More than I can stand

Let me offer up a little advice for all my fellow NBA-scaling/rap-hawking/black-culture-jocking blog fleas: you might as well close up shop during Houston’s All-Star Weekend. The Weekend typically bears on its wings more wacky mental snapshots than our ilk can bear, but this year? Picking out the best and brightest moments will be like trying to date in Paradise, and we self-appointed connoisseurs of the radiant other will find ourselves paralyzed and impotent. Either our brains will fry from the glut of meaning or, bitter that the gems no longer need dusting off, we’ll be reduced to the gawky spectatorship that we’d like to think our wit exempts us from.

In fact, for our purposes the whole giant lobster may have already jumped the shark. Two words for you busters: Shaq with grills. Last night, while listening to one of the few H-Town mix shows that sounds like you’d like them all to, I caught the following (loosely paraphrased):

“We had Vince Young up on the mic. . . Shaq’s party was crazy. . . he’s been hanging out with Paul Wall. . . dude had front and bottom grills. . . he’s so dark and those grills were so sparkly. . . you know Paul Wall must’ve done ‘em.”

Don’t front like that didn’t just write your next 35,000 blog entries for you. And I guarantee that, even if I do nothing more that weekend than turn on the radio when I’m driving, I’ll probably have enough comparably mind-blowing (if not quite as singular) one-line anecdotes to pass on. But (that’s the FreeDarko race siren you hear about to run up on ya) this has got me feeling a little uncomfortable about my tabloid-like obsession with the ASW hoopla. The embarrassment of riches I’m expecting from 2006 is just an exaggerated version of what we’re always after: rappers, ballplayers, and other black celebrities either trying on each others’ hats or breaking down the distinctions between them.

You can argue that this kind of stargazing is perfectly natural, but the degree to which we treat all of the Weekend’s proceedings as a crazed novelty almost makes it out to be a four day-long ghetto of celebrity. Like this never happens except under these very special circumstances, and it’s some sort of cultural landmark for these folks to hang out and relate to each other. At the very least, we can only be so surprised that wealthy, successful members of the hip-hop generation in sports, music, and the rest of the entertainment business get together and make exotic black stuff happen; Page 6 and the likesuch are predicated on the assumption that white actors and rockers spend every night of the week grasping hands in a coke-fuelled shadow world. “Shaq with grills” isn’t some earthshaking occurrence that demands commentary; in all truth, it seems pretty much par for the scene you’d expect around ASW.

For anyone that finds that too arduously PC, I wanted to go off of something Ken said the other day (and I’d been thinking about posting on for a minute). In the context of god only knows what, Ken wondered aloud if any male sports fan “really wants a woman who knows all about Oil Can Boyd.” Two weekends ago, my girl and I were headed out; for no reason other than the magnetic hangman that is my laptop, I stopped to check my fantasy team on the way out. It was the night that Gerald Wallace, a key member of XtremeMentalTorture and one of my favorite players, went down, sending shockwaves through my emotional and professional life, and leading to about five minutes worth of distraction during the ride to who knows where. This got noticed, and, to make a long story short, I eventually ended up admitting that someone very dear to me had gotten hurt, but that I doubted she’d heard of him and didn’t really want to talk about fantasy sports (with her) anyway. She pressed me, and I finally muttered out “Gerald Wallace.” Her sarcastic reply: “I know who Gerald Wallace is. Remember, I do work here.”

(yes, that is Wallace. And in case this post is boring you, here's some fond photographic memories from the time he and his Kings teammates logged at a Sactown ink spot)

Honestly, I felt distant and empty. Like I’m glad that I’m with someone who will watch a quarter of a televised game with me, be cool with certain urgent, must-see contests, and appreciates the broader category of FreeDarko. And I’m hardly one to put much stock in gender roles, a man’s place, a woman’s worth, etc. But Gerald Wallace is exactly the kind of marginal sports figure who you don’t want your significant other to recognize. As marvelous as he is, knowing about Wallace signifies everything that I would never want in a woman: amateur scout, dunk obsessive, box score scourer, fantasy enthusiast, semi-regular watcher of League Pass. I’m not sure that I want to be part of a group of friends, much less involved in a serious relationship, where my NBA problem is the norm, not an endearing, endless freak-out.

