6.29.2006

Ready the fruited plain



You probably all already caught this on True Hoop, but since I'm feeling so blank about this draft I figure I'll take this as a gift from above.

While the rest of you are bellyaching over who might pan out from this class (who cares? best case scenario, three of them will be worth watching), I'm steadily watching my favorite player turn into a full-time broth of genius. Crusading for civil rights in South Beach? Asking for a pay cut that the CBA won't let him have? Before I got sick of his wispy game, I often touted Jermaine O'Neal as the voice of his NBA generation. Now, though, it's looking like Arenas—in his typically batty, roundabout, contradictory way—is spending his off-season delving deep into the socio-political fabric of the Association and how the world envelopes it. This has also led me to a new pressing question of Arenas-utics: is he painfully sincere but a little off, a wry trickster in all he does, or an absent-minded dreamer with a streak of goodness? I tend to think it's option three, though recent events have forced me to consider that he might be a little more deliberate a fellow than we've been lead to believe. And that the veil of foolishness might now be part of a fascinating, self-conscious adult, one that's grown under up the sheltering fog of "Gilbert being Gilbert."

Sports being sports, and the American mainstream being what it is, we've come to assume that athletes with a conscience must hew to the rhetorical straight and narrow. When it's time for someone to speak up, they generally fall in line with the grand tradition of pedestrian leaders that, for most of them, is the best case scenario when it comes to their having a relevant voice. Look no further than Ricky Williams, who is rarely taken seriously as a not-so-tacit critique of the football-industrial complex. Granted, the NBA supposedly wallows in its own peculiar brand of subcultural hegemony, but even there, there's a normative, post-MLK template in place for what it means to be a baller and a domestic diplomat. Baseball and football seem more likely to give rise to a true maverick of sentiment because of their establishment mentality; those professing bland decency are clearly a part of the system's dynamic, easily dismissed by both sides of the debate. The poor NBA, though, is already so firmly in the grip of racialized disaster that soundbitten dignity seems more a plea for clarity than the regression that it is.

Why not him?

24 Comments:

At 6/29/2006 4:32 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

This touches on something I’ve been thinking about for a while. We’re all familiar with “Gilbert being Gilbert,” “Manny being Manny,” “Ron being Ron,” “Ricky being Ricky” (take your pick, Henderson or Williams), “Pedro being Pedro,” and “Rodman being Rodman,” but has this phrase ever been applied to a white athlete?

I’m probably over-looking something really obvious, but I can’t for the life of me find an exception to this rule. Hopefully someone can help me out, because last night dashed my dream of hearing the sweet words “Pittsnogle being Pittsnogle.”

And if there isn’t such an example, well, I’ll leave it up to you to connect the NBARS dots.

 
At 6/29/2006 4:49 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Examples exist in baseball, though I can't give you a basketball one.

For example, Roger being Roger: Sixth Comment on Deadspin.

A few other examples exist: "Billy being Billy" for the legendary renegade Billy Martin.

I think sports fans make exceptions for crazy athletes if they're good enough, and race doesn't play into it that much. Though I'll note that nobody has ever said "That's just Rocker being Rocker".

 
At 6/29/2006 4:57 PM, Blogger T. said...

Brickowski - I bet Mark Frydrich (Detroit Tigers) would've gotten that phrase.

Shoals - You can also add Steve Nash . . . and possibly the Mustache in a few years (after he gets over his Che t-shirt wearing days) for NBA revolutionaries.

 
At 6/29/2006 5:06 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i suspect that nash, in typically un-american fashion, thinks that class is way more important than race

 
At 6/29/2006 5:54 PM, Anonymous spider said...

Well, his family left South Africa as an anti-apartheid gesture, so that's probably not right.

 
At 6/29/2006 6:03 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

not seriously suggesting that nash, who is a smart, decent guy with many african-american teammates, doesn't care about race. it's the old U.S./continental argument about revolution: america thinks its problems and tensions are primarily over matters of race, culture, and ethnicity, europe thinks that most everything can be reduced to economics.

 
At 6/29/2006 6:22 PM, Blogger T. said...

Shoals - I don't think that's even true anymore - from the British subway "bomber"/racial profiling to the French Muslim district riots, to the Turkish guest worker issues in Germany, to the assassination of what's-his-name in the Netherlands, to the danish mohammad cartoons to the National Front (France) and BNP (UK)* - there's a lot more culture/race conflict in Europe over the last decade than class. I mean, look at Thierry Henry's big campaign with FIFA fighting racism AND then getting called a "black piece of shit" by the Spanish coach who was trying to "motivate" - Henry's as wealthy as anyone in Europe.

