When hawks whittle clothing

If you gazed upon these words hoping to see me slashing away at Bill Simmons’ gawkfest on the subject of the grown-ass Paul Pierce, sorry—I’m past all of that. But I couldn’t sit silent on the basic premise of the article: that FreeDarko’s treasured label of “psychological man” can be selectively applied, becoming yet another arrow in the quiver of the eternally sorry march of homer-dom.

SG’s argument is an admirable one. Pierce, victim of a terrible personal misfortune and some unexpected organizational loops and slings, has finally come ‘round and become the franchise figurehead that Beantown’s desperately needed for all these sleepless nights. As fans, we should not begrudge the time it took because Pierce is, after all, only a man, one who lives and bleeds like us. He’s had tough times, been placed in some untenable positions, and should just generally be granted the benefit of the doubt and be retro-fitted for our collective patience. If you read between the lines, there’s the smug implication that because Simmons has come to this magnanimous conclusion, because he has offered Pierce clemency, the Truth is now all that much brighter a superstar. In more ways than one, SG and his clovered hordes own Pierce’s present-day honor.

I’m not going to dwell on what Silverbird rightly deemed the column’s most offensive feature: that the 36 year-old Simmons stops just short of calling Paul Anthony Pierce, himself birthed in 1977, “boy.” No, what’s forced me to take public issue with Mr. Easy Target is his bizarre contrasting of Pierce with Garnett, a player who embodies both the psychologically rich NBA’er Simmons thinks he’s inventing and the franchise faith that, according to this piece, only P-double has found through the flames of trial. Baselessly asserting that Garnett will likely walk away from the floundering Wolves this summer because he isn't like Pierce is, to say the least, stupid as fuck. It taketh very little Association know-how to recognize that any discussion of Garnett begins and ends with his legacy as a person-through-game, and vice-versa. In addition, anyone who bothers to monitor off-season rumor mongering should know that KG could have demanded a trade at any point over the last four years, at no great detriment to himself or the organization. Garnett's position is certainly less precarious and unseemly than Pierce's was in June '05, while he's also arguably a more compelling personality/case study. That his future gets lumped in with the status quo, while Pierce is celebrated for his singularity and depth of feeling, strikes me as more than a little arbitrary. Granted, Pierce has actually undergone that most linear of redemptions, but isn't Garnett more likely to, from start to finish, address the situation in a way that demands we acknowledge his multi-dimensional humanity?

Simmons seems, however unwittingly, to claim that for a player to be considered in this way is 1) a luxury 2) inextricably tied to one’s stake in what I’ll call an athlete’s “political” career. Pierce gets this treatment because a Celts fan can see that it’s the only narrative that now makes sense—a white-washing of both Pierce as he once was and the city’s once-smoldering opinion of him. It’s not unlike admitting someone has a drug problem only once he’s cleaned up and has become a wonderful person that you’re proud to call your own; it allows you to excuse your past behavior, put a laudable spin on his, and, in short, pretend like you’ve actually been an active part of his life all along. Embracing the complexity of the situation after the fact, when things are safely resolved, is just as glaringly black and white as refusing to see it while it’s going on. In effect, all the messiness that comes with complexity ends up smoothed-over and self-congratulatory, like admitting it once was there is the same as having deal with it then.

In all honesty, this is nothing more than a new twist on the “my team is full of real, down-to-earth/colorful and interesting/saintly guys” conceit that makes homerdom so absolutely revolting. Saying that Pierce is a study in human psychology and newly-discovered resolve, while discounting the possibility that Garnett (or Iverson, who wrote the book on what Simmons sees in Pierce) could also be that thing, is about as myopic as NBA commentary gets. Denying other players their humanity is about as rank as insisting that out-of-towners aren’t legit athletes, or at least not on the same level as your resident All-Stars. And doing so only when it’s a necessary component of your feelings on being a fan of player X as it relates to worshipping at the altar of team X, it’s got next to nothing to do with actually recognizing that, from the jump, this is a league of psychology. Instead, it becomes just another form of grafting super-celebrity of one kind or another onto one’s zip code messiahs.

While I’m shouting profusely about Page 2, I might as well nod in the direction of Jason Whitlock’s shockingly obtuse attack on Vince Young’s whole personal steez. FreeDarko as a unit has had a markedly mixed reaction to it, but this excerpt of our in-house correspondence gets at why I think Whitlock—who is, incidentally, an African-American writing for the supposedly edgy, outside-the-box Page 2—is both wrong and being uncharacteristically shallow:

DLIC: the overall point that the QB position is way different from anything else in sports is interesting. obviously the point has been made before, but vince is an intersting example. He also IS capable of redefining exactly what it means, in ways vick or steve young or whoever never could.

