds left. But no matter, the Blazers were gonna win because there were greater forces at work and my belief in that outcome was full and without doubt.

Terry Stotts opted against calling timeout, presumably because he didn’t want to give Miami time to prepare a defense. Lillard and Matthews sort of fought each other for a pass at the top of the key. Lillard ended up claiming the ball, then drove left past his man towards the rim and then right as he rose for a lefty finish at the near death of regulation to send the game to overtime, Chris Bosh, noted hater of Blazer dreams, blocked the shot and the game ended. The Heat won. Basketball is an unfair world devoid of any higher forces. There is only LeBron James and who he chooses to empower.

TRAIL BLAZERS 116 – WIZARDS 103: THE SOUL SEARCHERS

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Boring wins are really great! Really! The Blazers have been too interesting lately. There’s been sad losses, frustrating losses, wins that are more embarrassing then fun, and the kind of losses that make a person text one of those late night “adult” text messaging services that advertise on television after 10PM just to have someone who isn’t a Blazer fan with whom to discuss the struggle.

 

me: “hey I’m Joe and I’m sad because my basketball team is pretty good but maybe just good enough to make me hopeful and then crush me with sadness. what is your name?”

[number withheld]: “I’m Kandice ;) let’s chat! ;)

me: “well Kandice do you think the Blazers are struggling because they just haven’t had the lineup stability that they had earlier in the year and once Aldridge and Freeland come back everything will be ok? or do you think the Blazers just aren’t all that good?”

Kandice: “;) oh Joe what do you really want to chat with me about?”

me: “I guess what’s really on my mind Kandice is if the Blazers bench will be able to hold up in a playoff series cuz tbh I’m pretty scared of Mo Williams and idk what to make of Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard oh god Kandice I really don’t wanna cry.”

Kandice: “what’s your fantasy? ;)

me: “I like Will Barton a lot so it would be nice to see him be able to shine like I dream that he can. that’s really my only fantasy right now as my other one about Nicolas Batum is kinda coming true..did you know he has over 140 rebounds in March?! that’s like 20 more than any other player in the league!”

Kandice: “Nicolas Batum is HOT ;)

me: “ok thx 4 listening Kandice ttyl”

 

The Blazers’ win over the Wizards was pretty uneventful. The Wizards actually held a lead for most of the first half until the Blazers managed to steal a lead right before halftime to take into the locker room. Then, early in the third quarter, the roof of the Mola Center (named for Mola Ram) opened and the ghost of Brandon Roy smiled upon everyone and the Blazers made four three-pointers in about as many seconds or so, and seized the game with a 20-2 run. Nothing else happened except a Will Barton through-the-legs-of-Drew-Gooden (DREW GOODEN!) pass to his main man Thomas Robinson. It was great. Also, Dorell Wright played well. Write (Wright) him a heartfelt letter and put it in a colorful envelope with a fun stamp, but then never actually mail it to him. Just keep it in your nightstand and read it when you’re feeling blue, which you surely will be soon because the playoffs are soon and those games are going to be horrible concoctions of emotion that will damage your relationships with everyone around you, including your dog. But for now, enjoy these dog days as the dog days.

TRAIL BLAZERS 120 – BUCKS 115 (OT): NECESSARY ILLUSIONS

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What basketball! Wow! The Blazers are FOR REAL! Man oh man! The Milwaukee Bucks came into Portland like gangbusters! I don’t even know what “gangbusters” means! It sounds powerful though! Like the Milwaukee Bucks! They start Khris Middleton! Holy cow do the Bucks have some BALLERS! That Ersan Ilyasova kid looks like a skeleton but geez louise he can put that pumpkin in the hole! Somebody’s gonna give him some big time money! He’s a building block! Nah, he’s the whole house! A full size gingerbread house that you can live in and tastes delicious! Enjoy your gumdrop entryway, Ersan! Your uniforms look like Christmas, too! It’s March! Who cares! Green and red are hot always!

