I'm Not a Toy

Your boy DLIC wrote the Freedarko joint for McSweeney's today. In true FD fashion, I curse sport consumers for attempting to moralize the NBA more than other sports leagues, and suggest that these singling out effort is due to the NBA game “feeling so right it must be wrong.” In the process, and also in very un-FD fashion, I completely gloss over the fact that a primary reason the NBA is so often the subject of this treatment is that it is a league of young black stars (aka “moral decay” to blue-haired season ticket holders and NBA bizness partners). I feel like maybe that is the more obvious point, and one that has already been made, probably better, by more credible people.

Also, on the topic of glossed over points, I delve into the argued ad nauseam college/pro debate, which, under heavy duress and sickness that I no doubt picked up on the 20-hour car ride back from Austin to Minneapolis, I would like to expand (briefly) upon here.

I'll start by addressing B-Shoals’ inquiry, which is how we/one/basketball gets from James Naismith (zero) to Michael Jordan (infinity). I’m no basketball historian, but I’m pretty sure it went like 1891 Naismith did the thing, 1940s Mikan goes buck-nutty, forces league to change the rules so that big men can’t dominate, 1960s/1970s Russell and Wilt continue to dominate despite the bigman-curtailing m.o. of the league, 1980s the rise of Bird, Magic, and Isiah demonstrates dominance from the backcourt, 1990s MJ reveals the limitlessness of man. Everything since (e.g. Shaq mocking Wilt, search for the next Jordan, resurrection of Riley) has been retread. In other words, we now know what is possible. Oscar Robertson fits somewhere in there too as the paradigm of versatility. But point being, MJ showed us the stratosphere.

Now what is frustrating about the college game is that, it’s like, we have seen the boundlessness of basketball ability; so why would we anyone want to have to endure the more restrained version of it. The players are terribly over-coached, which contributes--in addition to the mind-numbing bonus foul rules--to the end of the games taking for-fucking-ever (I believe this topic was at least tangentially discussed here as well). Coaches don't trust their players (and why should they), so they end up calling a million timeouts in tight situations, which squashes a lot of the drama as well as the clutchness from the moment (again see Shoals' previous post). The relative importance of coaching in college compared to the NBA leads to a game dominated by the principles of the institution rather than the individual (fancy way of saying I hate that players aren't allowed to freelance in a close game with a minute left in regulation)

Point two with regard to "the institution." There is this quasi-phony notion in college basketball (but oddly not in college football...getting there...) that because these teams are repping their schools that what we are watching is the education of young men. Sure to a certain extent this may be true, but overall, this point is bullshit as we have all heard the stories of how these guys get everyone to write their papers for them and enter the NBA barely able to read. Shoals (YES WE DID HAVE ANOTHER BASKETBALL CONVERSATION IN TEXAS) made the insightful point that in basketball, many of the best programs often belong to actual good schools (e.g. UCLA, UNC, Duke, Georgetown, Boston College) whereas this is NEVER the case with football. I think this is somehow related to the notion that basketball is more of an educational experience whereas football is education only insofar as it teaches these neanderthal concepts of basic survival/band of brothers/hunting sabertooth tigers with a spear/spoon your fellow man in a sleeping bag if it's cold enough outside, etc. In fact, as someone who played four years of high school basketball and sucked profusely at it, I know that basketball is the least cerebral sport of all. It is pure instinct and reaction, elements that college hoops does its best to extract/exclude from the game in favor of hand-holding and full-court trapping. One of my earliest coaches told me the reason why I was so crappy at basketball was because I was always thinking about the play rather than reacting. So without any better idea of how to wrap up this paragraph, I shout from the student union at Wichita St. to the stainglassed chapel at Boston College: FREE HOOPSO.

