The Good Press — Issue #35: Natural
Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
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Hey, folks. I hope you are reading this with your power intact, wherever you are.
The biggest winter storm of the season so far has been hitting a big chunk of the country the last couple of days and today into tomorrow is supposed to be the worst of it in the northeast, from PA to NJ to NY and New England. So wherever you are hunkered down, hopefully you are staying nice and warm, safe from this storm upon a storm, perhaps able to light a nice fireplace fire if you have one.
It may not be snowing yet by the time this issue hits your email inboxes and goes live online, so charge your cell phones and make a big thing of soup, just in case!
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, I remember March 11, 2020, being a particularly memorable day. That was the day that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had both tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and it was also the day that the 2019–20 NBA season was suspended indefinitely after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive.
Nothing like movies or sports being affected to hammer home, this is serious.
Everything we knew about how to fundamentally go about our days changed that day. Nothing about it felt natural. No longer shaking hands or high-fiving. No longer trekking anywhere with naked mouths or noses. We had to learn how to make the unnatural our new natural because the alternative is…
Since March, we’ve adjusted our natural way of life. We’ve learned how to live our lives as naturally as we can in the most unnatural of times. It’s never going to feel like second nature, but I do think that every day has felt a little less unnatural, as we’ve learned how to adjust and find a new way forward.
Without much to help us take our minds off of how weird this all was, those early months of the pandemic had many in desperate need of catharsis. We didn’t have any entertainment to distract us from the disconcerting world outside our walls. No sports, nothing on TV resembling anything natural.
At a time where we weren’t sure what direction we were headed next, the NBA stepped up and showed leadership. They were among the innovative leagues that went to a “bubble” format, which allowed them to create a completely virus-free clean site to resume and complete their season safely.
It wasn’t very natural for those players to live at Disney World for several months, playing basketball games without any live fans to cheer them on. Just like all of us outside the bubble who adjusted to a new natural, the NBA made its adjustments, too. Ultimately, sports-starved fans were rewarded in the late summer into the fall in the form of an unprecedented sports equinox.
It might not have felt natural at the start, but the NBA bubble games were electrifying, unencumbered by the fatigue of frequent travel from city to city. By the time LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were holding up the championship trophy, it felt like the sport at its best; at times, supernatural.
Maybe we should’ve expected that from the most magical place on earth.
In GQ Magazine, NBA reporter Taylor Rooks wrote an enchanting deep-dive into her firsthand experience inside the NBA bubble, as she was granted Tier 1 status in Orlando for a few months inside the bubble. It is worth a read:
Inside the Great NBA Bubble Experiment
Rudy Gobert felt panicked and scared. And so he did what you do when you feel panicked and scared: He tried to call his…
Six days from now, December 22, the 2020–21 NBA season begins. 2020 has warped our sense of time, but in this case, that is indeed a short turnaround.
It’ll be just 72 days from the final buzzer in the bubble until games that count again. The league has learned a lot about how to operate amid a pandemic, but this time, the variable of regular travel is being added back into the mix.
This, at a time when the pandemic is raging more out of control than ever.
I’m not so sure this is a good idea ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but I’m hoping it goes well.
Long-time members of The Good Press community won’t be surprised by that. I tend to err on the side of caution. The pandemic is not under control in a meaningful way in most (if not all) of the cities scheduled to host games. The city of Toronto is still operating under strict restrictions that forced baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays to play most of their season in Buffalo, NY. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors are scheduled to play “home” games in Tampa, FL.
Most games are still not going to have fans, though some cities may allow some and the league is hoping for more fans post-vaccine. It’s not going to feel as natural as our pre-coronavirus sports viewing, but I’m intrigued. I will watch, and if the games are entertaining, the excitement will come naturally.
I’m a Brooklyn Nets fan, and it’s not just my Brooklyn-bias talking when I opine that they are a team on the rise and one of the more interesting teams in basketball this season, as they attempt to build a championship contender around two future Hall of Fame talents in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Durant, 32, is one of the greatest scorers in basketball history, a former league MVP, two-time NBA Champion, and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He is a ten-time All-Star and has been named to the All-NBA First Team six times.
KD signed a four-year contract with Brooklyn in July 2019, when the Nets made a big bet on the surgically-repaired Achilles tendon in Durant’s right leg, knowing he would miss the 2019–20 season rehabbing and recovering.
Irving, 28, is a mercurial superstar, to put it delicately. He’s displayed genius on the court throughout his career, but he’s also rubbed many the wrong way with his unique style. He is a former NBA Champion and six-time All-Star, and his relationship with Durant was a key element in luring KD to Brooklyn.
The two perennial All-Stars have never played on the same NBA team as one another, but their friendship and appreciation of each other’s game made them want to team up and create a would-be juggernaut that could compete for a championship as soon as Durant was fully recovered. That time is now.
