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 ode to Mario Kasun, penned in a time of leaner circumstance).

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.


At 12/12/2005 12:01 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

good stuff on yes-a-cabbage-is, but i'm a little surprised you're embracing a player so beholden to fundamentals. Quoth Sarunas: "[In Lithuania], we have to stress skills and fundamentals," said Jasikevicius. "We're not blessed with athletic ability, so we have to really go the other way around. Kids are taught fundamentals, like shooting and dribbling ... We do practice a lot more than kids in high school in the U.S." (http://www.nba.com/athens2004/jasikevicius_feature.html)

moreover, in this article from his Olympic coming out party, Sarunas makes it sound like his toughness is less a product of war then of a strong veteran presence. "In the U.S., you play with kids your own age, whereas [in Europe] older men beat up on you more and that's good for you.” Strife and bloodshed is one thing, but nothing will toughen a kid up like some oldman defense. The constant hand checking, the sneaky elbows, and the way they drive their knee into your thighs whenever you try to get a step. That shit really sucks.

And I think it’s funny the best reason to watch the NFL on Sundays is to see basketball commercials premier. I certainly can’t watch for the action anymore since 90% of the teams are fucking dreadful. But I can watch the new nike spots and be amazed at the ability of advertising to instantly effect the way I feel about a player. Butter.

At 12/12/2005 12:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

last i checked, lithuania hadn't been through a war in SJ's lifetime (though he has been hanging out in israel. . .), which would mean that i'm talking more about a belief in fundamentals-as-survival-strategy, instilled in him by a culture that knew the value of such things. which is quite different than the way we think of "getting by" in similarly deprived situations in america, but still a matter of life and death. all i'm really trying to say is that he's a drastic improvement over every single other eastern european in the league and his fundamentals are not those of the family values crowd.

At 12/12/2005 12:23 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

It's going to be a test of the Pacer's ongoing savy if they trade Artest. They've made few silly moves recently - and in this post-Reggie Miller era they have less room for mistakes. That skinny dude always seemed to have bailed them out. I forsee them going down. Big time.

On another note... That 'Melo and LeBron have fancy commercials is only evidence of Nike's supremacy (that has been lessened recently) in shoes marketing. That crap doesn't matter post all star game or in the playoffs - except for the kids that buy the shoes and the clothes.

I'm surprised you'd make it a competition. Regardless of LeBron's commercial, the dude is too perfect, too all-american, and too quietly arrogant for him to be loved as much as he should be. Even when he wins his NBA championships (which he will), we're just gonna be like - shoulda done it sooner.

At 12/12/2005 12:34 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

what bad moves have the pacers made? weren't they heavily praised in the off-season for adding SJ and granger?

maybe you're just salivating over the return of riles, but i wouldn't put it past these pacers to get it together and make a run. they've been through too much to just implode in december.

At 12/12/2005 12:42 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

Color Me Baffled!!!
There is an unnerving penchant on this site for heavy-handed theory, whether its that preps from the south aren't as equipped to succeed as their urban counterparts (holler, Leon Smith, if you here T-Mac or KG (both southerners BTW)) and now, the Quotidian Truth, is that Euros lack grit. Hmmmmmm Detlef didn't take truck from anyone, nor did Sabonis, Dino Radja, or a number of other imports.

At 12/12/2005 12:44 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

I don't care to talk about the Pacers much. And i'm not saying they've bad moves, which they haven't. Notice how I said "few silly moves" - as in not many - and trading Artest is shortsighted and would rip the heart of team. No more room for error without Reggie is my point. Sarunas or not, they DON'T have the depth. And they have made some bad moves, they should have figured out a way to reup Brad Miller and lets not mention Bender - but thats nit picking. They left Primoz unprotected. I rather have him than some of the other oafs.

I hate you for getting me to talk about the Pacers.

Anyway, back to a subject that is much more interesting. These LeBron commercials. So I've been watching the series over at Nike.com and I think Nike severely miscalculated. It's a brilliant concept, we don't doubt LeBron is a genius and has multiple dimensions to his personality... so they should do the commercials where we can accurately say that all the characters are LeBron, not that they're comedic representations...

That Wise Lebron, nothing like the real one. The All Business Lebron, same thing - why the fuck is he talking like that and has that hair? They're fucking around with space, but not enough with time. Wisdom, Business, Kid, Athlete - they shouldn't be age-a-fied.