Shoals: isn't the point that vince has the power to be the hip-hop qb that vick, only a stunner, never could be? vince won over an old school coach to the point of blastin slim thug in the stadium before games, overcame the "run-first" label on his own terms, and made one of the most conservative states in the world love a straight up h-town representer. and took it to the "greatest college team ever" in the most hard-noised, soon-to-be-a-movie way ever.

Emynd: Well, yeah, that's the freedarko take on it, right? This is shaping up as a Vince Young could do for QBs what AI did for the NBA, right?

There’s a reason why I generally only read ESPN for facts these days. Which begs the question of where my expert analysis, if such a thing still colors my relationship with the game, is coming from.

P.S. Speaking of the opposite of everything I've been getting at, Melo might now be, across the board, one of my league-wide favorites. I know he looked bouncier than usual at the beginning of the season, but he's kept tightening things up to the point where he's now pure fluid (yes, tightening on an infinite scale will eventually yield fluidity).


At 3/14/2006 10:23 AM, Blogger OG said...

why start a post saying that you aren't going to dis someone's work, and then go ahead and do just that?

the real problem i have is that i thought simmons' column was quite good. maybe it's my own failing, but the kg snub didn't even register with me. i just thought the bit on pierce was highly compelling and well-written, and i don't see much reason to piss on it.

i do agree about the whitlock, though. i don't know what the hell he was thinking.

At 3/14/2006 10:27 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

because i don't disagree in point-by-point way with anything he had to say about pierce. i just think it was kind of a baffling way to go about saying it.

At 3/14/2006 10:56 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I'm not sure why you're surprised at Homerism from Simmons. Before they somehow neutered the name, he was the Boston Sports Guy. I think everyone still considers him the Boston Sports Guy, no matter how much ESPN wants him to be rebranded as the ESPN Sports Guy or whatever.

The Pierce article struck me as unremarkable. You can get the same shit from your hometown paper. I read something similar from Jerry Izenberg in the Newark Star-Ledger on a weekly basis. Maybe Izenberg does a slightly better job of chronicling the hardships an athlete has suffered through, but it's fundamentally the same piece Simmons wrote.

The Pierce piece, no matter how you choose to see it, is not about how Pierce is psychologically complex in the FreeDarko sense. It's a linear narrative, as you said. Player suffers trauma, rises above it and becomes a better player on the field for it.

I don't know about you guys, but I read Simmons because most of the time, his articles aren't like that. Most of the time, he achieves an intimacy with his readers that no other sportswriter comes close to. He is the ultimate fan, and he writes as an unabashed fan, and he's sharing the feelings that most fans go through at some point or other.

So when he lapses into simplistic psychological narratives like a typical sports columnist, it disappoints me a little, because in that tone his voice is not unique and it's not interesting.

At 3/14/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

The Pierce thing was decent, nothing out of this world, and certainly not one of the best basketball columns Simmons has ever put out.
Aside from the KG slight, there was also the diss towards Bryant where SG whines that #8 gets a lot of attention besides being a gunner. Whatever.

If there's something we should all be pissed about that Simmons wrote, check out his movie review of Through the Fire (the Bassy documentary). Check out this little nugget : "The defining moment is the sight of Telfair's little brother uncontrollably sobbing with joy; if you ever wondered why basketball means so much to the African-American community, just watch that scene. From day one, ever since I could walk and talk, I've loved basketball as much as any middle-class white kid could love it. But it was never a potential savior for me. I never looked at basketball as my one chance to escape my current situation and provide a better life for my family. I never looked at basketball as my own personal lottery ticket. I never worried that, if I failed in some way as a player, my family and community would be failing with me. You watch Telfair's brother in that final scene and everything hits home: It's not that basketball means so much to the people from Coney Island, but that basketball means too much."

are you fucking kidding me? I'm black and not once have i ever looked at basketball as a way to better myself or my family nor have i ever known any other black person who ever thought this way. SG is almost implying that black people (even the really poor ones) can't enjoy the game simply because it's fun to watch/play/discuss . Does he really think everyone from Coney Island thinks they can make it to the league? Do you think only ballers and no doctors, lawyers, writers, plumbers, electricians come out of Coney Island? Come on now.
I don't think of him as a racist, but that was pretty fucking stupid of him to put in print. If Ralph Wiley was still alive, he would have torn him a new one. Fuck the email exchanges. Scoop (being an even bigger idiot than Simmons) will probably not do anything about this. Yet I digress.

