On Wednesday, FC Porto, last year’s third-place Portuguese club who only made it into the UEFA Champions League by virtue of the Play-off round, beat reigning Bundesliga kings Bayern Munich, with noted machinist Pep Guardiola at the managerial helm. The German giants had lost only three games all season coming into the match, depending on when you started counting, and looked poised to similarly dismantle the ostensibly outmatched Porto. But a funny thing happened on the way to the semi-final.
“And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high.” – Ayrton Senna
Even more so than usual, I’ve been thinking about Russell Westbrook. Let me start over: I’ve been thinking about Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans’ uphill charge into the Western Conference playoffs. Standing in their way, of course, for most of the second half of the season has been the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have spent the majority of their injury-riddled season as presumed playoff participants. As Westbrook continues his quest to personally decimate everything in his path, Davis has led the Pelicans to the eighth and final spot with a week to go. New Orleans holds the tiebreaker but plays a much tougher schedule. The Thunder have Westbrook; does any team need more than that?
Today, as I’m writing this, the Masters have begun. People have come from all around the globe to experience the flowering dogwood, the spectacularly manicured lawns and a cheap Southern staple known as a pimento cheese sandwich. It’s also a rite of Spring and carries the connotation of a certain unofficial changing of the seasons for some. To be sure, this is a golf tournament, but the significance it has taken on over the years for a certain demographic (read: white people) as an event has rendered it a sacred retreat, a place to escape a world constantly screaming at their privilege through social media and otherwise. It’s an event that admires and supports privilege through a tangible avatar, the sexualization of female patrons, and Gone With the Wind-like romanticism provided by CBS and ESPN. All of this is a problem.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” You hear it from every corner of competition in the United States, where an incumbent stands alone at the top of the mountain until some David comes along with a slingshot and a dream. Staging such a coup carries utilitarian value, allowing the spoils to seep from the victors to those fast approaching. Sometimes David’s reign is short, a new David knocking his predecessor from the apex before he even has a chance to set his feet.
The Kentucky Wildcats were innocent until proven guilty. Then, just as quickly as Wisconsin seized the throne, they relinquished it to the unlikeliest of under-the-radar foes, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils. With an historically uncharacteristic combination of star freshman talent and senior leadership, Duke charged through the 2015 NCAA Tournament with unprecedented fury, ripping the target off its back and tossing it into a garbage can in Indianapolis.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. From the time of the Harrison twins’ announcement that they would skip the NBA Draft to return to Kentucky, these Wildcats were destined for greatness. It was a foregone conclusion that their talent, combined with John Calipari’s recruiting savvy and masterful ability to temper superstar egos, would lead to a national championship this year. Any questions about their season only existed as formalities, much like their opponents: entertain them, but know that the answer is so obvious as not to be ignored. Until it isn’t.
Last Saturday night, a couple of us trekked all of a mile down the road to a bar with a stage, paying $10 ($12.50 with service fees) to see three artists perform. One of those artists, one Natalie Prass, took the collective breath out of Snug Harbor in Charlotte, North Carolina, inspiring such admiration that we had to get on G-Chat and gab about it Monday afternoon. What follows is a transcript of that conversation, edited for grammar, clarity and unnecessary buffoonery.