Reading through the comments on Canis Hoopus, SB Nation's Timberwolves' blog of which Tim Allen, now deceased at the impossible age of 29, was a manager, it's hard not to be brought to tears. To dropped to one's knees.
I never met Tim Allen. I read a few of his game previews — the Timberwolves were always favored to win, and much hilarity always ensued — and, based on his clear sense of humor, I'm sure he had a few "Tool Time" jokes up his sleeve from years of unfortunate confusion.
What I'm more sure of is the sense of loss I'm feeling. It's bizarre how something as tangential as being an avid fan of a sport and being inspired to write about it for little-to-no-money can connect a person. Sports have always had a way of bringing people together substantially more than tearing us apart. Red Sox and Yankees fans routinely become friends because, hey, it's more fun to shove the other person in jest than spit on them in outright anger, even if we feel like it sometimes.
SB Nation started as one Athletics blog, then it was an A's blog and a Giants blog, then it grew and grew and now it has a blog for nearly every team in nearly every major American sport. SB Nation didn't get to where it is — a more wildly successful sports network than Tyler Bleszinski could have ever likely imagined — without its communities. The community is what drives SB Nation, it's why a network of team blogs has become the powerhouse of Internet media it's become, because we're all a part of something.
I remember the first time I became a part of the community. I was a freshman in college, and I posted a FanShot on Pinstripe Alley contending the Yankees should retire the jersey of Bernie Williams, always and forever my favorite athlete. Ed Valentine or whoever decided it was worth a promotion. It got several dozen comments. I was beyond thrilled. I checked Pinstripe Alley and Gang Green Nation and Testudo Times and The Dream Shake every day for years and years after that.
The comments are the best, despite our grammatical errors, because we know each other there. Most of us have been there for years, learning each other's frequent spelling mistakes, which athletes we have an unreasonable soft spot for. We make allies. We make enemies. We troll each other. We console each other.
Something magical happened in the comments section at Canis Hoopus Wednesday. We found each other. From the managers of our Utah Jazz and Suns blog to brave commenters admitting battles with panic attacks and dealing personally with suicide, it was a giant group healing session, and the most emotional scrolling I've ever done.
It's just... well, it's hard. It's hard to come to grips with grief over someone you didn't know, someone who you only marginally knew existed when they were alive. Death is a tragedy, and a death such as Allen's is impossible to explain.
Tim's death can teach us many things, and one is how much we love each other. I'm a basketball junkie. I have been since the second grade after sinking my first layup. Anyone who loves the game is a fast friend. Anyone who prefers the NBA to the NCAA I consider an intellectual equal. Anyone who follows the NBA, or an NBA team, to such an extent simply understands what all this means.
We love, we love, we love. We love JaVale McGee because he provided a bizarre brightness in an otherwise depressing abyss of losses and missed potential. We love Michael Beasley because, well, we all know why. We feel like we've known Ziller through the FreeDarko days and the Fanhouse days, we all feel the same bizarre reverence for/frustration with David Stern, and we all wish Skip Bayless would just shut the hell up.
Most of all, when one of us goes, we all feel it. We know what it means. We are a community, and we lost one of our own. No matter if we knew Tim personally or as a passionate Wolves fan and blogger or as a distant observer, this hurts. All we can do is pray he's found peace, send our best wishes to his family, and join together in saying: 82 wins until the playoffs.