At 3/14/2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

but there is that willingness to tolerate a certain complexity only because it can be conveniently stashed away within a linear narrative. it's not just the usual "man rises above to succeed for my team" column because it's all about justifying pierce's former shittiness by using this time-tested, dead-as-fuck strategy. if this is now part of the typical fan's vocabulary, that's a little disturbing

At 3/14/2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...


I completely agree regarding the Telfair documentary. I think SG overlooking the family's unique personal story (the older brother failing to get drafted in 1999 and forcing him into pro hoops exile in Europe) and choosing to read a racial axiom in the youngest brother's tears does the movie and African Americans an injustice. The Telfair family is truly exceptional as a Coney Island basketball phenomenon and are not African-American aspirations writ large. The documentary's strength was its particular compelling drama, not its universal themes or sociological commentary.

Re: the PP article, one of the things this blog brings to the table is its ability to see the universal themes, the psychological dimensions and the philosophical underpinnings of pro hoops. Players are deified and elevated into a pantheon of basketball abstraction, where team loyalty and the interplay of individual players and the community are dismissed as parochial. My problem with that focus is that it denies the subtle meanings and discourses of regional and municipal identity that are encoded in so many discussions of pro sports. Players and teams do not play in elysian fields or in the stratosphere, instead they play in places like Rust Belt Detroit, countercultural Portland, Hispanic San Antonio and pro-sports famished Oklahoma City. The personalities and styles of play are juxtaposed and fused into cities' ideas of themselves. This important socio-cultural dimension is often neglected in favor of the personal, existential dramas of individual players, who do not exist in a vacuum, but in real communities across North America. While basketball lends itself to individual express much easier than any other professional team sport, to overlook the crucial encounter between individual and community is to betray half of the equation.

At 3/14/2006 11:49 AM, Blogger OG said...

does the fd desire to see players in the vacuum lamar describes coincide with the anxiety to not fall into the relationship that simmons' projects with pierce, one that shoals scorns because it assumes some sort of (potentially racially charged) authority or even control over the player?

or perhaps the powers that be would disagree with the idea that they want to see players in a vacuum (lamar's point is well articulated, but that doesn't mean that fd holds the vacuum position... does anyone want to give an official word?).

regardless, i stand by my earlier assertion that the pierce article was a good read. i disagree that you'll find equally good stuff from your home town columnist, and i want someone to tell me what's wrong with the linear narrative. honestly.

At 3/14/2006 11:49 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


i'll admit that we're often dismissive of the interaction between sports and city, but i feel fairly comfortable arguing (as emynd has in the past) that this is a somewhat one-sided construct. i've noted when i think there is a special relevance of an athlete to a city, i.e. one in which the feeling is mutual (iverson and philly). i'm wary, though, of fanbases projecting their wants and needs onto a player, esp. when there's a racial dynamic involved.

the problem with this is that yes, it does suppose that players are therefore meaningful as a result of an imagined fraternity of basketball, which invariably makes a lot of the same "blacks and basketball" generalizations that are being tackled in these comments. i think my tendency to do so has to do with a long, long time spent looking at hip-hop as some unified field of socio-cultural expression, something that's gotten harder and harder as they music's gone more and more pop and regional scenes have forced most intelligent people to tone down their rhetoric, or at least qualify it.

where that leaves me, i'm not quite sure. but i do have a gag reflex against thinking too hard on localized fans' perspectives for the simple fact that, as far as I'm concerned, this side of things is usually self-serving and often wrong.

At 3/14/2006 12:49 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I dont like melo. I see in him what I dont like about myself. Im sure we'd be great friends if we met and Id loathe us both. He has bad hair, so do/did I. We are jovial, but seriously misunderstood creatures who will never have a place in the annuls of accomplishment that we both work hard for and may or may not deserve depending on one's perspective of like/hate on melo and myself. Im incongruously linked to melo by some sinister netherworldian cord. Melos game is good or not bad anyhow. But not good enough to be great. Likewise, I will never be great in my own way, doing my own things, and I see that reflected in Melo as a basketball player and a person. Its an ugly mirror that I turn away from.
For me Melo is that first recording one hears of their own voice. What is that terrible wretched sound? But, maybe with work we both can be great. We must hope, both melo and I.

At 3/14/2006 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I liked Free Darko's take on the Pierce article. I'm a fan of Simmons, but trying to sell me on the redemption of PP and how it is some unique situation in the league was a little bit of a stretch. Anyway, solid work as always.