We're well beyond 1960's UK.

*and I haven't even mentioned the Judean People's Front.

 
At 6/29/2006 6:29 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

damn, now i've got to get all serious.

t.--agreed on all counts. definitely the immigrant/culture clash in europe has overtaken class struggle. give the poor someone to hate and they won't get mad at their position, maybe. and let's not forget that the u.s. questions of race et al. has gotten so complex and layered that it's almost incoherent. no longer the binaries of yore. class, on the other hand, is looking more polarized than ever around our way. i'd almost say that the two have swapped places.

BUT. . .note that i said "old" argument. . .lovingly, mockingly. and we're talking about nash and morrison as readers of marx; if we all (humorously) characterize someone (nash) as simply that, it's hard not to go for the easy joke at his expense.

i'm sure there's more to steve nash; given the caricature, though, i figured i'd trot out another obvious one.

 
At 6/29/2006 6:36 PM, Blogger T. said...

i've asked some guys who know some guys who know steve nash - and they say he's remarkbaly well read and well reasoned with his world view. i suspect that the mustache could someday grow into that role, but for right now (this is all, of course, broad conjecture, without actually knowing the man - or anyone who knows him) he seems very college liberal to me. a wearer of che shirts. a hanger of marx posters. a reader of chomsky.

 
At 6/29/2006 6:45 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if anyone ever compares the suns' front line to the three critiques, i quit.

 
At 6/29/2006 8:03 PM, Anonymous spider said...

No, but Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi, and Mengke Bateer could be the Three Represents.

(Sorry, I think I just engaged in unctuous orientalism.)

 
At 6/29/2006 10:00 PM, Anonymous aug said...

T couldn't be more on the ball with morrison being a trendy college liberal. Walk in a grassy plaza on a college campus(except maybe the sec with the exception of UF that is liberal as fuck) and you'll see armies of adam morrisons. Irony loving, john stewart repeating, trendy liberals. The ironic middle school mustasche, che shirts and marx books are their armor.

This isn't to say that they can't be great guys/girls, because i know a couple of cool ones. Adam might be a good guy and judging by his commercials he just might be.

 
At 6/29/2006 10:07 PM, Anonymous johnny5 said...

How about Gilbert takes some of the salary thrust upon him and writes up a little bonus contract for the free agents the team's attracting? The CBA can't tell him he can't give a big xmas gift to his teammates, can it? That would be an interesting way to take a leadership role beyond the usual clear-moves-with-the-star bit.

 
At 6/30/2006 2:42 AM, Anonymous Lustrinelli said...

In the spirit of this discussion, is this "TG being TG"?

http://cbs4.com/topstories/topstories_story_180174619.html

Word verification: mlehm. Sounds vaguely semitic.

 
At 6/30/2006 8:04 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

holy fucking shit. he's even more troubled than i thought.

On March 30, Minnesota Timberwolves center Eddie Griffin was drunk and masturbating when he crashed his luxury SUV into a parked Suburban outside a store in Minneapolis.

 
At 6/30/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous spider said...

Guys, please don't post any more articles that will cause me to burst out laughing at work!

That's nuts, but somehow not unexpected.

 
At 6/30/2006 12:59 PM, Anonymous Husker Don't said...

When Broadway Joe Namath told that sideline reporter he wanted to kiss her...I'm pretty sure that was just "Joe being Joe."

 
At 6/30/2006 1:15 PM, Anonymous cephalapod said...

aug--
You're comment about "trendy college liberals" reminds of something my friend's dad told him in high school right after he got a rather shocking haircut--"why don't you be your own man," he said, "and get your hair cut like everybody else?"

BTW, I remember seeing way more Shania Twain posters (first album, she's standing in a pond or something)in college than Karl Marx posters. So if by "trendy" you mean "small atheistic/leftist/activist subculture with which you have little affiliation or interest" I might agree with your comment.

 
At 6/30/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger T. said...

maybe it's because i went to one of the centers of college liberalism (Berkeley) that I saw him as a big trend . . . i don't think there's anything wrong with it (heck, i probably espouse the similar viewpoints). my muse is a lot more neil young than che though.

 
At 6/30/2006 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seeing "joe being joe" live when it happened is one of those things that makes me grateful to be a sports fan

 
At 6/30/2006 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i suppose "live when it happened" is a tad redundant

 
At 6/30/2006 5:42 PM, Anonymous aug said...

My friend's idea for Gilbert was to retire for 5 weeks, then resign for the veteran minimum. Don't know how that would work though.

 
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