Maybe this is some sort of cry for help. Or a cry for attention. I wouldn't put it past myself.
"Please, save me! Please, feel bad for me! Please, SOMETHING -- anything!"
But I feel like it's something I'd like to talk about, as catharsis or a therapeutic outlet.
On Twitter, the #PrayForCardboardGerald 'movement' is just a meme -- an NBA blogosphere inside joke, something I started for fun during the Bobcats' miserable 16-game losing streak in which I felt one of those #PrayForMiley or whatever teen starlet flavor of the month was in vogue deserved some lampooning. It has since grown into a constant tweet people send me when the Bobcats are losing in embarrassing fashion, which is often. It makes me chuckle, which is more than I can say about the Bobcats.
I can't help but seriously question if watching the losing habits of the Bobcats is affecting me. Covering the Bobcats for Rufus on Fire is a full-time job, and coupled with school and outside the classroom schoolwork and my other job as a grocery store cashier, I have little time for, well, anything else.
When those other things preclude me from covering the games, I'll have one of our other writers or a guest writer write the game recap. As fate would have it, five of the last five Bobcats wins have come during these times when I'm not watching. That means I haven't seen the Bobcats win since January 4, 2012. Seventy-eight days. Seventeen straight game recaps in which the Bobcats have lost, most of which have more often than not been absolute ass-whoopings.
In fact, during this fantastic streak, the Bobcats opponents outscore them by an average of more than 17 points per game. I've dragged my eyeballs through losses by 44 to Portland, 35 to Indiana, 33 to the Lakers, 30 to Atlanta, 25 to Philadelphia, 22 to Indiana (again), 17 to the freaking Washington Wizards and another by 17 to the Detroit Pistons. I also had the displeasure of watching a horrendously ugly game that included Deron Williams dropping 57 points on the Bobcats in a win. I can't count how many times I've seen games get out of hand only to look at the game clock and see that there's nearly a whole quarter remaining to play.
It's utter misery.
It's also conditioning me. As a writer, I can't help but feel myself writing the same thing over and over again.
"The Bobcats were picked apart beginning with their defensive weakness in the paint, which then opened up the perimeter game. The offense stagnated after they couldn't drive worth a damn and were forced to put up mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper."
Same thing every time, just a different opponent and occasionally switching between a white and blue jersey. This creates a cycle of hopelessness that I can do nothing to break. Adding on to that, I also like to give a comprehensive recap of the game detailing the underlying momentum shifts in the game. It forces me to look at the game from a team perspective as opposed to just on a player-by-player basis. And that makes it all the more crushing when you're getting whooped by about 20 points per game. Not only do you have to ponder the direction of the team's future, but I think about turning points of games that inevitably lead to Bobcat defeat.
On a deeper level, I wonder if it's conditioning me further, perhaps subconsciously. Have I become more cynical? Less hopeful? More at risk for depression?
"Oh, that's silly," I can hear some say already. It's just basketball. Or they say it's an unhealthy obsession.
It probably is, and I'll be the first to admit it. But NBA basketball (especially that of the Bobcats) is my passion, and life without it was far less fun. Mid-December was a particularly depressing time in my life on account of personal issues that I will not talk about here. NBA basketball, as awful as it can be in this lockout-shortened season, is still something I enjoy watching.
Even the Bobcats are better than nothing.
Still, I don't know for sure what the effect of covering this team is having on me. I try to find the humor. My writing and content has become noticeably more lighthearted and goofy as I try to distract myself and inject some jokes to make some good in a bad situation. Yet it's sometimes difficult to find humor in it all. I recognize that it's only basketball at it's most basic level, and financially I'm not too invested in it.
That said, I'm pretty invested in it emotionally. I have friends who work for the Bobcats, and I've met many of the men in the front office. Trust me, they work their asses off trying to make a team that can be competitive in the long term. I don't like seeing them as the subject of ridicule, fairly or unfairly. And when the team loses so much before my own eyes by so much, I can't help but hurt for them, and not just because it makes their jobs all the more difficult in dealing with a team at rock bottom, but also with disgruntled fans.
But it also hurts to watch this team, simply as a fan of the sport. The inconsistent effort, the sloppiness, seeing a disparity in talent between the Bobcats and their opponents every night -- those are all nearly always present factors. And even when they do try their damndest, I still only see them lose, which is just as heart-breaking. I must lose hope because why would I have reason for anything else? Granted, their effort lately is more acceptable, but 17 straight losses by an average of more than 17 points with me in the audience. Why would this ever bring me hope?
A perfect example of this is in my musical selection in the Rufus on Fire game previews. I think about the music I include there way too much. Music is one of my other major passions, and I always want the song I pick to match the mood heading into the game. This season's playlist is excellent, though undoubtedly a little depressing. There's a fair amount of Sufjan Stevens, and just sad songs in general. And frankly, had a commenter on the site not said anything about the sad song selection after a particularly depressing Sufjan song, I'd have probably used more.
It'd be one thing if they were losing, and the young guys the team hopes to build on were consistently showing up opponents. But they're not. Kemba Walker's improving, but he's got a ways to go in becoming a more consistent scorer. I'm not sure I've seen this team clicking on all cylinders. The only thing that's consistent is sub-mediocrity for me. Maybe someone has a decent game -- say -- 50 percent shooting off the bench. Woo hoo. The Bobcats still lost by 20. And that guy still only scored 14 points and was really one-dimensional. Hurray.
A basketball team is nearly always greater than the sum of its parts. And in a sick way, the Bobcats hold true to that as well. Even with a decent performance, so many other players contribute to the league-worst 41.6 percent field-goal shooting.
In fact, I'd put it like this: the sadness of the Bobcats is greater than the sum of its parts.
Thankfully, I have a great support group of sorts on Twitter and a couple friends in the real world that make it easy to leave the seemingly relentless despair, at least for a short while. And that's a big problem. In the condensed season, there isn't room to take the necessary time away from the team. The All-Star Break was nice, but still not much for helping create a buffer zone to recover between halves of the season. It's a continual process of losing for me. 15 men, give or take, falling repeatedly on basketball courts whenever I watch them. And no time to heal.
But I always must return to it on a short turnaround. And all we can do is #PrayForCardboardGerald that it ends soon.
Read all about the Bobcats at SB Nation's Rufus On Fire.