12.07.2005

Where I come from, everybody goes



For reasons that have nothing to do with FreeDarko and much to do with the inescapable vicissitudes of the spirit, I estimated some few days ago that there are approximately one thousand pages of writing in this site’s ongoing project of human thought. There is no end to the earthly delight I experience when, at some odd hour of the day, I check on one of our laser-aged counters and find some intrepid soul working his way through the wilds of FreeDarko’s grouchy beginnings, a period that will go down in our history as “when we for some reason refused to use any images.” Let that settle for a second, all ye who find our slang too blotchy for its own good—we once did not even have the pictures to light the way. Then again, from what Andreo has told me, I get so visual that it just makes the typed part even more impenetrable.



Usually, though, this chronicle of a loud urchin finding his voice is left untouched, like the so many gentle songs that beast composes heartfully for man. It was therefore as an act of self-reflexive charity that I began rifle through our not-so-distant past. What I found stirred in me feelings of unaccountable fervor, best expressed in this quote from the daring, the beautiful, Lydia Maria Child, nineteenth-century intellectualess of some note:

“As usual it is full of deep and original sayings and touches of exceeding beauty. But as usual, it takes away my strength and makes me uncertain whether to hang myself or my gown over a chair”

Wait! Hold your catcalls! Ms. Child gave this quote to me not to describe the heights of greatness FreeDarko achieves on a daily basis, nor to reflect my startling realization that, as recently as last season’s playoffs, we were still on a regular basis dispensing with off-puttingly shrewd bits of analysis regarding specific games, on-court events, and plans for a future on this earth (there’s also an entire water park’s worth of bickering between myself and brickowski over the cosmic implications of something called “the San Antonio Spurs”).



No, friend, what it points to is the fact that, despite last spring’s alarming tendency toward rational composure, we spent much of April and May not necessarily agreeing with but nevertheless always seriously addressing some of the more histrionic playoffs storylines. I have provided some choice examples, which should be very familiar to anyone who has followed the NBA for more than six months (and positively indelible to anyone who picked it up exactly six months ago):

Bethlehem Shoals wryly observes that T-Mac might be better than LeBron or Kobe, or at least perceived as such

DLIC beats back the wave of pilgrims who have annointed Manu one of the game’s premier shooting guards

Shoals contends with the very real possibility that Wade has effortlessly stepped up and into MJ’s place

What is the common thread here? None of these statements is true. . .

(on raw skill alone, T-Mac might have an edge on Kobe, but he’s not nearly the master technician or fearless gamer that the reviled TS is. But anyone saying that either of these vets has a thing on the third-year ambassador from basketball heaven, whether mentally, physically, spiritually, or psychotically, would only ever take place if there were tireless supporters of the pre-Bron era, cats for whom SLAM and the post-Jordan muddle were the memories they held most fond. Manu is nowhere near the top tier of shooting guards; as DLIC has said before, dude’s closer in spirit to a one-dimensional ghoul like Troy Hudson than the saintly creators discussed previously. And while Wade certainly did firmly plant himself on that level last year, nothing this season suggests he’s eclipsed any of them.)

. . . but they were seriously considered during last year’s playoffs.

The glamor stories of the 2004-2005 playoffs were, in order of appearance in the public consciousness: T-Mac shows grit and determination, plays some defense, carries team; Manu busts out and lights up everyone he faces; the world discovers how hard it is to stick Wade. The trouble came about when people started trying to turn these into broader claims about these players on a day-in, day-out basis.



("Jerome James, Franchise Center" only gets implied here, since Isiah was that theory's sole subscribor. But could one man's misguided notions possibly have any more of an impact on the sport than do his?)

The NBA playoffs may be so long that they count as a season unto themselves, but they’re still playoffs. Facing one team over and over again doesn’t make the match-up any less knee-deep in contingencies, special circumstances, and flukish conditions. And yet while in a perfect world ongoing battles would spur both squads to new heights of ingenuity and engagement, as often as not you just get the same shit but uglier cause everyone knows what’s coming and is trying to get over through sheer will.



