0

The perils of hope and the freedom from expectation

They say a wise man hopes for the best but prepares for the worst. Or if they don’t, I do. Similarly, a foolish man ignores the worst and prepares for the best, secure in his own superiority.

I am a foolish man.

***

“Hope is a force of nature. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

— Jim Butcher, Changes

This season started off so well. Derrick Rose was back, he was running amok in the preseason, and life was good. Even the early part of the regular season, as Rose was struggling to put the ball in the basket, was fine because he was here and he would get better.

Then…well, you know.

My relief at finding out that Rose hadn’t torn his other ACL not withstanding, I think Rose going down again broke something inside of me. I spent the weekend in a daze, drifting through day-to-day activities with little attention paid to what was happening. I yelled at people on Twitter, but my heart wasn’t in it. I watched some episodes of The West Wing. I ate…food. I honestly don’t remember what exactly it was.

I blame myself for this. Twice in the last three seasons, I have picked the Chicago Bulls to win the Eastern Conference. I did it in 2011-12, whereupon Rose tore his ACL, and I did it in 2013-14, whereupon Rose tore his meniscus.

Hope is a strange thing. The Bulls had me full of hope at the start of the year. I hoped they would beat the Miami Heat and have a real shot at their first title without Michael Jordan. I hoped Derrick Rose would challenge for another MVP award. I hoped Jimmy Butler would take another major step forward, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah would do their respective things and Tom Thibodeau would once again oversee an elite defense.

Alas, this was not to be.

***

Throughout the first month of the year, with several teams that were thought to be terrible being at least somewhat not terrible and several more that were thought to be good being mostly not good, watching fan reactions has become my hobby. It’s striking to see the difference between fans with no expectations and fans with major expectations. Follow a random New York Knicks’ fan on Twitter as well as a random Philadelphia 76ers fan and see for yourself. Sixer fans react with delight at anything that goes their way, while Knick fans react with anger at anything that goes against them.

Expectation is really just a more concrete form of hope. You hope something so strongly that you expect it to happen. Therefore, expectations can cause normally rational people to do very irrational things. The Knicks expected to be on of the best teams in their conference this year, but that hasn’t happened, so they’ve been trying to trade Iman Shumpert, their best perimeter defender and one of only a few players on the team who could be described as young, to anyone who’s willing to listen.

In this way, Derrick Rose’s injury is almost a positive. My expectations for the Bulls are completely gone. Any win from here on out will bring happiness, while any loss will bring the satisfaction of improving draft position, but no sadness.

69 games to go. Just gotta push through.

Caleb Nordgren

Caleb is a proud Chicagoan still adjusting to life away from the big city. He's a journalism student at Michigan State, the Editor of Pippen Ain't Easy and can be found at any given time on Twitter, talking about basketball and generally being sarcastic.