I have to disagree with you, Mutoni. I don't want to turn the FD comments into a discussion of Simmons' writing (that would be disrespectful of FD's work), but I do have to ask if you have ever been to the Coney Island projects? Have you been to the QB houses? Unfortunately, for hundreds of poor African-American kids around the country, in every hood, basketball is one of the few ways out. They only see a few exits from the projects - ballin', or rhyming. There's not a lot of "go to college, get a middle class job" examples in the projects for role models. There aren't lawyers or doctors living in the projects, Mutino... if a kid did grow up in the projects, and end up becoming a lawyer/doctor/whatever, no one remembers them, so they aren't role models to the kids trapped in the projects today (as opposed to, say, Ron Artest, who everyone in the QB knows grew up there and made it out; not many kids in the QB today can name a lawyer that made it out, but they can all name Artest, or Nas, or Mobb Deep...)

Point is I think that Simmons' comment was right on target, and that column was on of his best ones in a while....

At 3/14/2006 1:53 PM, Anonymous 412hater215 said...

vis-a-vis the player-city/city-team relationship, I think we have to get outside of the enBah to find the most apt case study.

As a yinzer (although a transient one) you can probably see the purity of the player-team-city model in the relationship between the fine citizens of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. Ben Rothliesberger works for Dan Rooney. Dan Rooney owns the Steelers. The Steelers are operated in the municipality of Pittsburgh. Don't tell a Steelers fan that's how it works, though. Big Ben belongs to Dan Rooney, who belongs to each and every Pittsburgher.

This is the narrow lens through which Pittsburghers see the Steelers and their players, and it is surely how SG sees Pierce and the Celts. As a Pgh to Philly transplant, I now know just how out of perspective Pittsburghers keep it. There is this childish desire to treat your local sports franchise like an Olympic team. You project everything you think about yourself and whatever group/place you belong to onto the team and players. But in reality, this is about as absurd as talking water cooler shit on the mill crane operator for dropping an I-beam.

Now, there is mos def something endearing about the local flavor, but the tunnel vision is always going to be there. You just can't expect it to change, its a force of habit... By the way, ESPN can't even be taken seriously for news anymore. It's a self-referential cottage industry that can't be trusted even remotely for objectivity. There's too much entertainment. Can you trust an entity that makes movies about football to report on football? Can you trust anybody who has an NCAA bracket pool to tell you anything straight up about the upcoming games? Fuck no. I'll take the scenic route with my penis out.

At 3/14/2006 2:19 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

I always find SG at his worst when writing about Boston--everything is exaggerated so that Bird is the Basketball Jesus, PP is the prodigal son, and Doc Rivers is the Worst Coach Ever. PP's story is nice but prosaic ... and it isn't even over yet. No one has the patience to wait until next season to see whether PP can maintain his current groove.

I understand that there's a certain charm is such writing for some because it does speak of the state of homerism, but I find it grating.

And as much as he loves basketball, SG isn't a reliable source for a complex analysis of race as it intersects hoop or anything else. I'm not surprised that all he could see in "Through the Fire" was the "ball is the ticket out of poverty" story. It's not like that story isn't in the movie. It's just not the only story. But one has to have eyes to see the others. Frequently, SG comes at a sports story with an unusual angle. I haven't yet seen much evidence that he has the perspective to do that with race and ball.

At 3/14/2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Re: Relationship of players/teams to cities.

I've long thought that the success and history of a particular team means much more to the fans than it does to the players. I have little idea how much, in the big scheme of things, the players on the Vikings and Packers care about hating each other. But from my experience, fans care about this deeply. Moods change and relationships get altered over the fans' relationship to this rivalry. Simmons was right about this when he wrote about Johnny Damon: the rivalries mean much more to the fans than to the players. What does Damon care about the fans, the city, the region, the franchise?

As fans in a region, we grow up caring about a franchise, and we are often raised on the historic tales of the past. There's a relationship to the logo on the jersey. A player is usually acquired by a team with no particular will on his part, then goes to that city to play for that franchise that previously didn't mean a hell of a lot to him. I agree--the relationship is one-sided.

But that doesn't make the relationship false. It is only a problem to talk in terms of this relationship if we assume we are making objective statements about the player himself. I know many people who project their personal tastes in film and literature into larger, quasi-objective statements about the very nature of film and literature. I think it is fine to be clear and understanding of our tastes and biases, because if we do not turn the lense back at ourselves to understand these biases, we are more likely to assume our biases are valid as objective statements. The relationship of a region to a team or a player can be instructive--but it says more about the people of the region than it does about the team or player. If we recognize that, everything is fine; if we try project our desires onto the players, we end up with a "false" portrayal of the players. But that doesn't make it worthless to examine these projections, or even to have them.

