He'll Never Walk Alone
This conversation started the second the Rockets lost. Look for a related TSN column tomorrow, too.
Joey Litman: It's never going to happen to Tracy
Bethlehem Shoals: I can't take it
JL: He is just never going to seize the moment and become bigger
JL: I am destroyed by this
BS: I want this series to end
JL: A 2-0 sweep. Just call it already
JL: I don't feel as though I've failed, but I also feel personally defeated in some way
JL: It's like my brand as a fan has been tarnished. And I don't mean that to sound accusatory. I am not mad at Tracy. I just want to give him a hug. For him and for me. JL: I need that
JL: no homo
BS: I can only hope, at this point that he reads the essay i wrote on him for the book
BS: And knows that I care
JL: That is well said, because part of my yearning is not even for a playoff-series win. I want him to know that he's appreciated and loved
JL: And really, I empathize with him. It was crushing—I honestly keeled over—to see him dish to Scola with his team down three and with an open lane to the basket
JL: The best left-handed finisher among righties, in crunch time, chose to meekly dish it to Scola instead of trusting a move he's made so many times
JL: Do you know how helpless that made me feel?
BS: I think his shoulder is also kind of fucked
JL: I guess so. But you only hear about fucked shoulders from NBA lore when it enhances the heroism. I so wanted this for him. Which human in the NBA deserves it more?
BS: No one. I wonder if there's a critical mass to be reached with this. Like eventually, the NBA gives him an honorary pass past the first-round
JL: I think that would make me feel bad. Like those debates among little-league dads concerning whether you treat the gimpy kid like everyone else or whether you underhand it until he makes contact
BS: That's the paradox about McGrady. I know he's a man and a total bad-ass. But i just want his pain relieved. Like why can't things go right for him just once?
JL: I guess that tonight, I finally had to accept a certain fear that permeates Tracy's game. He can mask it with the reasonable assertion that passing to open teammates is both strategic and good for morale, but it nonetheless underlines that he isn't taking and isn't hitting the shots that ultimately win games and series. That's a failure of a star, and it has become this sad yoke.
JL: I kind of wanted a T-Mac telethon to replace the post-game show
BS: But he's so good. He's not perfect. But fatally flawed?
BS: That fear has to get him every fucking time?
JL: I don't speak with him, so i can't say for sure, but watching him, he projects the sense that he's tried, tried some more, and is resigned. I thought that two years ago, against Dallas, he was valiant in defeat
JL: And the number he did on Dirk as a defender seemed to earn him widespread respect. i thought that emotion would foment and carry him on to something greater
JL: But then he could get over the hump, and he positioned last season as a referendum on his ability as a leader and a winner. When that fell through, especially after going up 2-0, I think it might have made him figuratively throw up his hands is desperation.
JL: It's almost like he is us--WHY? EVERY FUCKING TIME?!
BS: But he played his ass off tonight. And the jazz are a far superior team, and doubled him all night with kirilenko. Plus the bum shoulder
BS: Like, that's tough
JL: Look at how he ended the game, though. That rushed three that was hasty and grazed off the rim; that total cop out drive when he dished; some of those laconic drives. Some of it is just how he plays, but it all belied the notion of burning desire
JL: I realize he played well, overall, and i know it was a difficult circumstance for the reasons you cited, but come on.
JL: Did he resemble a Kobe or LeBron? Not necessarily in form, but intensity? In the manifestation of his will? his effort? Not in crunch time, he didn't. But i am not mad. i am just crestfallen.
BS: The other thing is, we're not talking about winning a ring. Just getting past the first round
BS: The tragedy of McGrady is that he's a monster so much of the time
JL: I can't believe someone as good as mcgrady, and as effective as he is, can always lose like this. The tragedy is that what he can do will forever be obscured by what he can't, and he deserves better, as a player and person
BS: If he were only a little better, it would happen. That's the tragedy. He's not essentially flawed, just always a little off.
JL: I was thinking about that as i watched him miss a few jumpers. It's not mechanics or physical ability—it's almost something ethereal that separates T-Mac from the guys who are just a little better and correspondingly more accomplished.
BS: I don't think i'm going to put this chat up. I'm beginning to feel like doing this every time McGrady goes down is taking a toll on me
BS: I mean, emoting like this in public. This whole McGrady is extremely personal to me, for some reason. Do i really want the whole world to see me suffer?
JL: The only reason it would be worth posting is that in some small way, I hold out hope that when i publicly mourn his plight, it could somehow make it back to him and he'd know that he is treasured.
JL: Just so dearly want him to know how deeply he is appreciated. For whatever reasons, he's been the anchor of my basketball identity for so many years, now. Only he and Scottie have ever affected me like that
BS: Is this what real fandom feels like?
JL: It must be.
JL: I think that a lot of times, even passionate sports fans immerse themselves in the rituals of following sports but aren't necessarily drawn to it as a result of inescapable emotion. Like, i get excited about watching the Nuggets and the Lakers, but I don't feel it in my body and my heart the way i do when i watch Tracy. And the only other time i am as affected is when i watch Michigan football.
JL: Like I said, I want to contribute to the catalogue of recorded words that demonstrate how dearly McGrady is loved
UPDATE: Sporting News column is up.