Hound on hound
It ain’t Isiah, but for now, Babcock will have to do. Mere hours after I explained why the Knicks' embattled GM was doing his fair share of Association-destroying, the Raptors cut ties with the man whose track record can be most generously described as pitiable. The latest of many executives seemingly incapable of making a sound decision, Babcock’s most legit move involved snaring an All-Star in the Best Draft Ever; on the other side of the scales of justice, we find a delightful medley of the historically incompetent (giving away Vince, the immortal Araujo pick) and the subtly inept (overpaying for Rafer, losing ‘Yell for nothing). Usually it's just local fans who have strong feelings about GM's, but while Dumars and Donnie Walsh have become national celebrities through their cunning, Babcock's name is widely synonymous with sheer indeptitude. Just as we call for coaches’ head on the daily, whether or not we care about the fortunes of the team they lead, Babcock stood as an insult to the Association we fans deserve. Yes, he made decisions that lent an unfair advantage to some lucky opponents—whether it was those drafting after him, those chasing free agents when he’d mismanaged his money, or, as we saw so recently, any future All-Timer who happened to catch fire against them in a game. But more to the point, he was the front office equivalent of that “how is he a starter in this league” guy, someone whose very existence flew in the face of everything superlative we want to believe about the National Basketball Association.
What makes Babcock or Isiah so galling is that you, me, and everyone we know could, if given the opportunity, probably craft a more perfect basketball union. This isn’t a “my kid could do that” argument, but the fairly obvious contention that, judging from their professional histories, we hardcore basketball fans know as much about personnel, scouting, common cap sense, and abstract strengths and weaknesses as the clownier of the GM’s. I’m not claiming to be a master technician of the game, or even a particularly sound exec. Compared to Babcock, though, I feel myself to be highly qualified for the position of handing out millions to nervously assessed journeymen.
Now I speak: why is it that we spend so much more time shitting on coaches than GM’s? I know that Babcock and Thomas hear it at their respective arenas, and Matt Millen has been forced into the defensive crouch of a hurried tyrant. But for every extreme case like this, there are umpteen million examples of coaches getting called out on the regular, dramatically and often without much provocation. Granted the coach has more of an effect on the day-in, day-out performance of the team. His role, though, means nothing without proper execution and a roster that loves itself. As in, blame the system all you want, but how can you grasp the system when the actors come up lame? I know that in some far-off land, a man with hair in his ears and eyes holds out for a firebrand whose shouting vaults players into excellence. These figures, though, are by far the exception; for the most part, coaches are limited by what their squad is capable of or willing to make happen on the floor. And since this varies wildly from game to game, based on opponent, travel, change of the season, and players-only chemistry issues (in basketball, the coach is far more helpless in this respect than in football), it’s hard to get an accurate picture of just how great or terrible a coach actually is. As DLIC has said, this is a league of players, and especially in the case of a players’ coach like Doc Rivers, it’s just not always clearly his fault.
This is not a defense of crappy coaches; I'm just suggesting that it’s the GM we’re probably in the best position to criticize. He deals not with the vicissitudes of a long, misshapen season, but with the long-term prospect of an asset’s value and worth. Just as I rarely presume to know what the experience of playing in the NBA is like, I find it hard to endlessly feast upon the problematic intersection of coaching’s idealism and the messy tract of practice (“in practice” and “PRACTICE?!?!”). The Babcocks of this league, though, disappoint me in the very department I spend so much time visiting, getting maximum leeway and the luxury of pure principle. Not only do I think I could GM the Raptors, I also think that next time we kill a coach for “his” actions, it would do us well to look just as hard at the GM. We probably have much more of a right to knowledgably take him on, can pinpoint more clearly where he screwed up and, of course, he’s the one who handed a struggling coach those pieces in the first place.
Some random shit that might well be the beginning of a new series, NFL Homo Semiotics:
1.Did anyone else find it as weird as I did that, when Gillian Barber introduced the finalists for “NFL’s Sexiest Man” last weekend, they were Favre and Neil Rackers, a kicker? This probably belongs under “NFL Racial Semiotics,” since the NFL is, I don’t know, more than seventy percent African-American, but I know that even suggesting that Favre and Rackers might not be the best-looking NFL'ers might make some people uncomfortable.
2. Like two weeks ago, Colin Cowherd revealed his “man-crush” on Bill Bellichek. Last time I checked, the trailblazing quality of the “man-crush” was that it trafficked in some level of homo-eroticism; has Brokeback Mountain so traumatized sports talk that only unattractive, deathly boring figures—who safely rob the expression of all its sexual connotations—are now eligible for “man-crushes?”
Seriously, sports talk and American masculinity in general is mildly obsessed with joking about that movie. I can't figure out if this is a good or bad thing.