The straight line into moaning
If you haven't already peeped The Blog Reader's piece on FD, please do so before reading any further.
Stack's situation has probably been done to death elsewhere on the nets, so I'll keep my take personal and impressionistic. Tonight I was talking with my eighty-six year-old grandfather about how the academy and certain soccer fans think they're better than American sports, which still on a very basic level connote raw masculinity, aggression, and stupidity. He claimed that this wasn't nearly as much the case as it once was; Stackhouse got suspended, whereas in decades past he would have been celebrated as a hero for daring to come between Shaq and basket. I don't think his point was simply that the game was once more rugged, but that institutional forces would not have intervened when Stack so clearly did what had to get done.
If this isn't quite the same as letting them clash, it has to do first and foremost with the fact that it was a foul on Shaq. No one likes to get broadsided by the man Yao once dubbed "a wall of meat," and O'Neal in his prime could've exert all his force even on the break. Stackhouse was putting himself in harm's way, and laying hands on a supposedly inexorable being; dude's so big, it's difficult to strictly make a play on the ball without catching a lot else of him along the way. Regardless of how venal a foul it was, the fact that it involved Shaq should have, in my grandfather's interpretation, been the crux of the matter. It's the perfect inversion of today's "protect the stars" credo: the relative little guy gets double-pardoned exactly because he dared to stand up to the league's most overwhelming speciman.
Yet perhaps the issue at hand here is, as with Wallace's rejection, Shaq's deterioration into someone who needs the standard protection, who is as vulnerable as anyone at certain key moments, and who can be felled by acts of bullish injustice. For the sake of the Playoffs, Stackhouse shouldn't have been punished. But even more than the unlikely sight of a sprawling Shaquille, this official take on the matter was one more blow to the Diesel's ever-dwindling singularity.