There is sound for the worthless

If no one noticed, I had partly planned to stop writing my lion's end of FreeDarko for the foreseeable New Year. I'm tired, angry, bored with the NBA, and have far more pressing things to do than spending several hours a day debating Lamar Odom's breast size on tv. I've also come to realize that, while as a blogger I'm supposed to want to cast a big tent, draw in the gross and distended for the sake of environment, people like Faith make me not want to visit my own site.

My scruffy 'ol relationship with the Association has so far fallen that yesterday I sent THC an email saying that I felt "embarrassed" for having tickets to a Wizards/Celtics jab-off that, incidentally, was set to overlap with the Redskins first playoff game in recorded history. Not that I care about Portis on the field anymore, or Moss more than two downs per half, but it just seemed like bad form; missing the NFL playoffs is nothing if not ignorant, and to do so in a city engulfed by post-season fever borders on youthful treason. Luckily, THC shot back with the observation that Arenas/Ricky Davis was a match-up akin to Hercules, I remembered what built this blog in the first place, and I was able to enjoy a lovely night of basketball without worrying who was angling for a field goal way off in the distance.

I could speak to you for eons of the zealotry and provident hand-outs that watching these two zesty, yet perfectly damned squads face off provided. The night was thick with such magical note cards as Gheorghe Muresan IN THE BUILDING to give a halftime award to the son of an owner of a favored chili spot. . . Larry David look-alike behind me who spent the entire fucking game yelling at the Wizards, especially Arenas, to "play defense" and "give it to Brendan". . . Delonte West, smooth as ice. . . Scalabrine put in to make one single clutch three-pointer from the corner, then promptly yanked again. . . the realization on my part that, in this here NBA, victory is about capitalizating on the opponents mistakes or overplaying your own, not executing flawlessly. . . my purchase of the single most honorary Arenas shirt known to horsekind. . . the chance to observe, in perfect form, the once-and-for-all deading of the "Butler is the next Pierce" nonsense. . . Ricky Davis, that damn good. . . some chubby, bespectacled mama's boy pulling off the most accomplished dance cam performance I've yet seen.

But what I really want to do is what I do best: heap shame upon the white man and back-handedly, somewhat imprecisely, praise those of the minority persuasion. One of my absolute least favorite things alive is white men, usually slightly older, talking sports to women who clearly don't need or want to hear it. At a crap Italian restaraunt back in H-Town, I nearly got up and punched some British guy who, when the conversation at his table turned casually to the geographic wonder that was the Rose Bowl, proceeded to bust loose with an amateur scouting report on Vince's pro prospects, the difference in defensive schemes, etc. Then last night, the man behind us had a running monologue going, presumably for the benefit of his wife/date, about the Princeton offense, Tampa Bay's defense, other garden variety ESPN.com information. Two rows back, the aforementioned LD impersonator would occasionally stop bellowing about defense (WORLD'S DUMBEST WIZARDS SEASON TICKETHOLDER. the Wizards are not built to play defense, just to score and get steals in transition/on the perimeter) to tell his daughter (??) about which Wizards were really valuable to a sound team game.

I am not a sailor or an adventurer, but something has become clear to me as I wash this earth with my scalding blood: if someone's not responding, they don't care. Either that, or you're talking way over their head. Granted, half of what people say out loud at a sporting event is to sound knowledgable around their oh-so informed peers in the bleachers. But if you are really, truly, talking about screens as a way of bonding with your female companion, it's not working. Keep in mind the model of the baseball game: at any given time, only about 70% of the spectators at a ballpark can apprectiate the nuances of the action, but that doesn't mean the others aren't having a good time. In fact, they're probably enjoying it on their own terms, with as much as they need to know, and find it intrusive to have someone browbeat them with technical wank. At the risk of pissing off our very limited female audience, usually a woman (or any non-fan, for you parents trying to force a burgeoning art fag to play catch) agreeing to go to a sporting event is itself a loveable concession. And if he/she is managing to enjoy the experience, its on her own terms, not through a cloudy, just-discovered lens of identical fandom that God calls upon you to polish. Otherwise, Sundays would not be a day of solitude, and playoff season would not be a unrelenting string of excuses and avoidances on my part.

