Monday, March 12, 2012

Only One Way to Take

Dear Ricky,

Out of respect for you and for your season-ending injury, I'm canceling this week's regularly scheduled letter. Like everyone else, I was really bummed when I heard the news. And like everyone else, I'll be wishing you a speedy and full recovery, hoping you come back even stronger next season. (Was it Bird who shot free throws from a chair every day while he was injured?) This situation will only make us cheer harder for you once you return. And it may be difficult to realize it now, but don't forget that you still had an incredibly good rookie season, even if it was cut short. Don't forget that last year, without you, the T-Wolves were 17-65, the worst team in the league, and that this year, before your injury, you guys were 21-19, and in the 8th playoff spot in the West. That's a heck of an improvement, something to be proud of. You've helped rejuvenate a city's basketball hopes, and those hopes will be there waiting for you when you return next season.

On Twitter once it became official that your season was over, you said, "There is only one way to take: move forward and stay positive." I couldn't agree with that more, Ricky. The injury really sucks, but it's not the end of the world, or even the end of your career, and you certainly have the work ethic necessary for excellent rehab: you're the same guy, after all, who went to shoot around by yourself at the Target Center on the very first night you arrived in Minnesota. Sports have a funny way of skewing the perspectives of both participants and fans, causing us to lose all sense of proportion. Your buddy Pau Gasol referred to this effect when he spoke about your injury: "It's a tough one to swallow, and it makes me laugh about my situation. You know? About my trade and no trade and how that makes me feel. When you [tear] an ACL, that's when you really feel bad and that's a lot worse than being mentioned in trades and potentially play somewhere else. No. Health is always the main thing and that's why everything is so relative in life." He's right, of course. Everything is so relative in life. And he expressed this with a wisdom we might not expect from a seven foot NBA player speaking in his second language. But here's the thing, and I think you know it, though others may have briefly forgotten: even your injury is only relatively a big deal. On ESPN's website, one blogger noted that it was "unspeakably unfortunate" for Spain that you wouldn't get to play for the national team this summer, and also mentioned the following: "Had Rubio been a freak athlete, the tragedy of his injury would have been more than too much to bear." Unfortunate is the perfect word for this situation, but unspeakably? You and I both know that there are some unspeakably unfortunate things in this world, Ricky, and that a guy not playing in the Olympics isn't one of them. And even if you had been a freak athlete, this "tragedy" would not be "more than too much to bear." You'll be back playing again next year. This is what I mean by losing our sense of proportion. The only true tragedies in sports are when someone dies (or suffers a truly catastrophic injury, like paralysis). This weekend did feature a real sports tragedy, the downhill skier who died during a competition. And here's what the skier's ski coach father said later, in a statement that could've certainly used the language of tragedy, but chose not to: "Ski racing was his life and he enjoyed every moment of it. There are no regrets from anyone because he did what he loved to do." This is a beautiful response to a truly terrible event.

So take heart in all the encouragement you've been receiving—you have a ton of people pulling for you, including a bunch of current NBA all-stars and random folks like me, in random parts of the U.S.—but don't forget to keep your perspective, which you've done admirably so far: "Ok, I got injured in the best moment of my career," you said yesterday on Twitter, "but honestly, 2day im happy thanks to all the support Ive received. I'll come back stronger." Maybe I'm reading too much into it, as I tend to do, but to me that "Ok" is saying, Okay, guys, this is really tough, but it's not that big of a deal. In which case, let me say this: You're gonna be alright, Ricky. And I don't just mean your ACL. We all wish you the best. Can't wait to see you build on your great rookie year with an even better sophomore season.