This weekend, I caught wind of Jimmer Fredette, the Once and Forever Mormon Point Guard King, scoring 50 points in China. "I should remember that," I thought. "I could probably write about that." And so, stumbling out of the haze of my failed attempts to find peace, I sat down in front of my computer, typed "Jimmer Fredette" into the search bar, pulled up this SI blog hit on the topic, mentally registered that it was actually 51 points, and sat and watched.
Ideas swirled in my head. Maybe a piece about Jimmer, that nice boy you went to high school with, and what he's up to nowadays. Maybe a rundown of some of the hottest plays, a celebration of our nation's Greatest Mediocre Hooper and his worldwide dominance, fueled by the alienation of living in a different country and his relationship with Shanghai Sharks owner Yao Ming.
I thought about globalization. There is so much anxiety about the inevitability of an open, interconnected world, economic and cultural shifts displacing people from a way of living they were raised to believe they were entitled to, sending them into the arms of a nationalist demagogue. But how bad could that all be if Jimmer can ball out in China? What if we all just readjusted our bearings the way Jimmer has, embraced the new global existence, and cast off the shackles of nationalism altogether? Was Jimmer the thriving canary in the coal mine of the future?
But before I could fill out that terrible idea, I saw something that tore open the fabric of reality and showed me the truth as I had never seen it before.
I wasn't sure what I had seen, at first. I peddled back. Again. And again. My mind wove the threads of chaos. My mouth opened, and I spoke to no one:
"Is that … Carlos Boozer?"
In the middle of this Jimmer Fredette 51-point Chinese victory highlight tape, there he is, plying his decisively un-humble trade in a large high school gym, watched over by a friendly shark in a life jacket and a banner of an unknown gentleman in a three-piece suit: the Boozeman.
Nothing has changed. He's still bald, he still has a goofy beard. His arms are the exact same build, defined but not ripped, coated with the same light glazing of sweat. He still futilely lifts his arm in the air after getting driven on, a gesture somewhere between actual effort and a performance of effort. His arms still drop to his sides after a blown defensive rotation, sway gently as he sends an "Aww man" look at the rim, hoping the ball doesn't fall in the hoop and add to his always-expanding portfolio of defensive lowlights.
Everything is as it was. The world can change and change and change. Boozer can move to a completely different country, find a spot in the bizarro league where Jimmer Fredette—never anything more than an entertaining fringe prospect in the NBA—is the dominant guy, and play in a poorly lit gym, surrounded by video ads for Li-Ning shoes. And yet, he is still Carlos Boozer, his own Milky Way, made from shifting molecules and vibrating strings, fated to be born, to live as the Galaxy Carlos Boozer, built to subtly affect gravitational waves, to eat and sleep, to talk and to make love, to play basketball as Carlos Boozer always has.
We are all trapped in the same cage. Even as Jimmer balls out, he remains Jimmer. Everything he does looks exactly like it did when he was 22 and winning the Wooden Award at BYU. The crowd watches basketball, but remains themselves. The players are themselves. The ball is itself until it deteriorates and turns into dust. The Friendly Life Jacket Shark will smile and float until he is taken down and stored in a closet for 20 years.
Perhaps, someday, we will let go of everything and disintegrate our egos and become something besides what we are. Lord knows we try. But to be inevitable is not so bad as that. You still get to play basketball, somewhere out there, after all.