Finally, basketball itself. It’s not too soon to start the MVP debate, but over the last week Kobe has practically forced the issue. Probably not worth going into the candidates, since we all know them well, and Kobe has to average thirty-five and make the playoffs before they’ll consider giving it to him. But Nash is certainly up there, doing more this time around with less than he had for last year’s exhilarating campaign. The real question is whether his MVP set a precedent or was one of those “we can’t not give it to him, but it’s partly so we’ll never have to leave it with him (or someone like him) again.” If it ends up with Billups, it’ll be mostly to shut people up, but Nash’s prior award might have accidentally made him the favorite.


At 1/31/2006 1:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This man just refuses to drop the facade. A whole hour with SAS and nothing even mildly interesting came out of it (except for Kobe's somewhat curious facial expressions). Outside of his well-earned reputation as a soul-less killing machine, I honestly think he may have even less personality than the Tim Duncan Robot. Kob is 100% baller, 1/2 a man.

Stephen A. Smith is George Jefferson.

At 1/31/2006 8:55 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Yeah, I love it when they make an effort to understand my love for the game, but I find talking sports minutiae with a woman (especially one who knows what's she's talking) about a little off-putting. It just seems unnecessary.

If you're a woman looking at the comments section of FreeDarko stand up and be counted.

At 1/31/2006 10:09 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it's like when i get too involved in helping a woman judge her outfit. a little bit of crossover makes everyone feel globally wanted and understood, but too much and you start stepping on each others' territory.

At 1/31/2006 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most annoying sports conversation I ever had was with some girl I didn't know at a party. She kept yelling at me that "Terrell Davis is only a North-South runner...! He can only go North-South!" (This was after he won the SB MVP) I almost punched......... myself.

It made me think that even women who seem to follow sports enough to wank about them are still only compiling what they've heard from the shouting heads on TV. It's not that they could really watch a game and make an informed analysis about what's going on right there, or even draw larger conclusions about league-wide trends or strategy or anything.

I'm perfectly happy explaining certain elementary aspects to my girlfriend ("they keep passing it to that guy because he's the tallest, sweetie") while at the same time having her get a little annoyed at home every time I watch a game. That's the way it should be; it's not something we have to share all the time. And even though she'll never love or understand sports, she did get me Spurs tickets for Christmas.

She liked Oberto.

At 1/31/2006 11:21 AM, Anonymous T. said...

Say what you want about the NBA All-Star game, and it's surrounding trappings. Good, bad, a monument to excess . . .but the lobby of the player's hotel during All-Star Weekend is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I was offered $2,000 for my credential (she didn't look like someone who would have a Chinese last name). In freezing Atlanta, where everyone was wearing thick jackets, there were women dressed in little more than very wide belts in the lobby - aiming for the Jordan, Kobe, Iverson level player - but more often than not, ending up with the Even Eschmeyeres and Moochie Norris's.

It truly is a spectacle.

At 1/31/2006 11:28 AM, Blogger OG said...

the question, of course, is how do black people handle this issue? (internet post sarcasm disclaimer: check previous fd post on white dudes explaining sports to chicks).

i know lots of dudes who just rehash shit they read on espn.com when talking about sports, it's not just women who want to be down. in all honesty, i rehash shit i read on espn; i feel like i consume more sports criticism than actual sports. it comes down to a matter of what's more available and accessble (surfing the net at work; listening to the radio while doing other stuff at home). kind of sad, really.

At 1/31/2006 12:01 PM, Blogger Neil Scientist said...

I decided to stop talking to my girlfriend about sports altogether when I realized that she was asking about my fantasy team almost daily. Not out of interest, but because she wanted to ask it at a time when it would be convenient to listen to fifteen ranting minutes on shit she'd never heard of. It just seemed unfair to both of us to keep with that status quo. It was at around the same time I stopped making her watch PS2 replays. It's better now; we don't keep resentful, and relentless indices on our relationship's economy of boredom.

At 1/31/2006 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying that only women do that... just that that's about as far as their understanding goes.

I've never heard a woman say something like "Payton keeps getting killed trying to go around that pick," or "no way Berkman sees anything over the middle," or "why didn't Portis cut that outside?"

At 1/31/2006 12:27 PM, Anonymous T. said...

I avoid the woman & sports question quite easily. She went to Duke and never once went to a basketball game. Safe to say, she has zero interest in sports.

At 1/31/2006 12:29 PM, Blogger emynd said...

My recently-became-my-ex ex was a Sixers fan as well as a Lakers fan. T'was ultimately one of the reasons we broke up, methinks.


