Here's a word that should exist — complainolidays. These are days when people get together and complain about things they actually love. The day we travel for Thanksgiving is a complainoliday. The credits of Girls launches a complainholiday. Saturday, February 16, the day of the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest, is a complainoliday.
The following list of historical complaints is best read in the voice of the Micro Machines man: these stars aren't big enough, the prize money is not a real incentive, there is a finite amount of dunks humans can do and they've pretty much all been done, Vince Carter did it better, Spud Webb did it better, a guy on YouTube did it better, these dunks feel too gimmicky, this format is flawed, the scoring is flawed, the judges don't take it seriously, the fan vote doesn't match my vote, the amount of staging necessary for that final-round dunk sure made it seem like that participant was assured a safe passage into the final round.
The NBA All-Star Weekend took me back to my freshman year in high school. When you arrive on campus, you think you're the man. You dominated junior high, you had a killer summer at camp, and you've officially come into your own. The braces are off, you've just started doing pushups at night, you held a girl's hand at the movies once, mom started letting you shop for yourself at Marshalls, and all signs point toward a growth spurt.
But much like the experience of being a freshman in high school, the reality of my serf-like position at the bottom of the All-Star Weekend feudal system became quite clear within minutes of settling in at my hotel in Orlando. By the end of my first week of high school, I understood that the rest of the year would entail athletes and older guys looking over me without acknowledging my presence, girls my age acting completely disinterested, and older girls sitting around, hating on the younger girls.
At first, I was bummed out, mainly because I'm an only child and used to getting at least some form of attention. But as the weekend progressed, I realized my insignificance could actually be a blessing in disguise. In this sea of NBA players, NBA insiders, wannabe NBA insiders, celebrities, and wannabe celebrities, here I was, almost invisible.
My various badges and passes got me close to most of the action but not too close. I could always see what was going on, but my invisibility cloak had its limits. Too close, and my cover is blown and next thing I know, Gym Class Heroes and Jesse Jackson are giving me swirlies in the bathroom between second and third period. There was always a buffer zone of lameness that separated me from the beautiful people, but at the same time, if they had the ability to actually notice me, they would have been thoroughly creeped out by me, staring at them, jotting down notes, always dying of laughter.
My beat for the weekend was to always be around, keeping my head on a swivel, noticing when hilarity ensued, watching as celebrities interacted, and most importantly, guessing what they were talking about, based on who they were and their mannerisms. This sounds like an easy task, but at an event like the NBA All-Star Weekend, it can cause a serious case of carpal tunnel. The observations are seemingly endless.
As I sat on a plane to Orlando, having successfully drooled all over my Club Tril T-shirt, the realization that I was en route to NBA All-Star weekend finally slapped me in the face.
In the past, I've handled events as exciting, unpredictable, and slightly dangerous as this by going with the flow, not overthinking anything, never making plans, and, most importantly, always saying yes. But something about this weekend led to a change of heart. I thought that with just a few hours of planning, arts and crafts, phone calls, rush-order eBay purchases, and carefully crafted chants and heckles, I could really leave a mark on this All-Star weekend. Also, after embarrassing myself as the only press member at the Knicks game who tried to catch a shirt from the T-shirt cannon, I fully understood that it could easily be my last. There's no time to hold back.