Regarding KG, he seems to have a real commitment to the Timberwolves franchise. In MN, the understanding is that KG is so competitive, and so loyal, and loves the game so much, that he doesn't want to leave Minnesota before winning a championship. To demand a trade would be to admit failure. He won't do that, and seems entranched with the Timberwolves in part because of a competitive resistence to admitting such failure.

Now, is this viewpoint of Garnett true? It might be impossible for me to say, being a Minnesota fan who once had immense pride in my large collection of Christian Laettner cards. But if I recognize that this portrayal of Garnett is colored by my long-term loyalty to the Timberwolves and Minnesota sports, is it useless to discuss the relationship of KG and Minnesota?

Let me project onto KG further. He has the image of the brilliant athlete who fails to achieve the ultimate success of a championship. It is extremely easy for Minnesotans not only to project this image onto KG, but to RELATE to it. We've got two pro championships since the Lakers left. We're a fanbase used to watching our teams come up short, used to high expectations and major disappointments. KG joins the 4-time Super Bowl losing Vikings as the symbol of Minnesota sports--brilliance that ends in disapointment (he even has the local reputation as a player who chokes in meaningful situations, further placing him within the broader context of MN sports). When examined within the larger context of sports futility in Minnesota, the relationship between Kirby Puckett and the fans of the state takes on a new meaning.

To sum it up, I guess I'm saying the relationship of a region to the players/franchises does have meaning. If we care about achieving "truth," we have to be aware that this relationship can lead to distortions. But so too does examining players as if they don't exist within the context of the region they play in.

At 3/14/2006 3:07 PM, Blogger Dr. Chestnutt said...

Simmons was an innovator in the “fan-as-insightful-sportswriter” gig, but his was a gift never coupled with great writing talent, and as such he now embodies the “new mediocrity” that ESPN pg 2 seems to be a magnet for (witness the literary death rattle of Hunter S. Thompson via “Hey Rube”). That he would earn a fat check for tossing out 1300 gratuitous words on a “rebirth” of a player in the middle of a hot streak is a simple testament to the selling power of Saying What’s Expected. Also, it demonstrates the fundamental exchange that occurs within his writing wherein he trades intellectual rigor for emotional reaction-ism, but I suppose some would say that’s his Great Strength.

What bothers me about the Pierce article (and his painfully out of touch articles about music and film) is this idea of him as some kind of cultural arbiter, the gatekeeper of common man wisdom, as if his stamp of approval is that which makes it so. Shoals makes this point very adroitly with his comment that “If you read between the lines, there’s the smug implication that because Simmons has come to this magnanimous conclusion, because he has offered Pierce clemency, the Truth is now all that much brighter a superstar.”

Unfortunately, Simmons is not bright or insightful enough to bear the mantle of taste arbiter (or, for that matter, the bestow-er of pop-cultural immortality), and his articles that lean in that direction are tin eared and rife with narrow perceptions. It’s tough to tell someone who you like and who’s provided a lot of free entertainment to, “go write your funny little articles and leave the Thinking to the big boys,” but often that’s how I feel when reading him.

At 3/14/2006 3:44 PM, Blogger OG said...

i feel awkward and exposed defending simmons, but i have to ask why he gets shit on so bad all the time.

do you think he wrote that piece thinking about how much he was going to get paid? do you think his love of sports doesn't come through? do you think he was being insincere?

and how often do we talk about "intellectual rigor" when we talk about sportswriting? not to say it can't/shouldn't be there, but let's be serious. what are the expectations here?

poll question: how much of this anti-simmons sentiment is that he straight up sucks, and how much of it is sour grapes? wouldn't most of us kill to get paid to write about the nba? does his position color our evaluation of him? how would we handle being in his shoes?

sorry for all the questions (i know that if anyone bothers to answer them, they'll probably ream me in the process). one more tho: is someone going to tell me what the matter is with the linear narrative?

At 3/14/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the linear narrative is fine, i said that. what's wrong is that, in being sympathetic towards pierce's darker days, simmons seems to be undermining the whole "asshole who became a prince" deal. otherwise, why have been so judgmental about him in the first place? the acknowledgement that pierce might've been more than just a spoiled child is something he's only allowing for now that everything's hunky dory, but in doing so makes his past condemnation look bitchy.

simmons used to make me very happy, and then one day it stopped. whether that's because he fell off or i simply needed more from sportswriting, we'll never know.

At 3/14/2006 3:58 PM, Blogger Dr. Chestnutt said...

