I predict that, beginning this evening, once I drop my backpack on my desk chair, and heave a heavy sigh to an empty, chilly apartment, my life will be based around a ratty second hand couch that I got for free from a friend. My butt will slide easily into the grooves embedded deep within the behemoth’s plush, springy cushions, happy to be reunited with a partner that cradles and comforts with gentle, caring ease. From there, I will fall into autopilot, cranking up three different games on three different screens arrayed about my living room. I predict that, for an average of two hours a night — minimum — my head will slowly swivel between these three glowing planes of light, watching exceptionally gifted human beings hard-charge, like boulders rolling eternally down a hill. The sounds of squeaking sneakers will become a ubiquitous presence in my modest suburban shit-hole, and the discordant creaks of cries of League Pass music will provide my nightly aria. I predict that I will spend an average of 10 hours a week watching basketball; an average of 40 hours a month watching basketball; an average of 320 hours over eight months watching basketball. I predict my life will be distinctly average.
This season, I predict that I will be cut by both sides of the sword of inactivity. Some fall days will be perfect; tucked into a vaguely-ripe blanket as a low light creeps through the window, faceless announcers braying on about who is hitting their shots, and who needs to get their heads in the game. Some winter days — a term used loosely in California — will be magical in their own right; bright, cool Christmas days stuffed to the brim with sleeved jerseys in pastel colors an roll-your-eyes moments with the Turner crew. But I predict the dark side will be there too. I predict a waning in exercise; self-conscious poking at expanding bellies, chests heaving desperately as cardiovascular capabilities wane over time. I predict fantastic game time feasts — luscious lasagna, piping-hot pizza, endless iterations of cheesy, gooey, salty and sweet — will pass through my abode. I predict loud, inebriated nights, the sounds of clinking bottles intermingling with those squeaking sneakers as an herby haze settles about the room. Yet, when the revelry has ceased, I predict a wake of destruction: empty fast food bags, ash-covered tables, annual weight gain and artificially dark rooms; a disheartening headache on an otherwise brilliant Spring day. I predict I will feel both warm comfort, and sublime shame as I sit on the ratty second hand couch. As for which emotion I feel, I suppose it will depend on how my day went.
I predict that, despite my best efforts, the NBA will continue to stand as a non-functional replacement for real human interaction. When friends text about getting together after a hard day of work, I will find a way to watch basketball instead. When the opportunity to meet new people in my hometown arises, I will gravitate towards basketball instead. When people ask me if I’ve made any new friends lately, I will think about the faceless avatars chirping away on social media, equally frightened to stray too far away from the NBA, and talk about them instead. When the overtures for social interaction just end altogether, and my phone remains silent, I will swallow my hurt feelings, and just focus on the games instead. I will stare hard at the little players, my little men; squeaking in their sneakers, slapping hands and patting butts, all for me, on my three screens. This is what I have done forever. This is what I have done always. And though I predict I will continue to think about the opportunities I missed — boisterous happy hours, far-too infrequent family moments, late-afternoon hikes, competitive pick up games, or even just the opportunity to totally unplug from our fucked-up world — I also predict that the NBA season will smile warmly, smooth my hair, and tell me to just sit down, to watch my little men play basketball, and to try not to think about it.
I predict that, against all odds, my relationship will survive yet another NBA season. And what a prediction to make. After all, I’m the one who becomes incommunicado as soon as games start, once-wordy texts slimmed down to one-word dispatches like “yeah” and “okay”. I’m the one who becomes dark when the Warriors have lost three of five, or moody after Steph Curry turns an ankle. I’m the one who gets mad at the bar, who snaps and snarls in petulant anger when things don’t go his team’s way. She’s the one who will put me in my place; who will tell me that it’s just a game, and to lighten the fuck up. She’s the one who tells me “good job!” when the Warriors win, as if it was I who was moving brilliantly off of screens and splashing wide-open corner threes. She’s the one who named Jarrett Jack “LL Cool JJ”, has been to the last five Warriors games I’ve been to (including a playoff game) and has made an NBA “Boning Roster” with a depth-chart deeper than the Cavaliers. In a reversal of an age-old adage, it’s not me, it’s her. I predict I will feel very lucky. I predict there will be a moment after a big three from Steph that I will look into her face, and my feelings will get all mixed up.
I predict we will have the same arguments this year as we had the year before, and the year before, and the year before. I predict we will call Dwight Howard a child based on small personality snapshots, laughing like juveniles as we make up fart jokes about him, then remounting our high horses as gravely we call him immature. I predict we will wonder if Derrick Rose is really “back”, despite the fact that he will be in a uniform, playing basketball with our peers. I predict that there will be no pleasing us in the end, with each NBA event and activity couched in language of lacking; armchair analysts attempting to fix everything through heavy, haughty words, and motivated by the beguiling buzz of a social media notification. No voter will be right. No opinion will go unchallenged. I predict I will roll my eyes deeply, yet jump into the tired fray of antagonism, time and time again.
I cannot predict who will win tonight. I cannot predict who will win tomorrow. I cannot predict who will soar to new heights, finally unshackled, free from the chains of mediocrity, and no longer held to standards that others made for him. I cannot predict who will falter and fail; who will watch their averages drop precipitously, who will fail to see playing time by the time 2015 rolls around. I cannot predict who will prosper in good health, and who will crumple to the floor, clutching acutely damaged appendages, screaming at the top of their lungs. I cannot know what I have not seen yet. I cannot fathom what simply has not occurred yet. All of these are conjectures, stabs in the dark; deeply flawed exercises in understanding and projecting.
I cannot predict what I don’t know about them. All I can predict is what I know about myself. And I can predict that all I wrote about will come true.
(And I can predict the Warriors will win the West.)