Floating In Absence

Photo by Lea Lea from Flickr

So as you’ve probably heard by now Greg Oden is having another surgery on his leg. This isn’t so much news as it is a perpetuation of some twisted, mutilated version of the circle of life. At this point we’ve all come to expect it. We know the story; we’ve grieved over the tragedy, examined, analyzed and expounded upon the loss and heartbreak. We tried to contextualize and comprehend the visceral sadness that accompanied Greg Oden; we found ourselves looking for some meaning or cruel truth about fate in one man’s very unfortunate draw. We defended Greg Oden, remained adamant that he was the correct pick. We hoped that he could get healthy. We held on tightly to the small samples of his performances; we pointed to his extremely high PER and phenomenal rebounding numbers. We salivated and yearned at the possibility. We knew that if he did he’d prove to people he was a once in a generation center, the next in line behind Russell, Kareem, Hakeem, and Shaq. We dreamed of a Roy-Aldridge-Oden tandem hoisting the O’Brien trophy, bringing this city the triumph it so earnestly and desperately covets. We made jokes to cope, curbing the pang of loss with the fleeting relief of a one liner. We waited, delaying what we all seemed to know was inevitable. We were sure that if we just gave it time that eventually he’d be healthy. We were dejected. We were beaten down, defeated. But this is different.

When the Oden news broke it wasn’t accompanied with the usual depression and dejection. I didn’t feel the inescapable sadness or feel the need to come to grips with yet another devastating injury. There was no bargaining, no hoping, no “just give him time to get healthy.” To be honest, there was nothing. I felt totally absent. The anger, the despair, the inherent defensiveness that had become inextricably linked to these seemingly annual surgery reports was replaced by an emptiness. For whatever reason I couldn’t feel. I was detached, numb.

I’m still not totally sure what to make of my reaction. Maybe with Brandon Roy’s retirement the illusion was gone. Maybe in some ways I’d already resigned myself to this fate. Maybe it was to the point where Greg Oden felt more like an ethereal concept than a tangible person, that somehow talking about or knowing anything about Greg Oden was like trying to realize utopia.  Maybe I had moved on. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I couldn’t handle it anymore. Maybe I was protecting myself. Maybe in this case sports had gotten a little too real.

What I do know is that I have the luxury of displacement. These aren’t my knee injuries, this isn’t my life.  I can replace the unfulfilled promise of Oden dominance with Lamarcus Aldridge turnarounds and Nicolas Batum chase down blocks. I can renew my faith and continue my enjoyment of sports through different vessels. That’s the nature of fandom. We can feel the pain, we can empathize and wax poetic about the injustice but we don’t face the real  consequences.

For Greg Oden there is no escape, there’s no distance. The knee injuries aren’t simply news or another chapter in a franchises historically awful luck. For Greg this is life. His existence has come to be defined by horrible injuries and crippling disappointment.  There’s no way to totally comprehend how devastating this must be. There’s a lot of power in that absence; sometimes nothingness can speak volumes. I have no idea how Greg Oden must be feeling.  Maybe that’s why I’m so lost.

Scott Leedy

Scott Leedy is a Junior at The University of Oregon studying Political Science and Pre-Med. Above all else Scott loves Tracy McGrady and has made it his life goal to ensure that no one ever forgets his greatness. You can follow Scott on twitter: @ScottLeedy.