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
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.