Tonight, there will be a basketball game staged between professional basketball players. There will be members of the Los Angeles Lakers involved in the contest. Such an occurrence has already happened 54 times over the past few months, 62 times if you count preseason games, but tonight is one you can be excited about. Tonight comes with a rare guarantee: you will not be disappointed.
Of course, the main reason you will not be disappointed is because there is nothing for you to care about. The All Star Game doesn't matter. Who wins doesn't matter. Who wins MVP doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that everybody is entertained in an environment in which the world's greatest athletes are free to do the things that make our jaw drop without the chains and burdens of anybody trying all that hard to stop them. The game's relevance will disappear immediately after its conclusion, as long as nobody gets hurt.
It says a lot about how taxing this season has been that we can now look forward to a game that is meaningless, specifically because it is meaningless. The lack of meaning comes with a lack of vulnerability. We don't have to care about whether our team can make shots, or play defense, or try hard. All we have to do is sit there and be entertained, watching great athletes amaze us with feats of strength, speed, and skill. We don't have to care whether its our team doing the amaze-ing or not. If our players do well, great. If they don't, nobody cares.
In most years, for me personally, the All Star game is a bore. It is an exhibition lacking in competitiveness, and basketball without competition is little more than a sideshow. I watch for the highlights because it is fun, but the enjoyable quality eventually loses out to the fact that my brain can not erase the fact that the game has no consequences. In most years, this is a bad thing.
Not this year. This year, a game without consequences is exactly the kind of game we could use right now. We need a break. We need an opportunity to enjoy this game we love without trying to analyze whether Dwight Howard's most serious injury is to his back, his shoulder, or his heart. We need a chance to be amazed by actual All-Stars instead of by whichever journeyman player for the other team is playing like an All Star against our team that night. We need to be able to watch Kobe Bryant do ridiculous things without having to worry about whether the team would be better served if he did something different. Tonight, we get to watch teams play no defense without having to be upset about it. Tonight, chemistry is a high school subject, not the reason for our team's unlikely demise.
This has been the most frustrating Los Angeles Lakers season of my lifetime, perhaps of anybody's lifetime. Overwhelming expectations have combined with numerous injuries, clashing egos, turbulent personnel decisions, and bad luck to form a perfect storm of failure and disappointment thus far. The season is not over, and there is still some slim shred of hope that the Lakers can recover in time to make the playoffs. If they make the playoffs, the talent which caused the overwhelming expectations to exist in the first place is still there. But the odds are stacked heavily against the revelation of that talent. Instead, the final third of the season is likely to bring more of the same disappointment, frustration, and eventually failure, that the first part of the season has made us familiar with. It has been a long, dark, stormy path to tread thus far.
There is still more road to travel before our final destination, in all its glory or despair, is revealed. But tonight, we get to travel down a small side-road to a travelling circus that comes once a year. It is a sideshow. It is a distraction. Enjoy it while you can.