Series of the Week: Oklahoma City Thunder (2) versus Los Angeles Clippers (3)

When the Warriors game ended, as Doc Rivers pumped his fist triumphantly in the air, and Clippers fans frolicked and cheered in the stands, finally able to relax after a nerve-wrecking Game 7 that was only decided in the final seconds, the dull pain in the back of my head began to make itself known. It throbbed and pulsated, causing he to lift my hands to my heads and just rub my temples slowly and deliberately. I watched my local affiliate’s postgame — the appropriate mix of solemness but gratitude over an excellent season of basketball — and then turned the television off. I cleaned up after my friends — beer bottles standing at attention, an herby haze hovering over the room — and silently made dinner while my girlfriend looked on with quiet but palpable concern. The pain persisted; pounding my head like a DeAndre Jordan alley oop, stripping me of all of my weapons, rendering me prostrate. My sleep was hollow and unfufilling, replete with cold toes and heavy sighs piercing a thick darkness. My team was gone. My team was gone.

“I don’t think we were emotionally prepared to lose that game,” my girlfriend said to me the next morning as we huffed up a popular local peak to get a view of the Bay Area around us. It was a brilliant day; slightly overcast, but with a calming cool breeze that chilled your bone through sweaty clothes. Crickets chirped in high brush, and small reptiles — lizards, newts, salamanders — darted off the trail to avoid our advancing shoes. I nodded, considered her words, and agreed with her as that dull pain, which had introduced itself last night, and had persisted into that verdant day, continued to apply deep pressure to my temples, and shout angry epithets in my ears. Though I had been rationally prepared to lose that game, I was not emotionally ready to see my team get eliminated. My feelings were jumbled, and my objectivity was spoiled, left out in the sun to bake far too long. I knew the Clippers were the better team, at least as presently constructed. I knew we were seeing some of the best basketball of DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul’s careers, being played at the right time for them, and the wrong time for me. I knew that the Warriors were going to have another shot at it next year, and probably even the year after that. But even that steady pragmatism wasn’t enough to quell the howl of defeat, still echoing in my head, shooting sharp arrows into my temples.

This is not a familiar experience for me. In the irrelevant years, I was easily able to pick another team to support while my team went fishin’ from April to October, a zillion-miles-an-hour Sacramento Kings team or a ground-pound-’n'-rebound San Antonio Spurs squad that could possibly give the Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money. Last year, I was so excited about the prospect of a consistently good Warriors team, and so humbled by the mechanical excellence of the San Antonio Spurs - they’re letting us get beat by them? wow, thanks Pop! - that there was no room for disappointment; no need to feel any pain. But this is new, the feeling that you could’ve had it; you should’ve had it. I have no idea what it’s like to be a fan of a good team, but one that, at this moment, at the end of this season, just wasn’t quite good enough. I don’t know how to move on from that, to shrug my shoulders and say “ah well, maybe next year!” when that “next year” seems huge and unknowable, something that needs to be explained by Carl Sagan over the course of a nine-part miniseries. With uncertainty surrounding every team — all teams change, not just the Warriors — nothing is guaranteed any longer, except for the fact that the team you knew, and you enjoyed, will not be back. This is an absolute, an unavoidable fact. Change will happen, and you will have to deal.

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