11.19.2006

Heed thine hateful guests



This past week, I finally got around to watching Be Here To Love Me, which should probably be essential viewing for anyone with a mind, body, or soul. Then again, I'm operating under the assumption that a deep-seeded affinity for the music of Townes Van Zandt comes with any and all such territory, and I've got a funny feeling that I might be wrong.

For the past year year-and-a-half-plus, this blog has sought to wring all that is terrific, heady, and maddening about the National Basketball Association into a single iron barrel. Perhaps misguidedly, we've tried to brew the NBA into many things that it might not be, and squeeze our shared interests into this bubbling hold. And I like to think that, under the cover of carbonation, such things have been satisfactorily accomplished. I wake up each day and see my entire world reflected in this sport, and imagine it would be all the richer if it itself were to come around.

This might sound preposterous, but I'm hardly the only person guilty of this wishful worship. Certainly, hordes of men, women and children set their existential clocks according to something like Ohio State/Michigan, and allow any number of their other concerns to get subsumed by a game. Socializing, hobbies, family ties, burial plots. . . all obediently stand in reference to sports, and in numbers they find their wobbly absolution. To take it more toward the writer-ly side of things, our very own Bill Simmons has won fortune and acclaim simply by suggesting that one's pop culture consumption and sports intake are not so different. Why would athletes and their mammoth tribulations occupy a different part of our brains than The Karate Kid? It doesn't necessarily lower sports, or degrade other culture, to point out that we can't help but associate the two; if anything, I think it's a step ahead from making one defer to the other.



Townes Van Zandt, though, has no place in basketball. Decidedly mordant and awash in leisurely gloom, his music just has nothing to do with the sort of explosive highs and lows we associate with the Association. I've often tried to tell people that I think the NBA is a game of presence; points are rarely produced by accident or through the simplistic bellowings of logic, and prevention occurs through an equally decisive act. Fatalism, loping dread, and qualified wistfulness are not really things I get from this cherished sport of ours. It's also a totally different situation than say, watching the Blazers and then putting on Xiu Xiu. There, the two worlds are kept far separate, with the latter even functioning as a de facto high culture. Indie snobbery and sports are like oil and water everywhere but here, and that's because most snobbery is purposefully immune to the charms of organized leaping and running. That all changes, however, when your snobby tastes are a twisted form of populism. Thus the endless appeal of basketball-as-jazz, the hip-hop underpinnings of the today's Association, and funk's endless relevance to any post-ABA epoch of the game. And why I might find myself truly floored by this current disjuncture.

Strangely, when I went through my deepest Townes period I was also holding down pretty much every game you could behold on basic cable. Which is partly why it was so jarring to emerge from this documentary and suddenly find basketball totally foreign to me. I like to think that my relationship with the NBA is consistent with a lot of the rest of my beliefs and fancies, yet this latent chasm of feeling seemed dead-set on alienating me from the game I love. I suppose there's some vaguely football-ish about TVZ, especially when there's a late game fumble or pick thrown. But it pains me slightly to have to admit that I can indeed still need TVZ despite his utter contradictory thwack upon the face of basketball. This might sound hopelessly foolish, but it's hard to underestimate that visceral sense of your life suddenly cut in two. If anything, I've prided myself on being able to make sports not dissimilar to my "other" life; it's long been a sacred tenent of mine that talking sports can provide you a window into an individual while providing common ground. To find this breaking down within my very bones and mucus was, to say the least, a blinding drag.

NOTE: While I was finest kicking around this idea, Kelly Dwyer told me about this book, which apparently kicks off each chapter with a TVZ quote. I don't see how this could possibly make the slighest bit of sense, but have yet to actually see this myself. I do think, though, that a correlation between the "Greatest Basketball Team Ever" and the patron saint of self-destructive, underachieving perfectionists is more than a little far-fetched.

18 Comments:

At 11/20/2006 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A form of connective tissue in an early stage of development, found in the umbilical cord and in the embryo, and also in certain tumours called myxomata.

The only noun definition of "mucous" around, in case anyone else had no idea.

 
At 11/20/2006 2:19 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it was a typo. sorry.

 
At 11/20/2006 4:33 AM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/photo?slug=getty-71796528ab001_bulls_lakers_8_53_13_pm&prov=getty

TOO REAL.

and also, I can't help but think of hiphopsketball 2: rejazzebration remix 06' when i see KAJ's shirt.

