By this time, it's perfect timing
You're all familiar with Kelly Dwyer. Now behold his FreeDarko Guest Post.
It’s been said that Abbie Hoffman once mentioned something about nostalgia being a “mild form of depression,” but I’m not quite sure about that. Not about the sentiment, mind you, but the quote itself: for a while when you Googled it along with Hoffman’s name, the only results that would pop up would come from old columns of mine from various websites. As usually happens, this led me into thinking that I was just the latest to be duped by a bearded old Yippie. So let’s just state that I once heard, on a bootleg, the lead singer from Steely Dan claim that Abbie Hoffman once said that nostalgia is a mild form of depression, right before the drummer counted into “Hey 19.”
This here internet has taken a glorious turn over the last few years. We’ve been able to separate the wheat (this site) from the chaff (any page that features a “current mood” designation alongside an emoticon), we can view whatever Ian Dury video we want thanks to the growth of Flash-based technology, and we can warm ourselves with the idea that that which was at one time too nutty or too contrived to be considered modern-as-tomorrow or hep will find a home, somewhere, on someone’s desktop. Forget perversions and reaching out – the best part about this New Age, to me, comes from the idea that (no matter the tickler) somewhere there is someone cobbling together a snarky thought or twelve on your particular Nazz du jour: waiting for you to click, read, rock back and back again towards the screen, topped off with a passionate, “I know, right?”
You there … with the glasses, y’know?
(It’s usually at this point that poster and guest-poster alike are asked to supply a bit of photographic evidence to sustain the points. It just about goes without saying that this post will be about as lightweight as this site gets, so I might as well ride that train toward my kind of station, and use this as an excuse to point out that I would give several months of my life just to watch Robert Goulet, dressed like a harlequin, singing -- with requisite scatting interludes, and full-on Hendricks-style vocalese -- the theme from “Three’s Company." It’s all downhill from here.)
Nobody trudges toward the computer anymore, or dreads glomming over the usual bookmarks and time-wasters. Our whole lot of loutish NBA fiends have our hands full these days, and at the risk of sounding like a break room poster: it’s a wonderful time to have a screen full of something. Site after site after podcast after illegal torrent after email after site of bandying bandying bandying shmatta shmatta shmatta – it’s enough to keep a major website’s fifth-string NBA guy strapped to the iced tea IV in order to stay up for days at a time just to throw a goofball comment towards the next blog in his queue.
It wasn’t always like this; not even close, really, but there was a time when following these things (and trying to create that sense of “this is quite important, listen/Rod Strickland has his shorts on backward” yin/yang) was a wee bit harder. Not as hard as having to aim your radio antennae or TV ears toward a tape delayed flare-fest, or dealing with the sort of silliness that pervaded the post-Magic/pre-Stromile days and nights – but for anyone who stuck with it, spin it back …
Dig James “Hollywood” Robinson (tiny, chunky, shooting), or the time Isiah Thomas signed John Long and Earl Cureton (to move Toronto’s average age above the then-league mandated 22.1), or when Dallas fielded (courted?) 27 players, then fired Jim Cleamons, which inspired a 17-year old KD to write a scathing missive about Jimmy Cleamons’ Raw Deal, his first of 22,000 internet columns that nobody read. Or Gheorghe Muresan’s comeback with New Jersey in 1999-00, one that saw him share court time with Michael Cage. Or the time Eric Williams seemed well on his way to scoring stardom before tearing up his knee, taking 15 months to return (the lockout helped), before thinking better (depending on your view) of it, and returning to his Bigsby-strong roots once the ligaments healed.
These were heady, heady times. Little seemed permanent – with everyone waiting for the next big retirement or collective bargaining makeover or Shaq and Kobe to get their shit together or (when that failed) Phil Jackson to get his shit together and head to El Lay or David Stern to cut his Hoffman-esque (the later period, natch) beard off and do something about 82-79. But it was fun, great fun, picking apart these flawed characters that were well lacking in the intrigue and charisma department (no Agent Zeros, here) and the ability to drop jaws with honest-to-goodness swag (same parenthesized thing about Gilbert Arenas, here). I mean, in all of 1997-98, there were probably nine behind-the-back passes. Brent Barry had four of them, Pig Miller managed one (Lenny Wilkins took him right out), and I forget the rest. I think I left that composition book in my locker.