Snakes alive this was a BALLGAME! NBA Finals preview maybe! Well not this year I guess because the Bucks are not gonna be in the playoffs! But maybe next year! Well, definitely the year after! Provided the Bucks still exist in their current Milwaukee-based form! Blazers versus Seattle Supersonics in the 2016 NBA Finals! Andrew Wiggins will love Seattle but I bet he would have loved Milwaukee too! He’s from Canada! It’s mad cold there! He has low expectations on life!

Hey you know what! Let’s never talk about this game again! Let’s just be thankful that we were spared a night of deep reflection on why sports hold so much influence on our ever-tenuous emotional balance! And then self-medicating ourselves by indulging in our vices! Maybe that means video games! Maybe that means Quaaludes! Thankfully we didn’t need to find out! A single Wes Matthews jumper in overtime may have saved someone from Quaalude addiction! Whoo! Basketball!

Let’s talk about libertarian socialism! Libertarian socialism rocks! It’s a theory based on the assertion that the true ideal of socialism, and democracy too kinda, is not feasible on a large scale because that would require a level of centralized power based on coercion! All coercion is unjust! But a small freely-associated society in which everyone can freely share the public goods and the means to production as they fit, and still maintain a sense of personal property, without a greater body of power to coerce them into how they would do so, would be perfect! I know, it sounds like a pipe dream! But then I watch Nicolas Batum play basketball and it makes me believe that libertarian socialism is not only possible but imminent! Hooray!

WARRIORS 113 – TRAIL BLAZERS 112: COUNTING OTHER PEOPLES MONEY

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The Trail Blazers lost to the Warriors on Sunday night in Portland and do you guys ever think about how every living thing that exists – the very dust that created us – came from stars, and that while those stars look so impossibly powerful and beautiful up there in the night sky, eventually they fade and die and leave the darkest, emptiest, most powerful vacuum known in the universe in their place? I’ve been thinking about that a lot tonight.

The game began pleasantly enough. Actually, most of the game went pleasantly enough. The Blazers had an 11-point lead at halftime. Dorell Wright was involved. Damian Lillard was really involved. Will Barton even played in the first quarter as Terry Stotts went through another one of his experimentation phases with the lineup combinations. My favorite was the one with Mo Williams, Barton, Wes Matthews, Batum, and Thomas Robinson – or maybe Victor Claver was in there somewhere. I don’t remember. Do slugs remember their favorite brand of salt?

The second half was filled with excitement and emotion and the kinds of plays that gain importance due to their context within the game but could also stand alone if stripped of all their context. Stephen Curry began to breathe fire, as he’s prone to do. Nicolas Batum became fire, but not in a threatening way, just a transfixing way, like a painting of fire. Damian Lillard had a pretty cool dunk in a pretty big moment, and the game was pretty fun, a word that I wonder if I really understand as I stare at the rain drops on my window and marvel at the way the light catches them and makes them look almost like little universes that I imagine contain more joy than this one, but when I reach out my hand to try to touch that universe, I can never quite get there as my hand is stopped by an invisible cold wall of glass that might as well be Klay Thompson’s jump shot and I realize that I’ll never be able to get to those universes inside the rain drops and they’ll dry up soon anyway.

Nicolas Batum had a chance to send the game to overtime when he went to the free throw line with like 6 seconds remaining in the game, but he missed the second free throw, and then even though he got his own rebound, he left his desperation turnaround three-pointer far short, possibly hindered by a hand to the elbow from the defender, and one time I saw a dead mouse outside my apartment that looked like it had been partially eaten from the inside out, and as I looked at it, I wondered about the different ways that it might have died and where its mouse soul could have ran off to afterwards and then I realized that it didn’t really matter. It’s all frivolous. Steph Curry is the only truth in this world.

