It remains to be seen if the Mavs' big win in Game 2 'flipped the switch' that turns the series away…
Mavs 109, Spurs 108: Vince Wins Game 3
It's not a rollercoaster, which paints a picture of the highs and lows but doesn't capture the correct brand of emotional connectivity. It's not surviving the storm, which misinterprets the possible highs, replacing the chance of euphoria with a sense of relief as the optimal endgame.
The Dallas Mavericks' 109-108 victory in Game 3 at the AAC was ... skydiving and having your primary chute tangle before ripping away, useless, as the ground grows impossibly closer and closer. Anxiety becomes your home. Your heart is stressed, your mind races so fast too many thoughts become a blur of one, none. Your head hurts and a form of emotional tunnel vision can settle in.
There's nothing but this moment, this horrible siren's song that screams there could be so much more … if only you could somehow keep from diving into the rocks below, a ground growing so close you can taste the stone and dirt, racing up as you speed down.
Then, in a moment that stretched across a year, your backup parachute bursts open and claws at the air. Certain death becomes … something else … a gift.
You look up in disbelief as the canopy pulls you back, returning your sense of weight, of possible control, but your mind can't catch up. The end was already at hand, how could your brain accept such a complete flip in outcome. The timeline jumps in and out of focus, the pieces struggling to fall in line.
There's screaming all around -- and there was that in the sea of BlueOut at the AAC -- a hall of sound escorting you towards something beyond this flash of confusion … and you realize it's your own voice, a chorus of you singing a song of joy, of life, euphoric in it's duality of simplistic complexity, so many contrasting feelings crammed into such a small space of time.
You touch the ground, not with a crushing splat, but with a hopping dance. You smile, can't stop smiling. Maybe you laugh, or yell, or hug someone or something. It's bigger than words, yet you fumble out a torrent of them anyway because … because … the flood has to go somewhere. You can't possibly hold it all in.
Sports, when they truly reach through to our cores aren't really a rollercoaster. There are more than highs and lows and basic exhilaration, even if we can't accurately express them. You don't just endure the storm; you ride it, relinquish all control. There can be relief in survival, but also … something more.
In those rarest of moments, when hope becomes something almost completely tangible, a beating heart you can reach out and touch, not just in pulse, but in a primal rhythm of life, you let your guard down, you become intertwined emotionally and pray your vulnerability doesn't leave you crumpled up and shivering under a shower spilling water long gone cold (figuratively speaking of course … well, yeah … probably figuratively speaking).
It's why we come back. It's what drew us in the first place. It's what can be so difficult to explain to someone who doesn't "get it."
Saturday's Mavs-Spurs game is why we care, why we open ourselves to the kind of emotional bruising that the odds say are the most likely return for our devotion as fans. It's that secondary chute opening above us, feeding us a euphoric breath that shouldn't be taken for granted regardless of context.
We're not only going to be able to jump again, we can't wait to do so. Monday at 8:30. How soon can it get here? How soon can DallasBasketball.com tell us about it? How soon can we live it?
It's just a game. Ultimately, it means so little … except when it does.
When Manu Ginobili drove left and put the Spurs up two with 1.7 seconds to play, the gravel was racing up to meet us, we were helpless in freefall. Vince Carter changed that, not just through the evolution of a moment, but a revolution of heart and mind.
"I don't mind taking the game-winning shot," said Carter, who totaled a modest 11 points but who the heck cares? "I don't mind missing them, and dealing with it. So I think having that mentality helps me."
And now, Mavs, you have us, hook, line and sinker. We didn't want to believe. We didn't want to hand you our hearts, because we knew it wasn't in the best interest of our emotional sports-fan fragility. This was supposed to be merely a step towards the offseason, towards whatever comes next.
Now, you've drawn us in. We listen to your words (see Mavs Quoteboard here). We care. You are an 8 seed and they are a 1 seed. But we care. We've bathed in a moment of nirvana that almost single-handedly makes this season worthwhile.
Remember as we're celebrating this moment what we've given you, even as we thank you for this gift you've given us … and don't hurt us.