At 1/31/2006 2:42 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

At the conclusion of the redick H-Town posse cut "Draped Up Remix," the perpetually slept on, yet finally-seeing-the-shine Bun B screams, "We'll see you in February for the All-Star Game!" I think that perfectly encapsulates why the All-star game in Houston so tingles our bologna-smelling, mayonnaise-spreading flat-asses. You got the "Underground King," who shares the track with my hero Pawl Waw and a Mexican named Aztek, getting hyped for this yearly exodus of mostly hated athletes to an exhibition event that crusty old newspaper column writing dudes decry for the lack of set shots. Perfect.

At 1/31/2006 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought I would offer a female perspective. I think that a lot of women might initially be put off or perhaps surprised by the idea that men don’t want them to be too into sports, and the suggestion that, “It's not that they could really watch a game and make an informed analysis about what's going on right there, or even draw larger conclusions about league-wide trends or strategy or anything,” is, of course, pretty insulting, but I do think that given a moment to think about it, most women would admit that they’re comfortable with the dynamic that most of you are describing. When you’re interested in someone, you want to know about that person’s interests, but it gets creepy and boring when you artificially try to make those interests your own.

Related to the idea of getting too involved in a woman’s outfit, I offer the example of Project Runway, which a lot of men watch and enjoy (perhaps Heidi Klum and the underwear clad models have something to do with it). I like a man to express his opinion on the designs and to maybe recognize a few major figures in the fashion world, but I wouldn’t want him to take it too far. If I say that Zulema’s dress is a poorly executed copy of something from last Spring’s Lanvin collection, I certainly don’t want to hear any arguments.

At 1/31/2006 3:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

this needs to be said at some point: santino is totally freedarko.

At 1/31/2006 4:49 PM, Blogger ForEvers Burns said...

Interesting Discussion. Sorry this ended up being so long . . .

A few years ago, in response to some fairly typical misogynist musings by Bill Simmons, a female sportswriter wrote a column for Page 2 chronicling her frustration with dating and renouncing the hypocrisy of men who claim they would love to date a woman who was really into sports. She experienced countless times where men were put off and even indignant that a woman might know more then they did in their supposed “area of expertise.” She said her experiences led her to believe that men want a woman they can spoon-feed sports to without ever feeling challenged or inadequate.

I think this perspective is more than a little unfair to men for the same reasons that Simmons can be completely asinine in his views on females. Maybe I’m generalizing about this blog’s readership, but its writers and commenters don’t exactly seem to be typical Sports Guy wannabes: meathead renaissance men.

“I’m not sure that I want to be part of a group of friends, much less involved in a serious relationship, where my NBA problem is the norm, not an endearing, endless freak-out.”

I think Shoals’ comment perfectly describes the situation and I think I feel exactly as he does for a few reasons:

My (and possibly everyone who reads/writes for this page) NBA obsession and perspective is uniquely my own, and has developed as a result of numerous years playing/observing/coaching/reading about/writing about basketball/black culture/white culture/politics/psychology/philosophy. I’m not sure that I can explain it, much less present it in a way that it can be understood by another rational human being. It’s not something easily shared with any non-over-the-top NBA fanatic and because it’s something that so much makes up my own identity, by trying to share too much of it with someone I’m in a relationship with, it feels almost as if I’m compromising my individuality.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s not a particularly flattering part of my individuality that I’d be compromising. The fact that I can only play drinking games in an old Stackhouse jersey, can name the college of nearly any player in the 2002-2003 NBA register, and made use of basketball cards in my 7th grade classroom nearly as much as calculators could be construed as endearingly idiosyncratic, but is more realistically perceived as pretty damn lame. There’s so much important stuff that I don’t know, I can’t imagine that I could stand spending too much time with someone who’s brain devotes so much space to hoops and so little to, say, my own often forgotten phone number.

Here’s where I potentially contradict myself. My girlfriend was an outstanding ice hockey player and has made me watch a handful of Minnesota Wild games. She appreciates every nuance of the game, while I constantly ask “Why haven’t they started fighting yet?” I love watching these games with her, despite the fact that I have no interest in the game itself. I think it’s not her display of hockey knowledge that impresses me, but rather the idea that if she can understand hockey so well, she has the capacity to understand basketball on that level too. Thankfully, she has more importantly things to learn about.

So maybe this is what attracts men (or maybe just me): the capacity to understand, and the good judgment to not bother to.