TRAIL BLAZERS 111 – PELICANS 103: EVERY MAN IS GUILTY OF ALL THE GOOD HE DID NOT DO

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Friday night, the Trail Blazers blazed their trail into the dark heart of a Louisiana dystopia governed by the absolute rule of a violent despot who calls himself the Smoothie King. Had the Smoothie King been a fairly elected Smoothie President or Smoothie Prime Minister – even a Smoothie Chancellor or Smoothie Premier – the Blazers could have played a basketball game against the hometown Pelicans, taken in the sights, embraced the culture, and returned to Portland. But totalitarian Smoothie states simply cannot be tolerated in Adam Silver’s NBA, and so with England’s Joel Freeland still inactive and thus unable to offer advice on transitioning to a constitutional smoothie monarchy with little bloodshed, the Blazers took it upon themselves to unseat the Smoothie King by any means necessary.

To initiate a coup d’Smoothie, the lowly masses must be both put into a position of despair where they feel they have nothing left to lose – and the Blazers came into the Smoothie Kingdom after losing all 4 prior game on this road trip – and feel convinced in the feasibility of the revolution’s success, especially when the strongest weapon of the rebellion, LaMarcus Aldridge, is out due to a tailbone injury with a mysterious prognosis. Starting in Aldridge’s stead was Dorell Wright, whose season thus far has been inconsistent and overall unconvincing of his ability to key a violent Smoothie King overthrow, especially when matched up against the Smoothie King’s fearsome winged protector, Anthony Davis. Terry Stotts, knowing the need for early grassroots support in order to fuel a long guerilla campaign against fruit-blending armies, involved Wright early and often to build his confidence as well as an early lead.

But the Smoothie King’s armies were well-trained and well-armed, and well-nourished too because they drink smoothies duh. Led by the ruthless brutality of Tyreke Evans, the cold precision of Eric Gordon, and the stunning air superiority of Anthony Davis, the Smoothie King’s forces wrangled control once again of their country from the grasp of the rebels, and appeared to subdue any insurrection. But as Huey Newton once said about the intersection of basketball, life, and Smoothies, “You can jail a revolutionary but you can’t jail the revolution.”

Nicolas Batum, intellectual Frenchman that he is, began the game espousing the philosophy of Voltaire. “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere,” he muttered before the game while shooting a quick, but weighty, glance at Meyers Leonard. Later, as others were discussing the violence of their effort during a timeout, Batum grabbed the whiteboard out of Stotts’ hand and wrote on it simply, “Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.” See, basketball is a beautiful spiritual journey for Nicolas Batum and allowing a king, Smoothie or otherwise, to assert power and corrupt such a place is a crime of the highest order, but does such a crime give anyone the right to punish another person by death? Or, as Batum put it, “Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.”

At some point, maybe when he truly stared down the otherworldly terror of Anthony Davis in the third quarter, Batum walked away from his imagination-embroidered love canvas and dragged the ol’ guillotine out of the closet. It was time to put some Smoothie aristocrats’ heads in some baskets. When the revolution finally ended, Batum had tallied 22 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 assists. But knowing the destruction he caused his fellow man, he did not revel in the outing. Before returning to a life of silence, he said to the gathered press, “It is not enough to conquer; one must learn to seduce.”

Batum may have lent the movement some philosophical base but it was Damian Lillard, of the proud revolutionary lineage of Oakland, California, who provided the infrastructure and cutting edge. Most of Lillard’s contribution to the movement came in the form of social programs, behind the scenes team-building, keeping his teammates employed in the offense, and even running effective preschools – all part of his “Ten-Point Program” to fulfill the day-to-day needs of his community and also create a sense of collective identity. But what he will be most remembered for was the way his strong attitude and self-identity instilled a tangible fear in those far more powerful than he, seen clearly in his three-pointer with 1:14 left in the game that effectively sealed the victory and the end of the Smoothie King’s reign of terror.

Undoubtedly, many skeptics [read: HIPPIES] will have doubts about the true motivations of the Trail Blazers’ overthrow of the Smoothie King. “If freedom and righteousness are the only things that matter, then why do we only see a revolution supported when a tyrannical ruler is sitting on endless reserves of untapped smoothies? What about the tyrants that have no smoothies, just that worthless oil garbage?” They’ll ask on their cable news shows. Others will rationalize differently, “Hey, at least the Smoothie King kept things under control. What’s the government going to be like now? What kind of Smoothie extremists will settle in the void and turn it into a Smoothie training ground?” But they all miss the point. The Smoothie King was probably never a real person at all, just an imagined construct to inflate in power and use to keep the governed in fear and under control, and victory over a Smoothie Leviathan that rids humanity of fear is the truest form of liberation.

