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.