As a closing non-sequitur (and for those who claim that Freedarko no longer follows current events) I would like to acknowledge this recent tabloid spectacle, which I simply can’t avoid commenting on. (Also, I have decided that any time my old lady AND Chicago’s very own version of the devil-on-your-shoulder forward you the same hoops-related link, that probably means it's blog material.) Due to this recent news, as well as a quick run-through of the dossier, I have determined that Carlos Boozer truly has no soul:

1. Born in Juneau, Alaska (least soulful city in the U.S.)
2. Played college ball at Duke (apologies, too obvious)
3. Swindles a blind philanthropist and forgoes the opportunity to play his career alongside the human embodiment of Paid In Full (could be referring to the album, the crappy movie, or the soundtrack to the crappy movie—really doesn’t matter)
4. Swindles a blind philanthropist, etc…FOR THE PURPOSES OF GOING TO UTAH.
5. Somehow manages to cripple himself for 80 games after signing a billion-dollar contract
6. Sues Prince (for being Prince)

Oddly enough, I still love C-Booz’s game.


At 3/23/2006 12:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

when shoefly and i lived together a few years ago, he was convinced that "the booze" was the social epi-center of the nba. i think he heard at least two people mention kicking it with the great alaskan hope during ASW interviews, and after that it was over.

At 3/23/2006 2:03 PM, Blogger Josh said...

NEVER the case with football? That's a pretty extreme statement - Michigan, Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgia and Texas all have good-to-great academic reputations. I'd wager they're all ranked ahead of Kansas and Kentucky, at least.

At 3/23/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

Re: college athletics, am I the only one who thinks that football powerhouses USC, Texas, Notre Dame, UCLA, Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin are exemplary academic institutions? Check the USNews rankings for their Top 100 doctoral-granting universities and you'll find many perennial football contenders. I think that that good basketball program = school values academics and the life of the mind is a rather tenuous equation. Moreover, I think most observers of college athletics believe football to be a game of strategy, perhaps even more than hoops.

At 3/23/2006 2:13 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

You might be interested in this article by Matthew Yglesias at "The American Prospect" on why the pro game is great and college hoops sucks.

At 3/23/2006 2:16 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

yeah, i knew i'd be getting into unfamiliar territory with that good school comment. i dont think of virginia or washington as traditional powerhouses of any sport, but yeah

notre dame

right on.

At 3/23/2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if i remember correctly, DLIC and i were kicking around that theory in the context of a "ncaa hoops is the bougiest sport imaginable to man." like if the nfl reaches out to the common man, and college football belongs first and foremost to those in college, than ncaa hoops, by virtue of small arenas and some notoriously exclusive schools' greatness in the sport, comes off even worse.

the point wasn't that every football school is stupid, but that so-called "good schools" are more likely to stake their fortunes on basketball. to be fair, that's in part because of way success is evaluated/post-season is structured in basketball.

At 3/23/2006 2:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

not all small arenas, but not generally built to accomodate the entire universe as they are in football.

i'm already sick of talking about this

At 3/23/2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous T. said...

Maybe I just grew up in too much of a caring sharing household, but is it really necessary to denigrate a sport I hold near and dear (college hoops) to support a sport which is my first love AND puts a paycheck in my pocket (the Association)?

I happen to love both. Even if Leon Powe's awkward game may never translate to the pros - he's still my favorite college player.

And for all of the recent discussion of getting out of the ghetto - it seems like all to storylines we wish for do happen - it's just in college sports.

Take, for example, the already mentioned Powe. A borderline pro - is what NBAdraft.net has him at - maybe a late first round pick, maybe a 2nd round pick. But no guarentee of success - he's anything but "can't miss" No post moves to speak of, short, no outside game. All he is - is a superior rebounding college 6'7" power forward.

But let's look at what's he's overcome. Single parent household, 4 younger sibilings looking up to him, moved some 40+ times between the ages of 5 and 17, two ACL surguries.

And yet, he's a success story. He's one semester away from graduating with a degree in social welfare. From friggin Berkeley And if he doesn't make the league, you can be damned sure he's going back to Oakland and helping out in the 'hood.