What I have just taunted applies by and largely to the white man. In fact, in my grippingly amateur work in the field, I am fairly certain that I have observed nearly the opposite behavior among African-Americans, especially younger couples. I think that it has something to do with the black NBA Date, from hereon known as BNBAD. Most younger white people at games are there with their boys, maybe their father (like I can afford these tickets). It's basically an extension of the "yelling in front of the television" setting that gives rise to retarded, self-important sites like this in the first place. But younger black couples at games have a curious dynamic going on—the game is a legit dating (or at least "date") activity, but it doesn't overwhelm things. This could easily lead to some dangerous suppositions about African-American women being genetically predisposed to understand basketball better than their ivory-toned contemporaries (someone, please, take the bait and fight me!), but more likely it has to do with an understanding of the fact that a sporting event can mean different things to different people, and there's no reason that everyone can't enjoy it in their own sweet way. Or that, if the man has already gotten his way by going to a game, he owes it to his woman to make the experience as pleasant, and un-dude-ish, as possible. I am forcibly lead to believe that it's the absence of this institution among the white race that leads to such awful pieces of shittery as "man lectures woman with two-bit commentary" that I have on so many occasions observed.

I hardly remember any other sports well enough to elaborate on this across the boards of discipline; I wonder if it's not an NBA-exclusive phenomen, even if the content sometimes ranges far and free. All I want to say is teach your children well, and maybe future generations will be spared my wrath.


At 1/08/2006 4:22 PM, Anonymous panoptican said...

For fucks sake. I'm not going to pretend to know what the hell I'm talking about because the fact is, I don't. Words aren't my thing. Nor are cultural studies. The thing is, I enjoy Free Darko's perspective. I'll continue reading. I realize it's mostly self-important BS, but you don't gotta be a bitch about it. We readers often don't get whatever it is that Free Darko is about. On the other hand, we often do get what you're talking about but only after you spout it out. It's revealed to us and we think about it for a second and suddenly it all makes sense. Self-important or not, isn't that the point? You're offering an alternative look at the NBA (and more broadly, society), right? Or maybe I've got it all screwed up and this blog is really just a way for 12 guys to collect their thoughts about the association in a central location. If that's the case, may I suggest a private forum or perhaps e-mail?

At 1/08/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1/08/2006 5:04 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm not saying that i don't like having others read this, don't enjoy people's perspective on what easily could have remained an insular message board, or think that there should be an entrance exam. only that, as you've correctly stated, this site is what it is, and that's something deeply imperfect and intentionally chaotic. having someone like faith take us to task for phantom issues like our racism, sterotyping, unsound arguements, or lack of basketball acumen runs counter to the spirit in which the site is composed and should be read. and it alienates my, from myself and others.

At 1/08/2006 5:09 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

nevermind by hubris or FreeDarko's PR problems: football is obviously the dumbest sport in the world. i'm really supposed to care about watching this game now that both palmer and the almighty chris henry are out?

At 1/08/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

Apparently God or Jon Kitna's dead uncle just threw a touchdown pass for the Bungles.

At 1/08/2006 7:12 PM, Blogger themarkpike said...

They Might Be Giants (alternatively titled, "The Night I met Gheorghe Muresan at a Wiz vs. Celtics Game and Lived to Brag About It")

For photographic evidence, peep the flickr spot:


At 1/08/2006 7:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

somehow i neglected to mention that the game also featured a nine-point comeback by the celts with thirty seconds left, followed by two game-winning-ish shots. but this game had so much more than that.

my father just told me that prior to his big shot, scalabrine told jordan "you know what i'm here to do. and you can't stop me."


At 1/08/2006 11:34 PM, Blogger OG said...

since you want feedback so bad...

being only partially white, i don't know if i fit into your bizarre theories, but when i take my girlfriend (who is fully white--does this require mention as well?) to white sox games (does the color of the sock matter too?), i explain stuff to her because otherwise she'd be bored. she's kind enough to attend because it's part of what i'm interested in, and she'd like to experience it too. but if i just sat back and took in the game without interpreting the action, she'd be bored as shit. this goes for most couples' activities, not just sports. if she didn't translate the spanish for me at the community fundraisers she takes me to, i'd be irritated.

but what really needs attention in your post is this perplexing proclamation of distaste for white people. if i may make an ass out of u and me (but honestly your background seems well established as the pale variety) i think this tendency for white people to talk down about their own is kind of goofy--whether it be the case or not, it often feels like it's just an attempt for the speaker to distance himself from his own whiteness and be 'down'. from what i might describe as a logic standpoint, you shouldn't even be saying white people, since you fall into the category, but obviously don't identify with these dudes. it would be more accurate to modify the category.

but i guess what creeps me out in the end is what appears to be a glorification/romantization of the black experience, or, shall we say aspects of that experience. (yes, there's always something in these posts about not taking these words seriously, but) let's give a recent example: clinton portis is being revolutionary? i see... what would huey newton have to say about that? i'm not exactly sure, but i think it would involve chiding remarks about perspective and perception.

the reason i don't usually do the internet post thing, except to crack a joke, is that taking this kind of issue on over a message board has a tendency to spin out of control (anyone see the james dungy comment string off deadspin?). but in this instance, i figure this will give you a chance to address some issues on race i'm sure you've been marinating on for some time now, and if you have to crack back at me to do so, then go ahead. i know i owe you as much for providing all the thought provoking (if occassionaly retarded) and stylistically engaging (if always confusing as hell) material.