TRAIL BLAZERS @ SPURS PREVIEW: IS THAT A REAL GUN, MOM?

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The camera opens on the Trail Blazers station wagon slowly driving down an empty street at night, as rain pours down with insulting volume. A trip that had began a week ago with such hope had since been marred with unfortunate mishap after unfortunate mishap, and now the outcome seemed nearly unsalvageable. They had planned tonight on getting to San Antonio and having a fun basketball game with the Spurs (or is it “Purrs”?) then going to New Orleans on Friday for more fun and a game against the Pelicans. Most exciting of all, only 18 games remain until the Playoffs, a magical place that this bunch hasn’t seen since Brandon Roy’s 2011 Viking Funeral. But recent hardship has nearly overcome them. The seeds of mutiny happily receive water and fertilizer and sunlight, and the station wagon seems to carry only death.

 

An exasperated Robin Lopez shouts from the backseat, “I don’t wanna be in the car anymore; I wanna go home! I don’t wanna go to San Antonio!”

Who can blame him? San Antonio currently sits atop the NBA leaderboard with a record of 300-12 as they round into shape for another run at the NBA Finals. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli look renewed and even the 6’8” bag of memory foam that calls itself Boris Diaw appears even more at one with the shifting cogs of the universe than normal. Meanwhile, the Blazers lately have been ground into dust by those cogs.

 

Riding shotgun on the station wagon to Hell, LaMarcus Aldridge speaks: “Terry, under the circumstances, I wouldn’t mind if we just went home. In retrospect it seems like a pretty bad idea driving out. It’s been one disaster after another.”

Poor LaMarcus has yet to find the level of perfect serenity that he enjoyed early in the season. His jumper, while still effective, appears more hopeful than knowing of its fate. As a result — or at least he was not able to use his powers to alter the result — the Blazers have now dropped three straight games. There was the 5-point loss in Dallas, then the overtime loss in Houston, and, last night, the 10-point loss in Memphis. Furthering the string of “disasters” have been the time when Meyers Leonard urinated all over the picnic basket before a lunch stop in East Texas, then the time Patrick Beverley distracted Damian Lillard while James Harden stole all the hubcaps to do whatever it is people do with stolen hubcaps, and finally capped off by the recent passing of elderly guard Earl Watson, bless his soul. Who knows when Watson actually died though — he could have been dead on the end of that bench for weeks. Everyone just figured he was asleep. It wasn’t until Spanish swingman and devout fan of the Paul Simon catalog, Victor Claver, tried to nudge Watson during the fourth quarter in Memphis to ask his bench comrade if this, the arena of the Grizzlies, was the “Land of Grace, you know, home of El Vis de Presley.” Watson was realized to be dead, a horrified Claver shouted, “A dead person high fived me in layup lines!” and Terry Stotts left Watson’s body in the bathroom of a Conoco station in Western Tennessee, mumbling something about “This is how he would’ve wanted it. He always loved the smell of unleaded and roadside convenience stores that sold Sour Punch Straws.”

Even Lillard felt the depression of the scene, despite his strong performance in Memphis, and chimed in from the backseat: “Yeah, it’s been a real drag, coach. Maybe we could try it some other time.”

 

Aldridge: “Coach, what do you think?”

 

Stotts looked back at his players with a wild look in his eye, as though possessed by the demon of Tony Allen, and exclaimed: “I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re 18 games from the fuckin playoffs and you wanna bail out! Well I’ll tell you something, this is no longer a road trip. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun, and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fuckin fun that we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You’ll be whistling the ‘NBA on NBC’ theme out of your assholes. [crazed laughing] I gotta be crazy. I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose (I think he’s talking about Adam Silver here because even though Silver doesn’t have antlers, he has some real moose-y eyes). Praise Adam Silver! Holy shit!”

