Alone with my notes

It's a clinical marvel to me that, as of yet, no one has questioned this blog's basic assumption: that, to paraphrase Brickowski, we've made an objective form of competition into something completely and totally subjective. Maybe it speaks to how seriously anyone takes us when it comes to critical commentary on the game, but I think it has to do with a basic misunderstanding of what FreeDarko's all about. As much as I dig the earth-shattering quality of Brick's slogan-in-a-bottle, and will toil in the name of style until my eyeballs bronze, there is such a thing as too FreeDarko:

"Here's a little window into Magic guard Steve Francis. His coaches, be it in Houston or Orlando, have tried to get him to play under control, to stop dribbling the shot clock out, to play, for goodness sakes, team basketball. Francis isn't trying to hear any of that. "I don't even think about (the style of play)," he said. "If I do that, then I'll be playing like a robot out there. I haven't played like a robot since I left Houston." —Detroit News, via Inside Hoops

As the man who continues to praise Jamal Crawford even as he can't get off the bench, once purchased a vacant lot in Ohio because it looked a little like Ricky Davis, and has a ghost-written Stephen Jackson autobiography ready to go in my desk drawer, I know it sometimes seems like I don't care about winning. And while it's true that I don't find winning particularly interesting, it doesn't mean that I'm in some pitched war against it—that I'm actually in favor of losing, or find the soul of the sport in play that causes teams to lose.

What the Franchise advocates up above isn't a question of mindless efficiency versus game-tastic flair; instead, he's practically forcing you to think he's choosing stupid over smart. I may well pick out a tombstone decrying "playing the right way," but to me dumb shit is just as bad. And, in its own way, every bit as constricted, boring, and oppressive.

Case in point: you might have noticed that I'm not as eager as some of my colleagues to embrace Iverson as a symbol of all that is good and right in this world. That's because, having spent a decent chunk of my adult life living in Philly, I've simply spent too much time being frustrated with certain aspects of his game to not hold a grudge. I could give a fuck less about field goal percentage or turnovers as statistics—shooters sometimes miss a lot, and anyone with the ball in his hands trying to make something happen is going to cough it up a lot—but with Iverson, poor accuracy and careless play were essential features of his game. As miraculous and emotionally overwhelming as he often is, for a minute there he seemed just as interested in his right to put up those aforementioned numbers of shame. Now things are different, but in the early part of this century I had trouble coming away from a Sixers broadcast feeling more inspired than aggravated.

The other night, I accidentally ended up looking at some of the older FreeDarko efforts to charm. Were it up to me, I would have us destroy all of our grubby pre-history, much as Freud did before his genius took flight. But sometimes, you have to go back to the past in order to step proudly into the future, and in these ancient blog entries I found a recurring theme: the new NBA is competitive. If you're a useless or marginal player, be as crazy as you want. But while this is a blog of style, it is also a blog of ruthlessness; if the team depends on its star to make plays, and I depend on him to express his heightened sense of African-American identity, there's no room for fucking around. The reason why I always carry Kobe and T-Mac over into the New NBA (and would Iverson, were he defined only by his greatest moments) is that they always played to kill, with style as the icing on the cake of beatdown.

If you're looking for a common thread that unites Amare, LeBron, Melo, Arenas, Gerald Wallace, and, grudgingly for me, Wade, it's that success is equal parts style and dignity befitting victory. They may be more concerned with making a statement than the Association's crashing bores, but that statement rings hollow if it's not a joyous extension of playing your ass off. If that still boils down to nothing more than a style, fine—I would rather see someone play like this and lose than win through drudgery—but I will join hands with you the curse the NBA gone by, where style was separate from, and indeed lorded over, the basic fact of basketball as a competitive team sport.


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