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Guilty Conscience

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Tell me if this has happened to you this year.

I was out last night so I had the game taping on my DVR but I was still able to catch the score on the ESPN ticker a couple of times.  The first time I saw it was in the 3rd period with the game tied at 62 all and it flashed up that Jefferson had 20 points and Delonte had 19.  The “good fan” in me was excited because I am thrilled with Big Al’s emergence and I happen to be a Delonte fan.  Still, there was something dark in the recesses of my mind that whispered warnings to me that I suppressed. “No, this is good” I thought.  We need to play well and win.

The second time I saw the score flash up we were down by a few points and the seconds were ticking down to the final buzzer.  This time those whispers jumped from the back of my mind and silently yelped with joy at the team’s defeat.  This happened unconsciously and without warning.  There was nothing I could do.  It just came out and I think I even smiled outwardly.

A second later I was filled with guilt and did my best to push the joy down and beat myself up for feeling that way.  “This is bad,” I reminded myself.  “The team can’t go on learning to lose and developing a culture of losing.”  I realize that the team is without its best player, but lots of other teams rally around each other and overachieve in situations like that.  We haven’t.  Some teams can even muster up a .500 record without their star. We couldn’t even do that with a healthy team.

What’s going to happen at the end of the year if we don’t win the lottery?  Given the eventual return of Pierce, we’ll probably have somewhere between the 5th and 7th pick, miss out on Oden, Durant, and other instant-impact players and have to gamble on the next best project.  Is losing all these games really worth adding another guy that’s 2 or 3 years away from contributing?

Still, the Siren’s song of lottery ping-pong balls calls to us from distant shores.  The slim chance that we could get the next Duncan, Jordan, or LeBron is enough to make us turn on our team and root for losses in January.  We haven’t even reached the All Star break yet and we are checking the bottom of the standings.

When I saw that the Sixers won last night, I was filled with joy.  I can rationalize that feeling because technically it isn’t rooting against my own team.  I’m just hoping that everyone else does a little better.  Every win by Grizzlies, Bobcats, and Hawks gives me the same feeling.  If we are going to stink, I want them all to stink just a little less.

I’ll probably watch last night’s game at some point in the next couple days.  I want to see Jefferson’s performance.  I want to see Delonte play well (finally).  I need my little consolation prizes.  I won’t have to worry about my guilty conscience when I watch it on tape because I’ll already know the outcome.  I guess that’s why it hit me so hard last night.  When I watch the games live, I don’t know the outcome so when the little voice creeps up and tells me that we want to lose, I can ignore it and be distracted by the game.  When I just saw the score, I was startled by my reaction.

What is happening here?  What have I become?  Can I do this for a whole season?  Do I need to detach more?  Do I need to become more callous and uncaring?  Do I ditch the lottery dreams and simply root for victories?  Or can I manage to waffle for the rest of the season by enjoying wins and appreciating what the losses could eventually mean?

I’m very confused.  What a weird, crazy, depressing yet hopeful year.