Be Careful What You Cheer For

The road to pessimism is paved with good intentions. And lots of scar tissue.

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Watching from home last night and nearing the end of the first half—with the Pacers cruising to a 9,000-point lead and Bankers Life Fieldhouse on the verge of evaporating into a mushroom cloud of euphoria—my kids were ecstatic. They were joyous and confident and in fine spirits, drunk on revenge and wild cherry Capri Suns. They were all dancing around the living room, celebrating, trash-talking any Cavs player who flashed across the screen.

I, however, was less enthusiastic. (“Less enthusiastic” meaning “terrified,” by the way.)

This is too much, I thought. The Law of Averages will clock in here soon enough, sure as hell—it rarely takes nights off. Also: LeBron looks PISSED.

The kids’ exuberance was pure. It was a form of innocence, really; the end result of a lack of psychological scar tissue from crippling, soul-smashing losses of old. By halftime, they had zero reason to believe the Pacers wouldn’t win.

I had little reason to believe they would.

Being pessimistic with a massive, historic lead is such a clichéd #DadMove that I may as well have been repeating “DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH” while wearing my Rockports and standing guard over the thermostat with a pair of grill tongs. It was so painfully, tritely Dad-onian that I felt ashamed. Kind of.

And as the Law of Averages predictably came bursting into the arena at the start of the third quarter, pissing in everyone’s beers and being a real a-hole about things, the Fear crept into the kids. The Doubt. It was a joy to watch, truth be told! Watching them watch the implosion was a billion times more interesting than watching Kyle Korver and LeBron hit 16 straight uncontested 3-pointers.

The “unthinkable” was happening right before their disbelieving eyes. The Pacers’ lead had vanished by the fourth quarter, of course, and so too had their bouncy enthusiasm. They looked hungover and broken. Their hopefulness remained, though, bless their hearts! They still thought the Pacers could win—because they’re dumb kids, you see, naïve and unaware that sports are 98% misery.

Everyone older than 12 KNEW that when Cleveland grabbed a one-point lead with just under five minutes left to play, it was an insurmountable, 1,000-point lead that they would never relinquish. LeBron and Jordan and Jesus do not roar back from 26 points down and then LOSE—they would find that offensive and unacceptable. The Pacers were a victim of destiny from the start of the second half, doomed to forever be the trivia answer to the question my kids never thought to ask.

Good! This was their first taste of getting walloped in their sports guts. They won’t be so quick to celebrate next time the Pacers or Colts or Butler “can’t lose this one.” Sure, bucko, they most certainly can lose, and they probably always will. The road to pessimism is paved with this sort of scar tissue.

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