GO WITH THE FLOW 

GO WITH THE FLOW

So you don’t like the straight up trade of Jason Williams for Mike Bibby? Neither do I. You question whether the trade of Shareef Abdur-Rahim for Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight, Pau Gasol was worth it? So do I. Do you think that picking Shane Batter was a major coup in Memphis sports? I do as well. But you know what? Here’s a theory: Our opinions just don’t matter. This is nothing new. The Babe went from Boston to New York and Shaquille O’Neal left Orlando for Los Angeles. I can’t imagine too many fans of Beantown or Magic City that are happy with those deals. The reality of professional sports is that players are mere commodities. They can be bought and paid by the pound. The men doing the deals are sometimes the players themselves, yes. But mostly it’s the coaches, GM’s, and owners that wheel and deal like they’re trading baseball cards. This does make some sense. They know the players better than anyone. Even the most religious of fans don’t go to every workout, have every tape, give or watch every one-on-one practice session. The fans don’t have to deal with player attitudes or poor off-season work-out habits. And the fans also do not have access to the players’ frustrations of being under-paid, under-appreciated, or part of a team disinterested in winning. And so fans of all teams must sweat each summer when no one is untouchable. In this year’s free-agency alone, names like Utah’s John Stockton or San Antonio’s David Robinson are up for grabs. Though they will likely stay where they are, the fans must still deal with the reality that their good thing isn’t necessarily a sure thing. In some cases, it’s not even that. The Sacramento Kings became a powerhouse this year while its star, Chris Webber, finally realized some of his potential. And now, after that success, the fans of Sacramento basketball must watch as Webber decides if more high profile teams like New York, Orlando, and Houston can woo him over. What will it be like in three years when Memphis’ own Shane Battier is on the market? How will the streets cry when he is, hypothetically, shipped over to the Clippers for yet another point guard of questionable worth? Didn’t you feel your shoulders bunch and your throat go dry? Did you give a helpless sage-like shrug that says, hey, what can you do? So did I. Worse, a game played on the world’s stage -- such as the NBA -- is up to a world-wide scrutiny. Jump onto the myriad of sports web sites and you will find multiple critiques for every deal and every team. People scoff and scorn Grizzlies fans for the team move to Memphis, its draft day decisions and trades. They act as if Grizzlies fans were personally responsible for any of it, as if they --- we -- had the power to act. But they don’t. That power lies with coaches and players, agents and owners. In the same way we must wait for rain, we must also wait for that one blockbuster trade that will turn Memphis’ team into a contender. When the rains fall, we rejoice. When the land is dry, we curse the powers that be. But this is American sports and along with some of its frustrations comes its appeal. Since we can’t control the game, we certainly cannot predict the game. A sports fan’s lot in life is to wait and to hope -- to arm-chair point-guard and to shake a collective fists at bad trades gone worse. In some ways, this is no different from the rest of our life. We all face uncertainties from how to pay the bills to when our lives will end. Why then do we enjoy sports so much? It seems as if we would enjoy those things that we can control when we take a break from the real world. Then again, maybe it’s the acknowledgement of no control that makes all the difference. Like a roller-coaster ride, all you can do it sit back and enjoy it. The lack of control is a release that lets all the feelings -- good and bad -- flow through us in a way that could be called therapeutic. Eh? Did the silly sports writer call free-agency and the draft therapeutic? Well, yeah, in the sense that it can be peaceful by going with the flow of events and accepting what happens as it happens. That’s some Zen talk for all you hopeless Westerns. And if you don’t think Zen is a good basketball tool, ask Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson who just earned championship ring number eight. He knows as well as anyone that it’s easier to go downstream than up. So as we all watch with some trepidation this coming season unfold, most likely in a way that is very bad in terms of wins and losses, remember that there’s nothing you can do about it so you might as well just sit back and enjoy it. You’ll have more fun and you won’t have a heart-attack at the age of 32. Though you will feel the sweet pain of a favorite team making moves for the worse or a favorite player being benched, at the very least you will be able to accept it the way it is. That’s the theory, at least.

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