Nothing to See Here

What Kanye West and LeBron James did on Wednesday was a lot of things, but none of it was surprising.


I don’t know if being surprised by something is generally a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose, as with anything, context is important. A surprise party is pretty dope. A surprise in the mailbox, an unexpected bill maybe, is decidedly less dope. But what happens when something happens that by all accounts should surprise you, doesn’t? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Again, I think context is probably at the heart of it.

So let’s start with Wednesday during business hours. It was a rainy, slog-filled day here on the east coast. At one point I was out bip-bopping around, away from Twitter for maybe an hour or so, and when I checked in I was a little overwhelmed by what I had missed.

The Golden State Killer was finally caught! The French President was taking veiled shots at Trump while speaking to the House! And all this Kanye nonsense.

The Golden State Killer thing was pretty cool. I’m halfway through I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and am now significantly more interested in it and I very much enjoy anytime that President Trump is humiliated in some way, whether it’s directly or indirectly. But this Kanye stuff, though. It all just got weirder and weirder as the afternoon wore on.

Yet while it did continue to get weird, it never was all that surprising, even though it felt like it should have been. Kanye’s actions just aren’t really that surprising anymore, even though it often feels as if they are supposed to be. His activity on Wednesday was more sad and confusing than anything. He came off as incredibly isolated and massively out of touch and reminded me of how O.J. Simpson was talked about in OJ: Made in America, a rich and powerful black dude completely detached and removed from the lives of black people in America. The difference was that Kanye was talking about doing things to help those people whereas Simpson could have cared less. But either way, Kanye’s actions and Simpson’s lack of action didn’t matter. Both meant nothing when it came down to it.

If anything here was surprising, it was Chance the Rapper jumping into the fray, seemingly to defend Kanye.

But Chance, someone seen as thoughtful and intelligent and willing to be an activist and a voice for those that need one, came off utterly clueless. It was a rather Taylor Swiftian response, jumping in from the top rope uninformed and void of context. Of course black people don’t have to be democrats, Chance. But Kanye aligning himself with Trump wasn’t a matter of aligning with one political party over the other. It was Kanye aligning himself with a ruthless, con artist monster who routinely peddles in hate and racism, two things that would seem to be difficult to get behind if you are a black person in America. Or anyone with a conscience.

Two hours later Chance seemed to have realized he may have gone past his skies a little, but the damage was done. He most likely thought he was trying to be a voice of reason, but instead came off as a grenade thrown into a crowded room that doesn’t go off. Yet if he accomplished anything, it was that his actions were at the very least surprising, whereas Kanye’s were not. We expect Kanye to drop uninformed missives into the public sphere. We don’t expect that from Chance. Or we didn’t at least. Going to have to keep an eye on him going forward. Chance, not Kanye. I think I’m done with Kanye. Well, kind of. I’m still looking forward to his new album.

I will say this, after everything he’s put his fans through over these past few days, his new album better be pretty damn good. Fans will put up with a lot provided you are giving them a reason to still be fans of yours. Lose that reason and then you really lose the fans.

So then we fast forward to about fifteen minutes before ten on the east coast, with the Indiana Pacers having pulled even with the Cleveland Cavaliers with seconds to go. Victor Oladipo drives to the basket, but is swatted away by LeBron James. Was it goal-tending? I don’t know, man. Fouls in basketball will never not be confusing for me.

Cleveland quickly called timeout, moving the ball to half court with about three seconds left to play. The ball was obviously going to LeBron. With all due respect to Kevin Love, you were not getting the ball, sir.

LeBron gets the ball and I for one, expected him to drive to the basket and at the very least come away with a foul. All Cleveland needed was one point to wrap things up.

Well, LeBron went for three points.

Now I don’t remember what I was thinking as the ball left his hands or as it shot through the tense air of Quicken Loans Arena. But when it swished through the basket I will say this, I think I just said “okay” to our dog who was sound asleep next to me and that was that. I neither expected him to miss it, nor did I expect him to make it. Dude I just figured it would somehow go in because it’s LeBron James and LeBron James has reached a level of sports inevitably that really takes the suspense out of something like him pulling up for a game-winning three from forty or so feet away. We expect greatness from LeBron because that’s what we get from LeBron. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.

Despite the lack of suspense and the lack of surprise with LeBron’s game-winner, neither one made it any less exciting. Taking my now partially-awake dog out a few minutes after he made the shot, I was thinking how it was one those times where you witnessed greatness, something that will replay over and over again and possibly something you’ll tell your kids about. I’ve felt this way watching Tom Brady or watching Derek Jeter’s last game. It’s a cool feeling when you are watching something that you know will become iconic, which is how it felt Wednesday night.

I would add that I’m still not sure why Indiana didn’t foul James. That seemed as obvious of a move as Cleveland getting him the ball in the first place.

But back to Kanye and LeBron.

Kanye West: not surprising, but still interesting. LeBron James: not surprising, but still exciting.

When someone or something reaches a level in which they transcend the ability to surprise us, we shouldn’t be tricked into taking it for granted, even though that’s easy to do. The actions are dulled some, but can still have very real ramifications. Kanye’s tweets do matter because whether we like it or not, what Kanye says matters. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be a young, black Kanye fan out there dealing with the policies of the Trump Administration and the hate mongers and vile agents of racism emboldened by the Trump presidency to see an artist they love come out in support of Trump. And to make matters worse, to do so without really having any idea what it must mean to his fans.

Kanye: not surprising, but shameful.

And shameless, because we all know that he’s doing this as a means of self-promotion. The main difference this time is that it’s not Taylor Swift fans that are collateral damage. It’s people living in the communities he is saying he’s looking to help. He’s starting a fire and walking away.

Whereas we can’t outright dismiss Kanye and call it noise, we can’t take for granted what we are seeing with LeBron James. And I don’t think we are. I think that for the most part, people are very much aware of the fact that we are watching something incredible. We are not surprised, but we are aware.

There’s no point lamenting this loss of surprise. It happens. Certain people crash through that level of reality and never look back. They create their own reality and expectations that come with it. They’re not untouchable, but they’re close.

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