I've been wondering why I continue to watch basketball. I gave up playing in a thirty-five and older league years ago, when I could no longer jump. My NBA team, the Lakers, has long since been knocked out of the play-offs. Lefty friends deride the idea of enjoying competition and hierarchy, and there is both science (see this amazing speech from Michael Lewis) and humanity in their argument.
And yet, to watch the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder, and the proud superheros of Miami speaks to me still. Donald Hall, the poet, has an idea why, and quotes the great baseball writer Roger Angell on the subject in an essay in his book Fathers Playing Catch With Sons:
Our national preoccupation with the images and performances of great athletes is not a simple matter. The obsessive intensity with which we watch their beautiful movements, their careless energy, their noisy, narcissistic joy in their own accomplishments is remarkably close to the emotions we feel when we observe very young children at play. While their games last, we smile with pleasure — but not for long, not forever. Rising from the park bench at last, we look at our watch, and begin to gather up the scattered toys…
Everyone agrees that Kevin Durant is the least narcissistic and even least dramatic of superstars, but you can see Angell's point even so, in this pic.