At 1/09/2006 5:11 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can't sleep, so i turn to freedarko. . .

oz, i'm not desperate for feedback, just like the good converasation part of the game.

i still think there's much more to portis than meets the eye. as i said to aug, you can be fun and shake things up at the same time. what's more indiciative of the power structures in pro leagues than the scripted, stiff press conference, where athletes fear stepping out of line or showing too much analytical attention to the situation, and the press (and us) judge them based on a lose-lose situation?

but about fair outlandish post i wrote. . . i think we'd all agree that racial fascination/disdain/division/glorification drives the engine of the nba, more than any other sport. i think i was just attempting to see if there were any conclusions that could be drawn about consumption that followed similarly broad, and probably dangerous, lines of reasoning. the game and its culture is more race-based than hip-hop itself at this point, so shouldn't something about its consumption be? that's the assumption that i used to make a fairly harmless point about a difference i've observed in games. broad swathe, to be sure, but like i said, that's how the nba is constructuted.

notice i shit on the jew the most of anyone in the story. that's not, my friends, because i am an anti-semite: IT'S BECAUSE I AM ONE AND THAT'S WHAT WE DO.

about the other white-hating stuff. . .weird that it's okay when we talk about on-court exploits, but not when we talk about watching the game. is that a double standard of double standardom?

fuck this, i'm going back to sleep. i'm sure someone will have called me a racist, sexist, ignorant machine of death by the time i check this again, post-flight tomorrow.

At 1/09/2006 5:23 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

ps if this does actually turn into a conversation, which i somehow doubt it will due to the utterly inflammatory nature of what i've said, i don't think it should have to turn into a racial role call. this is america, people!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 1/09/2006 6:50 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i meant "roll call" obviously, just in case anyone thought i was punnin' it up

At 1/09/2006 9:14 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

thanks to OG for another future free darko t-shirt slogan:

"thought provoking (if occassionaly retarded) and stylistically engaging (if always confusing as hell)"

note: i'm not trivializing your other points, i just thought that was a funny, if apt, description of freedarko.

At 1/09/2006 9:26 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Meh... not to turn it into the racial roll call you wanted to avoid, but I'm Jewish and it's not really necessary for us to talk shit about ourselves. Do some Jews do it a lot? Sure. But is it necessary? Not really. It's probably counterproductive.

If you get upset at flames in the comments, you're going to be upset a lot. Free Darko's been getting a lot of attention and high traffic internet sites get trolls. Especially when it's a blog like Free Darko, where the whole point is engaging commentary taking outlandish positions. Some people will miss the point, others will take a contrary position to be contrary... I like to toss out a quote from the Almight Linus Torvalds: "On the Internet, nobody can hear you being subtle."

At 1/09/2006 1:03 PM, Blogger OG said...

this is a fun strand of dialogue which i hope doesn’t die, so i’ll check in, even though i’m at work and shouldn’t be neglecting my duties, etc.

portis: i agree that it is very cool that he’s doing what he’s doing, but i think it undercuts the power of the act to describe it hyperbolically. people start to discount the credibility of the person doing the describing, and feel suspicious about future statements from the source in general. and please don’t throw the ‘if you take me seriously you’re missing the point’ bit back at me (that disclaimer has been given a couple times lately, and i think it undermines meaningful discussion); you’ve got a lot of good stuff to say, and while this is only an internet forum, it decreases my interest in commenting if people don’t show some degree of sincerity with how they bring it.

i also agree that the nba has a funky glorification aspect to it, and it may be analyzed through the fan base and their actions… however, i don’t think the mode of analysis chosen in this post does the issue justice. from the description given, the actions of the dudes you were talking about made me think of dating patterns in general, and (i may have missed it) seemed to have little to do with the racial relationships involved. i was just picturing that jackass who wants to get into some girl’s pants by showing off; he doesn’t have to be talking about basketball, he could be waxing intellectual about paintings at an art museum or something, the goal is the same. point being, the given scenario doesn’t get at the issue, in my mind, and i know you can do a better job.

i think you guys are capable of a more direct examination of the situation, and hope to see one here in the future.

At 1/09/2006 1:40 PM, Anonymous 412hater215 said...