 

Lillard was taken aback by his coach’s sudden burst of insanity: “Coach, you want an aspirin or something?”

 

“DON’T TOUCH!”

ROCKETS 118 – TRAIL BLAZERS 113 (OT): SOUTHERN SMOKE

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“Indeed, it’s time. We’ve all laid aside disguise but you.”

 

Fuck the Rockets, James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, the officials, Patrick Beverley’s mask, misleading camera angles, the Houston announcers, and the city of Houston in general – apologies to Slim Thug. Apologies for the language too, but I’m angry and this is a blog with no standards except to put in some dragon shit when applicable.

The beginning was cool though. Remember, all the way back when the ball was zipping around and the defense looked competent and the jumpers were falling like snickerdoodles from heaven? I rather enjoy those moments. They put me in that state of mind where I just want to sit out on the porch and listen to James Taylor and talk about constellations.

But the truth is, I don’t really know that much about constellations and maybe the utopian illusion, James Taylor or otherwise, was just that, an illusion. I mean, look at North Korea – just don’t look too close.

Even while the Blazers held a 7-point lead at halftime and 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter, there were signs that the seemingly comfortable lead was really a façade, a bunch of cardboard buildings with nothing inside. Or maybe they had things inside but they were all ready to be easily burned to the ground.

I’m not normally one to blame officials for the outcome of a game, BUT: the officiating was terrible. There were missed calls, blown calls, and – shall we say – “creatively interpreted” calls. The crown jewel of which was probably an and-1 call on a Harden layup against LaMarcus Aldridge when Aldridge could be seen on the replay clearing the scene and not making even the slightest jersey brush of contact on Harden. Even one of the Houston announcers said that there was no contact. The other announcer, inexplicably, agreed with his comrade but then noted, “You gotta call it tight!”

Other disastrous errors of whistling included a foul on Damian Lillard against Beverley when Beverley first traveled to step back to the three-point line in the corner, then pump-faked to get Lillard in the air, only Lillard jumped right by him with no contact at all. Beverley received three free throws. Later, early in overtime, Lillard would foul out when his arm ALLEGEDLY touched Beverley in the face as Lillard tried to drive past him, causing Beverley to launch backward and onto the ground. I’m sure there were plenty of similar controversial calls against Houston, but hey! You gotta call it tight!

The call against Lillard and the murkiness and controversy around whether or not he touched the mask of Beverley is an easy and fun point to pick as the cause or symbol of the Blazers’ demise. But the game never should have gotten to that point – it never should have gotten to overtime. Blame imperfect free throw shooting, LaMarcus still not being quite back in peak form, curious inbounds plays, and opting not to foul Harden with 8 seconds left in regulation while leading by three. Blame whatever you want, really. It doesn’t matter. Harden burned it all down.

MAVERICKS 103 – TRAIL BLAZERS 98: MAMA’S GUN

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Is it better to die alone of natural causes after a life filled with disappointment, or lose by 30, or live a wonderful live and be struck down with all of Earth by a meteor strike extinction event, or lose by 5 in Dallas? The simple answer of course is that it doesn’t matter, because they all end the same way, and Vince Carter is still there, victorious (I’m not in a good enough mood to drop a Vince-torious pun) and smiling an evil smile.

But I don’t want to talk about the end, or the beginning either for that matter, which was far, FAR worse than the end. So let’s just talk quickly about the good stuff that happened in the middle and then go on living life with whatever gusto we still cling to because it’s Friday night and we should be having fun and enjoying ourselves, and dwelling on basketball right now is only a path to cosmic despair.

Thomas Robinson! When the Blazers were down by 4,107 points in the first half (all stats courtesy of Synergy Sports) and Jose Calderon was drinking the Portland backcourt through a straw – probably one of those curly straws in a fun shape like an elephant or something because Calderon seems like a guy who has weird straws just to be an asshole – it was Robinson who discovered fire and then used his stone age technology to destroy the thriving civilization that Rick Carlisle’s team had built. Watching the ascent from “Wow, Thomas Robinson looks good. Too bad playing well in this game is like Kevin Costner nobly pretending to be an actual postman for a fictional country as the world lies in post-apocalyptic ruin.” to “OH MY GOD KEVIN COSTNER IS A GENIUS DELIVER ENOUGH MAIL ON BEHALF OF A FICTIONAL COUNTRY AND THAT FICTIONAL COUNTRY CEASES TO BE FICTIONAL.” was absolutely the most enjoyable part of this game.

