Before it makes dollars it must make sense
I spent most of Friday morning trying to switch up my work schedule so I could catch one of
The two leagues even have radically different myths of success. The NFL is the equal opportunity, life by the boot strap, company man, faith in the system road to the big time. The NBA, partly because of the way the sport is structured, partly because of its willingness to admit certain things about American society, depends on the far more divisive, if less wholesome, self-made hustle. Football players, however cocky or charismatic, know they live and die with the collective; for better or worse, aspiring hoops stars recognize that their chance of making it depends on how much they can stand out from their teammates.
I'd then had it in my heart to suggest that the NFL represents America's brave international face and its role on the world stage, while the NBA more honestly stands for life in day-to-day America (why soccer can do both for many European and Latin American nations is beyond me). Jesse Jackson's
But I've heard that some people have no such stomach for this side of the FreeDarko shack of thoughtfulness, so allow me to instead focus on something that totally disproves what I'm saying and operates on a far less wonky level: the latest Michael Vick commercial. In case you didn't know, Vick is the most preternaturally athletic performer the National Football League has ever seen. His quarterbacking stats are below laughable, and he runs less than he used to, in the interest of not wrecking his body for the sake of a first down (or letting defenses feel that they just have to plan on stopping the world's most elusive running back). But despite this, his Falcons are one of the league's true powerhouse teams (this week notwithstanding), and the mere fact of Vick's playmaking legs forces opposing teams to scheme on eggshells.
Vick's newest Nike commercial goes something like this: he's always been a holy terror on the gridiron, like nothing anyone had ever seen, since his days of childhood, someone who still plays like he did then. It's the last part that might as well be the message of the commercial: Vick still plays all freewheeling and improvisatory like he's in high school, that's what makes his game special, that's very important to him as a person. It's the ability to step outside of the strictures of organized football as we know, to do things as an individual that should be easily squelched by the sport's strength-in-numbers will to power.
The number one fear commonly voiced about the post-Jordan "decline" of the NBA is that athleticism would overtake skill, or that players would do their darnedest to try and make this come to pass. And while I think it's possible to argue that, for a minute, a kind of
Anyone who watches enough football gets used to seeing rookie running backs, accustomed to being able to turn the corner with ease, routinely getting shutdown until they recognize they're going to have to use their line more. The Association does have its share of teases who, from time to time, are able to temporarily harness the athleticism that got them drafted to put up numbers without the slighest bit of thought as to what they're doing: Darius Miles has made a career out of this, Stromile's used it as the credible springboard to great expectations in H-Town, and the Hawks were banking this entire season on it. But for the most part, this kind of player is thought of as being in a perpetual holding pattern of management waiting on potential and coaches expected to make good on it. None of them have, like Vick, managed to use boundless freedom and a rejection of technique into a credible formula for success. Vick may be the exception that proves the rule, but then again, no one's assuming that Antonio Gates will be the only failed basketball prospect to utterly dominate as a receiver.
But apparently no one wants to hear me talk about politics, so I'll save it.
(Feel free to mark down Sunday as the official FreeDarko Day of Unfunny, Unstylish Posts Concerned For the Fate of the World, and adjust your viewing habits accordingly.)