During the 1995-1996 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls – my Chicago Bulls – dominated the league. They won 72 games out of an 82-game season and lost only three times in the playoffs, beating the Seattle Supersonics in six games to clinch the first of their second set of three championships in a row. That team is considered, if not the best team of all time, at least one of the top two or three, as arguments can be made for the ’86 Celtics or maybe one of those early ’80s Lakers teams.1 The Bulls were led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, as well as one of the strongest supporting casts ever behind sharpshooters Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr (more about him in a minute) and the versatile Ron Harper.
The Bulls’ 72-10 regular season record stood unmatched until this past weekend, when the Golden State Warriors beat the San Antonio Spurs to reach 72-9 in the regular season. The Warriors have one game left before the playoffs. If they beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, they’ll be 73-9 for the season and will bump the ’96 Bulls into second place on the all-time regular season record list. Oh, and by the way, the coach of the Warriors is Steve Kerr, the aforementioned three-point specialist from the ’96 Bulls team.
I’m happy for the Warriors. They have been a little bit lucky, of course, as their three star players have been relatively healthy for the entire season and there were some games where they absolutely should have lost and managed to eke out a victory.2 I’m not saying that to diminish their accomplishment; any team competing at that level for that length of time needs a little luck. The key, obviously, will be to see whether the Warriors can continue their absurd winning ways through the playoffs and win the second of back-to-back championships. If that happens, then we can talk about arguments for whether they, as a team, were better than the Bulls. But that discussion only happens after they win a championship.
This past Sunday, a few hours before the Warriors game, a guest came to the religious school where I teach to speak about her experiences as a child in Europe during the Holocaust and her journey to the United States afterwards. The parent of one of my students asked her if she had written her story into a book so that it could be documented for future generations to read about her life. The speaker said that she was in the process of expanding her presentation into a longer and more detailed form but that it was not currently in a book. She added that, even if she didn’t end up finishing the project, she feels very comfortable knowing that she has passed her story on through her children and their families and through the presentations she has given. She said that the main thing is that people never forget the Holocaust and, especially, the events that led up to it so that we can prevent something similar from ever happening again.
Later on in the evening, once I had wound down from the day a bit, I found myself thinking about legacies. Championships are wonderful, to be sure, but they also get lost in history. A new one gets crowned every year so there needs to be something particularly memorable about the team in order for it to stand the test of time. Here’s a quick quiz: can you name the last five championship teams in your favorite sport? The last ten? Can you name the team that won in 2007 or 1999 or 1984? Not only can I not do any of those things, it took me a minute to remember who won championships in the four major sports last year.3 It’s hard to differentiate from year to year because the seasons all run together after a while. We end up remembering specific teams because of individual plays, players or the season-long storylines or because of the connections we formed with the teams during the year.4 But unless there is some sort of defining characteristic, the memories fade and the teams get forgotten.
The reason I brought up the speaker at the religious school is that legacies are a part of everyone’s lives, not just sports teams. People who are afraid to die feel that way for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: they don’t know what comes afterwards and they’re afraid to find out. The second is that they do not want to be forgotten. We go through our lives and we hope that we have left some lasting impact, some reminder to the world that we were here. The whole point of leaving a legacy is so that we can be sure that people in the future will look back and be able to say that we mattered. We want our lives to have meant something.
I wrote a while ago about why I write. I came up with some answers, but I think this is really the bottom line. It’s great for me to be able to document some of my experiences so that my family and I can remember certain parts of Eitan’s childhood and so that Eitan can see what I was thinking and feeling as a first time father. But now I think that the reason people create anything, from blogs and artwork to buildings and cities, is to find some way to remind others in the future that they were here. Even having kids is called procreation because it has to do with making something to pass on for the future. Everything is a part of the search for immortality.
Kevin Costner’s character in the golf movie, Tin Cup, demonstrated this feeling expertly in the last scene when he shot a twelve on the final hole to lose the tournament.5 When he talks about feeling humiliated and dejected that his stubbornness cost him the championship, Rene Russo reminds him that, years from that day, no one will remember who won the tournament but they will remember his twelve.
Even if this blog started as a way to remember the early stages of fatherhood, it’s become something much more. It’s become a way for me to connect with other fathers having similar experiences. It’s become an avenue for communication with other people about parenthood, philosophy, sports, my life and theirs. It’s become one more piece of evidence that I was here, one more piece of my final legacy. It may not be immortality, but it’s close enough for me.
1. Those arguments are wrong. That Bulls team was the best ever.↩
3. For what it’s worth: Broncos, Blackhawks, Warriors and Royals. And I got the Blackhawks immediately.↩
4. For instance, I know that Syracuse won the men’s college basketball championship in 2003 because that was the year that I won the March Madness pool I was in. I know that the Rams beat the Titans in the Super Bowl in the 2000 season because I remember where my friends and I watched the game. I know that the Saints played the Colts in a Super Bowl sometime around 2010 because that was the night our cable went out in our apartment and we went down the hall to our neighbors to finish the game. I remember that the Saints won because they were such heavy underdogs facing a loaded Peyton Manning-led offense but I couldn’t tell you the year unless I looked it up. And, lest you think I only have trouble remembering other teams, it applies to my own allegiances too: I know that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013 because I know it was the year after Eitan was born and my brother and I had to come home early from the bar because he was sick, but I didn’t remember that they had also won in 2010 until I looked it up. I knew that 2015 was their third in a few years but I didn’t remember in which year the first one came.↩