(and that's one out of many stories).

That doesn't make me like the NBA less - or like college hoops to the exclusion of the NBA - but it's important to recognize that both have their merits.

At 3/23/2006 2:31 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

kind of speaking of college athletics, brian at mgoblog with the latest ESPN slight against blogdome:


(apologies for not knowing how to post links in the comments section)

At 3/23/2006 2:37 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

thing is, i don't watch nba basketball because it gets people out of the ghetto. and watching athletes who or may not be getting a meaningful college degree in no way affects my appreciation of the sport.

there's nothing ethically wrong with enjoying the college brand of ball, i guess. but it is a different kind of game, and it's not someone superior to the pros, which a lot of people like to go around claiming. i'm fine with someone liking both for different reasons, and a hierarchy in which pros trump all would make a certain degree of sense. . . but anyone who picks ncaa over nba is bringing all sorts of extra-basketballular baggage to the table.

At 3/23/2006 2:37 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

goddamn, DLIC killed that MCSwees piece!

"Because the pro game doesn't explicitly provide us with warm rah-rah slices of ethical birthday cake, motormouthed pundits, sportscasters, and fans alike feel the need to inflict pain and punishment on the Association as if to somehow justify the unstoppable fantasticness of a league that is basically the sports equivalent of the human dopamine system."

i'm currently printing this out in miniature to pin on my chest in the hope of never again having to stomach a pro/college bar debate. march is an annual reminder of why we fight (cuz god knows i'm not watching pre-tourney NCAA ball), but last week, sometime after the fourth consecutive headfake-chestpass-around-the-horn sequence, i lost the will to preach (and let's not even mention the headfake followed by one hard dribble with no real intention kickout). it's all too obvious. now i can just point to the above paragraph and nod.

the point about money is also spot-on. people are always willing to "poor kid" a 20-year-old college player at the line late in the game, but a 20-year-old NBAer who misses freebies isn't working hard enough in practice.

At 3/23/2006 2:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Yglesias hit on another reason why basketball works out well for "good schools"--cheaper to have a basketball team, meaning it doesn't have to become the center of the school. maybe that's a reach.

At 3/23/2006 2:44 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

FUCK. where'd my comment go...i mainly just wanted to say that i think i misrepresented shoals' original point and that here are other examples that debunk my theory of good schools not equalling good football.

(berkeley...but are they still
football relevant?)

At 3/23/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Ian said...

DLIC- Virginia's a traditional powerhouse in lacrosse and soccer. Which I guess proves your point. And please don't tell me Michael McDonald is up there as a paragon of soullessness. I beg of you.

At 3/23/2006 3:10 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Yah Mo B There?

come on now.

but i probably couldn't have gone wrong with joss stone or meshach taylor

At 3/23/2006 3:12 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

The only way for the good schools and basketball connection to work is if you substitute "private school" for good school. Marquette doesn't even field a football team. G-Town, Duke, etc. are private universities who happen to have small student bodies and have no where near the financial or facilities resources of a 35,000+ student flagship state university. While comparatively rich, these schools may not be able to make a competitive football team a profitable venture due to their ability to fill a stadium, let alone the astronomical overhead of salaries, scholarships, facilities, etc.

At 3/23/2006 3:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

on point

At 3/23/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

I decided to ignore the Mike McDonald dig. Can you really expect someone that prefers Alicia Silverstone to Reese Witherspoon to appreciate the poised progresion toward banality of 70's era Blue-eyed Soulsters.

Mike said it best

"..what a fool believes/
he sees/
No wise man has the power/
to reason away"

At 3/23/2006 3:30 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

holy shit rocco, i'm cracking the fuck up over here.

At 3/23/2006 3:53 PM, Anonymous tp said...