OG, I think all I was saying is that oftentimes his reach exceeds his grasp when he tries to stretch his talent beyond simply being funny. I acknowledged that his lack of "intellectual rigor" is probably a strength, simply because it plays into his role as a passionate fan with a dream job/soapbox. What I personally find distasteful in his work is his growing presumption that somehow he has risen to a level of Cultural Legislator where his approval is some kind of final word.

Also, I don't think he was thinking about getting paid and didn't say as much, it was simply the point that one Can and Will get paid when one rides a wave of presumption and makes something easily digestable of it. To me, that's where he gets uncomfortably close to a shaggy Bob Costas.

This isn't my house though, and I don't want to be a bad guest.

At 3/14/2006 3:58 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

OG--I think one of the reasons Simmons gets ripped by people is because of the smug glee with which Simmons rips so many people.

I can't deny looking forward to reading his columns...but I also can't deny getting pissed off at the arrogance of his writing. He often writes as if his personal biases for and against certain teams and players (and actors, comedians, musicians, movies, and TV shows) are objective analysis. He takes a lot of cheapshots at those he doesn't like; it sets him up to get ripped by people who might not agree.

I don't see a problem with linear narrative myself (as long as there's a recognition that linear narrative is not itself inherently "correct," but one way of making sense of the world).

At 3/14/2006 4:03 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Just to point out, it wasn't BSG but B-I-G that tells us about "crack rock or jump shot". It may have been bullshit even we he said it, but saying that Simmons made up that narrative is off base. And yes, you are all hating on Simmons because you wish you were getting paid for this shit. Nothing wrong with a little envy, but what's up with the elitist snobbery that something for which you get paid isn't "real"? If that's the ethic, shouldn't FD be about the college game?

You can go too far with the hoop-as-art thing. In the end, it has to be at least mostly about winning, or why are we even keeping score? The Globetrotters are fun as a diversion I suppose, but improvization for it's own sake becomes almost masturbatory.
Of course, I don't get free jazz either, preferring a good 12-bar blues.

At 3/14/2006 4:18 PM, Anonymous 412hater215 said...

Ballin' is a hustle. Slingin rock is a hustle. Rapping is a hustle. Squeegeeing is a hustle. Opening a barber shop is a hustle. Selling tapes out of the back of your car is a hustle.

Hustle hustle hustle.

From the Dutch "husslelen" meaning "to shake."

Get it?

At 3/14/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

simmons' elitist snobbery is all smoke and mirrors; ours is not.

and pooh, i'm not sure where this popular misconception comes from that all we care about is aesthetics. i don't follow streetball, or even stay with it when i catch it channel-surfing. the freedarko credo has always been kill or be killed, and after that, that a victory without aesthetics is hollow, incomplete, and stands as the exception that proves the rule of today's nba.

At 3/14/2006 4:45 PM, Blogger Pooh said...


I think you're mistaking 'partisanship' for elitism, but tomato, tomahto.

Sorry if I gave the impression that I thought FD was about style-above-all, but I think it is odd that you decry BSG for projecting his needs onto Pierce, yet various regulars here do the same with the impressionistic gifts of Gil, Melo, etc. And not that there's anything wrong with that, as within the association, there would be no Association.

At 3/14/2006 4:46 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

er 'without the assoication'

At 3/14/2006 4:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i was just responding to dr. c's observation that simmons wants to be both an everyman and a know-it-all.

and an individual's hopes and needs are far less oppressive, damning, and potentially binding than those of an entire community.

At 3/14/2006 9:32 PM, Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

Simmons can eat a dick. Why? Because of Zeke. Simmons spite and venom for Isiah Thomas is threefold, I venture:

1. The Thomas-Dumars Pistons closed the book on the "'80s Celtics."

2. That same Pistons team managed to do the same thing to the vaunted Lakers, which means quite literally that the Pistons ended the "golden" '80s Celtics-Lakers thing.

3. Add to this that that Pistons team won two O'Brien's with a "non-traditional" pg leading a team of role players and second-tier (at the time) big men. No Kareem, no Parish, no McHale, no Worthy. Heresy! Smother on top this heresy a creamy layer of Zeke's rather smug, decidedly, if I say so, BLACK attitude. It was okay of Magic and his winning smile (a darling with the press) won, even if it meant beating "larry legend"), but DETROIT? Led by a SCORING POINTGUARD? Anathema! All by way that even without actually saying it Simmons (and my dad, coincidentally. I figured all of this out after Simmon's last hatefest on Thomas [the GM's summit thing], when I suddenly recalled watching the first lakers-pistons finals and saying, in childlike innocence:

"I like Isiah Thomas"

and my father responded "I don't"

"why" again the innocent child

"he's got a mean streak" he replied.