Athelete LeBron, of course says little and just has a cocky smile. Like the real LeBron. Kid Lebron may be the one that we like, but in the same way we liked Lil' Penny.

Of course, they just boiled it down for consumption by the masses. These commercials will barely be a blip on the radar, and won't have the same effect as the (as we all agree) brilliant Melo ads.

At 12/12/2005 12:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

have you noticed for a second the way i write these things? do you really think they're supposed to be airtight, perfectly-considered dispacthes on the state of the league? yes, i am perfectly aware that there have been euros not lacking in balls, and that to call the new wave of imports "soft" is hardly an original thought. but if you get past the fact that i may, with alarming regularity, say shit that's "wrong," you'll notice that i'm actually trying to make an equally untenable point about how strange it is that MANY euros are soft, and how the ideal that SJ might offer is both like and unlike that of American players we think of as "hard."

if i had the time, i would put "parody" and "irony" in the margins of every sentence that might warrant it, but then i'd have even less time to write this blog.

and umm, this site is pretty much a walking, breathing "unnerving penchant for heavy-handed theory." at one point brickowski called it (pardom my paraphrase) left-field nba commentary in the style of revolutionary manifestos. that's my story, and i'm sticking with it.

At 12/12/2005 12:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

on the bron commercials, it comes off way too much like this is several generations of lebron. strange for a twenty year-old to have as his frame of reference. i agree that age-ifying it just made the whole thing more confusing. plus i thought that "athlete lebron" was lebron himself, and the others were ????????

At 12/12/2005 1:04 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

yeah, i was going to say the same thing, but i figured shoals would want the first response.

the quote (which i think i took from shoals) is actually: "7th grade basketball opinions voiced as revolutionary manifesto." jon, i don't know how long you've been a FreeD reader, but you have to understand that FreeDarko is nothing without the silliness.

At 12/12/2005 1:08 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

andreo, i see your point with the pacers. and i hope nobody's missing the irony of artest's potential trade. he could be dealt for none other than the shirtless serb, the very epitome of european softness.

At 12/12/2005 1:23 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

I was unaware of the dogmatic origins of this coterie. I am suddenly moved by images of this as Nihilist Cell, hearts heavy with the return of Riles, and plotting a grenade attack on D. Stern.
I hope i didn't offend. cheers - jon

At 12/12/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

i think nike handled these spots well. they were pretty much saddled with athlete lebron and business lebron, since those are the Brons we've come to know. the whole point of the series seems to be a re-branding, hence the "you think you know lebron, but you don't" tagline. they had to go with the eddie murph-ied caricatures, not so we could meet the wise old man or kid that may or may not be inside lebron (nh), but so we could see that lebron can be silly and put on wigs and dance around. clinton portis doesn't need a nike commercial to do this, but lebron certainly does.

At 12/12/2005 2:16 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

Exactly Brick. I think we arrived at the crunk of those commercials together. Maybe we should post the thoughts as a compilation as a new post.

Either way, yeah - LeBron needs it while Clinton doesn't. Melo's just serve to show us more of the same, and its as glorious as ever. Like his Cribs episode.

And Wade - of course, I'm going to defend him, because he alone basically put me on to the whole style revolution (which Shoals now I resisted at first, thanks to people like Duncan, Brand and Maciej Lampe). Wade gets kudos like P. Diddy wanting him to model, and DIME spreads that go more indepth than all others. Cultural icon maybe not, but his is a story line that will ALWAYS be more compelling than Melo or LeBron in my humble opinion by the tirelessness of his game, his humble origins at Marquette and his family man appearance.

On a completely wild note, do we think Dwyane ever turns Jordan and becomes a womanizer? Leaving his own Juanita in the lurch with son Zaire?

Likely no - but i'd like to hear opinions.

At 12/12/2005 2:18 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

And by the way, thanks for bringing up Dino Radja. That was a sweet stroll down memory lane.

