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Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs, April 25 [2017)

Anxiety is one of the weirdest things.

One moment you can feel like you’re dying.

The next moment you’re fine.

More of less.

And I know that’s a strange way to start a sports piece.

But I didn’t really feel like writing this.

And perhaps you didn’t feel like reading this ūüôā

But you’re here.

Are you still here?

I start this way to illustrate something about perseverance.

But also to touch on stress.

I praise God that I was able to watch this basketball game tonight.

I thank God for everything.

It’s such a blessing to have leisure time.

But for a long time I did not even feel well enough to watch sports.

More of less.

Anxiety makes everything a challenge.

But let’s get back to this game.

Game 5.

Pivotal.

And for me, it came at the end of a long day.

Dr’s appointment. ¬†Hours at a cellular phone establishment.

It was a good day.

But I messed up.

Something slipped my memory.

And it made my day more challenging.

I forgot my medications at home.

Had them all laid out and ready to go.

But, in a rush, they were left behind.

My doctor and his wonderful nurse were both very nice about this.

But when it came time to take my medicine, I had to go without.

An hour.  Two hours.

And so I was in a significant rush…to eat and tie up loose ends.

And make it on time to enjoy this family activity of watching the San Antonio Spurs.

With my medications kicking in late (several of them), I was not all there to start the game.

And there were many points at which I felt like I could not keep going.

Like I needed to just go to sleep.

Maybe something I ate.  Maybe the heat.  Maybe some airborne allergen.

But certainly (a feeling I know very well):  anxiety!

And so I want to share a happy story.

These past two weeks (roughly).

I have made great strides with my battle against anxiety.

It is a battle.

I have to WILL myself to fight.

Internal monologue:

“You’re not going to die. ¬†Not now. ¬†Probably ūüôā

It’s just anxiety. ¬†It will pass. ¬†Stick with it. ¬†Just relax.”

That kinda stuff.

Probably sounds pathetic, but it’s the sort of coping mechanisms which psychologists teach.

While we’re at this, I want to give a “shout out” to my parents.

They are the best in the world.

The most loving.  The most compassionate.

All my best moments in life…I owe to their goodness.

And I am so happy to spend family time with them.

But let’s get to the game ūüôā

Sports are filled with anxiety.

Especially the “playoffs”.

Those championship sort of games.

Those matches upon which more is riding than usual.

Hell, it’s probably not great for someone with anxiety (or a heart condition, for that matter) to be watching a high-stakes sporting event.

But I’m watching purely for joy.

And yet, I can’t help rooting for my team.

I’m invested.

I’ve spent hours cheering them on.

I CARE what happens.

Suffice it to say, this game was a bit of a blur for me.

I just thank God that I made it through it.

It doesn’t sound like much.

I know.

I didn’t go to war.

I didn’t win a fistfight.

Nothing that dramatic.

But it was a “baby step”…like Bob took ūüôā

My baby step was:  make it through the game.

Step by step.

Let my medicines do their collective job.

And hang in there.

Anxiety has so many snowball scenarios (which also parallel sports).

If you have a panic attack or some similarly uncomfortable setback due to anxiety, it is like being thrown from a horse.

And your stomach is telling you, “don’t get back on that horse.”

But your rational mind is saying, “you MUST get back on. ¬†Don’t give up!”

Finally we come to a salient point.

Manu Ginobili had a pretty awful series through four games.

He had every reason to give up.

He had every reason to be thinking about an early, disappointing offseason.

And, more importantly, about the specter of retirement.

But it wasn’t that Manu who showed up.

Or if it was, then he FOUGHT it!

“I’m not going out without a fight!”

And the 39-year-old Ginobili (40 in July) finally got some shots to fall.

But he kept doing what he’d been doing.

Only better.

Pushing.  Pushing.

Playing the chess of basketball.

Find the weak point of the opponent.

Even when the main opponent is the self.

Forget the last shot.

Make or miss.

Forget the last shot.

Each shot is a new shot.

Be like a spinning coin.

The coin has no memory.

It does not care how it landed last.

And thus each spin–each toss is a new, fresh slate.

An opportunity.

In many ways, Manu Ginobili won this game.

10 points (his first points of the series).  3 assists.  3 steals.

But through my haze, I also saw Tony Parker distinguish himself.

16 points.  But, just as important, 6 assists.

And so the Spurs’ tradition charges on!

But the new faces were huge too.

David Lee.  11 points.  8 rebounds.

And he had that fire in him.

Come on, guys! ¬†Let’s do this!!

Patty Mills also had that fire.  20 points!!!

And he proved that a shooting guard can be short.

No problem.

Mills and Parker played important minutes together down the stretch.

Aldridge was solid.  12 points and 9 rebounds.

This was a rough game!

Physical!!

A foul could have been called on every possession.

LaMarcus was frustrated.

But the stakes are so high for all these guys.

Randolph.  Marc Gasol.

We’ll get to them…

But the master at handling stress seems to be Kawhi Leonard.

I don’t know how he does it.

Or how he’s done it.

42-straight free-throws.  In the playoffs!!!  Unreal!

Kawhi, after 43 points in a losing effort last time, poured in a cool 28.

And his passing was key.  6 assists!

Pau Gasol had his moments with 9 important points.

And Jonathon Simmons showed positive signs.

But let’s talk a moment about the Grizzlies.

James Ennis III started like he was gonna go all-world.

Not surprisingly, he cooled off.

And Zach Randolph really never got going in this one.

Marc Gasol was very strong.

17 points.  7 huge assists!  And 5 rebounds.

Vince Carter played a solid game.

But the killer was Mike Conley.

This guy is so freaking good!!!

26 points.  6 assists.  4 steals.

But it was the offense which was so impressive.

I don’t know if there’s a more crafty point guard in the NBA currently than Conley.

And the cherry on top is that he is hitting the 3-ball with absolute confidence.

JaMychal Green had another great game.

Andrew Harrison had a fine outing.

But there just wasn’t enough to stop the Spurs.

The home court advantage.  The pumped up team and atmosphere.

And the veteran edge.

Memphis is a veteran team.

But they are having to rely on some unseasoned players in a way that San Antonio is not.

All told, my hat’s off to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The series shifts back to Memphis on Thursday with the Spurs able to close out if victorious.

But Memphis is not going down without a fight.

Keep fighting, my friends!

-PD

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