Baseball has its kings of the October, but it’s taken largely as a measure of how clutch premier players actually are. October isn’t there to manufacture greatness, just to confirm or deny it, and fittingly, that’s how the media frames it. Basketball, though—partly because they playoffs last so fucking long, partly because we’ve been taught to devalue the regular season—has increasingly turned into, in the minds of fans, the press, and even some players, a place where meaningful conclusions about one’s legacy can be fashioned. Robert Horry is the disgustingly obvious example of this, but the whole obsession with making the post-season as the measure of NBA worth—it’s as if the whole eighty-two games mean nothing, are just a contest to see who gets the chance to really play basketball (hence Melo over Bron for ROY: Bron wasn’t even eligible). By that same token, much of last year’s outrageous playoff posturing was simply a matter of who was still hanging around; once T-Mac was out, it was between Wade and Manu for #1 off-guard in the Association, and when the Spurs wrapped up the Suns with the quickness, suddenly it was down to Wade alone. Notice, however, that the Finals were too God-forsaken for anyone to even try and extrapolate from.



How do we know that these were but fleeting, frenzied sparks off of the glowing core of a mystical post-season? Umm, it’s called Regular Season 2005-2006. Over an extended period of time, with an ever-fluctuating cast of variables, the truth rises to the surface. The post-season is built off of streaks, grooves, momentuum, mysterious things that are the antithesis of regular season combat. You can say this is an indictment of the first eighty-two, but unlike baseball or football, basketball is not a sport of streaks, peaks and valleys, insane desperation followed by raspberry-like propulsion. Inconsistency and an inability to adapt can thwart excellence; production is suspicious if it relies too heavily on this or that. In these other games, up and down is a way of life, but it’s only in the playoffs that the NBA allows itself to not only worship the situational streak but take it as an unfounded edict.



The great trick is that, with no down, it’s easy to mistake an extended spell of excellence for a marked improvement, something that will carry over into the next season and is consistent with basketball’s metaphysical imperative of constancy. But until you’ve seen that new sensation go through some changes and weather the tidal constraints of team chemistry, a fun-house of opponents that don’t stay long enough to write, health, and an entire league’s need to know once the shock and competitive delirium have worn off, let’s not go mistaking “learning the playoffs,” or maybe even “learning that playoffs,” for figuring out their place in the game.

8 Comments:

At 12/08/2005 8:48 AM, Anonymous aug said...

While I love all the new philosophical posts that look beyond basketball to understand the NBA, its players and the game itself on a whole other level, I do miss the occasional basketball post. About basketball. And players(their games, not their psychology). I loved your late season/playoff writings partly because it's about the time i first started seriously reading every day(i casually looked for awhile before especially when chauncy stopped blogging). The Manu article said everything i had been trying to explain to people for awhile. That manu is inconsistant, dissapears every once in awhile because he's simply not a superstar of the kobe, bron, wade, tmac level. I hope you all don't think that it's petty or amateur to talk about basketball or non-serious deep looking things every once in awhile. I for one, enjoy interesting observations about things i may not have though of just as much as why melo is melo pyschologically. I do enjoy the new look site that started then, gained speed when you all had nothing to talk about during the off season but still felt like you had to write a lot and were forced to look deeper to fill up the page. The new generation of writers are runnin' strong too after their first batch. I enjoyed them all a lot.

On a basketball note. Boris Diaw should be everyone in the world's favorite basketball player. 11-6-6 in modest minutes with 56%(or 53%) shooting from the field. He's also the ultimate teammate. He is so unselfish and does all the little things while retaining a sense of style and grace. I know it's blasphemy but.....I like the suns this year much more than the amare led team last year. Maybe it's just because Diaw is here now and he is my basketball idol (since odom decided to start becoming antoine walker, but he's still near and dear to me). I want to see Amare come back with a whole new skill set along with his cyclone spin move and freakish athletics that embarassed my high school that fateful night 5 years ago as well as Tim Duncan. I'm looking forward to seeing amare, nash, diaw and bell play together. It's gonna be an entirely different team from last year in the playoffs, and i think they finally have what it takes after getting rid of the weak(minded) over the summer, to beat the spurs and take the title. I just came to this realization as i was writing so i don't know how i feel about it completely, but i think i'll like it even more after i sleep on it(after i go take this final).

