Author’s note: Because of a work conference, I had to piece this Thursday edition of “While We’re Waiting…” together in advance of Wednesday night’s ALDS Game 5 between the Indians and the New York Yankees. Please complete the introduction below as you read along, selecting the appropriate option in light of whatever transpired in Game 5 of the ALDS or whatever mental state you’re experiencing.
Wow, what a [great/heart-breaking/emotionally confusing] conclusion to the ALDS between the Indians and New York Yankees on Wednesday night. I was worried that the Indians were going to lose their sixth straight playoff game with an opportunity to clinch, and boy was I [right/wrong/hungry]. I am so [happy/sad/full] because the [Indians won/Yankees won/I ordered that pizza]. No one is surprised that [Corey Kluber/Didi Gregorious/garlic sauce] was the hero of game, but even I was shocked that [Greg Allen/Jacoby Ellsbury/pineapple] had such a pivotal role in the outcome. Craziest of all was when [Corey Kluber’s skin melted to reveal a metallic robot skeleton/Joe Girardi challenged a call where the Yankee base runner was ruled safe — and had it overturned/what happened? I was eating pizza]. Overall, I would describe it as a/n [orgy of delight/fiesta of despair/random sequence of uniformly meaningless events].
One thing is certain, though: the Yankees still [suck/really suck/suck the hardest], but While We’re Waiting…
Years after convincing LeBron James to defect from Cleveland to the Miami Heat to romp over the Eastern Conference and win two NBA championships, Dwyane Wade is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m emotionally conflicted (deeply so) by Dwyane Wade joining the Cavaliers: On one hand, I couldn’t be more excited to have Wade on my favorite basketball team, to have an opportunity to watch a certain Hall-of-Famer despite it being the tail end of his career, and to see James and Wade reunite to flash their brilliant brand of on-court chemistry together once again. On the other hand — besides it feeling just altogether weird — the Wade-to-Cleveland development has had serious ramifications for my sports prejudices and undermined my basketball worldview.
When James flee-ed the Cleve in 2010, my reaction was like that of many Northeast Ohioans, if less vicious than the most belligerent of fans. I didn’t burn or even char any merchandise, but I did feel bitter and betrayed. That anger dissipated over time (the Dallas Mavericks winning in the 2011 NBA Finals helped), so much so that when the Heat prevailed over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 I was sufficiently preoccupied with the Cavaliers’ own infirmities that I could muster no more than a dislike of the Heat and annoyance at their success. But I still supported any outcome unfavorable to the Heat, and savored any chance to root against them and make a joke at their expense. Then LeBron James returned to Cleveland, the Cavaliers won a championship, and Wade left Miami to go to the Chicago Bulls.
Welcoming LeBron James back to Cleveland was easy enough and felt like an almost inevitable step on the winding emotional staircase that is the relationship between James and City. The Prodigal Sun returns, etc. But vestiges of my pettiness remained. I could still joke that James carried teams every night while Wade’s dominance was sporadic; that Wade has a few dirty plays on his resume; that Wade once threw Mike Bibby’s shoe during a game; that Wade spells his first name “Dwyane”; and that there has been a blatant inequity between how officials treat Wade and how they treat James, a disparity that comically apparent when they were on the same team.
But now Wade is a Cavalier. And it’s weird! And what spite from the 2010-2014 Heat do I left to cling to besides jokes about how Pat Riley looks like a vampire attorney?1 I can still laugh about all of Wade’s imperfections above — but it’s not the same. Now the jokes will be a product of mitigated affection as opposed to self-righteous mockery. I now see the relationship between James and Wade for what it probably was all along — adorable and exemplary. James and Wade may be married to their significant others — but together they’re significant brothers. Their relationship is something to aspire for in our own lives. Find a man or woman who looks at you like James and Wade look at each other.
It’s great. James and Wade posing shirtless together with corny inspirational messages like “Winter is coming and it’s never felt so good. Season 15 of this show begins soon. #Brotherhood👊🏾 #striveforgreatness🚀 #savagemode😤”? Love it! Wade making fun of James’ inability to grow a full head of hair! Love it! Pictures of a raggedy-ass Wade hanging out in Cleveland wearing glasses with a skull-and-crossbones and (possibly?) no lenses? LOVE it!
Sports are supposed to be fun. Even “hating” things in sports (like the Yankees, Draymond Green, or the designated hitter rule) should have the proper perspective — which necessarily means a healthy dose of levity. I never harbored anything like “real” animosity toward those Miami Heat teams and Dwyane Wade — but there were times when it was hard to tell the difference.
But as is often the case in the NBA: You either retire a hero, or play long enough to become a villain. It’s up to us as fans to decide how we handle it. I’m going to do my best to enjoy the tumult and emotional confusion as much as I can with a laugh, a smile, and a few jokes. Up is down. Squares are round. Cats are friends with dogs. Kevin Durant plays for the Warriors. Kyrie Irving is on the the Celtics. Dwyane Wade is a Cleveland Cavalier. One adversarial worldview is annihilated, and a fresher, friendlier one takes its place.
The Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. We all pretend that we would use a time machine to avert some historical calamity or smother baby Hitler with a pillow. But let’s be real — I would mostly use it to skip some meetings and a lot of sports-related misery.
And now for the random 90s song of the day. Unfortunately, the Random 90s Song of the Day was reserved in memoriam for Mr. Petty. American rock icon Tom Petty passed away last Monday, which came as a surprise despite his age and the health troubles he’d experienced. Not that there is a sorrow-off between the recent batch of rock musician deaths — but Tom Petty’s hit me especially hard. Maybe it was because Tom Petty was so personally responsible for introducing me to and helping me fall in love with rock music, or perhaps it was because I had always taken it for granted that Tom Petty was always going to be alive — like redwood forests or Alex Trebek. But just like that he’s gone — which is weird because his music seems as divorced from time and as part of the fabric of American existence as baseball or blue jeans.
Petty’s death also hit unusually hard for me because I had reluctantly passed on an opportunity to see him in concert at a local music festival only two weeks prior. It used to be I always had a full-proof and guilt-free reason for not going to a concert: I was poor. Now I’m still poor … but less so. Whereas a few years ago the $200-plus dollars it would have cost me to see Petty a few weeks ago would have been financially impossible, now it’s merely financially irresponsible. But I passed anyway — hitting up the old lazy rolodex for a few half-assed excuses.
What hurts so bad is that I deliberated it: “How much more time does Petty have left? Well … he just finished a tour, and he’s seem energetic and healthy in his recent shows. He has [ital] to have a few more tours left, right? I’ll catch him next year.” Two weeks later, he was gone forever. And though I try to never have regrets — only mistakes borne of a lack of expertise — I’ll likely regret passing on that one for the rest of my life. I saw Roger Waters and Van Morrison (two of my personal icons) live within the past year, and I’ll have memories of seeing them perform forever. But I’ll never have those memories of Tom. Just his music. So, I implore you, if you have the means to see one of your icons — do it. Because you never knows what may happen. Anywhere, here’s a Petty tune for the Random 90s Song of the Day.
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
- But that’s redundant, Kyle! [↩]