Preparing for the end of the world has never been one of my strong suits. At the outskirts of DFW, the shell of Big Town Mall had been converted into a convention center of sorts, filled with toys for survivalists. Walking into the ‘Preparedness Expo’ in the husk of what surely had been a glorious shrine to consumerism in its heyday showed me just how oblivious I had been. Many wonders were revealed to me. It had never occurred to me that I needed a thing that was a shovel, an axe, and a chair all-in-one. There was enough concertina wire present to wrap the metroplex three times round. I truly was unknowing in regards to my options in generators for my hypothetical underground bunker. This was an event worth ditching class for, though my criteria to meet that classification could be described as extraordinarily low.
I should admit that I wasn’t there to achieve any remote element of preparedness. I just wanted to see the crazy people. I was there to bask in the spectacle of my own in-person episode of Doomsday Preppers and I wasn’t let down. Upon walking through the front gate, there was a kindly gentleman who offered to scan our wrists to see if the government had implanted ‘666 chips’ into them. After a minimal internal debate, I declined; a) I didn’t want to know, and b) there was some apprehension as to what would happen if the man’s machine inadvertently beeped at the wrong time and signaled that I was, in fact, chipped. The weapon to human ratio in the building was great, but I had none of them. My avoidance of the controversy has yet to have caused any repercussions. I may still be chipped, we may never know.
Even though there was some rationale to the calendar bringing about the assumed demise of the banking system, the government’s ability to do anything, or even the proposed automated launching of nuclear missiles that I heard about at the Preparedness Expo, turns out that Y2K wasn’t that bad. For mankind, there was no major difference from that Friday, December 31st, 1999 to Saturday, January 1st, 2000. Survive 1st end of the world scenario: check.
Instead, time kept on slipping into the future and the new year brought a major change to the sports landscape in Dallas. With the most well-known contemporary Mavs on the squad in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, Mark Cuban went from heckling Nash to writing his paychecks after he purchased the Mavericks less than a week after all those computer program’s dates rolled over to 00. Though the sign at your local train station may have had the date wrong by a hundred years, Y2K had not affected Mark Cuban’s giant stash of money, and with that, a golden age began for the Mavericks.
Deep pockets don’t predicate big spending (see the L.A. Clippers pre-Griffin and CP3, as compared to Donald Sterling’s bank account) but Cuban was relentless in his drive to have a successful basketball team and his enthusiasm re-invigorated the team, coach, and back office. It was a sea-change that led to a decade of 50 win teams. If the Mavericks fail to make the playoffs this season, it will be the first time that’s happened in a full season in which Mark Cuban owned the team. However, Mark Cuban doesn’t take the floor, and as this season has so clearly shown us, it has been the growth, maturation, and success of Dirk Nowitzki that has allowed the Mavericks to be successful. As Dirk learned to overcome adversity, the team got better. The horrors of 2007 led Dirk to be more conscious of ball security which hasn’t been an issue since. The 2006 Finals showed him that resolve wins championships, which surely played in his own Finals MVP award a half-decade later. The unknown is whether Dirk can learn to overcome his own body’s betrayal.
And as December 21st, 2012 has made some foresee the end of days, this season has prophesied a horrible destiny for Mavs fans: on some hopefully distant day, Dirk Nowitzki won’t suit up. When Dirk finally shuffles off the active players’ mortal coil, it won’t be like The 6th Man; Dirk’s basketball spirit will not reside in a jersey hanging from the rafters, waiting to cause the slightest breeze as a game-winner hangs on the rim. Just as owner Mark Cuban doesn’t have the physical prowess to take the court and win the game for his team no matter how much his heart wants it, a retired player’s legacy doesn’t grab game-securing rebounds or make clutch free throws. David Hopkins reassured us the other day of this season’s future, but the calendar goes well byond than that.
Mayan eyes were keener than mine when it comes to the night sky. There is no guarantee that I will live long enough to have seen a 1° shift in the precession of the equinoxes, but I’ve seen the slow shift of the basketball constellations before. There were dark days in Chicago when Jordan dropped below the horizon; for all the talk of the ease of big spending, major markets, New York has seen a dozen winters since their last trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have managed to provide Mavs fans a prosperity that most organizations have never known. With our final day upon us again, I’m reminded of just how long ago in the life of a franchise it was when Mark Cuban took over. The New Orleans soon-to-be-Pelicans’ #1 draft pick Anthony Davis hadn’t yet turned 7 years old when Cuban made that fateful purchase. For Mavs fans, it has been a pretty good two-thirds of the Brow’s life. The preparation for the turning of another Mavericks’ age lies in the hands of Cuban and Nelson. It remains to be seen what they can do, if they can bring an Anthony Davis-type player to the team, to delay or circumvent that downfall completely.
Like nearly 13 years before, I’m not prepared if the bottom were to fall out. My food stores line my fridge in their delivery packaging, not airtight mason jars. But that’s okay. I’m not prepared to live in a world without basic necessities like internet and deodorant anyway. I’m quite satisfied with the run I’ve gotten, I could easily slip quietly into the night. If we all survive the day, it’s the basketball world going forward just like every day beforehand that brings an uneasiness to my stomach. This stretch of losses without Nowitzki has illuminated what may lie ahead for Mavericks fans that stay true when Dirk rides off into the sunset. Another end of the world is upon us and it has shifted my focus to a, hopefully, distant future. Here’s to hoping the golden age of Dirk never ends. I know that it will someday, and when that day comes I’m sure I won’t be prepared.
Shay Christian Vance is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow Shay on Twitter at @shayseph.