Howl!

It’s going on three weeks since I’ve seen the Raptors play ball. Although I have to say that there were stretches in the Chicago-Boston series where both teams looked about as bad as Toronto at their worst, so maybe that keeps me from any mounting separation anxiety. And that series gets proclaimed by some as the greatest series ever? There were a few moments of excellence, and yes the games were ridiculously close throughout, but aside from game 6 there were just too many consecutive turnovers, bad fouls, horrible shots, boring isos and little sense of how these teams intended to win. The scrappiness and big shots at the end of every game were nice, but I’d rather see teams making excellent basketball plays on both ends for 48 minutes, than see an hour of sloppy play and a few minutes of converting big jumpshots. It was like watching a seventh seed play an eighth seed. Boston is not the team they were at the All-Star break, let alone when they won it all a year ago. Maybe that’s the way forward for the first round though. Let the division winners sit out, and then let 4 through nine hammer away at each other in a best of 5 like it means something. I guarantee plenty of OT periods. The third seed would enter into the fray for the next round to even up the numbers, and then the best of the worst can have at it with the top seeds from there. You’ve got more playoff games for more teams, so overall you can eliminate some regular season games.

Maybe it’s dreaming, but those kinds of changes have to be done. This is the second year in a row where it’s nearly impossible to watch a full 48 minutes in a playoff matchup. I mean, if I thought Bulls-Celtics was over-rated, believe me - the rest was mostly unwatchable thus far. These things are generally over before they get to the half. And there simply are not a lot of plays run. If there is any evidence of mounting separation anxiety, it is not Raptor related; but directly the fault of the idea of consecutive basketball plays being executed, getting smashed into oblivion. There is absolutely nothing in most second halves to give me anything close to a hard-on, unless I follow through with the idea germinating in my mind thanks to the boredom that leaves me helplessly open to the suggestiveness of the same bad repeated advertising: it involves downing one, maybe two little Cialis pills, and chasing them with a cocktail of Red Bull, Moosehead, and a solid dose of Axe body spray - which gets lit aflame while it floats at the top of the glass. I’d call it A Hot Bugger. Yum.

In the midst of my boredom I noticed something for the first time: TNT’s scoreboard graphics features a yellow line beneath the winning team’s tally. I can’t believe I failed to take note of this little detail before. It is more profoundly stupid than last post-season’s marvel of a green streak demarking the path certain players took as they replayed them moving downcourt towards their spot-up jumpers. I mean how else could we keep track of such intricate movements from one three-point arc to another? But this yellow line wasn’t just a playoff extra. It’s been around for awhile. Maybe as long as Ernie, Kenny and Chuck. I checked the youtube. There it is, telling me which number is the bigger of the two. I don’t actually know how I got along without noticing it. And now in these boring second halves, that yellow line just leaves me mesmerized.

“Gawlee Uncle Jed - there are five and eight votes for the NO side, and the DEN has a one and a nought AND a seven! That can’t be no good, having three numbers squeezed in where the other side has two. And any nought just can’t be good. Unless it’s nought and another nought and a seven. What do you make of it?”

“Well Jethro - I reckun that little yeller line can be of some help. I’d be a guessin’ that’s where your winner is.”

“Hey! I think you’re plum right now! Thankya uncle Jed. But I still don’t understand why they just don’t give the big hunk o’ gold to that Kobe and the Lakers. Even that Rocket Man with the girl’s name said it was as good as over. Why should we have to be a waitin’ all this time?”

“Good things come to those that wait boy. Just watch the yeller line there and it will all be as plain as the nose on yer face. And when that’s all done could you go out and fetch me a new whittling knife for this new whittling stick of mine?”

If there’s a drinking game I can come up with, I know the appropriate cocktail to be chugging.

Now if I can get back to the Raptors and my lack of separation anxiety, I can only hope that Bryan Colangelo does not mistake it for a lack of general anxiety. My puppy Mochi is a good example of what I’m talking about. There’s the odd time my wife and I are leaving him and he howls like the son-of-a-bitch that he is. Crazy howls that would drive Ginsberg to downing a few Hot Buggers. But these aren’t howls meant to denote disatisfaction with being abandoned. Separation has got nothing to do with it. He can deal with being without us and being left alone. His problem is knowing where we might be going and wanting to come along. He’s a little too smart for a pup. And that creates anxiety of the general variety.

And that’s the sort of noise that is getting made all over by the bloggers and the callers and the grunts and the sad sacks on the subway in the morning. It’s mostly a whole lot of nonsense that I hope not to add to, other than to suggest that in total it all produces a howl of anxiety that should ring long and hard in Bryan’s ears day and night. Let him hear the tinge of sadness, the notes of desperation, the timbre of confused expectations. Either he’s going to drown that pup or make things right for it. That defines a make or break off-season pretty good. No?

I can remember having the same feelings as my Mochi when I was a young pup myself. Being left with the grandparents for the weekend while my parents went on a little outing for two. Left in a small basement apartment with a tiny B+W TV, and a K-tel record selector filled with Wilf Carter and Sing Along with Mitch. Hooooha! That’s our offseason as fans right there, and I imagine most of us never had to experience such a thing. When I got really bored, grandma was thoughtful enough to surprise me with a set of Jacks. Jacks! A game consisting of small bits of post-industrial waste and a little rubber ball. If you aren’t old enough to remember seeing Buffy and Jodi having a grand old time playing Jacks in their upscale Manhattan apartment on A Family Affair (oh Frenchie!), then forget trying to fathom what I was faced with. It doesn’t matter anyway, because you know it as a Raptors fan. We’re all going through that same predicament right now.

I just try to remember that last season it was easily the Nuggets that I would think could maybe lose by 58 at home. Certainly not the Hornets. And have there been enormous changes with either team? Not really. Important changes, but not anything amounting to dismantling and rebuilding. So please Bryan, hear the collective howls of pups faced with nothing but Wilf Carter and Jacks, and just make it change that little bit that makes it right. Obvious? Yes. My only real intent in all of this then, is just to take what is already painfully clear, and make it vividly, unbearably more so, even for the eternally numb videogame generation. You’re welcome. Is TNT hiring?

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