Sorry for two long winded posts in the same comment. I could've kept going, but it needed to be stopped. Maybe i was bored and nervous about a test i couldn't study for because i accidentally already sold my book, but it was fun. Keep it up guys.

 
At 12/08/2005 10:39 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i have no idea why i'm not writing about actual basketball anymore. the late season/playoff posts were kind of an aberration at the time, but it's not like we've been around long enough that two months can be dismissed.

the "deep" stuff is what comes to me most naturally, but I like to think I'm capable of doing it in a way that proves I do understand a thing or two about the game. otherwise i'd be no better than a rock critic reviewing a ludacris record. i think part of it is that it's still fairly early in the year; as i wrote up top, i think this part of the seasons matters as much as any if you're trying to judge a player's abilities. And of course there's something to be said for watching teams take shape/wondering if surprises can keep it up. but thats different than individual games actually meaning something, since things are still so up in the air. And unlike last year, which was so full of revelations, what's going on this year that making us trip over each other in the rush to make sense of it?

-chris paul
-boris diaw and the new look suns
-the clippers
-offensive pistons
-gerald wallace

i don't know, none of these seem to cry out for explanation. nor, with the exception of wallace, who has lately slipped back into his usual routine of inconsistency, do any of them do all that much for me.

and i apologize if this reads like a business memo, fuck what you heard, winter in texas is 100000000x worse than the northeast--they don't understand that houses need heating and insulation.

 
At 12/08/2005 11:46 AM, Anonymous aug said...

I understand what you're talking about. I guess it's where we differ. I for one, am a basketball junkie(not to say you're not). As long as i've been able to, i've been playing, watching closely, researching, discussing and the last few years, coaching youth basketball. Even in the beginning of the season i am just overwhelmed by everything going on in the association. There's so many small storylines, player styles, up and down players/teams and more. During the season i look at the game a bit more on a technical, statistical, fundamental way while being in awe of the incredible skill and style of guys like kobe, nash and diaw. I try to give the kids i coach lessons in how to watch nba/college games to improve their own because you can learn a lot from watching those guys. None of this is important, so just keep up the writing because i don't have time to look philosophically about basketball until finals are over and until the nba settles down into more of a rhythm.

 
At 12/08/2005 12:04 PM, Anonymous Nels said...

Getting visual's habitual.

 
At 12/08/2005 12:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i hope none of you were having too much fun with that destroy all monsters flyer, i've become deathfully self-conscious about this post, its usefulness, and just how little of it has anything to do with any way, shape or form of basketball. that seemed like its greatest sin and therefore a convenient goat to kill.

 
At 12/08/2005 1:21 PM, Anonymous illwafer said...

MTV's "Real World: Austin" season is over, but the cast appeared in a special on Tuesday night filled with footage that didn't make the regular episodes.

In it, castmate Lacey says that while in Costa Rica, she and the other female castmates were hit on in by "this old guy."

The girls learned later the old head, who wasn't shown, was Dr. J.The name wasn't known by the girls, but the male castmates were surprised they didn't welcome Julius Erving's advances.

 
At 12/08/2005 3:46 PM, Anonymous g aka young neef said...

Funny you should say that illwafer, a female friend of mine reported unwelcomed advances by the good doctor a couple of years in a bar in the outer banks, north kakalak. It seems that, unlike Samson, his sexual prowess does not diminish with his hair's recession.
On an other note ,kudos to you intrepid and ecletic posters who reference thor, harlem kingpins and borderline maudline philosophe's and still manage to construct a cogent and resonant narrative/commentary on roundball and life - keep up the good work

 
At 12/08/2005 6:23 PM, Anonymous aug said...

Ya, i noticed the post changed some. I do miss the destroy all monsters picture. I mean, what other movie has such a collection of super monsters?

 

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