The ballad of good intentions
Read my McSweeney's column and its companion post. Now, onto shit that just couldn't wait.
Reading the indispensable Inside Hoops this morning, it dawned on me what the most amazing thing about that site is: dude has to register with every major newspaper in America and keep his passwords straight. Soldiering indeed.
A mere hour ago, his brave effort brought me face-to-face with the following grub of a story, courtesy of the impenetrable Oklahoman:
Ron Boone stands by his vote and wouldn’t change it if he could. Boone, the 15-year television analyst for the Utah Jazz, was the lone voter among 125 sportswriters and broadcasters to not give his first-place vote to Hornets guard Chris Paul for rookie of the year. Instead, Boone, a 13-year player in the ABA and NBA, awarded his first-place vote to Jazz point guard Deron Williams. That one vote prevented Paul from becoming the first player to unanimously win the award since David Robinson in 1990.
Boone’s selection might reek of “homer,” but he has an explanation. “I thought Deron finished stronger in the second half of the year,” Boone told The Oklahoman. “And I thought the head-to-head matchups that they had Deron played better. That was it.”
But team record, Boone said, played little to no part in his decision. He focused on the head-to-head matchup, which Williams’ Jazz won 3-1. Paul’s averages: 15.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.7 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 39.5 percent shooting from the field. Williams’ averages: 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 60.8 percent shooting from the field."
I know that Jazz supporters are a proud, stubborn bunch, much like the coach that guides them (at your own peril, insert quip about owner's politics or state identity here). And I guess that this explains why one of them would make this kind of bullshit statement vote, one that flies in the face of one of the more indisputable basketball truths of the last decade. What I find astounding, though, is the willingness by Boone to betray everything the Jazz hold dear in order to prop up that their point guard consolation prize. Resorting to cheap numbers rather than glowing intangibles, discounting leadership and importance to team, Boone's vote seems designed to punish Paul for being so great, so fast—even if he did so "the right way." Were Josh Smith to have garnered ROY attention last year based on his dunking prowess, people like Boone would've cried bloody murder. Williams, though, gets his nod because of something altogether secondary to season on the court: namely, a small sample of match-ups and one highly-biased observer's opinion of how Williams bloomed down the stretch (note: THIS IS NOT THE MIP AWARD!).
What I guess I'm genuinely trying to get at is this: we on the wrong side of the "right way" wars have no such luxuries. Somehow, Larry Brown, Pistons and Spurs fans, and Ron Boone can always appeal to their intimate acquaintance with just how things should go. Boone can throw out the obvious all he wants; he knows something the rest of us don't about how one should judge the NBA, even if that means going against all forms of sanity. People such as myself, though, who believe firmly in the importance of style and charisma in the competitive game, are always shot down with a partyline, one-size-fits-all account of what good basketball looks and feels like. Strangely, though, the "right way" conclaves all vary dramatically, often contradict each other and their own counterarguments against me, and quite frankly suggest that this fundamentalism is, well, an excuse to push either an agenda, pure chauvunism, or both.
I've got no problem admitting that the Pistons are more functional than anything I care about in this league. But just as my side of the fence is more heterogenuous than we're given credit for, those lobbing blood at us would do well to admit the same about themselves. Of course, this strength in tyranny is the sole source of their authority; without "the right way," Boone would never be able to even get his explanation in the paper. At the same time, doesn't lumping Larry Brown in together with the Spurs hurt the cause of the latter? Wouldn't admitting that the Pistons have some things in common with the dark side (yeah, I said it) be more honest than seeing the Jazz in them? This whole issue of style vs. substance is a spectrum, which means that the location of antagonistic breachs and teary alliances is fluid, maybe straight arbitrary. Boone relies on the power of polarization to legitimate both his claim and his right to make that kind of claim; in the end, he comes off as no cannier a judge of things than someone committed to letting style color who he wants on the All-Star team.