Clocking In

Twice in a year.

Once with winter staring us in the face and once on the edge of spring.

An event that shakes things up and marks a changing time.

Yes, of course I’m talking about the Denver Nuggets going 2-0 against the league-leading Boston Celtics. What did you think I meant?

OK, to be fair, I have written about the clock changes associated with going to and from Daylight Saving Time until I’m blue in the fingertips. I’ve argued for “locking the clock” on health grounds, safety grounds, common sense grounds, and probably even the number of coffee grounds that could be saved each year by just letting people keep their sleep patterns intact. We’ve seen the movement have its moment … and then come and go with our bi-annual temporal insanity left intact.

At this point, I’m throwing up my hands. Basketball makes more sense than the twice-a-year time change ever will.

Even when it’s something as wild and wacky as this.

We used to be pretty sure what would happen when the Nuggets and Celtics shared a court. Sure enough to bet money, anyway. Go back through the previous 10 years and Boston has a 14-8 record. And three of those Denver wins were grabbed in a row about five years ago, so there’s been a lot of barren country before and after that.

Until now.

Two and oh.

Not without effort. Not without a bit of luck here and there. (Is any win in sports ever claimed without at least a little luck?) But enough to create a consistent Wearin’ Out O’ The Green … and maybe some much-needed reassurance as the playoffs loom ever closer.

Last season, in retrospect, was practically a coronation. We dominated the West from December on and still managed to surprise everyone in the playoffs, especially the army of sportscasters who were convinced that any brilliance from the Rocky Mountain way had to be a fluke. The only moment we didn’t get was a championship series against Boston when the Miami Heat – who really did pull off something of a fluke – snuck into the Eastern Conference championship instead.

This year has been harder. We know it. The West has been a tussle with the Timberwolves and the Thunder for the top seed with a bevy of others close at our heels waiting for the first mistake. There have been injuries and should-haves and moments of doubt.

But the same tools that took us to the title are still there. Tight teamwork. A strong bench. A jaw-dropping star in the Joker, whose many talents include making everyone around him better, and a teammate in Jamal Murray whose rapport with him is darned-near telepathic.

And just like last year, they’re a heck of an example for those of us in the larger world. The one where we don’t get millions for our aim with a basketball.

We succeed when *we* succeed – working together, interlocking our strengths, compensating for our weaknesses. That’s true whether we’re talking about a team … or a company … or a community … or a nation.

It’s never all about the leader. It can’t be. Sure, having a Jokić  or a Jordan on the team makes a huge difference – but if the rest of the team isn’t there, it’s just a lost opportunity.

Hard work. A common aim. Being ready to take advantage of the breaks that come your way. And most of all, a mutual earned trust.

It’s not easy. But it’s how you build something that lasts.

Best wishes to the Nuggets. And to all of us.

May we all do the most with our moment in time – wherever we finally set it.

Hour After Hour

Attention, my fellow passengers. Welcome back to Standard Time. Please make sure all clocks have been restored to the fallback position, and …

OK, I’ll wait for the grumbling to stop.

Twice a year we do this dance. Twice a year, half the country complains about it. And 10 years out of 10, nothing ever changes. Back and forth we run the time-shift tennis match, Standard Time to Daylight Time to Standard Time again.

We all know it’s crazy. But we don’t seem to know how to stop.

We’ve tried with logic, whether it’s “lighter mornings are better for your body” or “lighter evenings are better for the economy.”

We’ve tried with safety, noting the brief surge of traffic accidents when the clock changes in any direction.

We’ve tried jokes, memes and satire – though I should note that a satirical piece by Ben Franklin is partly what got us into this mess.

We’ve even tried legislation and ballot issues, pursued with much fanfare and little efficacy. The one time we did see a change – shifting to year-round Daylight Saving Time for two years in the Nixon administration – the popularity quickly soured amidst wintertime images of kids going to school in the dark. (The counter-experiment of nationwide year-round Standard Time has yet to be run – except of course, for all those years before 1918.)

So whether you’re singing “Here Comes the Sun” with the Beatles or “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” with Neil Diamond, we seem destined to confusion and disappointment for at least part of the year. Kind of like being a Rockies fan, but without the hot dogs.

