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Live for the Moment

NORMA LOPEZ MOLINA

They are predicting the worst.

The Orlando Magic will be awful, the sportswriters say. Perhaps the starkest assessment is at NBA.com, where only one of the league’s 30 teams—the Magic—gets an overall grade of F.

And the prognosticators may be right. But consider this: When the season tips off, it really doesn’t matter anymore what Otis Smith or Rob Hennigan or Alex Martins did or didn’t do, whether we might have received more in return for Dwight Howard, whether we should have kept coach Stan Van Gundy.

For better or worse, the Magic are rebuilding from the ground up, and this is the team we have. So rather than grumble about what might have been, the faithful must live for the moment and take the victories—especially the upsets—as they come.

We must make a commitment, hard as it may be, to “revel in the mediocrity.’’

That’s not a slogan the front office would push, but it’s exactly what Magic fans did during the team’s inaugural season 23 years ago, when the roster was a collection of castoffs and rookies. I should know: I split season tickets that year with three friends. We had a mini-lottery, and I happened to get the tickets to the Magic’s match-up with the Chicago Bulls and you–know–who on Dec. 20, 1989.

Everyone figured it would be a blowout, but it was a chance to see Michael Jordan work his wizardry. And what if our ragtag team could somehow pull off an upset? The Magic didn’t stop Jordan—he scored 52 points—but they stayed with the Bulls. And with 2.5 seconds left, a journeyman forward named Otis Smith—yes, that Otis Smith-drove to the basket and gave the Magic a one-point win that remains the single most exciting sports moment I’ve ever witnessed in person.

The Magic would go on to have just an 18-64 record that first year. Even though they also upset Magic Johnson’s Lakers—and the Bulls once again on Valentine’s Day—the team closed the season with a dreadful 3-31 mark.

It’s funny; I don’t remember that particular streak. But I’ll never forget that one game. Of course, since then, we’ve had incredible highs with Shaq and Dwight (and somewhat with Tracy McGrady). But this season, the Magic and their fans have been forced to hit the reset button. Just like 1989, the team is beset by low expectations. Yet there are some big opportunities in the next six months—four games against the Miami Heat and, of course, the home showdown with Dwight’s Lakers on March 12.

So cheer up. If we can accept that living in the moment is a good thing, then the supposed mediocrity that awaits us just might be able to work its magic.

BARRY GLENN

BARRY.GLENN@orlandomagazine.com

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