The Fear of Missing Out
Can you afford to miss a Blake Griffin highlight?
by Jay King / @CelticsTown
My cousin John was born with a vicious case of FOMO, or, in proper medical terms, the fear of missing out. He’s the type of person who could have a final exam at eight o’clock in the morning, but would still drink until the wee hours of the morning if his friends were – just so he wouldn’t miss his friend hooking up with an ugly chick, an epic late-night Call of Duty game, or whatever other wonders the night could possibly bring. John lives paralyzed by the prospect that he could miss something special.
Certain athletes instill a case of FOMO in fans. They achieve FOMO status. Some elevate to FOMO status only temporarily. Gerry McNamara became one of the more improbable additions to the FOMO list, when he took the Big East Tournament by storm. If you missed any of McNamara’s games that year, you knew – just knew – you were going to miss a spectacular moment… or two, or three. (McNamara’s run also led to one of the greatest quotes ever, by Jim Boeheim – “Without Gerry McNamara, we wouldn’t have won 10 f—ing games this year. Not 10. … And everybody’s talking to me and writing about Gerry McNamara being overrated? That’s the most bulls—t thing I’ve seen in 30 years.”) Jimmer Fredette will hold FOMO status for one season, until he enters the NBA and falls from superstardom. Anybody with a baseball hitting streak longer than 30 games obtains temporary FOMO status, as do certain teams (the Heat at the start of this season, for one) and basketball players riding a hot hand (like Kobe Bryant, when he scored 40+ points seemingly every game during the ‘05-06 season).
Other athletes earn more permanent FOMO status. Mark McGwire’s games, for example, became can’t-miss television. You never wanted to miss his latest moon shot, and so you desperately tried not to miss an at-bat. You never switched the channel when he was in the batter’s circle, and, if you were lucky enough to watch the game at the stadium, your bathroom break could wait. Tiger Woods once held us hostage in the same manner, especially on Sundays at a major. Maybe this was just for Red Sox fans, but David Ortiz cast a similar spell when he turned into a walk-off machine. Pedro Martinez was the most FOMO-inducing athlete ever, at least to me. If I missed Pedro during his prime, I was scared – no, make that terrified – of missing his first no-hitter, or his first 20-strikeout game, or even a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts. For these permanently-FOMO players, the impossible was ordinary and always within reach.
Which brings me to Blake Griffin. Earlier this year, I was watching The Matrix. At some point before realizing Neo was “The One,” Trinity and Tank watched him fight Morpheus in a simulation. Never mind that Neo lost – against Morpheus, in his first fight, that was expected. Trinity was still in awe. “He moves like them,” she muttered, referring to “agents” whose bodies were not bound by the laws of science. She still didn’t know whether Neo was The One, but she knew his body moved like it had no limitations. Or, in other words, Neo moved very similarly to Blake Griffin.
When Griffin’s Los Angeles Clippers entered the TD Garden last night, they were 24-40. Not that any of the fans cared about Boston’s mediocre competition – many of them just wanted to see Blake Griffin’s next poster, and they wanted the chance to see him move (“like them”) in person. Even some Celtics reporters buzzed about Griffin’s first trip to the TD Garden. As Jackie MacMullan wrote, “My plan was to fire up my laptop, sit back and prepare to be dunkified.”
Griffin’s already the NBA’s FOMO alpha dog, leading “the most League Pass-able 25-40 team in NBA history.” People just don’t want to miss any of Griffin’s exploits. Go to fetch some popcorn, and you might miss him catapult Timofey Mozgov. Go to the bathroom, and you could miss him take the elevator to floors elevators don’t naturally go. You’ll be able to catch Griffin’s highlights on YouTube within minutes after they happen, or on the blog entirely devoted to Griffin, but nothing compares to seeing his dunks live.
“It’s to the point where we can be on the road, he has a fast break dunk, and somebody fouls him – the crowd gets upset, because they didn’t let him go in for the dunk,” said Ike Diogu.
Griffin dunks like the rim killed his dog and he wants revenge. He dunks like his shoes have a trampoline (or a rocket booster) on the bottom of them. He dunks in traffic, on people’s heads, and he dunks all alone, with flare. He dunks putbacks, he dunks alley oops, and he dunks after spin moves no 6-10 human being should be able to execute.
All of which begs the question: Is Blake Griffin a human being?
“Yeah, he is,” said Diogu. “But when he’s out there on the floor, you definitely can’t tell.”
“Probably halfway,” said Mo Williams.
“Definitely not,” said Craig Smith. “He’s what I like to call a superhero.”
But what superhero?
“I would say Hancock,” said Smith. “Sometimes he just doesn’t know how to land.”
“Hancock is a good comparison,” Diogu agreed. “But typical Superman – the guy’s so strong and so fast, it’s like he’s flying. So obviously the Superman comparison, even though that’s been used several times.”
If Griffin is not really a superhero, maybe he’s more like other athletes.
“Ronaldinho,” Smith offers as a comparison, referring to the Brazilian soccer player. “Griffin’s footwork – man, it’s crazy. I think I would have to say Tom Brady, too. He’s a hell of a player. The best quarterback in the league.”
But Brady has cuter hair.