But there’s something else we can do.

Maybe we can’t figure out how to set our time. But we can consider how we spend it.

For a people who live by the clock, we’re really good at letting it get away from us. It’s easy to let minutes blur into hours into “Where did the week go?” Most of the time, it’s gone to the routine – some of it necessary, much of it just habit.

That’s part of why big events shock us. Aside from any inherent wonder or horror they may hold, they force us to break out of our reflexes and notice. (Or if you’re a Talking Heads fan, to ask “Well … how did I get here?”)

Remember when the pandemic started? Those first couple of months that never seemed to end? With most of our usual options for filling time gone, we had no choice but to notice every single minute and figure out what the heck we were going to do with it. Sure, some of those choices were a little strange, but hey … what wasn’t?

There’s still little bits of that rattling around in our “normal” today. A reminder that our moments hold more than we sometimes realize.

The thing is, it doesn’t require a pandemic. (Thank goodness.) But it does require some conscious effort. Stepping out of the flow always does. But if we take a moment to see beyond the schedule, we can put those moments where they belong: with the people we care about and the calls that need us. To live, not just exist.

If we do that, then we really can define our time.

No matter how shifty it may be.

You Can Set Your Clock By It

Health care can deadlock a Congress. Taxation can set pundits to wrangling. But if you really want to get a room full of people fighting at maximum intensity, there’s nothing quite like an arbitrary tradition.

You know the sort of thing I mean.

“No! We open presents before stockings, not after!”

“What do you mean you don’t use the Oxford comma?”

“I will defend to the death Pluto’s inalienable right to be called a planet.”

Majestic molehills, all of them, and I have summited each of their peaks with an unholy glee to do battle with the incorrigible heretics arrayed against me. But for the greatest level of intensity over the most arbitrary of traditions, it’s really hard to beat Daylight Saving Time.

Our twice-a-year clock fumbling has nothing behind it but history, and a venerable series of mythic justifications. No, it doesn’t help farmers – cows don’t care what time it is. No, it doesn’t save energy – in fact, some studies say it actually uses a little more. And Benjamin Franklin never boosted the concept except as a satire.

So it comes down to “We do it because we’ve always done it.” For some, this might be a sign that we don’t truly need it. But for the truly committed – social media fans, state politicians, and perhaps the hidden space aliens living in the Earth’s mantle – it’s a chance to start two fights: one over whether to stop the clock, and one over where to stop it.

PERSON ONE: “I want to walk my dog after work when it’s still light!”

PERSON TWO: “I don’t want to do my morning bike ride in the dark!”

PERSON ONE: “Oh, just man up and spring back!”

PERSON TWO: “It’s spring forward, you clock abuser!”

PERSON THREE: “Um, I work nights so I don’t really care …”

PERSONS ONE AND TWO: “You stay out of this!”

Each year, the time passes and the debate gets tabled for another few months. Once in a great while, a state will actually vote to freeze the clock (hi, Florida!), but usually it all winds down in muttering and sarcastic suggestions. (“Tell you what – you can have daylight saving as long as we get to move the clocks forward at 4 p.m. on a Friday.”) An opportunity lost, again.

And yet, this too may have its value, for two reasons.

First, if we can actually capture all the heat generated by daylight saving debates over the years, we may have discovered a valuable new energy source.

Second, and more serious, it means we inherently recognize that tradition itself has some value.

Traditions are the stories we tell ourselves. They’re the frame that we set around family experiences to make them our own. They’re the moments that bring people together, whether it’s applauding a fireworks show or singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” They set a rhythm that gives us just a small bit of control over the world around us.

Sure, not every tradition is equally valuable. Some can be outright harmful, especially when pushed on someone who doesn’t want to participate. (No one likes being forced to tell a story.) But the idea has power. And when done right, a tradition can connect people into something bigger than themselves, preparing them to face the world together, tied for a moment to each other and to those who came before.

That’s awe-inspiring.

And even if we all collectively come to our senses and stop the clocks once and for all – you know, actually agree on that great tradition called “time” – we needn’t worry about boredom. There will be other stories, on other days.
Speaking of which – did Pluto get the shaft, or what?