Friday, June 22, 2012

On LeBron, Emotions and Vampires (Yes, Vampires)


The vampires on "The Vampire Diaries" have a wide variety of supernatural abilities. They're immortal, obviously. They can "compel" humans, a type of supernatural hypnosis. They can use magic daylight rings to walk around in the daytime. They have your basic super-strength and super-speed, and while I don't think "super-sexiness" is an official power, I don't think there's ever been a bad-looking vampire on the show, though that's more a function of being on The CW than anything else.

One power that's always intrigued me about the specific brand of vampires on "The Vampire Diaries" -- one that was only hinted at in the first two seasons before finally being used effectively in Season 3 -- is the ability for a vampire to "turn off" his or her humanity.

See, unlike Whedonverse vampires, TVD vamps retain their human emotions after being turned. But they have the option to simply turn them off. The show describes this almost as a light-switch function: want to stop giving a fuck about stuff? OK, "turn it off." Simple as that. A TVD vampire can go from being all weepy and empathetic to being a hedonistic narcissist in a second.

In the real world, emotions and emotional connections are far more complicated.



Flash back to 2010. Following a disappointing finish to the season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, one in which LeBron James appeared to quit during the playoffs, I questioned why I cared about sports. Why was I so emotionally invested in something over which I could exert no control and gain no direct reward from?

I'd spent the entire 2009-10 season blogging about the Cavaliers, and specifically James, looking at each individual game -- and every major transaction in the NBA -- from the perspective of "what does this mean for LeBron's impending free agency." By the time the Cavs' season came to an early end, I just wanted to turn my "give a damn" about sports, specifically basketball, off. "The Decision" sure as hell didn't help.

But emotions don't work like that. You can't just say "I'm done caring about the NBA" or "I don't give a crap about sports anymore" and have it suddenly be true.

Early in the 2010-11 season, I tried to tell myself to just watch games, enjoy them for what they were and not care about the end result. I'd already wasted so much time as a young basketball fan becoming far too emotionally invested in "will Dominique Wilkins ever win a title" (spoiler alert: he didn't) that I didn't want to repeat that mistake with LeBron James. I just wanted to enjoy the basketball player, whether or not he ever one a title.

But I couldn't turn it off. You can't just care that much about something for seven years and then not care about it anymore (unless you're my ex-girlfriend). You can certainly tell yourself, and others, "Oh, I don't really care about that anymore," but saying it and believing it are two different things.

I'm not going to lie; there was a point during this postseason where I started to believe that LeBron James would never win a title. That this was Dominique Wilkins all over again. And no matter how much I told myself "I don't care about that", I knew deep down it wasn't true.

So as I watched the final seconds tick away in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, I felt a lot of emotions, but the primary one was relief. This thing I cared about so much, this thing I couldn't stop caring about but couldn't make happen myself, finally happened. And now, with that sense of closure, I could finally stop caring.

At some point during the postgame analysis, the question of how many titles LeBron James will eventually win and where that will place him among the all-time greats was raised. And as I watched, I literally did not care. I've never been emotionally invested in the "not 5, not 6, not 7" crap, nor the whole ranking of players. I just wanted to see LeBron James win one. Everything else is icing.



As an epilogue or a postscript or whatever, I do need to say this. There was another emotion that came up at some point Thursday night. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it. Maybe some weird combination of guilt and bitterness and longing, but I couldn't help but wonder if this could've happened in Cleveland.

It comes back to that caring thing. I'd never cared about Cleveland before 2003, and I didn't flip a switch in 2003 and say "now I care about Cleveland." But seven years is a long time. Care grows. And it doesn't just disappear.

I don't know how long it'll be before the Cleveland Cavaliers win an NBA title, but I'll be rooting for it. And when it happens, I'll be happy for all the people who stuck with the team from the Austin Carr years to the Mark Price years to the Shawn Kemp years to the LeBron years and through Kyrie Irving. I won't celebrate with them -- it's not my place too -- but I'll be happy for them. Because no matter how much they want to stop caring, they can't, and they shouldn't, because caring is what makes us human.

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