We spend a lot of time waiting for things, especially for the end of things: workdays, commutes, lines, dull conversations. It’s an experience that ghosts beneath the other things we’re doing. You’re reading this article perhaps while waiting for some water to boil or for the UPS man to drop off a package. So you’re only sort of reading this article. You let your mind drift between the words you’re reading and the thing you’re waiting for. You hit a button on your phone to check the time, then finish the rest of this paragraph. You feel slight aggravation. You might not even be waiting for anything particularly important or desirable; it’s just preferable to what you’re doing right now, which is waiting, and what you’re waiting for most is for the waiting to be over.
Cavaliers fans and Kyrie Irving acolytes will wait at least a month for him to return from a fracture in his left index finger. Irving will return sometime in December or January to the starting lineup of a team that has stopped trying to win games. Then we will wait some more. Irving will probably spend some curiously long stretches on the bench during the fourth quarters of close contests. I’ll be googling pictures of tanks for game recaps. We’ll try to make light of it—Waiting for Godot is kind of a funny play when you can ignore the part about existence as a bus stop regularly visited by death—but there’s only so much fun one can have while constantly glancing at the clock.
Waiting is a quarrel between parts of your consciousness. The rational part of your brain has a conversation with the emotional part—the part that just wants to do and have stuff right now—and overrules it. Young children are terrible at waiting, which is why they occasionally throw temper tantrums in the aisles of supermarkets, but adults aren’t much better at it in the sense that a lot of us are bad at living in the moment (or barring that, distracting ourselves) so that we don’t feel the aggravation that waiting causes. It’s just that we better understand the social contract that we’d be breaking if we were to throw a temper tantrum in the aisle of a supermarket. We endure the pain, and we’re marginally less unpleasant about it than the average three-year-old. If you’ve ever commingled with a drunk, ornery crowd at a concert where the headliner is late, you know what I mean.
Cavs fans are like the drunk, ornery crowd at a concert where the headliner is late. I wasn’t of the mind that this team could or should compete for a playoff spot, but, even with my low expectations, I was looking forward to watching the Cavs play some intermittently exciting basketball this season. That likely will not happen over the next (approximate) month, because Dion Waiters is going to be playing the role of de facto point guard while Irving is gone, which probably means a lot of ugly possessions. Or it means Jeremy Pargo will run the offense for twenty minutes per game, which will carry all the thrill of watching a pair of slugs copulate.
What will happen most assuredly is that the Cavs will lose almost every game Irving misses, and as they fall to the basement of the Eastern Conference, Chris Grant and his staff will decide the best decision is to stay there and draft Nerlens Noel or whomever. The Cavs will again be intermittently exciting once Irving returns, but if they get too exciting too often, Byron Scott will introduce some wonky substitution patterns that guarantee the Cavs one of the worst records in the league. Phantom injuries might play a part; maybe the front office flips Andy Varejao for some assets. If you’re reading this, you likely know the drill. If you’re somehow new to this, it involves a lot of misery and useless speculation.
All of this is fine with me in theory, where I have convinced myself the real Cleveland Cavaliers live. The assemblage of middling castoffs that fail repeatedly this season are only part of what the Cavaliers are—the other part is what they could be. I’m essentially Sam Lowry at the end of Brazil, hallucinating an alternate reality in which I’m not being tortured. We all have our coping mechanisms and the lies we tell ourselves, else we’d be unable to wait.
The reality, of course, is that Nerlens Noel or whoever isn’t a championship promise, and waiting is sometimes just slow time-murder. Life doesn’t really begin anew when the UPS guy finally comes, it just seems that way for a moment, and then you realize you should’ve sprung for the 40-dollar blender because this 25-dollar one is just not getting the job done re: the hummus you’re trying to make. That blender was supposed to heal you, but now you taste nothing but disillusionment and ill-ground hummus.
We put our hope in things we don’t yet have because it’s all we can do as sports fans. Or we call up a radio show and go on some indignant rant about how Chris Grant had better know what he’s doing or else there will be some very harsh consequences, none of which will be of any actual solace, but dammit, something must be done. Better to rouse ineffectual anger than stare blankly into the void.
But the void is there, at least for another season. We’re all now waiting for things—because we’re clearly not yet in the presence of the ones we need—and especially the end of things, because the Cavaliers’ season doesn’t need to last more than another month or two for us to learn everything we can, despite the fact it won’t end until April. Whether Dion Waiters is a 40-dollar or 25-dollar blender is up for debate, but he’s clearly not all the Cavaliers require. What the Cavaliers require may never come, but we keep telling ourselves its out there—like alien life and loving, functional family units—because if there’s dissatisfaction, there must be something like the opposite of it. We’ll find it tomorrow, maybe.