“It’s where you’re at not where you’ve been.”
That comes to mind when I watch one of my favorite scenes of “The Sopranos.” Tony Soprano was sitting at a table with his pals Paulie and Beansie, listening as they recalled the “good ol’ days.” Tony, ever the present and forward thinker, was clearly frustrated with this nostalgic stroll down memory lane. Things weren’t going too well at the time and he felt no need to discuss the highs of the past when the lows of the present were all that mattered to him. If that’s me seven years from now talking about this year’s successful playoff run by the Wizards, well, then, I’ll probably have the same expression on my face. I don’t want this feeling to end. If I don’t feel it again for years from now, I certainly don’t want to talk about it. That’s why before this season began you’ll never hear me talk about Gilbert Arenas. He’s a thing of the past and his contributions to the success to teams past are irrelevant too. Frankly, it’s pathetic. “Remember when Gilbert put up 60 on the Lakers? Remember when he hit that buzzer-beater?”
“Remember when” is the lowest form of conversation.
Lowest. Form. Of. Conver-sation.
This all came to me after I was scrolling through #WizardsTwitter after the game. The fans were proud of how the team fared in the grand scheme of things, and rightfully so. The team accomplished things that none of us would have imagined. My feelings towards that notion changed a short while after that, but I can completely understand the state of mind people were in right after the game. After the Wizards had their meltdown in the 4th quarter, they ended up completing the process with a forced sense of pride as the crowd gave them a standing ovation. That’s all fine and dandy, heck even the Terminator did it.
“For even in defeat, there’s a valuable lesson learned so it evens up for me.” —Jay-Z
For now I’m fairly content with what happened just like a majority of fans are. However, it’s a lot easier to say that as you see John Wall answer questions from the media with class and grace that is years ahead of his time. It’s easier to say when you realize Bradley Beal is still oozing potential from his relatively recent post-pubescent pores. It’s easier to say after the Washington Wizards were a couple of games away from playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Once again, the Washington Wizards were two wins away from facing the defending champions in a series that could have sent Wall and Co. to the NBA Finals. If I told you that in the beginning of the season you’d laugh. You might even call me some names. The point is that the Wizards did something that nobody expected them to do. They exceeded expectations. Expectations are a slippery slope though. They change every week, if not every game. In actuality, they change every minute of a game. Everybody has their own set of expectations and nobody cares to compare or contrast to find some sort of reasonable middle ground. That means next years expectations are higher by default. If they aren’t met then the season will be considered a failure. I hate to be so skeptical, but I believe that the 2nd round is the ceiling of this current roster. Wall and Beal are very talented and have the tools to advance their games, but D.C. sports fans tend to forget that other teams are also improving. We love to talk about how Desean Jackson is going to run wild for the Redskins but fail to remember that the Giants revamped their secondary. It’s not about competing with yourself as much as it’s about competing with the league. The Miami Heat didn’t look at the Boston Celtics and say “okay, if we just get Michael Beasley to step his game up…” No. They looked at the Big 3 model in Boston and created their own. Two championships later, we’re talking about how the Wizards were two games away from the round that precedes a shot at a championship. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are chasing their third and well get to play in that aforementioned round to have a chance at it. This is how the league works. You look at what’s working and either create the direct antithesis of it or create a better version of it. Can’t beat them? Beat em’ up. Can’t beat em’ up? Join em’.
So as I look towards the future of Wizards basketball, I hope that what I felt after the Wizards Game 5 win isn’t the apex of the team’s rise. I don’t want to be like Tony, sitting with my friends, dead in the eyes with disinterest in my face as I lament how the Wizards never got to that same point again. I’ll take these next few weeks to embrace this recent success and throw the company line of “we had a great season” around till I’m blue in the face. When the offseason begins, that will be the last of it. If I’m Wizards brass I’m looking at a team that did something good but still needs to do something great. This area is starving for a title. Let’s race towards it as if we’re far behind.
Let’s not make this year just a memory. Let’s make this something that we can expect every year. “Remember when” is the lowest form of conversation. Unless we’re saying “Remember when the Wizards were really bad?” In that case I can make an exception.