Thanks to the presidential election, I’ve made it a point to stop setting expectations for things.
I know it’s lazy or simply cynicism dressed up as apathy, but I refuse to accept the emotional toll that comes with letdowns.
When it comes to the Georgia Bulldogs or Atlanta sports teams, I’m not entertaining championship hopes or future success until that day actually arrives. I’ve lost too much hair and way too many bets to keep going back to a well that always runs dry.
This also applies to people. It’s more difficult because it’s significantly more personal, but some judiciousness goes a long way so you can say “no worries” to someone and actually mean it. That could be as simple as not getting mad when someone doesn’t follow through on something, or being able to accept a different point-of-view even if you think you’ve got the righteous one.
On a more macro level – in relation to sports – I’ve realized two things since I put this into practice. One, the way polarizing news tends to play out is comically predictable and, two, that predictability can be undressed to a battle of yay versus nay; enabled versus disabled.
The problem, though, is that there are rarely just two sides to anything, and arbitrary expectations provide the foundation for each side’s opinions.
Let me give you two examples.
One of the top NBA players on the planet decided it’s time for a change of scenery this summer. Kevin Durant opted out of his contract in Oklahoma City and signed with a Golden State team that was already stacked. I mean, they had just played in the last two NBA Finals.
Many people described it as an “era-altering” move, and rightfully so.
But Durant got crucified for doing this. Thunder fans burned jerseys and posted hateful videos from right outside this man’s front door. Pundits debated at-length on a speculative “why,” and what this move said about Durant as a man and as a competitor. Anecdotal information and assumptions were suddenly the lifeblood of an aggressive form of character analysis.
Durant eventually opened up to Rolling Stone in November, sharing some of his actual thought process into making the decision to leave.
He told author Paul Solotaroff that “All my life, I’ve been a pleaser, put everyone else ahead of me.”
At 25 years old, he had never gone anywhere or done anything that wasn’t in the service of his game, he wrote. The state of the Thunder had soured and the ceiling had been reached four years earlier when they lost to the Miami Heat in The Finals.
Durant just wanted to evolve. The differences between the Bay Area and Oklahoma City are fairly substantial, especially for someone in their 20s. He saw the boundless potential of the move – personally and professionally – and went for it.
We’ve all done something like that. Granted, it’s not at the magnitude or lined with as many interests, but we are encouraged to seek advancement when we get the opportunity. The only difference is our expectations for someone like Durant are much different, and we feel entitled by them and their perceived purity.
Here’s another example.
On Monday, we got word that LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey had chosen to bypass playing their bowl games and focus on training for the NFL Draft.
A raucous conversation has ensued. Those against chastised the two players for letting down their teammates. Supporters said they were being proactive about their futures. Both are expected to be first-round picks, and Fournette could very well go in the top five.
They have also suffered injuries at a position where the wrong one could easily end their careers. They have six months to get in the best shape of their lives for the ultra-competitive world that is NFL running backs. Rather than risk a mishap that could manifest in millions of dollars left on the table, they’re skipping a meaningless bowl game and doing right for themselves and their loved ones.
It’s newsworthy because it’s unusual, but here we are again, confined by expectations that logic would determine almost hypocritical. We get caught up in how things are supposed to be rather than how they are, which is often beyond our control.
And because someone veers from what’s expected, we crush them. We wax poetic about how everything has changed and how this is yet another example of what’s wrong with the world.
Why can’t we just acknowledge the decisions, respect that they were made diligently and carry on?
That’s all I’m trying to say, but I expect some of you might not agree.