Monday, May 30, 2016

Snow Days and Time Travel

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls have long held the NBA record with 72 regular season wins. As of last Sunday, they have company now: the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors.  With one game remaining on Wednesday night, we’ll know by the time this piece reaches print whether Golden State settled for a tie with the Bulls or re-wrote basketball history.

Golden State’s historical assault didn’t sneak up on anyone.  The defending NBA Champions started the season 24-0, an unbelievable streak that immediately and naturally prompted speculation as to whether these Warriors could surpass the mark set by those hallowed, Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman/Phil Jackson-led Bulls.   

As the Warriors have assaulted the record in recent weeks, just how to interpret, historically speaking, a 72-or-more-win season has triggered a passionate debate.  Simplistically, wins are an objective, unemotional measure of performance.  So, with 72 in the “W” column, the Warriors should be considered the Bulls’ equal; a 73-win Warriors team would be better.  Right?  Well…

Yeah, it’s not that easy, not when human emotion, pride and tangible differences in eras are involved.  To many, the 2016 Warriors will never be the equivalent of those 1996 Bulls, no matter the final win tally.  The dissenters, a group that tends to be a little older and includes aged icons Oscar Robertson and Pippen (who predicted a Bulls sweep of the Warriors in a seven-game series), offer valid points.  The game was more physical in the nineties.  Defensive hand-checking was prevalent.  The pace was slower.  Big men still dominated from the post.  Players now, arguably, don’t have the same competitive fire.  These high-flying, three-point shooting, defensively-challenged Warriors would be roughed up, choked out and, ultimately, defeated.  That’s how the critique by players and fans of prior NBA generations goes, anyway.

Are Pippen and Robertson proud, grumpy former players incapable of acknowledging the Warriors’ revolutionary style; or, is the criticism accurate?  Yes.  Wait.  No.  I mean…

It’s a classic debate between romantic antiquity and a contemporary threat.  And it should sound familiar, like the running generational debate regarding the general difficulty of youth.  For generations, parents have lamented how life is so much easier for the “kids these days.”   I heard the same stuff (crap?).  Now a father of nearly 13 years and two times over, I shamelessly dish the woe-was-me dribble to my children. 

Snow days are a common trigger.  Today, it seems schools are called at the mere hint of more than a dusting, a perception that causes proud Generation-X parents to wax nostalgic about slipping and sliding through a few inches of snow to get to school.  Meanwhile, Baby Boomer grandparents scoff that they never missed school for snow, even walking when roads were impassable.  This, of course, sounds heroic until one recalls similar tales of great-grandparents from The Greatest Generation who claimed to have walked to school in blizzards wearing newspaper on their feet to protect the only dress shoes they owned from the elements.  I suppose with ten toes and but one pair of shoes, the former get sacrificed for the latter.    

What generation had the toughest childhood?  That debate is best left to simmer within individual families.  I do hope it’s getting easier; that should be every parent’s goal.  It is in some ways, but I’m not entirely convinced.  Kids today are afforded many conveniences, but they are growing up faster and navigate an exponentially more complicated world.  Social media and smart phones haven’t done childhood any favors.

As for that raging 1996 Bulls vs. 2016 Warriors debate, a definitive answer isn’t attainable, not unless Doc Brown’s flux capacitor-equipped DeLorean drops out of the sky to traverse the two decades between these great teams.  Who would I take in a seven game series between the two?  The Bulls, but it’s closer than vintage folks like myself would like to admit.  The difference, in my mind, is Jordan.  I’ve never seen a competitor like him in any sport.  Jordan would find a way to win.  He probably would have found a way to school too, no matter the conditions, even if it meant walking with his feet wrapped in newspaper.

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