I have thought a lot about the Los Angeles Lakers over the last few days – even moreso than the usual place they consistently hold in my mind.
It has been a lot of coming to terms with a disappointing finish to an already overwhelming and often lifeless season. It has been analyzing the basketball, rethinking the roster, and lying awake counting Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne 3-pointers.
More than anything though, it was a lot of reflection on my relationship with sports and basketball, in particular.
Basketball is a mainstay in my life, an escape from the perils of the real world, a temporary cure to bouts with depression and anxiety. I struggle sometimes to connect and communicate with people but if this particular common interest exists, I can keep up with the best of them. In short, I owe a lot to the sport.
But I also noticed at some point that it often affected my mental health negatively too. Getting frustrated at bad losses or angry at bad takes on Twitter became just as common as the actual enjoyment of the sport. I even found myself stressed out by the maintenance of this website, something I considered a hobby and not a career.
As the Lakers’ season fizzled to an unceremonious end, though, I didn’t feel anger or frustration. Maybe the excuse of injuries ravaging the roster mellowed me out. Maybe I just felt relief about the season from hell finally being over and without any injuries that will carry over into next year. Maybe I’m maturing enough to not let sports dictate my mental health (this is probably not true but a man can dream).
I couldn’t get irrationally angry about Crowder salsa dancing on the Lakers’ graves or Devin Booker talking shit. If anything, I felt more enjoyment and pride watching the Lakers fight back for their lives than I did all season, knowing full well it was probably too little too late.
And maybe that’s the lesson of the Lakers’ season. Maybe the lesson in sports in general. You’re told in life and in sports that it’s not about how many times you fall, but instead how many times you get up. But what if you can’t? What if by some law of nature, some avalanche of misfortune collapsing on you, you are unable to get up? Why can’t you still find pride and joy and love in how you fell?
I have a lot of regrets in life. I have failed some of the things that meant the most to me. I have not always treated people the way I want to. Those mistakes have clawed at me and taken me to dark places at times. I know it’s unhealthy to dwell on them the way I do, but sometimes I can’t control my brain and it leads to me using however many of you are still reading this as my therapists.
Many of those regrets that I have ultimately did not give me a chance to get up and learn from a mistake. For some, I had just one chance to do something right, failed, and that was the end of that. Sometimes the repercussions were drastic.
The Lakers, similarly, cannot just get up after falling for the last time on Thursday. This team as it stands, as a unit, will never play together again. There is no game seven for them to turn things around.
But I still found myself showing pride in their struggle last night. I was not interested in pointing fingers, lamenting the missed shots and poor rotations. I was watching a collection of people knowing they were on the verge of failure – not entirely through a fault of their own – fight until the wheels came off and that made me happy.
If I could forgive these people who ultimately don’t care how I personally feel about them, why couldn’t I forgive myself?