 
At 11/20/2006 9:26 AM, Blogger JoshLove said...

TVZ's most underrated trait was probably his fantastically dry sense of humor - the comic timing of "Fraternity Blues" and "Talking Thunderbird Blues" are tremendous.

Though, to paraphrase Office Space, it doesn't get much better than when he sings "If I Needed You."

 
At 11/20/2006 9:29 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

and the jokes, the jokes. . .

but the key word there is "dry." i don't think that the nba is ever that. unless you're talking coaches-turned-broadcasters

 
At 11/20/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger Gregg said...

There are plenty of self-destructive underachievers in the NBA, but you're right, there's nothing Townes about them. I guess it's the perfectionist thing.

Just in general, folk/country music isn't NBA, no matter how many times Big & Rich plays the All-Star game.

 
At 11/20/2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

right, but i could give a fuck less about all other country and/or folk except for townes. in the same way that college football can burn in hell for all i care. it's the disparity between things that matter to me that is worrisome.

 
At 11/20/2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Gregg said...

I've been trying to come up with a perfectionist manic-depressive basketball player all morning, and best I can do is T-Mac. Doesn't really fit, though.

Did you watch the extra interview footage on the 'Be Here to Love me" DVD? It's not really necessary, unless you want to see Devendra Banhart acting like a cock.

 
At 11/20/2006 1:05 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

Sorry, this is totally unnecessary and off-topic...

But holy shit, are you people watching Carmelo destroy everyone who guards him? The moves, man... the moves. Leading the league in scoring, trying for seven 30+ point games in a row, AND his new shoes and resultant commercial are both hot. The man's having a good year.

 
At 11/20/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Obviously, the aesthetics of the NBA and TVZ are irreconcilable.

But I don't see as deep a chasm between an abiding respect and enjoyment of TVZ and, for example, a deep fascination with Josh Smith. Both brim with potential--realized to different degrees, some intentional, others not--labor in relative obscurity, and reek of psychology. Plus, if you're the type interested more in individuals than in teams/genres, you're likely to be drawn to both. Perhaps I oversimplify.

And I assumed that there would be commentary here of La Camisa. I laughed out loud upon its appearance. Cap is really something.

 
At 11/20/2006 1:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i have no idea what that last sentence means.

 
At 11/20/2006 2:05 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Two off-topic links:

Kareem doing Jedi mind tricks on Bynum (scroll down a little):

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime?page=dailydime

And: Rodney Rogers - who knew?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcqwHtdmHAw&mode=related&search=

 
At 11/20/2006 2:24 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

On any laker broadcast now, any time bynum makes a play, they cut to a shot of the mentor, alone in the stands, scribbling notes. what makes it more bizzare is that it looks like he is sitting alone on the handicapped concourse or something. you never see anyone else in the shot. also, as a result of that lights out thing, hes always draped in the shadows. it happens at least once a home game. truly surreal.

 
At 11/20/2006 3:59 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

I do agree that the NBA and country/folk music are not a good fit: however, I don't think the same holds true for country/folk music and college basketball.

Does this make sense, or have I completely lost my mind?

 
At 11/20/2006 4:11 PM, Blogger c-los said...

does anyone have a pic of that shirt that he wore last night? It was another classic. Id like to know who makes his gear or what store he shops in

 
At 11/20/2006 4:15 PM, Blogger JoshLove said...

I'm an unapologetic proponent of popular country music, and I know on the surface that seems utterly at odds with my love of the lig. But I think there are some congruencies - the immediacy and accessibility of pop-country (like almost all pop music) syncs up nicely with basketball, where the spectacular is often right there for the taking (as opposed to football and baseball, where it's usually manufactured over time). Also, country, like hip-hop, is dominated by individuals much more than groups (again, football and rock are inseperable).

Anyway, that's just what I tell myself when I'm watching Bobcats-Celtics on mute while listening to Gary Allan on my iPod.

wv: unljf - United Nations Loves Jordan Farmar

 
At 11/20/2006 4:18 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

@Shoals:

If that was directed at my last sentence, I was refering to the same shirt as c-los. It was in the La Jacketa pantheon of bizarro gear. Kareem becomes more interesting with each Bynum-related cutaway shot to him alone with his thoughts, clipboard, and western wear.

 
At 11/20/2006 10:55 PM, Anonymous johnny5 said...

Sean: You haven't lost your mind. It's because of shit like Hoosiers that you can associate college hoops with country.

 

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