Between fists and speckles

The jump into the League Pass present has been both refreshing and vile. Refreshing in that my relationship with the Association has been expanded and renewed; vile in that the game itself feels a little less sacred. If you notice a marked shift in FreeDarko over these next months, you can chalk it up to the fact that I now regularly live with this league, rather than it being some veiled object sparingly revealed to me from afar. Also don't be surprised if my take on the Bobcats shifts from "cast of bright mortals" to something as empty as "why you can't expect young teams to win." Note: in this respect, the Baby Bulls were revolutionaries, and Joe Johnson most definitely counts as a veteran. He's earned that.

One tawdry corner I have not yet touched is the watching of already-completed games, presumably without any advance knowledge of the outcome. This weekend, I received a delightful email from Evan at Should I Watch, a site that allows you to discover what's worth sitting down for without having to feel the cool touch of falling beans. Admittedly, my lack of a DVR or TiVo is part of what keeps me from having to consider this possibility—nay, this dilemma. But from my current techno-social vantage point, this isn't a custom I can relate to. Because as much as I prize the aesthetics of the game, I am compelled even more crassly by the awful promise of reckoning. With this in the picture, or off in the ether as always within my grasp, it's hard for me to sit idly and savor process unfolding. When the world has been changed, when lives have ben altered and throats butchered, I want to know. Otherwise, I remain a citizen of the recent past, a stranger to the universe before me. Part of the appeal of outcome is sensing the rest of the the public shudder and barf through it as you do; the extreme of this is hearing neighbors yell, or making phone calls during the breaks, but no sporting event occurs beyond the reach of community's meaning. Knowing that I actually was watching a game in a vacuum would make it hard for me to feel that anything was truly at stake.

One could make the argument that "meaningless" NBA games are immune to this trouble, since whether the Nuggets or Bobcats prevail is not exactly why we're tuning in to these early dates. Part of FreeDarko's immortal credo holds that aesthetic discovery is its own kind of drama, creation its own kind of improvised determinism; you'd think that, had I any interest in watching certain do their thing in a certain contest, I'd also refrain from knowing how hard they came with that. Unfortunately, while all games have a resolution, not all definitely include a command performance. I've had enough nights sunk by tuning to to catch a dose of T-Mac or Arenas and be rewarded with stale scuffling; I check box scores as much to see who has come face to face with insanity as to see which team is now 6-1.

That said, I'm all for re-watching events of astounding beauty. In fact, I'd take any number of aesthetic coups for which I know the final notes over some boring shit presently going down. Knowing what the performance builds toward—whether you're talking individual feat or overall dramatic arc—makes the beginning and middle that much more fraught, and sometimes give you even greater chills than the monstrosity that is sprung upon you from out of the abyss of unknowing. It's not "am I in the presence of greatness" but "this is how greatness is constituted, step-by-step." Especially when you favor the kind of scattershot icons FD does, sometimes only after the fact can you appreciate what a sterling game hath been authored. And even with LeBron, sometimes it takes the entire game for it to sink in that yes, he is indeed doing all this, for all four quarters. In fact, I'd probably make the glow of elusiveness or incredulity part of the criteria for a FreeDarko game, or player, or maybe even team. For that ability to constantly surprise, to achieve perfection only as a mess of controlled stabs and miracles, is what brings together James and Gerald Wallace—and what would make me want to press rewind especially once I know the final result.


At 11/13/2006 3:01 AM, Blogger T. said...

I'd really like to point out the fine work Yao Ming is doing down in Houston, a bit under the radar.

At 11/13/2006 9:47 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

yeah--aside from the 26 per it looks like he actually wants to bang and yell at people.

At 11/13/2006 9:48 AM, Anonymous todd said...

Be careful with that ShouldIWatch site. I asked it about the Nets/Wizards OT game last night and since the OT wasn't within 10 points, one would deduce it not worth watching. They would be wrong.

At 11/13/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He looks like a CGI creature somebody tried to mesh seamlessly into the action. Good show.

At 11/13/2006 11:46 AM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

as someone who used to tape NFL games just to watch them after reading the summaries, i offer this obvious but important notion:

watching games when you already know the outcome allows for an objective viewing, and i'd even suggest a more realistic perspective on what actually happened. less entertaining, no doubt, but in some ways a more useful way to watch the game.

yer not clouded by the "holy shit, i can't believe that just happened" moments. instead, you don't miss the forest for the trees and understand the pieces as they fit into the whole.

as for the wizards game, what a crock of shit the league is at times. if the 7 second ref doesn't get fined and/or suspended, gil should call shenanigans.

At 11/13/2006 12:47 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Pro asketball has the most utterly meaningless regular season (except for college basketball). It drags and drags and drags again. It's clear that nobody on the court or in the stands really cares. And then it drags some more. And then it's April.

At 11/13/2006 1:28 PM, Anonymous Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

GW9K, that observation belies assumptions of "meaning" that are probably not shared with the general FD community. If meaning is derived by the proportional relationship of each game to total record (each game providing 1/82 of the total picture) then it can be argued that each game is meaningless. But as for fans and players not caring, I disagree. There are plenty of basketball fans who enjoy the game apart from it's "meaning" in the context of standings or total record.

On this point the Jerry Sloans of the world converge with the FD purist: The Game is to be played and enjoyed within the context of One Game. Check this quote from the Sloan profile in the NYT yesterday:

"Not only is Sloan’s longevity rare, so is his philosophy. He insists that the game is not about a final reward but in finding reward through the daily grind.

He almost sounds as if he is rationalizing his lack of titles, even if he believes that his philosophy is the route to one. Neither glitz nor glory becomes him; he collects antique John Deere tractors on his farm in McLeansboro, Ill.

“A lot of guys have gotten championships, but I don’t think they really understand what this game is about,” Sloan said. “Some of the great ones probably do. I go back and look at our team when we had Stockton and Malone. We didn’t win a championship. The most difficult thing to do is, how are you after you lost? Anybody can come back and wave the ring, but how do play after that?

“I admire that in people probably more than people who win a championship. That guys play and respect the game whether you’ve won a championship or not.”


(remove the spaces in the URL)

At 11/13/2006 1:52 PM, Anonymous StickyGreenLeaves said...

Well Said Pichi/Jerry. I think that's the way you win championships...by embracing the everyday experience

At 11/13/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

Except that, with Shaq as a major example, you can win championships by denying the everyday experience.

That's what I think is FreeDarko about enjoying the regular season, it's finding meaning in something that's nominally meaningless.

At 11/13/2006 11:20 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Pichi, I get what you're saying, but I just can't agree. I understand that the listlessness of the regular season leaves room for FD-friendly ego-centrism, but I just can't get as excited about titty-mag star-jocking when it's (quixotically) early season garbage time. The early season is a half-assed iso. The emotion of competition and the appearance of a grail drive emotions that are true to the game if it is to be just that- a game. Otherwise, it's solitaire. I see the need to understand the NBA universe as it actually exists in the day to day, but if I want to watch a game, fuck that shit.


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