A few days ago, I agreed to take care of the cat that lives downstairs. The cat lives with a couple, two 40ish-year-old white people, who get along very well and are constantly cooking delicious smelling food and getting into lesser illcit substances. Because of those two things and how they’re always going away, I can tell that they're happy together. Sometimes I wonder if they plan on having children, and if not, good for them because the world is pretty mucked up these days, and cats are more of our time. Their replacement for any recent children is a small, tufted fellow by the name of Wilco. Fairly well trained by cat standards, he will respond to both noise and hand gestures, but his constant physical animation is somewhat unsettling. There are few songs in his namesake’s vast catalog that approach the sense of nerved chaos that he creates.
As much of a pain taking care of this cat has been, in terms of having like three or four things you need to do with it per day (feed twice, clean litter box, be actively engaged with it for a while), it has been a pleasure spending time with him. The neighbors left last Thursday afternoon and I've spent much of the time I'm not at work with Wilco since then. I went out with ND writer Dennis Schmuck on Thursday and watched Game 6 of the Celtics / Heat series at Charlie's Kitchen. It was a miserable affair and we left and went our separate ways after the beginning of the fourth quarter. As we will all remember for hopefully a long time, LeBron James crushed things, and despite the Celtics’ strained effort, it was a moribund affair. I realized that I left after remembering James’ bounding, endless energy and leadership is unlike anything in any of major sports.
When I got home, I sat there with Wilco, this little animal depending on me for food and accompaniment for the next four days, and it made me glad that my problems were trivial, like a cat being a tiny jerk, biting my hand (no claws). Nobody is going to judge my life based on the way that I take care of a cat for a weekend, unless it gets involved in some sordid things (bath salts, economic policy, etc.), in which case I am responsible for something horrible. The Greeks already have it hard enough without a housecat messing up their conversion back to drachmas. The cat messed around with the laser pointer for a while, jumping onto this huge record collection set up in the living room, staring at the red illuminated dot planted squarely on the face of a Morrissey solo LP tilted at a 45 degree angle. He stopped to catch his breath, mouth agape and fangs exposed, panting like a much larger creature. I moved the pointer across the room, and he bounded upon the sofa and mashed up the cushions, chasing after a prey it would never capture.
There was something admirable about the small animal’s resolve, and whether it was a real or imagined foe, his unending chase made me reflect upon the stuff that I have chased in the past, the things that I have been passionate about and failed at. Our own private pursuits are undoubtedly equidistance to the public chase that James has been put upon, and the loudness of James’ public persona does not make either any less important (our goals are all important, yo). James’ ability to remain sterling and professional through the increasing cacophony of the public sphere is in the very best interest of that universal identity, of course, in that showing otherwise may only reveal a set of blood-soaked maws (and I mean that positively). I would want to smack Bayless with the outside of my hand forever, for instance.
James’ desire for immortality within sports almanacs is in great contrast to that of his younger, stretchier adversaries in the Finals, whose range of play usually alternates between “crazy” (Westbrook), “unconscious” (Durant), and “gimmicky” (Harden), and who remain the most modern stars of the league despite their opponent's outsized frame. While LeBron James might be a YouTube clip of endless, beautiful windmill dunks on breakaways, Kevin Durant is an animated gif from the post-game presser where he winks after a funny reply. There is a temporal nature to James that does not exist in a person just a few years younger. It feels almost generational. While Durant will practice his craft, dominate smaller opponents and wear great big glasses in public for the next couple of years without much criticism, James’ expectations for himself are markedly higher and (because of his status) more immediate in the eyes of the public. They are undoubtedly higher than what we expect.
Unfortunately for him, the tendency towards perceiving things with such instantaneous zeal is something unavoidable for people living in this age. #YOLO, as the mantra goes. James is hitting the physical peak of his basketball career, which is troublesome for the Grand Narrative where he is either the savior of post-Jordanian pro ball, or a very amazing version of Karl Malone who will lose forever. There are more complicated narrative matters that only belong to James himself. The truth is in that a world without clear-cut cultural immortality, James is a person who represents a world we have already lost (the world of long-lasting influence), and his proceedings here will best be reflected by the generations who will be benefited by his wealth. Even if he wins this series and destroys narrative once and for all, LeBron James will keep chasing the red dot.
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