Boogie Week: Birthdays, Booze, Bile, Boogie
USA Today Sports
It’s #BoogieWeek at Hickory-High, an extended celebration and exploration of all things DeMarcus Cousins. Check out the rest of our Cousins content here.
Last Friday at 12:01 a.m., I turned 25 years old (more accurately, it wasn’t until about two o’clock that afternoon that I officially turned 25 but I don’t want to get too bogged down in the details). This, I suppose, is not a monumental occurrence. The overwhelming majority of Americans will celebrate a 25th birthday. But it’s still a birthday, and it’s really the last birthday that doesn’t end in a zero that really “matters” for 40 years.
I woke up, went to work, made sure absolutely nobody was aware it was my birthday (if people start singing “Happy Birthday” to me, I run in the other direction – especially if they’re holding cake), and got out of Dodge at six o’clock on the nose. I had a nice dinner with my parents and my sister, spoke to my grandparents on the phone to thank them for their nice cards, and went to bed early. The following morning, I woke early and immediately began drinking. Because it was the Saturday after my birthday and that’s what I do. Around two o’clock several friends and I went to Harpoon Fest, a large festival at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston. It’s an absolute price-gouge from start to finish, but it’s a great time, mostly because you run into people you know, not even realizing that they would be there. I was with a group of five of my friends, but we ended up running into at least a dozen other people we knew.
We left Harpoon Fest around six and migrated back towards downtown. We ate dinner at a place called Stephanie’s on Newbury (if you ever find yourself there, get the spinach and artichoke dip and thank me later), where we were met by a few more people. As the posse grew, the decision was made to go to a bar called Arc. Arc holds a special place in our hearts, as it was formerly a bar called An Tua Nua, an Irish bar that was a hot-spot for college weekend belligerence. However, ownership wasn’t too fond of hosting college weekend belligerence, so it re-branded itself as a more upscale, weeknight place for young professionals. As such, it’s basically a ghost town on Saturday nights. We walked in around nine o’clock, a time when, two or three years ago, the bar would be filled to the brim with college students, a healthy segment of which probably wouldn’t even be 21 yet. On Saturday, there were about ten people inside when we got there. Only about a half-dozen came in after us over the course of the next several hours. We didn’t know any of them. We didn’t particularly care.
It was the type of night that would have been considered exceptionally lame had it occurred as a 20-year old college sophomore. But as a 25-year old college graduate, it was a laid-back night of shooting pool and drinking whiskey. As that sentiment sunk in, it occurred to me that this type of night is the paramount difference between being 20 and being 25. When you’re 20, you seek out the party. You need a buzz around you. When you’re 25, you make the party. You go where you want and it doesn’t really matter if there is a mass of humanity there. You’re with your people, and that’s really all that matters.
Naturally, I woke up Sunday morning not unable to move. This is another difference between 20 and 25. At 20, you can drink all day and all night and be ready for Bloody Mary’s after six hours of sleep. At 25 you roll around in bed moaning all day. I wasn’t even able to think about food until around eight that evening, and the only food I had in my fridge was a package of chicken thighs that was juuuust barely within the “best if used by” range. So I gambled.
It tasted perfectly normal after I cooked it. But I went to bed feeling queasy, and that queasiness turned to nausea around midnight. Around two in the morning my nauseated digestive system made the executive decision to return the chicken from whence it came and I stumbled into the bathroom. I spent the next five hours (apologies in advance for graphic imagery) expelling the contents of my stomach, to the point where my stomach no longer had contents and it was mostly just dry-heaving and bile.
Now, this might seem to be an odd story to tell during Boogie Week. Over the course of the weekend I neither watched DeMarcus Cousins play basketball on television nor had a conversation about him. For all intents and purposes, DeMarcus Cousins had absolutely no bearing on the events of my weekend.
But as I lay on my bathroom floor in the wee hours of Monday morning (The Dawn of Boogie Week, you might call it), I realized that while DeMarcus Cousins may not have anything to do with my weekend, my weekend had everything to do with DeMarcus Cousins.
Like my weekend, DeMarcus Cousins runs the gamut of experiences. Like my weekend, DeMarcus Cousins induces happiness, pain, and a number of sobering realizations. Like my weekend, DeMarcus Cousins prompts you to think about your youth, your ongoing maturity, and how your life changes as the rotation of the Earth forces time forward. Cousins can have a routine game where he looks like a pretty good, developing, former lottery-pick big man, followed by a game where he looks like the second coming of Moses Malone. But inevitably, a game comes along where he gets into foul trouble because he’s in the wrong position defensively, maybe picks up a dumb technical, shoots dirty looks at his teammates, tunes out his coach, and all the things that remind us of Rasheed Wallace (but not in the fun, endearing, veteran Sheed way). You just have to take the good with the bad.
DeMarcus Cousins came into the league as a mostly-petulant 20-year old miscreant. He was a pretty good rebounder, and that was about it. He was a bruising center who shot 43 percent from the field but couldn’t stretch the floor even a little. And the defense. Oh, good God, how bad his defense was. It went beyond just general incompetence. It was incompetence crossed with apathy crossed with what occasionally seemed like intentional sabotage, but you knew it wasn’t because conscious sabotage would require competence in the first place.
Over the next four years, however, he developed into a legitimately productive NBA center, and has blossomed to the point that entering Wednesday’s action, Cousins was 6th in the league in PER, above Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Goran Dragic, and, well, everybody else not named Durant, LeBron, Love, Davis, and Paul. He’s one of the highest-usage players in the league (only Durant and Carmelo use a higher percentage of their team’s possessions) but remains efficient, placing around the top third of the league in True Shooting. Is anyone talking about this? Of course not (well, until us, this week, I guess). That’s a bit odd.
I suppose this is one area where my life has no parallel. As I mature, my parents don’t take to Twitter to talk about what great progress I’m making, sharing ideas with other parenting bloggers. That would be weird. Hilarious, but weird.
But we SHOULD be talking about DeMarcus Cousins. He’s having a great season. Sure, he’s still kind of a petulant miscreant. And he still sucks on defense. But he’s making progress. The ratio of good-to-bad is starting to shift the arrow towards the “worth his upcoming max contract” end of the dial. And that’s awesome. That’s what we want out of high lottery picks. But there are always bumps. Just like I woke up on Sunday morning, realizing I just can’t drink the way that I used to, and that there’s no arguing with the fact that I’m officially in my mid-20s, there are times when you watch Cousins and smack your forehead and wonder why he can’t put everything together.
But there’s something about Cousins that endears him to NBA fans. The loveable hot-head with immeasurable talent and NBA size figuring out how to harness his vast gifts and focus them through his obvious intensity and passion is always going to have fans. But that love doesn’t screw his head on any straighter. That maturity can only come from within. Maybe when he turns 25.