Last Sunday, the two suited up in Nets uniforms together for the first time, and day one of the fully-realized operation was what one could’ve hoped for.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving Shine in Preseason Homecoming
With both players returning from injuries, Durant and Irving combined for 33 points in their first game together, more…
Durant, who also battled COVID-19 last spring during his recovery from injury, did not look all that rusty in his long-awaited return to the court:
Maybe it’s not natural to be nearly seven feet tall, with a wingspan even larger, able to play every position in basketball on offense and defense. For KD, it is natural. Maybe the medical technology to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon isn’t natural either. It’s not an injury many ever fully recover from, and that was a big part of the gamble that Brooklyn took, hoping it pays off. But there is no doubt that a healthy Kevin Durant is a natural on the court.
Whether Brooklyn can reach championship glory remains to be seen. Whether the Nets can ever compete on a fame and recognition level with the more famous, lovable losers who play in Manhattan also remains to be seen. Contending for championships regularly would go a long way towards winning over new fans. Everyone loves a winner, and NYC could use one.
Either way, the season tips off next Tuesday, with KD, Kyrie, and the Nets hosting Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, Durant’s former team. Get your popcorn ready, it should be a fun season… if everyone stays healthy.
In Other Words
Hopefully, everybody stays healthy. That sentiment means more than ever.
Injuries can happen to any player (or any non-player, for that matter), but the specter of COVID-19 still looms, even with the vaccines being rolled out now. It’s a calculated gamble that the NBA is taking, trusting their protocols to keep league personnel safe and healthy until the virus is a non-factor. Even with all the resources the league has, there is still legitimate risk involved.
Starting a new season, travel and all, inviting fans back to arenas, it all feels so natural and normal again. I just really hope we’re ready for all that. We know the end of the pandemic is in sight now, but people will still get sick and still have their lives affected by this disease. It’s not like flipping a light switch.
Just this weekend, University of Florida basketball player Keyontae Johnson collapsed suddenly in the middle of a game and was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically-induced coma after an undisclosed medical event. Johnson, an otherwise healthy 21-year-old junior, reportedly contracted COVID-19 over the summer but had since been medically cleared to play.
Hopefully, by the time this issue comes out, there is more positive news on his condition and prognosis, but it’s scary. Even if we don’t know how much a previous COVID diagnosis may have affected this medical event, it certainly couldn’t have helped. Johnson would be far from the only healthy athlete to suddenly see their athletic career affected by complications from the virus.
21-year-old athletes should not have their careers and lives in jeopardy. That is not worth our entertainment. I don’t have much confidence in the National Collegiate Athletic Association to prioritize the health and safety of these unpaid athletes over the potential profits reaped from having these games.
So I’ll cross my fingers for the NBA’s sake and hope that their protocols and contingency plans are a lot stronger than crossing fingers and hoping for the best. After what the league was able to achieve in the magic bubble, I can see how they have reason to feel confident that this juice is worth the squeeze.
No matter what happens post-pandemic, we owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and those we’ve lost to always remember this year and everything we’ve endured throughout 2020. This cannot all be in vain.
The New York Times published their photography year in review, with images taken throughout the longest year of our lives. (Well worth your click):
As I alluded to up top, there is a serious winter storm that is going to hit us hard here in the Poconos and in New York City, among many other places.
We may end clearing two feet of snow off the grill to cook outside if our power goes out Wednesday and/or Thursday, and we’ve stocked up on fruit, nuts, soup, cold cuts, cereal, and other things that should keep us satisfied if we end up stuck in a several-day outage. We’ve still got Hanukkah candles to light up the room, and plenty of other candles, too. We’ll light a fire in the fireplace. I’ve got a bunch of books, too (ones that don’t need plugging in).
Maybe it’ll feel like a return to a natural way of life that our ancestors were used to. Candlelight, fire in the fireplace, a quiet time to catch up on reading. Or maybe we won’t lose power at all, and I’ll get too distracted by email to get through my stack of reading. Stay safe and be prepared. Better that than being caught off-guard. I trust the weatherman on this one. It’s snow season.
In a year that’s felt anything but natural, maybe this is a sign from above that it’s time to hibernate and wait out this final surge of the viral storm. That’s human nature, after all. Survive now, thrive later. Snowstorms and other natural disasters? We’ve been through worse. See you on the other side.
Till next time,
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press — Issue #34: Endurance
This Hanukkah, may we all make like the oil in the Temple and endure
December 9, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #33: Happy
Celebrating the happy moments in life, including a very happy birthday
December 2, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #32: Gratitude
Being grateful amid the strangest Thanksgiving of our lives
November 25, 2020