Winning More Slowly
The pace here is about to pick up. Let me explain …
My father was a big Atlanta Braves fan, as is my father-in-law, so in recent years I’ve rekindled my fandom. Following the team again has strengthened my bonds to these pillars in my life.
Plus it’s been fun. Not only were the Braves my first love as a child, but their scintillating run of six straight division titles and counting — starring Ronald Acuña Jr.! — was punctuated by a surprise World Series title in 2021.
Of course, not every day is a good one for the Braves: Even their amazing 2021 season included 78 losses. But I’m always the optimist, with a cup that’s well more than half-full — which leads to one of my favorite jokes.
On any number of those occasions when they’re trailing, someone will walk into the room and ask how the Braves are doing.
“They’re winning more slowly than usual.”
And for my family, that’s how life itself has felt the past few weeks.
The winning has come … a little more slowly.
On Dec. 11, after getting the all-clear from my surgeon to resume full activity, I hit the ground running … hiking … cycling … mountain biking … anything and everything I could do to get outside and get my health back. And likewise my work on this site picked up steam, as I published eight pieces in three weeks and planned out many more.
Then Christmas Day came, along with a nasty virus which hit me like a Cybertruck — complete with fever, aches, incessant coughing and sneezing, the whole thing. (My wife was sick, too.) Staying upright was a challenge, and sleep hard to come by. My fitness watch nearly melted from the stress.
The last time I felt that way, Prince was the artist still known as Prince. This hit about three times harder than COVID and kept me holed up in a pair of Chicago AirBNBs before I could return home to recover.
When we got home, things got worse. The health of Winnie, our seven-year-old Chow Shepherd, had taken a shocking turn. Her veterinarian gave us no hope for improvement. Suddenly, we had a brutal decision to make. Brutal.
When we adopted Winnie from the dog rescue in 2016, I had already begun working from home, so she became my minute-to-minute companion. Winnie and I were fused, physically and psychologically, each shaping our days around the other. We went on thousands of walks, hundreds of hikes.
Making a rational decision about the life of a beloved family member of sound mind is nearly impossible. And it was a family decision — my wife and our two daughters felt the same emotional bonds. Together we had solved so many health and behavioral issues with Winnie that we wanted, once more, to crack the code of this difficult but loyal, affectionate, protective, intelligent pooch.
But when we absorbed the stunning reality of how her health had deteriorated — seeing that Winnie was in great distress which would only get worse — we made the humane choice, the only choice. And we grieved.
And took the time we needed to absorb the darkness with which 2024 had begun. Taking that time was the right thing to do. Healing is growing.
And now … I’m back.
If it’s OK to be glib about one’s own life, here’s hoping we’ve seen the end of this cycle of death and disease that began with my father’s sudden passing three months ago and included my injury, my surgery, my wife’s broken hand and rehab, her illness which beget my illness, and Winnie’s unfortunate final days.
Many people are going through troubled times — much worse than what I’ve seen. I remind myself of that every day. It helps.
I’m healthy. I can reflect happily on my memories of Winnie. We have a thousand pictures of our beautiful dog, worth a million words.
Life is good.
And I’m active full-time again here at 🏀 5x5, with lots of exciting things in the works.
The unplanned sabbatical presented a speed bump … and … some … very … slow … winning … indeed … but also a new opportunity to focus on the future, and especially the evolution of this site.
From this perspective, the first few weeks of this site look like a beta test. In that brief time, I was able to combine NBA analysis, personal writing, basketball and lexical history, a quiz, interviews, a book excerpt, guest columns, and more. Those pieces — and your support — allowed me to experiment and figure out what works.
So, with that knowledge, I’ve been planning 2024’s coverage. Of course, plans change. The good stuff is often found in the moment — no matter how much we planned in my years at ESPN, new developments were a constant source of excitement and fresh ideas. That’s especially true when covering the NBA.
But here’s what I expect for 🏀 5x5:
NBA analytics, decoded.
Having fun with the lexicon of basketball.
HoopIdea-style explorations of how basketball and the NBA can be better.
A series on AI and the NBA — including topics related to ChatGPT, machine learning, and more — with the help of an actual human, writer/researcher Jeff Merron.
Collaborations with other NBA writers on Substack.
More of “What I Learned at ESPN” in my 20 years there.
Quizzes like this one.
The occasional personal essay, particularly when I can connect it back to life & basketball.
That’s not all, I hope, but one shouldn’t overpromise.
Let me close with this sentiment before resuming work on our next few pieces …
My nickname for Winnie was Win.
So here’s to Win … and winning slowly … and a great 2024 for all of us.
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