Miracles, Chuck Klosterman, and Piranhas: While We're Waiting

Kyle talks about the inevitable sense of doom among Cleveland fans, the need for a miracle, and Chuck Klosterman's book But What If We're Wrong?

Top of the Wednesday to ya, WFNYers. I was moved up in the lineup this week after some roster shuffling. I think it’s temporary, though some may suggest that my high on-base percentage better compensates for my lack of slugging in the Wednesday spot. Anyway, the Browns are undefeated since January 3, the Indians are fire (Tuesday night’s 1-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners notwithstanding). But my gaze is diverted elsewhere this week, so while we’re waiting … .

Do you believe in miracles? Because it’s increasingly beginning to feel like the Cleveland Cavaliers would need a miracle to defeat the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs are only down 2-0 in the NBA Finals, but it feels like they’re down 51-0 in a series to 52. This sense is one part the innate doom felt by Cleveland sports fans, and one part the Cavaliers’ inability to solve any part of the Warriors puzzle. 

Coming into this series, I felt that the Cavaliers were a changed team that had bought a gym membership and quit smoking and rounded into the shape just in time for the prom. But when it came time to ask the girl of their dreams out, they were so nervous they threw up all over her locker. I’ve seen no reason — not even an inkling — to believe the Cavs can turn this series around. It’s a puzzle they’ve shown no knack or aptitude for solving even one component of — they’ve lost seven consecutive games to the Warriors, all quite handily. It’s like watching a chimp try to solve a Rubik’s Cube. 

It’s a tremendous bummer because, though I would have picked the Warriors were I thinking strictly with my brain, I was expecting a highly competitive series. Because I’m a Cleveland fan, I didn’t have the luxury to wait until Game 3 to see signs of hope. When you’re a Cleveland fan, even when the sun is shining overhead there is nothing but dark, foreboding storm clouds in the distance. So it was in Game 2, before the Cavs were even losing — when they weren’t winning by enough with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter — that the despair began to creep to the front of my brain, or whichever part of the brain handles “outlook on the not-so-distant future.” I started to thing about futility and failure and mortality, whether I’ll ever in my life experience a Cleveland championship, or if my father will. My dad was seven months old when the Browns won their last championship, and so was alive in fact only. I’m half as my old as father now. He’s never seen one, and I’ve never seen one — so what reason do I have to believe I won’t be his age having never experience a Cleveland championship. If not now, when? That’s some dark, heavy stuff. But those feelings will be lurking again in Game 3, and if the Cavs go down early they’ll overrun Quicken Loans Arena and the greater downtown area faster than a Warriors fast break. 

So without even having lost a game at home, the Cavs need a miracle. And miracles don’t happen in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Hope is not all lost. There is historical precedent, some of which Scott mentioned on Tuesday. It took a near-miracle for the Warriors to win three games in a row against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, and a touch of the divine to hit roughly 100 threes in the second half of Game 6. The Thunder played with supernatural energy for two weeks in the series against the San Antonio Spurs and the first half of the Western Conference Finals. 

Even if the Cavs go down 3-0, there’s precedent providing hope. When the Boston Red Sox went down 3-0 against the New York Yankees in 2004 having not won a World Series since 1918, I don’t imagine there was much hope in Fenway Park when the Red Sox entered the bottom of the 9th inning down 4-3. Then Brian Roberts stole second base after a walk, the Red Sox tied the game, won in 12 innings, and made history by overcoming a 3-0 deficit before winning the World Series. I don’t know if that’s impressive as turning water into wine, or even defeating the USSR in ice hockey or beating a 73-win Warriors team four times in five games. But that’s the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever seen. So if there’s any comfort, Cleveland fans, it’s that there probably won’t be any warning when something impossible happens to break the bad spell Cleveland sports teams have been under. I’ll keep watching … because what the hell else am I going to do? 

Chuck Klosterman’s new book But What If We’re Wrong? hit shelves Tuesday. Subtitled Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, Klosterman makes the rather obvious observation that throughout human history, the consensus at any present time was almost uniformly proven incorrect (eventually) — often catastrophically so. Why should now be any different? The key differences with the past and our current present in 2016 is the infinite amount of information at our disposal, the amount of certainty the consensus holds, the ease of dissenting for no other than reason than to be a contrarian, and the semi-democratic masses are more certain in their certainty than ever before (a concept he calls “casual certitude”). 

The book is merely a collection of essays (though Klosterman may tell you otherwise) and the premise is unremarkable (it’s not much different than many things he’s written in the past), but I’ll read anything by Klosterman. He has unique talent for challenging assumptions and making people reevaluate the world, especially people who care deeply about college football, what was popular on the radio in the 1990s, and “the world” only in the most superficial sense. If you’re looking for a quick book to escape the internet/ESPN/family at the beach/park/dinner table, it should be a funny, thought-provoking item to read over a weekend. Here’s a sample. 

The practical reality is that any present-tense version of the world is unstable. What we currently consider to be true — both objectively and subjectively — is habitually provisional. But the modern problem is that reevaluating what we consider “true” is becoming increasingly difficult. Superficially, its’ become easier for any one person to dispute the status quo: Everyone has a viable platform to criticize Moby Dick (or, I suppose a mediocre HP printer). If there’s a rogue physicist in Winnipeg who doesn’t believe in gravity, he can self-publish a book that outlines his argument and potentially attract a larger audience than [Sir Isaac Newton's] Principia found during its first hundred years of existence. … 

The sheer amount of information about every current idea makes those concepts difficult to contradict, particularly in a framework where public consensus has become the ultimate arbiter of validity. in other words, we’re starting to behave if we’ve reached the end of human knowledge. and while that notion is undoubtedly false, the sensation of certitude it generates is paralyzing. 

Your daily Calvin and Hobbes strip. Calvin’s nascent/pseudo-romance with Susie is one of the strip’s best running plots, and the rare occasions they imagine themselves in deranged soap operas are some of my favorite strips. “It’s psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I’ll get a saw.” 

Random 90s Song of the Day. Here’s “I Fought Piranhas” from The White Stripes’ debut album. Though released in 1999, the song (as do the Stripes themselves) sounds like a relic of the early 2000s, of which they were a prominent player. Seeing as the Stripes are kindred spirits with Akron natives The Black Keys, the scornful, raucous, heavily distorted blues/garage rock of “Piranhas” felt appropriate. Although, I think I’d like the Cavs’ odds better against a school piranhas than the Warriors right now. 

Well you know what it's like
I don't got to tell you
Who put's up a fight
Walking out of hell now
When you fought piranhas
And you fought the cold 


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