A Harvard grad is wrapping up her first job interview when the Interviewer asks, "What do you think would be a fair salary for this position?" The Harvard grad replies, "$130,000 a year, plus bonus." The Interviewer then asks the Harvard grad, "How about $135,000 a year, plus bonus, plus health and dental, plus five weeks paid vacation?" The elated Harvard grad stutters, "Wow, are you kidding me?" To which the Interviewer replies, "Yes, but you started it." (Source unknown)
The mechanics of a great joke – of great comedy, in general – often require a comedian to provoke a certain amount of suffering before delivering a (hopefully) hilarious, pain-relieving, punch line. I think about this all the time now, both while working (I’m a television writer) and while watching the Golden State Warriors play basketball. I’ve written previously about the often-infuriating experience of rooting for my favorite team in what many would consider enemy territory. But it was only recently that I made the correlation between what I do for a living and using it as the prism through which I watch my favorite team play basketball. And you know what? It’s been pretty damn freeing. Let me explain --
A great joke needs a strong set up. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, the great set up was last year’s playoff run coupled with the fact that the team trots out (arguably) one of the five best and (inarguably) most entertaining players in the NBA on a nightly basis. The Warriors are, as of this writing, nine games over .500 and sit in the 7th seed of the Western Conference playoff standings. Not a terrible place to be at all until you consider that the Warriors would have to play the Spurs – a team that the Warriors seemingly haven’t been able to beat since the beginning of time or whenever Gregg Popovich was born – in the first round if the current standings hold. Regardless, last year’s run and the core of young talent the team features led many smart people to predict a win total of 50 games or more this season. Tremendous set up for a joke!
Then comes the suffering –
Watching the Warriors get blown out at home by the Charlotte Bobcats last night (in the midst of an underwhelming 14-9 stretch at Oracle) was another great reminder that all great joke set ups must eventually morph into the part where we, the audience, are made to feel uncomfortable and/or upset. And boy are there a ton of things to be uncomfortable and/or upset about watching these Warriors night in and night out. Marcus Thompson, Andy Liu, and Ethan Sherwood Strauss already do a great job of analyzing the various affronts to effective basketball that these new-look Warriors commit so consistently, so I won’t try to offer any basketball analysis here. I do, however, find some of the following things both frustrating (as a Warriors fan) and hilarious (as a comedy fan):
1. Any offensive possession run through Marreese Speights – This is an endeavor so obviously futile that the team’s insistence on repeating it must be a deliberate attempt at satirizing "old school," inside-out, offense.
2. David Lee’s hand claps before and after his man blows right by him for an easy layup – I try not dwell on David Lee’s deficiencies as a defender too much because I’ve too often seen him be the only player in a Warriors uniform able to score inside the paint. But his hand claps are an amazing gift to comedy.
3. Klay Thompson’s penetration game / Harrison Barnes’ post up game – Text book slapstick comedy!
Pretty LOL, right? Right??
So "what is the punch line here?" some may wonder. Fair question since the entire premise of this essay is that I’ve somehow found a way to view the Warriors’ general "underachievement" this season through some enlightened comedic lens. I suppose the best way to summarize the epiphany I had is in the form of an ALL CAPS Internet scream that WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS! It hasn’t even been a year since I wrote an essay deliberating whether or not I should quit being a fan of this fucking franchise – suddenly I expect them to have it figured out and play like they belong at the top of the Western Conference? This is an organization that’s been in the playoffs twice in the past eighteen hundred thirty something years! I see fans online complaining about everything from the coach’s substitution patterns to the star player’s errant hook passes and I wonder if anyone else is laughing at just how funny overblown expectations can be.