Lessons For the Jung: Royce Jung Reflects on All Star Weekend

Reunions are always fraught encounters, filled with a mixture of dread and anticipation, unique among all other interactions. Just last night I had a dream that I was at a conference with my fellow esteemed colleagues in the field of psychoanalysis, one where my ex-partner was also in attendance. No one else knew of our sordid history together and we were forced to interact as if we were friendly strangers. However, we were two persons who had known each other as intimately as you can know another before that same knowledge leads you to go your separate ways as you discover that the other is not who they had presented themselves to be, finding in them not a lover, but a phantom. In this dream, our interactions were sterile, forced, filled with a tense exactness in order to lend to all others present the appearance of normalcy.

When The Bad Man left I was stunned, hurt, dismayed, furious — admittedly, a nasty blend of emotions that I try to avoid, but a melange of unpleasantness nevertheless overwhelmed me that day like a tidal wave.

In the months since, I have pored through my past writings about Him like a monk trying to uncover some previously unknown secret in sacred texts, wondering if I should have seen this coming, what hints were already there, was this inevitable considering his personality and its concomitant peccadilloes and vices? Knowing what I do now, would I even have wanted Him to stay if this potential to do what he did was always there, lying underneath his seemingly pious actions and motivations? Would you rather your relationship go on, blissfully unaware, while your partner engages in conjugal relations with your neighbor or would you rather it all fall apart after you come home from work early after eating an undercooked plate of shrimp scampi at Applebee’s only to catch them in the carnal act together? Is a pleasant untruth better than an unpleasant reality?

I did not travel to New Orleans for All Star Weekend, preferring to stay in my heartland home — a three bedroom ranch with kind and caring neighbors who often invite me over for barbecues and bonfires when the weather is appropriate. I was drinking alone, chain-smoking cigarettes on the deck as I look in through the windows in order to see the action happening on my television. It was all too much to take in person. I saw the now infamous give and go alley oop happen through my window and it, predictably, filled me with a sense of profound betrayal that Russell would pass to Him, and catch His return volley. I wish Russell had never given Him the chance to make Himself appear like a solicitous, unselfish person in that moment. I wish Russell had not jumped to catch the alley oop, letting it sail over his head into the stands as he glared menacingly at The Bad Man.

While many saw this as a reconciliation, a sign that the status quo had been recaptured, to see it as such seems to misunderstand the depth of past affection and present pain involved. My reporter colleagues noted the awkwardness that hung over the Western Conference team due to the tension between Russ and the Bad Man — all present were walking on proverbial eggshells, trying to keep the nascent resentment from exploding into something more potent. Their seeming patching of things up in the form of the alley-oop is, in reality, no more than a pair of divorcees playing nice on Christmas Day in order to save their children the pain of realizing just how irrevocably fractious their parent’s relationship has become.

They seemed joined at the hip in the past, brothers in arms, comrades united in pursuit of a common goal. It would now merely seem to have been a convincing act if not for just how hurt Russell appears to be in the aftermath of the Day of Great Anger. Only if he had cared deeply, been supremely invested in the pursuit of not just a championship, but a championship with his longtime teammate, would the leaving have rocked him so much. In his pursuit to show just how over it he is, by refusing to answer questions about this unnamed past teammate, by sub-textually communicating to Him through his fashion choices he only shows just how much the pain lingers.

You do not send your ex-partner photos of you with your new lover if you have truly quit caring about them.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that both commitment and reconciliation are chimeras, events that we manufacture in order to cope with the inherent aloneness of our being. I am not sure that this is a stance I would have taken as recently as a year ago, but Loss changes us irrevocably. What I previously referred to as The Day of Great Anger has shifted in my recollection to now become The Day of Great Loss for one cannot stay enraged forever, while one remains forever conscious of that which once was and no longer is.

The tragic truth is that in both basketball and life, commitments are always conditional, liable to change for reasons that seem distant or even nonexistent at the time of consummation, only to gradually become merely opaque, then transparent as time passes and circumstances change. Sadly, I am afraid that reconciliation is no different; as we attempt to cope with the wreckage of our past, we yearn for the comfort of a love we previously had, or for someone to absolve us of the mistakes we made. We then turn to our past partner, hoping they can offer it to us in miniature, in the form of some kind words or an alley-oop at an All Star Game, but as soon as the hoped for moment occurs, its irrelevance becomes all too clear, leaving us in the same place we began our perilous and futile journey: alone, hoping for the past to come again, dreading the future that promises nothing.

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