If there is one true undying beauty about being a sports fan, it's the unalienable ability to romanticize our own experiences.
Ask any man above the age of 50 what the best three moments of his life are and, undoubtedly, you will get some variation of the same three events: The moment he met his wife, the birth of his first child and some personal sports memory.
Whether it is his first Little League home run, the time his high school football team won the District title or the first Boston Red Sox championship in 86 years, the aforementioned man will give you such a vivid description that you will swear it came out of a Faulkner novel.
My grandfather still has dial-up Internet, thinks a Snooki is a racial insult that cannot be said in his household and couldn't name one participant in the three-day foursome that went on in Charlie Sheen's Las Vegas hotel room last weekend, but he damn sure can tell you what he was wearing, what he was eating, who he was with and the exact time of the day Bill Mazeroski hit his walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series to defeat the New York Yankees.
I know what you're thinking...and no, it's not because he's a senile old man recounting his glory days. It's because that moment left a lifelong imprint on his soul that can never be taken away.
That's the beauty of sports. Everyone has one of those memories.
The problem is, as with everything in life, where there is incredible happiness, there is almost always an equal amount of agony and strife somewhere else.
The beautiful emotional attachment and insatiable joy we carry with every triumph is also carried as a crippling weight of depression and disgust with every heartbreaking loss.
Personally, the two most memorable sports moments of my life were two of the worst. I can vividly remember being a five-year-old boy sitting on a bed at my father's then-girlfriend's house eating Cookie Crisp and watching in horror as Ken Griffey Jr. scored the game-winning run to defeat the Yankees, who had suddenly become my new favorite team between the first and ninth inning, in the 1995 ALDS.
As for the worst sports memory of my life, the 2004 ALCS, well...let's just say I would go through daily rectal exams to have that memory expunged from my brain.
In both cases, I came in carrying an expectation of victory. (Even if I was only five at the time of the 1995 ALDS, every five year old expects everything to go his/her way.)
Carrying expectations in life undoubtedly leaves you wide open to disappointment.
It doesn't just apply to sports, either.
Outside of personal interactions with actual human beings, the place where the expectation/disappointment dynamic is most prevalent is music.
Much like sports, we all have favorite artists and follow their music almost as closely as we do the day-to-day workings of our favorite sports franchise.
In fact, if we're bringing it back to the 50-year-old man corollary, I would bet that if that third memory has nothing to do with sports, it has to do with seeing his favorite band/artist play in concert for the first time.
And, personally, the past few years have been a cavalcade of highs and lows in the music business, especially as a hardcore hip-hop fan. Beginning with the low of Eminem's (my all-time favorite artist) comeback album "Relapse" and the erosion of my respect for Lil' Wayne, it looked as if my only joy in hip-hop was going to be found in the underground scene.
Then came Em's true comeback album (though some fans still are torn) "Recovery", which brought hip-hop on a course to ride the euphoric high and track-by-track excellence of Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."
And this week hip-hop heads and mainstream fans alike are now torn again with the release of the Kanye West/Jay-Z song "H.A.M.", the first single from their upcoming collaboration album "Watch the Throne."
Some are calling it an abomination and overall failure from two of hip-hop's greatest emcees, while others bob their head to the bombastic production of 19-year-old Lex Luger, applaud the opera-esque outro and rap along to what seems like an extremely motivated Jay-Z.
Regardless of the personal feelings about the song itself, "H.A.M." wasn't what anyone expected and leaves an uneasy taste in some fans' mouths regarding the direction of the album.
I don't have that uneasy feeling whatsoever. I have faith that these two hip-hop superstars will create an album that is nothing short of fantastic and captivating.
Because that's what great artists do. They innovate and stay ahead of the curve while at the same time keeping the greatness and irresistibility that drew us to them in the first place.
Granted, I have not always been like this. After the release of "Relapse", I wondered aloud if Eminem could ever recapture his fan base again. After hearing unmixed, unfinished cuts from "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" I wondered how in the hell Kanye could keep me captivated while rapping about being in love with a porn star.
Simply put, I spent time fretting over something I had no control over and that was preordained from the beginning. These artists were born to be great. Greatness is the only thing they know.
So after "Recovery" and "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy", I've decided to blindly have faith in the overriding feeling that greatness.
And if you need to know fretting preordained greatness, you need to look no further than fans of the NBA's two best teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
As we reach the midway point in the 2010-11 NBA season, both teams have, at different points of the season, been on the verge of becoming massive disappointments to their fanbase.
We all know that coming into the season, the SuperFriends were supposed to bring Heat fans a joy comparable to the moment Rex Ryan discovered feet and other fans disgust comparable to the moment we watched the videos.
Most media and fans assumed that the Heat would take the league by storm and dominate the regular season. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy predicted 70 wins and a championship. Heat fans predicted 80 wins and a championship. Chris Bosh predicted always having to sleep with the ugliest girl in the club 100 percent of the time.
Well, at least one of them was right.
All jokes aside, when the season began, Miami struggled and fans and media alike went into a panic. How soon can they trade Bosh? Will Wade and LeBron ever be able to coexist? Should Pat Riley fire Erik Spoelstra and descend to the Miami bench?
And now we sit here as the Heat almost assuredly will be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, barring a major injury to Wade or LeBron, and all that was needed was an organization of an offensive gameplan and a better commitment to the defensive end of the floor.
Actually having an offensive gameplan and committing to defense equates to wins? Who knew?
On the other side of the coin, the Lakers started the season like everyone expected Miami to, tearing off a torrid start where Pau Gasol looked like the best big man in the NBA, Kobe Bryant looked willing to accept an "option 1 and 1a" style of offense and Mitch Kupchak's offseason acquisitions looked like the perfect amount of new blood for a defending champion.
Hell, even I got caught up in Laker mania, backing off my 55-win preseason prediction and wondering aloud if 70 wins was possible.
Then, beginning with a Christmas Day blowout at the hands of the peaking Miami Heat, the Lakers hit their low point of the season. The team continued to struggle through a holiday season of bad losses and in-fighting, culminating with a public war of words between forward Ron Artest and coach Phil Jackson.
Once again the peanut gallery had their thoughts. Is there anyone dumb enough to take Artest's contract? Is Kobe's reign among the top three players in the NBA over? Does Phil Jackson give a damn about this season?
Once again, we were all overreacting. As I sit here typing, the Lakers are winners of six straight games and Kobe Bryant is fresh off one of his best outings of the season, an efficient 39-point performance against the Warriors Wednesday night.
(Although some of that has to be attributed to the Warriors' never-ending commitment to incompetency on the defensive end.)
My point is, don't overreact to small patches of struggling. Truly great players are going to prevail because it's all they know how to do.
So keep faith Heat and Laker fans. Your teams will meet in the NBA Finals this June and one of your fantasies, no matter how beautiful or twisted, will come true. As for the losers of the preordained series, don't worry. Your "Recovery" is on its way.