ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 08: Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives between Al Horford #15 and Kirk Hinrich #6 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Here's a fun lesson in historical linguistics: Do you know the origin of the phrase "waiting for the other shoe to drop"? Apparently, according to the internet, the phrase originates from the following story:
A man comes in late at night to a lodging house, rather the worse for wear. He sits on his bed, drags one shoe off and drops it on the floor. Guiltily remembering everyone around him trying to sleep, he takes the other one off much more carefully and quietly puts in on the floor. He then finishes undressing and gets into bed. Just as he is drifting off to sleep, a shout comes from the man in the room below: "Well, drop the other one then! I can’t sleep, waiting for you to drop the other shoe!". From World Wide Words
I'm bringing this up because I've spent the last 16 hours giving in to that most dangerous of human emotions, fear. The source of my fear is the silliest of human emotions, superstition. I usually do a good job of limiting the effects of both on my actions. Fear grips us all at one point or another, but I tend to live my life worry free unless that worry has some sort of benefit. There are so many legitimate things to be afraid of in life that to worry about them all will cripple your ability to live. Fear of a superstition? That's just juvenile. You might as well believe in Santa Claus. And yet, hear I am, admitting to you that I am afraid for superstitious reasons, because I've seen a certain sequence of events which has served, in the past, to play the role of that ominous and foreboding first shoe slamming to the floor. Whenever this sequence has occurred in the past, the other shoe was sure to follow quickly. And, frankly, the other shoe sucks.
- 18.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks
- 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks
- 20 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2 blocks
Do you know what these stat lines have in common? By now, you've surely deduced the nature of this post, so you know to whom these stats apply, but do you understand their significance? The player who accumulated these stats is the Los Angeles Lakers' not so gentle giant, Andrew Bynum. The first line is Andrew Bynum's performance from 1/4/2008 to 1/11/2008. The second is from 1/21/2009 to 1/30/2009. The third, 3/9/2010 to 3/16/2010. I doubt I have to tell you what those dates mean, but I will anyways. These dates, and this data, represents the average of Bynum's performance in the five games that pre-date his tragically annual major injury.
Andrew Bynum's injury history is as cruel as it is unfortunate. In 2008, his season ended pre-maturely with a ruptured patella tendon. In 2009, Kobe Bryant crashed into his other knee, tearing Bynum's ACL. Last season, the tragic cycle struck again as Bynum went down with a strained Achilles tendon, which healed just enough for Drew to play in the playoffs, where he suffered a hyper extended knee which would eventually require the surgery that took away the first six weeks of this season. Three straight seasons, cut short by injuries. That's a raw deal. But that's not what is cruel about it. The cruel part is that these injuries have struck just as Andrew Bynum has begun to tap into his full potential. We've seen Drew at his best, his absolute best, for such a short period of time, that his potential as a true franchise cornerstone has become something mythical. Perhaps we should call Drew's beast mode the Chupacabra, because it's power is as awesome as it is rare. Seeing that form is like seeing a UFO.
Not that form ... this form. Right now, Andrew Bynum is The Chupacabra. His line from the past five games: 11.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks. The points aren't quite as high as in the past, but that might be an even greater indication of Bynum's arrival, because scoring is no longer required for him to dominate a game. If one is to believe in superstition, if one believes in the recurrence of patterns, Andrew's play since the All-Star break is the first shoe dropping. And all we can hope for is that, this time, the metaphorical guy climbing into bed has the decency to realize how shitty that second shoe is, and avoid dropping it altogether.
Even if it doesn't happen, even if it never happens, Lakers Nation will forever be that grumpy dude in the room below, waiting, and waiting, sadly expecting the other shoe to drop.