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Dopamine and our addiction to Warriors’ victories

How cell phone addiction and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men” show us the way towards a true appreciation of excellence.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2016 has been a hell of a year. We saw the Warriors cap off an unprecedented 73-9 regular season. We saw Stephen Curry get injured in the playoffs and never quite regain his unanimous MVP form. We saw the Cavaliers win their first championship, sending the Dubs home empty-handed after a Game 7 for the ages. We felt turmoil in the streets and confusion in the air. We saw an unprecedented deluge of confusion, anger, and angst, both at home and abroad.

For such a dangerous, dispiriting year, you’d think we’d have become accustomed to loss and to disappointment.

However, I feel like we still are not fully appreciating the joy in front of us.

I’ve tried and take steps to limit my exposure to social media. Tried to remove myself from the endless loop of dopamine-producing moments of false accomplishment. And even though I’ve tried to work on myself, I still found myself watching this video (while scrolling through facebook, I must add, which, oh the irony) thinking about not only my own interactions with this modern world, but also my own expectations and feelings about this current Warriors team.

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Since Steve Kerr took over the team, the Warriors have gone an astounding 198 - 43, which includes going, to date, 167-29 during the regular season, good for a .852 winning percentage. (I understand he missed the first half of last year, but those wins are still firmly in his own back pocket, not in the nicely tailored slacks of a certain Mr. Walton.)

85.2%!

Imagine!

Let’s say I played 50 games of pool at the local pool hall. I played 50 games over the course of a few weeks, versus varying levels of competition, on varying nights of personal inebriation. If I won 85.2% of those games, that’d be 42.6 games! Rounding up to 43, if I won 43 out of 50 games, I think management would kick me out of the pool hall for cheating, surmising that I’d somehow unlocked an unholy secret heretofore unknown, or that I’d made a deal with the devil.

We live in a glut of success. Our Warriors’ fandom — for the past two plus years — has been an embarrassment of riches. We’ve been given the ultimate key to the kingdom, and still don’t know what door we are supposed to unlock. We are witnessing one of the greatest runs in modern sports. We are blessed to watch a team that employs two of the top three individual players in the universe in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, while also seamlessly integrating the best individual defender in Draymond Green, and potentially the best two-way player in Klay Thompson.

It’s unparalleled and unfair.

So why do I sometimes feel dull? Why do I feel as if this is all some strange fever dream from which I will inevitably wake?


My favorite movie of all time is “Children of Men,” directed by Alfonso Cuaron in 2006. Somehow overlooked when it was first released, the movie has experienced a renaissance of sorts as its chilling, all-too-prescient predictions and observations have become less the stuff of future-world nightmares and more the type of day-to-day reality we currently are forced to inhabit.

The residents of future-UK are inundated with too much information. They walk through the days dull and impervious to horrendous news headlines. Refugee crises, bombings, senseless killings, and the heavy-handedness of their own authoritarian government are all the hallmarks of normalcy. The movie never touches on it, but you’d have to imagine football still reigns supreme in England, one way or another, much as the NBA would still survive in the USA.

There’s something about remembering to be thankful. As we move towards 2017 — as we decide what type of people we are planning to be in this new, uncertain world — it’s important to not take excellence for granted. For example, the Warriors losing on Christmas to a very talented Cavaliers squad — in a game where the league admitted they missed not one but two huge calls that could have affected the outcome — should not immediately conflagrate into “we need to trade Stephen Curry.” I know its stupid to balance my fears of a post-truth hellscape with my desire for people to take a step back when criticizing this Warriors team, but, hey. Here we are.

This Warriors team was not built in a day, just as our satisfaction derived from them cannot vacillate between ultimate-joy-flying-in-the-clouds and I-am-going-to-shatter-the-universe depending solely on wins and losses.

The world is too beautiful and too important for us to succumb to the instant gratification that has become the hallmark of my millennial generation. We cannot base our sports fandom upon dopamine reactions, just as we cannot become desensitized to the horrors of the world. We need to face both with calm minds and clear eyes. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves constantly checking our phones, heads buried in the sand, as the Warriors make knee-jerk, foolish decisions based on the whims of their fanbase and as the world around us burns towards an unrecognizable, hellish future.

Anyways, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope 2017 is everything you’ve ever wanted. Here’s two hours of New Year’s dance hits to wash away that foul taste left behind by 2016.

Yr friend,

Bram

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