Which is a patently silly artifice. But again, sort of like Simmons, my dad was a Knicks fan, and although he hated the Celts I think what he really didn't like about the Piston's was zeke's STYLE and the teams STYLE, and not only that, THEY KEPT WINNING SHIT.

If Simmons would just admit the first point, that he hates zeke because they put the "the end" in the end of the Celtic's dynasty era(s), I guess I'd be okay with it. But the hoops he jumps through to justify himself by making zeke out to be a demon makes me sort of ill. Zeke could be a asshole, all I know, but that's not the point. Its the effort exercise by Simmons in telling all of us that zeke's a demon that pisses me off.

At 3/14/2006 10:05 PM, Blogger bobduck said...

In Simmons defense, and I would agree that he has fallen off in the last few years, he *does* refer to Isiah as "the best pure point guard of his lifetime." I think most of the hate towards Isiah comes from his GM career, and even then Simmons acknowledges his drafting skills.

At 3/14/2006 10:49 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

D. D. Tinzeroes raises a solid point though, and it branches beyond Simmons. A lot of Simmons' commentary and "analysis" can be stemmed to his love of the Celtics and thus hatred of people playing on the Pistons and Lakers during Bird's glory days. For example, he occasionally flippantly remarks that Shaq is the greatest center of all-time (which I guess isn't as bad as Elliot Kalb's book arguing Shaq as the greatest player of all-time). Well, he admits to hating Kareem and insults Kareem whenever he brings him up, so even though, IMO, all the evidence suggests Kareem is the superior player to Shaq, Simmons couldn't possible pretend to be objective in evaluating Kareem.

How does this make Simmons different than any of us? It doesn't. We all bring our emotional biases to our attempts at objective analysis of players. But when we read sportwriters, we expect some degree of objectivity. When we read blogs, or sportswriters like Simmons, we just need to recognize that we're not getting objectivity, that we're basically hearing the opinions of an emotionally involved fan.

At 3/15/2006 12:42 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

I miss Ralph Wiley.

I really really miss Ralph Wiley.

Not that his shit was gold; his stuff was (and is) the most thoughtful, playful and challenging material to come out of The Worldwide Leader, let alone Page 2.

At 3/15/2006 4:54 AM, Blogger j. leo said...

My La Salle associates recommended me to this blog, and I can see why. I never heard such great discussion of Bill Simmons and basketball. I applaud you and everyone else that has posted. I don't know what Simmons would think about an academic debate over his writing, but he probably would have a smartass comment.

I personally don't take anything he says seriously. He is employed strictly for entertainment purposes and nothing else. ESPN wanted a voice of the fan, and he's popular because he can pull out some reference to some crappy 80's movie seamlessly. As much as he loves the league, he's not a real sportswriter and I don't treat him like that. I want him to make me laugh, and that's it. He is severly lacking on game fundamentals and race issues. Especially the latter. He has a limited view of the world, not much beyong his white middle-class upbringing. Maybe I don't have much more to say than that, but then, I never claimed to know how it is for people. He's made some politically dumb statements before, so I really don't think he's worth listening to in that area.

He's good for a joke and some zealous ranting. Laughter and opinions get him paid. I'm not sure if it is worth the energy to make him into a real iconic figure.

At 3/15/2006 10:32 AM, Blogger OG said...

bobduck is right, simmons' beef is regarding isiah's skills as a gm, and he has always had good things to say about the man's actual play. i think the other criticisms about his snarkiness, his ability to look at race, and other stuff are valid, but his isiah take is shared by the vast majority of basketball fans.

"an individual's hopes and needs are far less oppressive, damning, and potentially binding than those of an entire community." i could be misinterpreting here, but this can only be true if the individual has some sort of platform to voice those views (and make them the community's). otherwise it's just some knucklehead cursing at his television in his mom's basement. when the community starts demanding things, there is much greater influence at work, and oppression can kick in. i think i see what you're saying about narrowness of perspective, but i think this is again more an issue of influence. but there wasn't much context to the statement, so maybe i'm off in my analysis.

i figure there are a number of future bill simmons here. the ideas and writing i see, not just in the posts, but also in the comments, shows there is the skill to do it. just know that you're going to get the same chorus of detractors if (when?) you hit the bigtime. be ready for it.

At 3/15/2006 11:52 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think you got what i said backwards. individuals are fine with me as long as they don't get to turn it into a fanbase-wide movement, or (while on the couch) conceive of it too strongly as such in their heads.

obviously your individuality is inseparable from where you call home, as is the case for basketball players. i think the problem comes when, as someone said earlier, fans fail to remember that players' homes are elsewhere, and it's very likely they have no special affinity for their host city or its sense of self.

