• One Big Thing: Understanding

    ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ goes the popular refrain.

    It’s one of those statements whose validity depends on the context of the situation. Like anything else, it’s far from an absolute. But there’s a whole lot of merit to it.

    There are many, many things in life where your experience is improved by a lack of understanding. Sometimes your enjoyment is predicated on not knowing a damn thing.

    As a confession, I do not watch college basketball at all. I do not care about college basketball at all. But March Madness is awesome.

    I have a vague idea of who’s supposed to win, but at the end of the day I pretty much circle whichever team I feel like picking in that moment. It’s great. It’s almost like a novice gambler sitting at a slot machine and just watching the numbers and the colors whoosh by. I don’t know what’s going on; all I know is that I can’t control it and will have to enjoy the ride.

    The first two rounds are great because it’s a constant blur of games. It’s two days where I’m either right or wrong without any responsibility over the outcome. The tournament gets less fun for me once we hit the Sweet 16 because there’s fewer games and more time spent on analysis of something I don’t really care about to go with rising stakes.

    The games of the first two rounds, aside from the high seeds, are basically crapshoots. At the Sweet 16 and beyond, the money pot at the end of the rainbow seems close. The potential for winning starts to weigh on me and the games become torturous. After three or four rounds I start to pick up on things and begin to doubt my dartboard picks from two weeks ago. At that point I know just enough to understand the stakes and odds at hand.

    I would imagine that a professional poker player is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Nobody at the table can influence what cards come up, much like me with a bracket. It’s pretty much twisting in the wind and playing your way into favorable odds. I’m an idiot with a pen and a dream whereas those professionals draw on a wealth of experience; millions of hands and a learned sense of probability.

    I can’t fathom how nauseating it is to watch your financial fate hinge on some cards. Poker players are sharp guys, no doubt. Sharp enough to be fully aware of the game changing around them; of odds and fates being shattered with a single card at the best or worst possible time.

    That seems like the sweet spot. You have enough experience and acquired knowledge to understand what’s happening but are essentially powerless to conjure up the card you need. Couple that with the stakes, and it seems like a mentally taxing way to earn a living. The highs are high, but each hand has the potential to be a total gut punch.

    It sucks to make the right play and still lose. You know the theoretical ‘proper’ decisions to make but sometimes it just won’t work out. And that’s brutal.

    There’s something to be said about not knowing enough to really enjoy yourself. That manifests itself in many ways, but I think it’s particularly prescient considering some of the moves made this summer.

    Oklahoma City made a really good trade to lengthen the roster by shipping out a player who’s begun to decline. They did about as well as they could’ve this season and looked like an even stronger threat to take down Golden State this year. They knew what they had to do and went out and did it. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant had a better supporting cast.

    Kevin Durant left but it’s hard to argue with the path that OKC was on this summer. They made the right moves and KD just picked Golden State. It’s a real downer to know that the team did just about everything right and still came up empty handed with the specter of a rebuild now looming over their shoulder.

    How about the Magic assembling the league’s deepest collection of big men in a league that’s going smaller and smaller? That rotation could be hell to work out, even if Nikola Vucevic leaves town. Many people just don’t get what Orlando is trying to do.

    Imagine sitting there and trying to piece together leadership’s long term vision for the Magic. It doesn’t seem like a fun exercise. If all you know is that Bismack Biyombo is cool and that Aaron Gordon is set to earn more minutes, then maybe it looks like you’re in for a good time. It just depends on your perspective.

    I’ve interacted with lots of Knicks fans who are genuinely excited about the upcoming year and think they’re back in the mix of Eastern Conference contention. There are many people out there in the wild who think Derrick Rose will give the team a point guard that they’ve been desperate for.

    It must be nice to go through the world and look forward to the season as if Derrick Rose isn’t terrible.

    In their defense, they just don’t know better. That’s not a remark on intelligence; they just didn’t watch the Bulls last year. They didn’t have the husk that was once an MVP on their fantasy roster, tanking entire categories to earn his 16 points per night.

    It’s easy to be persuaded into a nice comeback story because those stories are the exception and not the norm. Of course he’s bad analytically. Of course he looks awful on tape. There’s nothing to come back from if he didn’t bottom out first. It’s setting up the narrative.

    It’s not knowing enough to realize that Derrick Rose is washed but knowing just enough to understand that he was once really good and is now on your favorite team.

    And honestly, I envy those people a little bit. Every fan looks forward to the upcoming season, but a select few get to do so with such unbridled optimism. It seems pleasant in many ways; to be unaware of a troubling reality and simply enjoy what’s in front of you.

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