That muddied stream of lateral thinking (although, we were also told, you can’t lateral a horse) reminds me of having to identify the skinny guy placed prominently among the pictures above my computer (the only unrecognizable face among Bob Cousy, Moses Malone, Scottie Pippen, and – seriously – Xavier Cugat) to a college dormmate. It was Steve Nash, who was two months removed from being traded to Dallas and about a year removed from being mentioned in serious trade discussions between Phoenix and the Vancouver Grizzlies; a deal that was supposed to send Bryant Reeves to Arizona. Why would the Grizz give up a solid 7-footer for a third-string point guard? Well, Nash is from British Columbia, and apparently that was all that mattered to some stateside scribes …
I’m not sure which side turned the deal down, but you’d like to hope it wasn’t the guy who still has a job in Toronto, and not the mug who could have had two years of Darko in Dey-twah (pronounced like Ben-oit) but preferred Otis Thorpe. There were heaps of those -- ideas that sent Vlade Divac and Ike Austin and Scottie Pippen to Phoenix to run with Jason Kidd, or Vlade to Seattle as the missing piece in Paul Westphal’s first year as head SuperSonic (anyone who slogged through that era and calls the team “the Sonics” deserves a barbell thrown at them by Vernon Maxwell), plenty of nonsense spurred on by the biggest free agent class (1998) in history matched with an insufferable labor stalemate that ended the day I trudged through a Chicago snowstorm to buy “Miles Ahead.”
The sick thing is, most would think that the lockout season would be that era’s absolute nadir, but it wasn’t even close. And it had nothing to do with lowered expectations brought on by the sight of Shawn Kemp playing in Alonzo Mourning’s charity game and a 50-game season. It was a fun mess of the blues, and we did get to see Ricky Davis and Brad Miller tear it up late for the lottery-bound Hornets, after all. 1999-00 was a fulfilling (though less boisterous, mainly because Mike Wise wasn’t making a fool of himself whilst warning of Latrell Sprewell’s evil ways in Sunday magazine inserts newly made internet-fresh) march in place, typified by that year’s Sacramento Kings squad: the guys entertained, even as Nick Anderson saw his legs betray him, but only saw their winning percentage go up percentage points.
Naw, 2000-01 was it. Ultra-slow, Mike Miller, Mark Strickland’s last gasp, Kenyon Martin breaks another leg while the Lakers can’t be bothered to listen to Phil until April. The only bit of not-there that we thought deserved reification (turned out to be a lie … a filthy lie) was that year’s Clipper team – but they couldn’t even pull off vapid the right way. The team appeared to boast a series of talents who seemed (for shame!) too damn aware of their station, aware of their talents, and aware of the fact that they drew our attention. The hottest couple at the shindig was already too stuck-up to mashed potato or pose for photos, and they’d only won 31 games.
Luckily for us, the note that began all, can also destroy. The absurdity had to worm its way toward relevance (if not acceptance … but that’s for another day). Hand-checking was outlawed (Texas nearly seceded as a result), Skeets compared Jalen Rose to a car (I’m not a driver, and I can’t remember which one), Kevin Arnovitz starts pulling brilliant shit like this, YouTube allows us to alternate between Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Harper within seconds, Free Darko makes me wish I hung around past sophomore year (I was on an accelerated program, after all), and Henry Abbott pulled it all together.
But the game … it’s pulling off yeoman’s work. It’s changed, and the web has come up around it. And that last part is co-incidental; I’m afraid, but no less wonderful. It wasn’t as if, ten years ago, were merely had men in short pants helping us through those vaunted lives of quiet desperation, but it was close. And it wasn’t bad. And, in its own inimitable and hard-to-define (if you’ve made it this far through the post, that last part you’ll definitely be able to jibe with) way, it was just as fulfilling.
A few days ago, after throwing a line or two around about the photo heard ‘round the hoops blogosphere with Shoals, I sent a quick reply about posting a photo from last week of myself from a pub, just to keep up. So, after the girlfriend uploaded the bloody thing …
… I took a good look, which is never fun, and noticed that I’m well on my way to Yippiedom. Maybe that old coot and cocaine dealer, our dearest Abbie, was onto something. Either way, I’m happy doing things my way, partying like it’s 1997, while trying to keep up with Damon Jones.
Roll over Abbie Hoffman, tell John Crotty the news.