 

Other things I enjoyed:

-       Being reminded of how amazing LaMarcus Aldridge is to watch when that jumper finds its proper calibration.

-       Wes Matthews playing like his body was inhabited by Thomas Robinson.

-       Nicolas Batum hitting a few big shots, like he always seems to do.

-       Thomas Robinson again.

 

Things I did not enjoy:

-       That basketball and Monta Ellis can directly lead to me opening this post with a question of whether an extinction event might be a preferable option.

LAKERS 107 – TRAIL BLAZERS 106: THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

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HGTV’s House Hunters series began with the simple premise of taking the brutally drawn-out and rarely glamorous process of finding a place to live, and turning it into a sleek 30-minute narrative. Each episode, a profoundly average couple descends upon a profoundly average neighborhood in a profoundly average American city, looks at three profoundly average homes in that neighborhood, quickly debates the pros and cons of each home with little conflict and withering efficiency, then picks one to live in and allow us, The Audience, to see them 6-months later happily cooking baked chicken or whatever and praising the existence of the bonus room that they use as a sewing room, home office, and guest bedroom, all in perfect balance. This show was so passionless that the cheeriness of Suzanne Whang’s omniscient introductions might as well have been Philip Seymour Hoffman delivering Leland Van Lew’s health insurance evaluation in Along Came Polly. Somehow, this was also perfect television.

We analyzed each house according to the needs of the couple and our evaluations of their characters, which were really the needs and evaluations of our own characters, since the people on the show were just two blank vessels devoid of all personality, made for us to easily inhabit. We became the average couple, and so when they made their decisions, we felt the sting of our investment: “Oh, why did they pick the townhouse?! There’s no yard space for their dog! And don’t they want to have kids? The tudor was in the better school district!” You know, that sort of thing.

I used the past tense, even though the show remains on the air with the same format, because our experience of the show has shifted. Its simplicity has allowed us to journey deeper into the perceived story within the story, where it no longer is simply a show about people finding a place to live, if it’s even that at all.

The current most popular edition of House Hunters is House Hunters International, in which American expatriates look for homes in exotic foreign locales. Whereas the original series captivated – and continues to captivate – the audience with its bland accessibility, the international version is unapologetically aspirational, despite all of the people on the show being so easily detestable. These people are not relatable, boring, or ordinary. They are largely wealthy and/or pretentious – “writers” looking for charming lofts in Paris and junior robber barons seeking vacation homes in the Caribbean. The draw of the show is the sexiness of the locations and the way it enables our own dreams of moving overseas. Yet we hate all of the people on the show for stealing those dreams, misunderstanding them (us: “Yeah, of course you’re not gonna get the space and luxury of suburban Texan mansions if you wanna live in central London! Get over yourself!”), then perverting them in the worst, most self-indulgent ways (us again: “Nice vineyard, asshole! You’ll fit right in with the other board members at fucking Club Med!”).

But beyond all of the house shopping and talk of veranda size, I watch this show for the relationships. The relatability of the young newlyweds moving to Teaneck, New Jersey, creates my investment in the outcome of their decision. But that investment only happens because I, myself, me, want to believe in their love and the longevity of human relationships, even/especially if that love is confined to a basement unit in a duplex in Teaneck, New Jersey. As for the assholes looking to renovate some gaudy villa in Andalucia, I hate them, sure. But I still watch them to examine every tiny passive-aggressive non-remark and awkward glance, hoping to find the seeds of conflict that can still grow on a beautifully aged stone terrace shaded by an impeccably manicured olive grove, and know that they’re lives could be in ruin soon and that my dream could have been happier with much less. Let’s just see where everyone is at in 6 months.