I've grown weary of discussing the Jazz lately.
There's only so much that can be said about a team out of the playoffs, weeks from the draft and any moves it can make to improve. I feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over again in my comments.
We all know what wish the front office would do. I know what draft picks most of you want to get. And saying the same things over and over doesn't change anyone's mind. It's good debate, it's fun debate, but it does get old when it's all we have to discuss for 3 solid months.
So, here's a little something different ... for anyone else feeling like they need something different.
And part of it is from a month-old request from Moni to rehash an old, goofy story of mine. So it's partly her fault too.
I have two undergraduate degrees. The second is physics. The first—and this is where my heart really lay—is in creative writing. So talk to me about the Uncertainty Principle and its meaning (or not) to understanding the universe and I'm interested. But if you bring up plot structure, characterization, the merits (or not) of the semicolon, and dramatic conflic—ah, now I'm in heaven and I won't shut up.
My love for creative writing, as well my own beliefs and theories regarding good vs. bad stories, have made my two sons simply fascinating to watch.
My nine-year old has no sense of drama. None. Not a scrap of it. He has a wild imagination, and he seems to spend more of his consciousness in imaginary worlds than in the real one. But he doesn't get drama.
Every time he goes into imaginary role-playing he becomes an invincible hero. Here's a typical example: Dad, I'm pretending to be a Ninja Wizard named Dragon Fire Claw. I have three swords, two axes, a bow and arrows, eight daggers hidden in my boots. I can turn into a dragon that's made out of lightning with my fire magic , I can turn invisible, and I can become a 200-foot giant cobra as poisonous as a Cobra and a Black Mamba combined. My armor protects me from anything, and I can shoot fire out of my hands at the same time I'm fighting using three swords.
Yes, for my nine-year-old the more unbeatable traits, the better. The more invincible, the better. The best story is one in which the bad guys have no shot.
My six-year-old is very different.
He's not into such wild fantasies as my older son. Instead, all my six-year-old's imagination is vested on the basketball court in my front driveway. He literally spends an hour or more every day out on the driveway shooting hoops.
His team is, of course, the Jazz. He is the team's third best player. The best is some dude named Laser. The second is Andrei Kirilenko. And my son, as he proudly announces, is the next best. My son often tells me that Laser's the best dunker, AK's the best three-point shooter, but he's the best passer and stealer. And sometimes he can make a dunk too.
The imaginary games he plays are always against either the Lakers, the Nuggets, the Heat, and the Celtics. And here's what kills me—the other team always spends most of the imaginary games in the lead. I know this because my son stops playing about every ten minutes to find me and give me an update on the game.
Sometimes he gets down by 20 in the first quarter. Usually it's close, but with the other team leading by 2-3 points.
He'll tell me about the great passes he makes, the great dunks of Laser, and how AK regularly drains 3-pointers from half-court (just to keep the other team's defense off-balance). But he also tells me about the incredible stuff the opponent is doing.
And the entire games go on like this, the Jazz pulling off some miracles but always hanging just behind the opponent. But then, in the closing minutes, he'll pull off some amazing play (or Laser or AK), and the Jazz will just barely win. Or not. Sometimes they lose (usually they lose to the Celtics, and occasionally the Nuggets. He never loses to the Lakers or the Heat). But his winning percentage is probably right around .700.
My older son would do things differently. He'd win by 40. And then the next day that wouldn't be good enough—he'd have to win by 80. But my younger son gets drama. He gets that you have to be on the brink of defeat for the heroics to matter. He understands that a huge run is more impressive if the team was down by 25 at one point. He gets that for winning to be most thrilling you sometimes have to lose.
I watch my kids and I remember when I did things like them. I loved to draw, and I'd draw invincible superheroes that would put my older son's fantasies to shame. And I've beaten the Lakers more times than my younger son could even imagine right now.
And sometimes I wonder if I should intervene. Should I tell my older son that he has it backwards—that the heroes need to be weak and villains need to be unbeatable?
Well, back in the day I would make elaborate cards detailing my imaginary two-sport baseball and basketball careers. I'd literally spend hours on them, making sure all the stats added up correctly—that the slugging percentage matched the at-bats, hits, doubles, triples, and home runs. That the field goal percentages matched the shots attempted and shots made, and that the points per game matched total field goals made, three pointers made, free throws made, and games played.
If my career was going to be awesome, the stats had to be legit.
And early on my career fas awesome.
I beat both the single-season and career home run records (Roger Maris's 61 and Hank Aaron's 755). I led my baseball teams in batting average and home runs every year. But that wasn't good enough. I was also an ambidextrous pitcher who pitched 2 out of 5 games (once as a lefty and once as a righty). Because I got twice as many starts as any other pitcher I (and because I was freaking awesome with both arms) I always led the league in wins by an absurd amount. I easily broke the record that cannot be broken: Cy Young's 511 wins.
My basketball career was equally impressive. And I led the Jazz in scoring every year, eventually breaking MJ's scoring average and Kareem's total points records. I also led the league in assists every year, putting together career marks of 36.7 points, 11.2 assists, and 10.1 rebounds per game. So Oscar averaged a triple double for a season? I did it for my career, dude!
But things changed when I got older.
I hit fewer home runs. My batting average went down. I developed into more of a scrappy singles and doubles player—a guy with less talent but a helluva lot of heart.
And basketball changed too, in part because of a slowly developing realization that I wouldn't be tall. I began as a 6'7" small forward. Hence it made sense to be a triple double machine. But, little by little, I realized I wouldn't hit seven inches over six feet. My height dropped to 6'5", and I became a shooting guard. Then 6'3" (still a SG). Then 6'1" (a PG). Then 6'. I stubbornly stuck to 6 feet for a while. But finally I had to relent and becoming a scrappy 5'10" PG was as big as my fantasies allowed me to become.
I could comfort myself by thinking "if Mugsy Bogues can do it, why can't I" and I fantasized being a kind of miracle small-guy: scoring in the mid-teens, hopefully hitting double figures in assists, and pulling off at least one block per season.
So, in the end, when I watch my kids with their imaginary worlds I stay quiet. I just enjoy watching my nine-year-old glory in invincibility and certain victory. I smile as my six-year-old wills through another come-from-behind victory.
Reality will set in with them, little by little. And when it does I'm sure they'll figure it out.