A friend of mine showed me this digital camera the other day that had some interesting software on it that I had never seen before. It can take a picture of someone that is frowning and literally turn their frown upside down to turn a sad picture into a happy picture. The result is sometimes effective:
And sometimes creepy:
This phone got me thinking about the reasons why we take pictures. One is to help us remember good times that we had in the past. But if I have a camera that makes frowning people look happy, then what kind of times am I really remembering? Were they actually happy times or were they sad times that I have altered by technology to seem happy? Will these altered photos have the effect of altering my minds' perception of these times or will I remember them as they actually occurred?
This last question is particularly salient. Of course, our minds already accomplish in a figurative way what these digital cameras are designed to do in a literal way. Rarely do we remember events or periods in our lives exactly as they took place. Our minds often subconsciously alter our memories of things to make them seem bigger or smaller or happier or sadder. For example, I remember everybody thinking that I was cool when I was a senior in high school, but many people who were there will tell you that it was only the underclassmen who worked with me on the student newspaper that thought I was cool while most people my age thought I was just some nerd who worked on the newspaper.
But the real question is, what's more important: what actually happened or what we remember happening? And if we could go back and look at a picture or video record of what happened, should we go with that picture or video, or should we alter it to fit our memories or even to create new ones that feel better? My answer is that it's situational. You have to look at each unique situation and decide what's more important to you: the truth or the memory?
Last week, Lebron James turned in one of the all time great basketball performances ever recorded at Madison Square Garden. It was a particularly memorable performance because just two days earlier, Kobe Bryant had dropped 61 in a game at MSG (a tough week for the Knicks). In his game, Lebron had a triple-double with 52 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. It was the first time in 30 years that an NBA player had gotten a triple double with over 50 points. It was justifiably celebrated in the sports media as a big accomplishment and another notch on Lebron's belt towards becoming one of the greatest players of all time.
A few days later, the NBA took a close look at the tape from the game and decided that one of Lebron's rebounds should have been credited to his teammate Ben Wallace instead of to him. His triple double was erased from the record books as he now had only 9 rebounds instead of 10.
Generally speaking, I am a person who is all for the search for truth, but like I said before, it can be situational. College and professional sports serve many functions in our society. One of which is to serve as a shared national collective memory that allows all sorts of different people to come together, find common ground, celebrate accomplishments, and commiserate on failures. All basketball fans watched the highlights and marveled at Lebron's incredible game in New York. I don't understand why the NBA felt the need to adjust James's stats and diminsh what he did. Splitting hairs over one rebound is silly, especially when far from every game is scrutinized as closely as this one was.
I guess I just don't see a whole lot of good coming out of the NBA taking a great moment and trying to make it less than great over one measly rebound. Especially considering that today a blogger at ESPN revealed that upon even further scrutiny of the game tape, there was another rebound that should have been credited to Lebron that wasn't. That's what happens when you try to go back in sports and switch around the record books. Everybody can make an argument in every different direction and nobody is left sure about anything. Same goes with steroids in baseball. Nobody knows who took them or when they took them or if they even helped the players who took them that much. The only good solution is to just forget about the whole thing and remember how thrilling that one summer was when McGuire and Sosa were both gunning for the home run record. Let everybody who took steroids into the Hall of Fame. They played the games, we all watched them, we all enjoyed them, and that's that. After all, it's just sports. It's not like we're talking about weapons of mass destruction here.
Basically what I'm saying is that it's OK for us to go on thinking that Lebron had his triple double; just like it's OK for me to go on thinking that I was cool in high school; just like it's OK for me to change your frown into a smile because I want to remember that night differently than how it actually was. If we're going to revise past events, and the events are as trivial as what happened during a basketball game or who was having a good time during a night out at the bars, let's remember the bad times as being good and the good times as being great. If we're going to alter the record, let's make it better, not worse! It's not hurting anyone.*
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* Well, I guess it's hurting Ben Wallace, because he gets one less rebound. My solution would be to give them both the rebound. Lebron has a right to it because that's how it was initially recorded and Wallace has a right to it because upon further review, that's how it actually went down.