"On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." - Narrator, Fight Club
These playoffs have been brutal. So quickly we've had two games, two losses, and a sense of hopelessness that I've not felt since the first round in 2007. Then, the Chandler Parsons season-ending knee surgery news came. Then the Rajon Rondo injury/banishment. The Mavs are stranded in the ocean without hope of rescue.
We Maverick fans have been lucky. So absurdly lucky that our entire sense of what expectations should be has been warped, probably permanently. Mark Cuban bought a franchise largely considered one of the worst in professional sports turned it into a perpetual motion machine that's churned out 50 win season after 50 win season. We've had two NBA Finals trips, one championship, and a lifetime of fantastic memories.
But, we're nearing the end of the line with this iteration. Dirk Nowitzki is nearly 37 years old. Sure, this team full of potential free agents will probably get remade this summer and we'll talk ourselves into that team maybe being a contender if things were to break just right. We'll believe because that's what fans do. But maybe we shouldn't. And that's okay. Everything ends. Maybe it's time to let go of the dream of another title with Dirk.
"And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom." -Narrator, Fight Club
The 2011 Dallas Maverick playoff slogan was perfect: "The Time is Now". The hair on the back of my neck still raises a bit when I think about that playoff run. Dirk carried the Mavericks, he carried us all. We, both the organization and the fans, keep chasing that feeling, hoping we can will lightning to strike twice.
It's time to admit what we know in our heart of hearts: it's not happening. Inch by inch the Mavericks will continue to slip. Of all the players on the roster, Chandler Parsons is the only player likely to be better next season. Unless the front office commits to a complete rebuild, the Mavericks will continue to decline until Dirk Nowitzki retires. They'll still be good, but they won't be a championship level team.
I've finally accepted that. There's a sense of peace that came over me when I dealt with the reality that's been staring us in the face since Dirk hurt his knee heading into the 2012-2013 season. I wish all of us could adopt the freedom that comes with no expectations. The Mavericks will continue to be fun, but a different kind of fun than the thrill of a title chase and the agony of defeat.
"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." -Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Let's me be clear here. I'm not suggesting we give up on the Mavericks. I'm suggesting we let this dream of a title die and enjoy the basketball for what it is. After the terrible O.J. Mayo-Mike James season, last year was so much fun, and this past off season only served to raise our expectations to an unreasonable level. Now many of us are in a place of near despair and we really shouldn't be.
Let's start small. We're going to lose to the Rockets. It's important to understand that. Whether it's four games or somehow it rumbles along to a wild seventh, this is nearly a lock. But we're free to root like hell for Dirk Nowitzki to lose his mind and start gunning the three point looks he always opts out of in favor of continuing the ball reversal. We're free to cheer for Monta Ellis to attack the rim mercilessly. We're even free to root on #PlayoffFelton. If we have no expectations of beating the Rockets and they somehow beat the Rockets anyway? Even once? Guys, it's going to be so, so sweet.
This should apply beyond the games. Do you have a player you'd really like to see in Maverick blue, even if it makes no sense? Maybe it could happen. Do you want the Mavericks to actually draft someone who might get real minutes one day? That's a really fun thing to root for (not to mention something I hope Dallas actually does, for once). Letting go of the hopes for another title frees you emotionally to simply enjoy the crazy process of being a sports fan.
"When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered. We all felt saved." - Narrator, Fight Club
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I'm exhausted at being unhappy with the Mavericks. I need to do something differently because this, at one point, was about fun. The expectations of a championship have outpaced the actual enjoyment I've taken from watching the Mavericks play basketball. I probably watched 50-55 games this year because Dallas basketball was not fun for me.
That is completely counter to the point of sports fandom. Titles are awesome, but the journey is just as important. We have such a short time left with Dirk Nowitzki. I hope that by letting go perhaps I can enjoy the moments more. It starts with game three against the Houston Rockets.
Trust me. Everything is going to be fine.