At 1/31/2006 5:46 PM, Anonymous dejunn bodiroga b*tch said...

well this one trick i was seeing used to try to pin me on nba basketball vs. college basketball. she was an international soccer head so she was all into that rah rah rah shit, whereas i kept trying to tell her that the nba game is more refined, more stylish - not to mention the technical skill and athleticism is on a whole 'nother level. but i agree with what was written in this post, so i was actually going out of my way to NOT sound like i was really poorly waxing poetic about the 'beauty of the game' or some other such shit, still, she tried to call me on it because she was a ho like that, but i had to tell her. plus, she was a duke fan and hated nikes so that one was destined to fail from the git. she might as well have been a republican gay dude or something.

i seen kobe last night on steven a., but dang ... you know, i actually like the guy. he brings the same kind of energy and intensity to basketball as i do to my work, so i like seeing a guy with a chip on his shoulder working hard to defy the odds and succeeding. not that i derive all that much inspiration from kobe (although i do keep a picture of jordan at my desk), but still ... i can see why he's so successful, and i can see why people don't like him. i'm here, actually going out of my way to TRY to like the guy, and he makes it damn near impossible. it's almost as if he doesn't want to be well-liked. then he'd be in jeopardy of getting too comfortable and losing his competitive edge. he benefits from that perception, because, for whatever it's worth, none of his competition cares about basketball as much as he does. there are other guys who are competitive and want to win pretty badly, but without basketball kobe would be a broken man (it's not all about the money). i just wish he'd let the guard down from time to time. i thought steven a. would be the perfect venue for him to just act like a real human being for once, but it sounded like he kept "toeing the company line," so to speak. everything he said sounded hollow, generic, and calculated.

and the weirdest part is that he's a living contradiction between supreme arrogance and confidence on the one side and insecurity on the other. just see how he takes deep breaths, his voice wavers, he cuts his answers short without really wanting or trying to like you do in job interviews you're nervous about and shit ... it probably comes from not really having any friends. like, ever. choosing to stay in and watch basketball tapes instead of getting into trouble and chasing hoez and shit.

At 1/31/2006 6:35 PM, Blogger Ian said...

That "Draped Up" song is straight-up H-town garbage. Paul Wall says "what it do?" and talks about his mouth. Mike Jones does his Special Ed from "Crank Yankers" bit. Slim Thug rhymes "thug" with "love," "dubs," and "scrubs." Lil' Flip continues his DJ Skrew necrophilia. Like Chris Rock once said, "damn, go get kidnapped or something! Have something new happen to you!"

The only good part about it is the video and the accompanying backdrops each guy gets. Like, Lil' Flip's in a fly ride with Bun-B, while Z-Ro is in front of a closed CD store and Aztek just rhymes in front of a bunch of fat Mexicans. By the way, doesn't Aztek use the "n" word somewhere in there?

At 1/31/2006 8:53 PM, Anonymous T. said...

I like Houston Hip-hop . . .but I agree, there needs to be a diversity of topics. There's only so many songs that can be written about: cars (slabs, sitting sideways, candy colored paint), grillz, drink (syzrup), and women.

Paul Wall, Bun-B, Pimp-C and Slim Thug were at a Rockets game recently - no women talking their ear off about how Yao showing on the pick-and-roll takes him out of the middle and tires him out - and maybe, just maybe, Stro could show some hustle to go with the unreal leaping ability.

At 2/02/2006 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me like the real trouble with men and women and sports and all is that when you talk about sports with someone else you take it out of the realm of personal idiosyncracy and into the world of social currency, and for better or worse a woman talking about sports is a different kind of social currency -- it says (in this day and age) I'm not the kind of chick you think I am, I'm tougher than that or something along those lines. Which is why there's something more potentially irritating about a chick rehashing espn commentary -- you feel like she's making a claim that she can't back up. And there's something to be said for having a sport be the personal territory of one and only one person in the relationship. But I think it's kind of grotesque to break that down along gender lines.

At 3/01/2006 4:45 PM, Blogger laura said...

i've come to this discussion very very late, but here's my 2 cents anyway: i love nba basketball, and i even subscribe to nba league pass. but my current man loves baseball. i was in a short relationship with an nba nut like myself, and of course it didn't work because it almost felt like incest (except i look nothing like his sister, because she is the spitting image of him and he's white). i talk basketball with my brothers, and maybe that's where the feelings of incest started to creep in.

when i can talk shop in basketball with another guy, it means he can be a potential friend. anything more and i should be carted off to jail for violating the laws of nature.

he likes to think that baseball is superior. i love telling him that he has his head up his ass. i think we've made an arrangement that works.


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