Could you even imagine sitting down at the table with prince and trying to negotiate a rental agreement with him?

also, mike mcd sucks. the first line in "takin' it to the streets" is:

you don't know me, but i'm your broooo-ther

unreal. totally killed the doobie brothers, who admittedly sucked, but at least in a china grove kinda way rather than a jesus is just alright with me kinda way.

At 3/23/2006 4:26 PM, Anonymous T. said...

(berkeley...but are they still
football relevant?)

Digressing way too far now, but HELL YES!

Sorry, got my Blue-and-Gold knickers in a twist.

At 3/23/2006 5:54 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Boozer was not born in Juneau, I think he moved there (from Philly, IIRC) when his military father got transferred. So that you know.

Now the FIRST AK-Dukie, Mr. Langdon, he's Alaska born-and-bred.

At 3/23/2006 6:02 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

but anyone who picks ncaa over nba is bringing all sorts of extra-basketballular baggage to the table.

This is true, but it is equally true that the Free Darko Experience involves many things extra-ballular (I feel dirty now) as well.

At 3/23/2006 6:42 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

pooh...killin it as usual. carry on.

At 3/23/2006 8:14 PM, Anonymous ambitextrous said...

Not really on this post's topic, but on the "boringness" of D-Wade, I submit this link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVr8hdJM0p8&eurl= - as evidence against that viewpoint. Combining Jordan's athleticism and explosiveness with Iverson's quickness and handles into one body - Wade's - produces one truly sick mixtape. And if after watching the video once, you still think Wade is vanilla, I lose hope in your ability to love the game of basketball played breathtakingly close to its next limit.

CAN you just watch the video once? I think not.

In fact, I find myself focusing on Wade almost the entire time when the Heat are playing, irrespective of his perceived nonchalance/humility that some on this site have disrespected him for. And he isn't really nonchalant; his celebration after doing yet another impossible Jordanesque over-the-shoulder flip shot is joyous, cocky, just not Magic Johnson level-joyous, just not Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant level-cocky.

Let the pure excitement of this video seep into your mind for now, and then be patient that the psychological narrative that is waiting to come out of Wade will be just as exciting. I think Wade's so viscerally great right now, just like LeBron's so great, that we want to rush the process of that narrative when he hasn't lived enough, experienced enough, both basketball- and real world-wise, to give us a satisfying narrative like Melo's for instance. But it will come - life always does. And when it does, I for one will be anxiously awaiting the results.

At 3/23/2006 8:58 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

With Respect to Boozer and whether he is from AK: don't the Inuit have soul?

At 3/23/2006 9:22 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

uh oh. amare has 9 in his first 5 minutes back.

At 3/23/2006 9:53 PM, Anonymous aug said...

How about poor Marcus Fizer getting a 6 DNPs in his brief sonics stint, only to go back to the d league and SCORE 44 POINTS HIS FIRST GAME BACK. What does the man have to do? I feel bad for the rest of the dleague now that a possessed marcus fizer has been unleashed.

At 3/23/2006 10:53 PM, Blogger mnemonic said...

1. @DLIC: Man. Outstanding post on Mcsweeny's.

2. Here he comes, people... Ammmarrre... *grinning and twitching*

3. Not saying I'm Like Mike, but Alicia Silverstone > Reese Witherspoon for sure.

At 3/24/2006 1:01 AM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

That pain that you feel tonight, Coach K? That's Allen Iverson being left off the Olympic Team.

Cry, JJ! Cry!

At 3/24/2006 9:26 AM, Blogger emynd said...

What about Adam Morrison crying with 2.6 seconds left on the clock? That might be the most bitch-made shit I've ever seen from a supposed powerhouse player. He better spend his entire NBA career making up for that pathetic display.


At 3/24/2006 1:05 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I still think Boozer was on roids. Dude gained 30 lbs of muscle between leaving Duke and joining the Cavs. Then mysterious injuries kept him out for a year ala Barry. You know Stern isn't going to embarrass his league like Selig let happen.


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