At 3/15/2006 3:27 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

Perhaps its bad form to comment on an article that is not the newest, but what can I say, I’m slow. Maybe it’s for the best, for I’ll get the feeling of having concluded discussion when I’m really just talking to myself. Anyway…

My first problem with the post and some of the comments is the contention that this emotional story of pierce is something artificial, something that simmons is imposing on him. While its true that a fan has no real relationship with a player, a player certainly has relationships with fans as a collective, and this relationship is just as tangible, if more complicated, than any normal interpersonal rapport.

The Simmons article makes more sense if you consider the peculiar nature of this relationship in boston. Beantown is, famously, a hard city to play in. people like to think that this is a natural consequence of a city that cares about its sports, but in reality its because the main sports media outlets (the herald and weei) have been hijacked by a small group of bitter, race-baiting reactionaries. (One big source of simmons’ original popularity was that he was explicitly unconnected with this old-guard, and he offered commentary on the local scene that wasn’t demeaning to any player darker than bird. He was the only writer who seemed to like the players.)

As a result, the recipe for a boston sports fan includes a healthy dose of guilt. We are never surprised when players say they want to leave, because we hear the same invectives of the idiot pundits, accusing them of laziness and irreposibility. Even with our heroes (see pedro martinez, see johnny damon, see many ramirez) we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, when they get sick of us and take off. We shake our heads and we say “boston has Harvard, why doesn’t barry bonds fucking talk about that.”

So this change in pierce that simmons is talking about is not the maturity of a boy changing into a man, it is a maturity that is rarely found in someone of any age: the decision to care for someone despite their faults. Pierce had a hard couple of years, and he saw the worst we had to offer, but he forgave us. For that reason, this is the most important Celtics season in 15 years. Pierce has proven to us that we can sustain stars, that maybe we aren’t as bad as we sometimes think. he requited our love when maybe we didn’t deserve it, and for that he deserves 100 articles like that last one.

Second, I don’t agree with the post’s implication that homerism is arbitrary, or rather, that the arbitrariness of homerism is somehow wrong. The beauty of sports is that it takes a small set of rules and goals, and out of this forges associations of great depth and influence. It has been said before on this blog that basketball is the most advanced game in this regard, because it lays bare the personalities of its participants. But even so, our loves and our hates are still irrational. A fan likes a player because he sees himself in him, or because this player showed up a hated rival, or because he once played the grandfather in a production of the Nutcracker. Hometown is just one factor in this equation, notable only because it is so disproportionately commanding (people have repped their city from otto von bismarck to petey pablo).

A criticism of arbitrariness is also a little disingenuous on a blog where every 4th entry contains a paean to gilbert arenas. (when a lot of us watch arenas, the only thing we see him transcend is the desire to play defense.) that said, it doesn’t matter that our opinions might differ—I am interested in hearing what smart people have to say about arenas, just as we all might be interested in reading a book about a couple people in love even though we don’t actually love either of the people concerned,

Irrationality is real, and it has causes and effects, and it deserves to be examined. But you can’t take irrationality out of the picture, and you shouldn’t want to. Without it, you would only have two ways to watch sports: either flip a coin between the pistons and spurs and root for the best team every year, or watch the games impassively, without a whiff of attachment to either side, like a girl.

At 3/15/2006 4:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if espn had just run your comments in place of simmons' piece, this world would be a much better place.

i think what so many people reacted to so viscerally in sg's column was the lack of humility regarding the city's attitude toward pierce. like pierce was a shmuck who got what he deserved, and then he snapped out of it. unless pierce grew up, boston and its fans had the unquestioned moral high ground, and the pierce's attitude was a problem that needed to be dealt with--whether by him seeing the light or the team trading him.

what you're proposing goes even beyond the admission that there might've been more to pierce's attitude than meets the eye: it gives him not only decency, but agency. it makes him not just the hero of a familiar story--a component in a well-worn equation--but someone who actually made a differnce in the league, or at least that city. that's more than we at freedarko regularly bestow upon people, and is, in my mind, exactly the sort of situation in which it does make sense to talk about the relationship between a city and an athlete.

personal stuff can and should be arbitrary; that's how you keep from stagnating. when you start talking about communities arbitarily holding positions and wielding expectations, then it's problematic.

At 3/15/2006 4:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

to clarify:

"pierce's redemption" is condascending

"pierce moves through life and has arrived at a good place" is freedarko

(simmons is trying to do 1 and 2 simultaneously)

"paul pierce redeems the city of boston" is your position


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