Ow! Pain shot through my shin. I looked back to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. OWWW! My girlfriend’s kick made even better contact this time.
See, during last night’s Bulls Game 5, I had scheduled dinner with my grilfriend’s aunt who was visiting out of town. Some may call me not a true fan, but I consider myself a realist. After Game 1, when I still thought Hinrich and Deng might come back (and hey maybe Rose might surprise us), I was excited. More than that, I wholeheartedly thought we would win the series. I was a Bodog account away from making a really stupid bet.
Getting blown out of Game 2 didn’t even faze me. Better to get blown out than lose a heartbreaker I said. Starters could rest and the team could refocus, and our job in Miami was already done. We already stole one, now we get to come back home.
Then Nazr left Game 3 to a chorus of cheers just to leave a depleted lineup even more barren. Game 4 showed a team that finally looked defeated. The Bulls traveled back to Miami looking weary and cognizant of their fate. Damn they fought hard.
So I made my peace with the Bulls. These warriors somehow provided a thrill in what should have been a forgotten season. It was a proud team led by a proud coach that sent my expectations on a roller coaster. I dreamt of outside shots at a 2-seed, of a Rose-led charge in the playoffs, and of Lebron sitting on the bench as the Madhouse rocked en route to the Finals. After Game 4, I saw the writing on the wall.
So I scheduled the dinner with no remorse for missing the game. I couldn’t bear to watch our demise. Seeing the first quarter before the 7:00pm reservation only reaffirmed my dread. The Heat started out, well, hot. 24-8 lead against a team not exactly built to make comebacks. I bid farewell. I was going to catch up, have a great time, and eat some good food.
Then I caught a glimpse of the small TV over the bar in the 3rd quarter. Whoa, what? Is that 61 or 81? IS IT REALLY 83?! Are we really winning? HOLY %#$*!!!! WE’RE BACK! No way they could take 3 straight in Chicago if we come back home! And in Game 7, well, who knows? Maybe Hinrich finally heals his calf, maybe we rise to the occasion like we have all year, and maybe Lebron has one of the choke-jobs from his past reappear. I experienced a flooding of hope. But, in words spoken behind the Shawshank prison walls, Red warned, “Hope is a dangerous thing.”
The kick to my shin was definitely well deserved. I was mentally absent from any conversation with visions of Nate Robinson chest bumps in my head. My next glance to the TV was a Shane Battier made 3. Uh oh. When I saw Norris Cole throw down a dunk, I realized what I’d done.
I scheduled dinner specifically to avoid this heartbreak, but here I was, allowing them to tease me one more time. It was beautifully symbolic for the season to end on three quick chances from 3. It gave me three last chances to pray to whatever department of Heaven handles sports.
With this team, heartbreak was unavoidable. As any single girl will tell you, if you don’t see things going anywhere, try not to get attached. And they reeled me right in like a sucker. All year, this team fought. Their perseverance gave reasons to believe they could go places. Whether it was an unexpected Marco Belinelli game winning shot, Nate Robinson exploding for 23 points in the 4th quarter, or Jimmy Butler hassling Lebron for 48 minutes, they constantly inspired a hopeful confidence. That will be the legacy I remember the 2013 Bulls by. That any time they seemed defeated, they fought.