At 12/12/2005 2:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

humble family man from marquette has got NOTHING on melo's SAS interview (t-shirt: STOP MARRYING THE GIRL NEXT DOOR!). i also hope we haven't forgotten about that part of lebron's bio in which he wanders around for a month without talking or going to school just because.

i really wish one of us could do a post on portis, but even freedarko couldn't do him justice. in the unlikely event that some of our readers neither regularly consult deadspin nor follow the nfl (note the order), here's the url to their absolutely indispensable guide to what i'm talking about:


something for a rainy day: melo devised his own commercial, bron didn't (at least, to my knowledge, not as actively), but we're still taking this as a reflection on the man himself.

and finally, has anyone peeped the latest paul shirley on espn? dude's like an unintentional freedarkoite.

At 12/12/2005 2:34 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i used to play with dino radja on nba jam back in the day. dude was unstoppable.

so, what's up with jonathan bender retiring at age 24? he broke jordan's scoring record in the mickey d's game and then did nothing in the league, mostly because he could never get healthy. poor kid. it's actually probably good that he went pro when he did. if he had gone to college and gotten injured, he would really be SOL.

At 12/12/2005 2:56 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i must've missed this. p-jax told some reporters that he has regularly been calling kwame brown a pussy? this, after jordan called him a faggot in DC? i don't know what to say about that. forevers, care to give us your input on this?

At 12/12/2005 4:10 PM, Blogger emynd said...

"There is an unnerving penchant on this site for heavy-handed theory".



At 12/12/2005 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who the hell is Stephen A. Smith? Why is anyone interested in this loon making scary faces at us and shouting down all his colleagues in the name of black-ness? I need an answer.

At 12/12/2005 4:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

there are a lot of things wrong with him as media personality, journalist, etc., but there's really almost no one better at interviewing athletes on their terms while still getting results worth hearing

At 12/12/2005 4:48 PM, Anonymous aug said...

Man, shoals got riled up there. I don't like the bron commercial. I mean, do any black people like him after that commercial? He seems like a white kid trying to be cool and stuff(i know it's all a parody). He just looks awkward which is the intent, but it doesn't do it for me. I'll defend D-Wade as well. I love the espn commercial where he's trying to make his highlight reel better. "Do you think you can add some extra defenders with cgi or something? You know, to make me look more like a hero." Great stuff. I'm glad Jon while stirring up shoals, mentioned my main man Dino Radja. I loved dino, and he inspired my fantasy basketball team name: Dino Radjasauras Rex. Currently, Team Dino Radjasauras Rex is leading the league Cherokee National Parks.

I like shirley sometimes, but his affinity for every crappy trendy indie band bugs me.

At 12/12/2005 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

somewhat related to all the initial discussions of "hardness" and whatnot: just had an IM conversation with a fellow orlando magic fan about the manchild dwight howard, and basically the question is this -- would dwight howard be more of a badass if he wasn't so softbatch, or is he even more of a badass BECAUSE he's so softbatch?

the mind boggles ...

At 12/12/2005 6:28 PM, Anonymous aug said...

As a person who lived most his life in Orlando, i'm in love with Dwight Howard. He's like a puppy dog or a baby horse. Puppies of dogs who are destined to be huge, have such big paws and are really awkward walking around until they learn their body. But sooner or later, their body size and body control meet up and they are a force to be reckoned with. Dwight still looks under devolped for his frame and rumor has it that he's still growing. He could end up like a young shaq in terms of body and presence. His offensive game still needs a lot of work. He needs to learn how to get the ball out high, work his way in, and pass out of double teams better, not to mention shoot from 17 ft. He's hilarious as a person too. He's so young and naive, but also has a tremendous work ethic. The whole wanting to Christian-up the NBA logo and image was great. I hope he becomes more outspoken about stuff like that and becomes involved big time in the Orlando community. It would be fun to see when i'm in town. Gotta love him though. I don't view him as a badass, but he definitely has competitive fire (see: almost unintentionally knocking melo out with a intense fist pump after a big put back the other night).

At 12/13/2005 10:16 AM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

Man, I wrote a Dwight Howard post early last year that I wish you guys were around for.

At 12/13/2005 1:10 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I read and enjoyed your post last year being a psuedo magic fan and all.

Also, who is that guy holding the baby tiger in the military pic above? He looks so familiar and i must know.

At 12/13/2005 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

linas kleiza is the future of euros
heard it here first

the mainstream will never accept melo cuz he smiles after he gets his shot blocked, but i think yall are close to understanding the man

At 12/13/2005 3:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...



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