How These Playoffs are the Best in Years, or: Why Lucretius Makes Me Glad My Team Lost LeBron

Arthur Schopenhauer always claimed that you couldn’t understand The World as Will and Representation without having read On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. I don’t know if that’s true, because I’ve never met anyone who understands Schopenhauer or has read On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. But everyone who has taken a history of German philosophy class knows the summary of Schopenhauer, you’re going to be disappointed, what you have is never as good as what you wanted. If you’re a fan of the Heat, were a fan of the Cavs, or just a casual fan of LeBron James, he’s right.

The problem is he is the best player in basketball. No one on the court today can close a game like Lebron closed the series against the Celtics. It wasn’t the points, it wasn’t the steals, it wasn’t the defense, it was simply the fact that the game was tied and LBJ went one on five against the reigning Eastern Conference champions and won. He played a perfect sequence and everyone else just looked like regular basketball players. It is his first moment with the Heat like his Game 5 against Detroit when he was with the Cavaliers. His play can be as perfect as anything in sport, and that leads to the hope of the perfect moment and the perfect victory, which just as Schopenhauer says, is always the next one and never the current one.

If he wins six titles over his career with the Heat, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have won seven, or eight or nine. He took the worst team in the league to the Finals in a few years, captured conference titles, played the best basketball Cleveland had ever seen, but even when he played perfectly, he never stayed perfect. It will be the same in Miami, even when he plays perfect, he won’t stay perfect. Dwayne Wade is an amazing partner, and Bosh’s cycling transubstantiations from star to immaterial phantom of a player will never take five guys on a court into some platonic realm of the perfect pick and roll, or as an LBJ detractor would say, the perfect iso. But they will always be good enough to constantly hint at it, they will constantly remind Heat fans even in victory that they can be better than they are. They could have been perfect.

I’m glad he’s gone. As a Cavs fan it is now Lucretius instead of Schopenhauer. "Nor by prolonging life, one single second do we deduct from the long years of death." If you’re not going to get what you want, you might as well just not want it. That was the way out of Schopenhauer’s dilemma. A dilemma posed by Lucretius himself, but answered by determining what it is that we all want more than anything else and proving we can’t have it, won’t get it, and if we did, it wouldn’t matter anyhow. Even comically low expectations of the Cavaliers' first year after LeBron turned out to be too high. It was almost inconceivable how bad the Cavs would play. But the complete collapse of hope of victory made the few that did come so much sweeter. Seeing the Cavs beat Boston was better than any of the LBJ-led playoff victories I sat in the Q for over the past years. Everyone knew the future was just going to get worse, so only then could we enjoy the present. Each victory over Orlando, Boston, or L.A. in previous years was just a small unappreciated step on the way to a championship we’d never see. Just like championship #1 in Miami will be an unappreciated step to a perfect dynasty that will never exist.

Giving up on winning and perfection has made the playoffs so much better. I can appreciate Z-Bo and the Grizzlies in a way that I can’t even remember in past playoffs. Each game other than Cavaliers games was just a glimpse into who the Cavs would have to beat. There was no great play from other teams, just mental notes on matchups. There was no underdog to celebrate, just the relentless march of a number one seed. It was an unwinnable situation, it was going to end in disappointment no matter what, and it obviously did. This year, I cannot be disappointed by the playoffs: it just is not possible. So to all the Heat fans out there just remember LeBron will disappoint you, we’re all going to die, and try to enjoy tomorrow’s game 7. I know I will, and probably will more than you.

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Anonymous said...

Particularly noteworthy that the banner on the photo, presumably that the basketball players are about to step through, shows the coin with the bust of Lucretius and the caption "Lucr". Commendably subtle, Sean.

Chris said...

Thanks! I put that up there having read the piece. It's actually a picture of LeBron from Cleveland. I still like your point.

Demetri said...

This was fantastic. I am enjoying these playoffs way more than I have since about 2007 and this post did a great job of explaining why I feel this way. I don't have a dog in this race and it's fantastic.

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