Look, we all know that black guys are good at basketball because they have all been to prison.

And they have all been to prison because they have such big lips.

And they have big lips because they can jump so damn high.

And they jump high because they like watermelon.

And they like watermelon because they can't swim.

And they can't swim because chinese are good at math.

At 1/09/2006 1:42 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i was thinking about this on the plane. . .it could be just about dating patterns in general and the role sports/sports knowledge/sporting events play in those, but i have noticed that there is a racial/cultural component to it. i'm not even being that provocative, just saying that two different cultual groups might have different approaches to this.

and about the "don't take me seriously". . .notice, i'm almost always saying it about something that's clearly not a topic for serious discussion, or even much of a point. like when i called manu puerto rican. saying there's nothing to portis's costumes is like saying there's nothing to what a musician chooses to wear on-stage. . may be trivial in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn't mean it can't hold as much significance as something more ostensibly important.

i mean everything i say, except when i'm not saying much of anything. if something is the central theme of a post, i mean it.

aaron-maybe jews shouldn't be self-hating, but it's a bit late to change that.

and please-everyone with half a brain who is capable or having a sense of humor about "big issues"-all my frustrated outbursts of late have in no way been directed at you. look at the comments and it's pretty easy to see where, why, and when i fly off the handle.

At 1/10/2006 11:17 AM, Anonymous aug said...

What the hell happened the last couple months? So much confusion/argument.

I do agree with OG i think it was who said something about needing to expla in baseball to his girlfriend so she can enjoy it. I know you're talking about guys flexing their sport knowledge on a date as if it's somehow impressive to them, but i agree that(not to sound wishy washy) that the right answer lies in the happy medium like OG pointed out. I have been to a couple of games with my sister(my biological sister since this comment page has gotten so racial), and she just doesn't understand certain things. I'm not gonna explain to my sister the nuances of the high pick and roll, but i will explain to her some basic things. I explain what happens, certain plays they do and answer questions like "How did that guy make the NBA, it looks like he has never played basketball before" after watching christian lattener throw the ball backwards for no reason and then laugh as i explain to her how he was once the best player in college basketball.

Onto Portis, i think he's revolutionary, but in a very small way. Nothing about shooting back at confining, scripted interviews where the coach/players always say the "right thing", but simply that players(even johnny white guy) can have fun in the NFL like Shaq has in the NBA. There are a couple of guys doing that this season in Chad Johnson and Steve Smith. Both have scripted endzone dances that are well hyped as well as entertaining press conferences. TO always is a huge personality as much as people don't want him to be. I think some blog members may have overrated the NBA players in terms of style. There really aren't that many players in the NBA that are like Shaq. Sure Iverson stays skreet by wearing baggy clothes, chains, bringing his gun to innapropriate places, but besides his infamous practice interview(which wasn't about style but about saving his own hide), he's just like most other NBA stiffs in terms of personality in interviews and such. The NFL United Way commercials are all great too. And every patriot/eagle is in at least 6 commercials this year. The NBA(partly because it's less popular) doesn't have as many characters that the public gets to see out in the open, with the exception of espn commercials and the lebrons. I think it'd be wise of stern to advertise his players more as real people and show that they're not(not that it's true but the misconception that some people still have) rich thugs who don't deserve what they get or work hard. Everyone loves shaq, even people who don't like the nba. Just as the NFL should promote fun loving guys like portis, johnson and smith, the nba should promote more personality off the court like they do with shaq(the man had his own tv show). Rookies and the season were all good, but stern could do better. (the way the posts on this page were going i felt it necessary to use as many parentheses as possible)

At 1/10/2006 12:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

there is a lot there i want to answer but unfortunately i have to keep it brief:

-a non-sports fan asking question is a totally different animal. that way they're setting the tone

-my post about portis was partly about the utter failure of FD's mission--i.e. that maybe these players aren't all that stylish after all. stylized, maybe, but that's not the same thing. it's like how NY rappers have always yammered on about their style when most sound the same. room for small variation, but also a shared style.

-if this were a football blog, i would write something about endzone dances. they're often clever, but they rarely mean anything. they're just trash-talking or abridged comedy show skits. if chad johnson had brought out the reindeer, that might have changed things. . .

-shaq is a lovable, all-american hero. he just stands out because it's more a baseball or football kind of personality than an nba one. that personality as in "ms. personality," typecast shit that often comes with the nfl territory. i think the nba does excel at personality, if only because so many of the players have so much more complicated and vulnerable public roles/responses.

At 1/10/2006 1:09 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I agree totally with the nba and their great personalities. I just wish the general public got to see it more.


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