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.