If There's Branches, Smell Poison
By all genetically pre-disposed counts, I shouldn't have missed last night's punch-off. I don't want to shout "race traitor" at the mirror, if only because I hate to think that the People of Israel were put on this earth solely to watch Wizards/Suns in the Year 70045763. Yet if there are two things that verily define me as a cloud upon dirt, it's those two impregnable obligations. That said, the prig bubbling of the U.S. cultural cauldron and the deepest echoes of love can undermine a lot, and so I write this morning a man filled with loss.
When I think for a split second, however, I realize that I'm more guilt-ridden over this than actually upset. I should have been watching this game and scanning Chinese take-out menus, but really, I'm not all that bent up about it. While perhaps I am contriving excuses for my own self-deceit, without pause I bring you TWO MAJOR REASONS WHY MY LIFE MIGHT GO ON:
Stakes is grim: I have on countless occasions endroses the NBA-game-as-free-flowing-narrative, the NFL Films shtick done for the Russian lit set. And while it's true that this incalcuable ebb and slow of significance saves us from easy "good guy/bad guy," "triumph/tragedy" polarizations, still fate's surgery is done and judgment's ax falls. And despite what some of my best friends and most virulent foes might say, I do get enthralled by tactile possibility of victory and sorrow, especially when I particuarly care for one team. With that in mind, please know once more how dear these two particular rosters are to me. It would've been impossible for me to take sides, thus no joy; and all pain would've been personal, so no dance of decay. I would have had no choice but to wax objective, and once that begins, the sport is mute to me.
Today, I plan to watch the event on Broadband. It will be difference between home movies of your bar mitzvah and sweating through the real thing; there is pride, but at best there is the absence of others' disappointment. Now knowing that it was a game for the ages, that both teams shed magma and reinforced my best version of them, will I be able to enjoy it for its virtues. No Suns runaway, no Gilbert slump, no late collapse by anyone. The outcome was a necessary evil, one that I would prefer to not be preoccupied with. Did I mention that I'm Jewish? I feel the same way about Larry David, incidentally; only on the second or third viewing can I actuall enjoy an episode with feeling myself sent to hell in the process.
The Eternal Eye: I stand by my claim that a basketball game must be watched in full. Even if, despite my party line, I find myself increasingly having to watch the first half with one eye on the laptop. Such is price of constant required viewing. Yet I find some strange dignity in having seen none of such a pivotal contest, and still being able to feel as if I've sensed the whole thing. Not to fete my own canary, but I pay attention to the NBA. I know the players, and as much about their respective games as I care to. When you dial up the Suns and Wizards, two teams I watch with religius precision and who fail to stand in the way of their opponents, it's pretty much just a matter of their offenses functioning full-tilt. And in some ways, then it's all about iterations of style, styles I know like the ruts in my muscles. I once mocked Silverbird for "watching" Sunday night NFL action via Stat Tracker. But now, having followed the fourth quarter and OT of Suns/Wizards this way, I can at least say I understand why it might count.
Some non-related drool: This Christmas season, I've been thinking a lot about draft picks. It had something to do with the Recluse's wail upon Cleveland, but it's also just one of those things I take time to ponder during the holidays. I know that drafting is an inexact art--fuck a science. And that free agent transaction, while they deal with known quantities, can backfire in unexpected ways. But rather than executives embracing/falling back on these inherent ambiguities, it seems like there should be some responsible way of evaluating them based on how well they tend to judge these things.
Last night, I listened to this story on an NPR food podcast about a "super-taster," some Mexican guy who discovered he had the freakishly enhanced taste receptors needed to determine what caviar is worth $4,000 a tin. Because basketball poetically defies logic in a way that baseball can only dream of, this stats revolution is a charade. Personally, I believe it's a ploy to attract academics to the sport; whatever it's shadowy purpose, no way in France will it help the Rockets figure out in what settings Rafer Alston can optimize his output. The same goes for scouting; the combine more often than not just validates false prophets and leads to recurrent heartbreak when teams buy into its discourse. Isiah can't sign free agents worth a damn, but is obviously one of the more shrewd evaluators of pre-NBA talent this side of the Nelson family. Why not set him up in a position doing that and only that, acknowledging his one-dimensional expertise and accepting his incompetence in the other department?
When a GM reliably fucks up one of those tasks, he should be off that case; if he’s a mess at both, he damn well better be good at recruiting and managing scouts who are. Front offices who consistently luck out with either of these two tendrils of evaluation should be getting their ranks raided daily; the Cavs have no excuse to butcher a decade’s worth of picks when they could hire away rising stars from the Pistons or the Spurs. Shit, wasn’t this strategy how (and why) Jon Gruden ended up with a chance to win a Super Bowl?
For all my Pistons faithful. My plan to gift Gilbert a nickname has obviously failed, but here's a less ambituous one: Jason Maxiell, though shalt be J-MAX till the doom.