OK, so you no doubt have seen those Samsung appliance commercials with Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepard. Every single time one of those commercials plays in our house — and I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME — my wife Margo turns to me and says, “Why aren’t they like our best friends?” I mean every time. It’s occasionally a bit scary. She is absolutely convinced that if Kristen and Dax, as we have started to call them, knew us, we would totally hang out, go to dinners, catch movies, talk about all sorts of stuff (school? food? politics? appliances?), our daughters would babysit their daughters and so on.
Of course, Margo is just one of about a billion people who feel that way, which is why those commercials are crazy effective. And this is the point. There is a connection that crosses television, through movie screens, over social networks. Yes, much is made about how that connection isn’t “real.” We obviously don’t know Kristen and Dax at all, and it’s fairly unlikely that their entire days are spent having impossibly cute banter related to refrigerators and washing machines.
On the other hand … so what? It’s a connection. In this crazy, ever-shrinking, ever-expanding world of 7.4 billion people, I just don’t see what’s bad about any connection.
I bring this up because the other couple that Margo is utterly convinced would be our best friends is Ayesha and Stephen Curry. I have spoken with Steph on a number of occasions in a sports way, and he’s obviously just great. But it is at least equally clear that Ayesha is one of the coolest people around. I mean, no, we have never met her. But it’s clear anyway. You have no doubt seen the Don’t Drop the Baklava Vine. You have undoubtedly seen the Minions “Ba-na-na” thing they did with Michelle Obama. You have probably seen her doing some incredibly cool thing with their kids or some deeply thoughtful thing in the community or some mouth-watering food preparation thing. How in the world can you not love her?
On Thursday, toward the end of an impossibly emotional NBA Finals Game 6, Steph Curry fouled out for the first time all year. He fouled out on a silly little bump with LeBron James in the backcourt, one that had no bearing on the game whatsoever. In real time, Steph lost his mind for a second and flung his mouthpiece in frustration. This wasn’t gallant, of course. It wasn’t sporting. But it was understandable. Athletes in today’s world have to walk this strange little tightrope.
We don’t want them to be automatons, sputtering cliches and moping blankly through wins and losses — that will inspire crazy Twitter rage.
Ah but we don’t want them pounding their chest or screaming powerful opinions at sideline reporters or lashing out at the pain of losing — that will also inspire crazy Twitter rage.
So where are they supposed to exist?
And if athletes are boxed into this ridiculous corner, what about their families? Father’s Day approaches, and I can tell you what every father can tell you: It’s HORRIBLE watching your family member play sports. I mean, it’s also BEAUTIFUL and STIRRING and WONDERFUL and all sorts of other joyous all-capital words, but don’t leave out HORRIBLE because that’s there too.
You have no control over the moment. That seems to be the big thing. When you play a game yourself, you are inside, and that’s a whole other feeling. You are too busy to worry, too involved to fear, too much a part of things to see clearly. When you sit in the stands, there on the field or the court is someone you love more than you love yourself, and at any moment, well, 500 terrible things might happen. And all you can do is watch.
It’s not something I could have ever imagined before having kids, but my stomach hurts all day before my daughters play games, and they’re still young, their games don’t matter at all, the whole point for them is just having fun. Still. I want so badly for them to do well. I want so badly for them to be treated fairly. Our 11-year-old plays basketball for a fun little church league, and I would never admit out loud the horrible thoughts that cross my mind when watching her play. I’m embarrassed by how much I rage on the inside against the overbearing coaches who scream, the half-assing referees who are going through the motions, the little girls who are physical and mean and try to intimidate, the teammates who refuse to see that she’s WIDE OPEN UNDER THE BASKET.
Of course, I have never said a word, never would say a word, the madness passes quickly. But that’s 11-year-old basketball in a fun church league. If my daughter played in the WNBA, I am entirely certain that I would be a complete madman. Seriously. They would have to take Twitter, my phone, my computer and every other means of communication away from me. I would be a danger to society.
Back to Ayesha. Thursday was apparently an awful day for her. Ayesha’s father had been mistakenly threatened with arrest in a horrendous and emotionally painful blunder. She said that a cousin was barred from a Cleveland area casino because he was wearing Warriors stuff. The players’ families were kept on a bus outside the arena for way too long. Imagine how worn thin she was. Imagine how worn thin you are just because your flight got canceled or you get stuck in traffic.
Then she watched her husband — who unquestionably has been getting manhandled and grabbed and shoved around all year — foul out of an NBA Finals game because he apparently knocked down the 6-foot-8 freight train that is LeBron James by slightly bumping him after going for a loose ball.
What did she do? You know EXACTLY what she did. She reflex-tweeted out something to the effect that there was an NBA conspiracy to force a Game 7 because, well, money.
I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I don’t mean to make light of the situation because it was real and it was raw, but like always I thought Ayesha Curry was absolutely fantastic. I immediately retweeted it and asked if it would be the most retweeted thing ever. I mean, what a gift that is: Ayesha Curry letting us in like that. What is it like to be Ayesha Curry at that exact moment? She told us. She generously invited us, all of us, into her feelings, into her emotions in that crazy painful instant.
I mean this is one of those things that social media is supposed to be about, this gets at that connection that we all crave, no? I grew up in Cleveland, love Cleveland, desperately root for Cleveland, and I still felt that deep bond with Ayesha Curry. How would I feel if I was her in that moment? I would feel like there was damn well an NBA conspiracy to force a Game 7. I would feel like the Kremlin was involved.
The feeling passes, of course it does, and after a little while Ayesha Curry removed the Tweet and apologized for it. I don’t think she needed to apologize for anything. She flashed emotion in an emotional moment, that’s all. Twitter would be so much better if Tweets only lasted as long as you felt those feelings and then faded away the way spoken words do. But that’s not how it works, what goes on the Internet is there forever.
Still, like always, our family loved Ayesha Curry for Tweeting her feelings and letting us into her life just a little bit more. Anger is a part of life. Frustration is a part of life. She let us feel those things with her. Yes, we loved her more after that Tweet. We felt sure that’s how most people would feel.
And then … the backlash came.
And then the backlash to the backlash came.
I don’t want to go into all that. You can go on the Internet and see the nonsense for yourself. I don’t know if the backlash really represents most people’s feelings or is just part of the infinite mirror reflections of hot takes. It doesn’t matter, I guess. I really just want to say to our friend we have never met Ayesha Curry that you are awesome. We are just one of a billion families that want to be your best friend.