On The Bright Side

The Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice came and went a couple of days ago, when the sun reached the Tropic of Capricorn at 5:02 a.m. EST. The annual affair is notable for a couple of reasons—and none are good. For starters, it’s the official start of winter, and in Indianapolis it marks the bleak realization that we are in for a lot of cold nothingness, straight-line wind storms, and potholes until spring. And also allergies.

An Indiana winter is downright miserable, even in the best of years. There’s nothing charming or redeeming about it, unless you have a thing for Bismarck windchills, concussion-gray skies, and a light-yet-constant drizzle instead of respectable snow. Plus, every so often we’ll get a normalcy-wrecking ice story as a treat. Winter here is impossibly bleak, a 90-day Sigur Rós song designed to waterboard your psyche.

Speaking of which … the Pacers are set to return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse tonight, which hardly seems possible. Yet, here we are, in this twilight of this March Everlasting, on the cusp of the sixth (seventh?) Pacers season to commence this year. Maybe it’s only the third. Who can say for sure? Every season as a Pacers fan is more or less the same. Only the players, coaches, jerseys, defensive philosophies, offensive sets, front-office execs, sales people, PA announcers, video boards, court designs, and catastrophic injuries change. Sometimes the season ends in the first round of the playoffs in Boston, other times it concludes in the first round of the playoffs in Toronto. Last year it wrapped up in the first round of the playoffs in an Orlando “bubble,” which was a fun little curveball of sorts. It was different, at least.

An NBA championship these days is a hopeless endeavor for most teams. This is because most don’t have a transcendent megastar AND two or three almost-transcendent megastars on the team. The Pacers don’t. As such, they are doomed to a very good season and a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, where they will promptly get eaten whole by the Bucks.

This is a lot to digest, especially for middle-aged parents like me who are fighting through the annual Christmas pregame slog. It’s an aggressively rude time to add ANYTHING new to our mix of sweatpants and takeout, even if it is NBA basketball. This confuses and angers us—and tensions are already running high. We cannot afford this kind of added stress right now.

Christmastime is inherently stressful. For everyone. It is trying even in the non-shitstorm times of sanity and available ICU beds. Of course, like everything else they do, kids just amplify the terribleness of it all: The pressure to get it right—to make it “The Best Christmas Ever!”™ for them every goddamn year—is the dumbest, realest pressure there is, and it is unrelenting. Throw in the misery of the Indiana winter to come and the hopelessness of another Pacers season and the ingredients are there for some dark days ahead … if that is how you are looking at things.

But, I am not. For once.

No, I’m choosing to see it like this: The sun is only shining for longer each day from here on out. The nights are getting shorter. With each 4:48 p.m. sunset we get one step closer to the 8:48 p.m. Frisbee golf tee times in July. We are at the nadir of this gross arc. The upswing. And who cares if the Pacers can’t win an NBA championship? Who can? At least they’re not the Hornets or Pistons or Knicks, which would be too much to bear. We get to watch a good, lovable team on 72 wretched Tuesderday nights in Jarch, instead of watching, like, Big Bang Theory or whatever. Nothing hopeless about that.

And I’m willing to bet that a stress-free Christmas is a boring Christmas—the kind where the kids fly back into town asking Santa for “cash” and “don’t wake me up ‘til noon.” That sounds dreadful. Needing to mainline Immodium and Scotch is a small price to pay to delay the inevitable a little longer. Because riding the Sullivan Hardware train to see Santa for the third time this week sounds infinitely better than never needing to ride it again.