Come Back Strong, People of Toil and Bloodshed!!!
First off, there have lately been some cacklings on and off shore about the way FreeDarko’s decided to handle its business as of late. Let me draw out the obvious: we’re an irreverent, hip-hop-reared blog that constantly hollers “FreeDarko is a movement,” has made style itself into our odalisk, and is getting more multitudinous by the hour. If you bought into the More than Music business model, than stand back and take notes as we move from holy trinity of intimates to hydra of great doom that feeds its own telescoping ire. It might not work, but we’re in this to try and unseat Page 2—something that will make far more sense when we leave the ghetto of Blogger once and for all.
Now, to make it at least halfway out of the prism of self-love: FreeDarko and the Euro as we know it. Although, as the Recluse proclaimed so groutishly the other day, we have no particular love for Darko, the Euro itself is a rich and astounding sword of meaning. And while whether or not Serbia’s own Whitey Bulger indeed deserves to see the light of day, his pre-draft rep as a hardened lout with a “nasty streak” gets at why I from the beginning have felt that the Euro is not, as many might believe, the polar opposite of the sort of the raw as fuck players that we’re prone to light our lanterns around.
You see, it has always been of incredible surprise to me that all the Euro’s making the Association tended towards soft, that from the lands that brought us pogroms, death squads, famines, and endless, cloudless gray came slews of slithering giants best known for three-point range and shrinking in the light. Western Europe is one thing; B-Jax calling out Dirk as “the softest guy in the league” barely registers, since Germans have gone out of their way to feign harmlessness and inner depth since the Holocaust got revealed. If sports are often a correlative of national identity, it figures that Dirk would express exactly the benign view that Germany sees in the mirror and wishes to reflect back to the world as history marches forward the second most war-thirsty nation in modern history. In all actual fact, it’s their post-war ethos that’s to blame for EuroTrash, that self-fulfilling prophecy of a thousand trampled "other" Western nations.
But Latvia, Lithuania, the Balkans, all these other places that both in my imagination (think shtetl 1926) and recent history are all about some hardcore. I want, no, I need, Euros to show me the tough, proud souls of their haunted peoples and besieged cultural past. It is with thought in mind that I turn to Sarunas Jasikevicius, Pacers rookie, potential savior (respect due to DLIC’s
Watching Jasikevicius last Thursday, the first thing I noticed was how much commitment he plays with. SJ exists within the flow of the game, and not just as an accessory. He digs in, makes things happen, puts his confidence, poise, and rep on the line to push a possession into fruitful being. To be sure, SJ’s a marksman, but he drains three’s with an Arenas-like portent. He only makes big shots and if they’re insignificant, he wills them unto bigness. We’re used to creators who need the ball a lot, so let’s call Jasikevicius a facilitator—he sets things into motion with an economy of action, the perfect point guard on a team full of scorers who need to ball in their hands. Key pass, key cut, finding his way to where someone needs to be to make a play. . . commentators often describe Nash or Kidd as “orchestrating” an offense, so try imagining that without the deliberate, heroic, quarterbacking aspect. SJ doesn’t just “play the right way,” he finds a way to mysteriously force the entire offense into that rhythm without touching the ball, directing the operation without actually getting everyone’s attention. He’s steeped in emotion, pumping his fist and grunting brilliantly, and looks more like some kind of squat, broken-nosed mercenary than a former folk dancer.
I am fully expecting that a reader clothed in Pacer will insist that I’m wrong, that Jasikevicius is not even a slivered fingernail of what I’m claiming. But what’s important is that Jasikevicius represents everything a Euro should be, according to all the theories of thoughtful provocation I hold most dear. As much as Euros are supposed to have brought back the great game of Bird and McHale, the promise of SJ is that international players, who came into this world of NBA in ways we pampered, ivoried Americans could only begin to imagine, could make flesh what they alone see when they close their wild, vaguely Asiatic eyes. Style not as narrowly defined dribbling and dunking, but as acting like you know, true to your roots, throwing up your geo-political set every time the smoke clears at mid-court.
And naturally, if you have followed me this far, you have no choice but to admit that the ultimate model for these dream Euros of my future thought is—in both structure and content—none other than the one man who knows the meaning of rugged and makes us feel it every time he surveys the game and makes it his own.
Except no Slav would ever demand a trade. I am not nearly influential enough to map out the relationship between a nearly feudal sense of honor and duty and submission to Communism’s heavy-lidded reign, but I know that it’s got nothing to do with trying to mastermind that eternal Queensbridge come-up.
Permit me to kill a few things on my way out: the new LeBron commercials may have put him on Melo’s level, and rendered Wade useless as a cultural icon.