Nothing's Going to Wind Me Down

My bad luck to try and follow a flawless Billups banger that exhorted us all to BE PERFECT. And that's the last time I try and deliver myself unto sleep with some off-hand remarks. I was just trying to be like my forefathers in colonial America, who would arise at odd hours to think or pray. When the night and the mind were both clear and unencumbered. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong day for that. And the wrong blog—if every FreeDarko post isn't in some way painful for reader and writer, we're not doing our job. And you aren't, either.

But rather than remove that post's memory altogether, I'm doing it all over again. In the furious crucible of work, where there are no pillows and guilt lurks in every angle. This is a blog of dread, neglect, and selfish self-sacrifice. So here's take two. Let this be proof that I am indeed mortal, vain, and receptive to audience feedback.

First, the Livingston injury. Fuck all of you who took me to task for not crumbling to ground in pity. I wasn't ever informed of the exact point at which injuries became humor or critique-proof. Lamar Odom use to catch shit constantly for bits and pieces of him always rupturing or poking out of place. Baron Davis's career has turned into one big punchline. Why exactly am I a cretin for not donning black when Shaun Livingston destroys his knee? I'm assuming that few of you shed tears over Culpepper's Lonely Finale; same injury, far sadder coda, and yet no one culled through the garbage when his repaired knee came up lame.

My relief was simple. We've been fed this "Livingston: The Future" line since the draft, and he certainly seems like that player. His movements, his passing skills, his occasional grown-ass affect, all scream POINT GUARD FROM BEYOND. But that's a shell, not the animating force, of greatness at that spot. The thing with the Former Stoudemire or the Smiths is that, skill or no skill, you can feel the presence they could have on the court. Polish them up, and all of a sudden they're game-changers. For a point guard, that proof lies solely in the pudding. There's no such thing as potential floor game. Having stellar tools for that is not the same as being comprised of low-post magma; application to an unrealized vision is quite different than defying one's own temporary shortcomings. Or, to spell it out, there are shackled interns, and there are prematurely self-made bwosesses.

As a fan, I was sick of it. We couldn't call him a bust, since all cerebral evidence pointed to the contrary. And yet yowling his name began to feel more and more like an intellectual exercise, not the kind of soothsaying this blog built its scaly-legged house upon. Fine, it sucks for him. I also regret the thousands of people killed in civil wars and other international chaos this month. But like I said, I don't want to have to worry about the Livingston Question anymore.

Whenever I write about Len Bias, I both bemoan never seeing what could have been, and find some slightly macabre beauty in his non-career. Like people who keep pictures of their dead babies on the mantle. With Livingston, I have no regrets about opting for this inhuman, insensitive, indefensible, and totally aesthetically exploitative take on a young man's life and livelihood. Free Jay Williams, motherfuckers.

It was the Pacman coverage that brought me back to "drugs." Lazy of me to point out that athletes like weed, that America does, and convince you all that I spark it on the daily. Lazy and counterproductive. Mostly, I just wanted to say that I think drugs, real drugs, not steroids, uppers or pot, make the wide world of sports that much more flamboyantly engaging. I want to see Chris Anderson busted for Oxycontin in an Oklahoma City motel. I want Kevin Durant and Greg Oden to both have their careers derailed by coke. Give me Luke Walton making 13 threes in one game while he's shrooomin'. Basketball isn't music, except when music is drugs, and I really can't help buying into this equation. Anyone who doesn't either never listened to a record or is themselves a victim of addiction's somber tragedy.

Finally, Billy Hunter's NOLA-phobia. The players should stay away. They have a moral obligation—as in, one exists within them, not one is imposed on them—to feel for that city. Tons of neighborhoods there are still in shambles. Someone like KG is not going to be able to stay away from that, at least not in his mind. Nor should he want to. I mean, this isn't going to be like that Saints/Falcons game, where for all intents and purposes no black people had ever lived in New Orleans. THIS IS THE BLACK SUPER BOWL. Sure, it's easy to show up in that city for a tourist-y purpose and be exposed to minimal dread. That assumes, though, that you're capable of (and want to) block it out. It's not like you have to be staring at a gutted block to keep Katrina in your psyche.

That said, wouldn't this make for an awkward ASW? Paradox: the players, union, and league itself have done a lot already. More than any other sport. And yet this is exactly why they couldn't turn away. This is not the weekend, the occasion, to saddle with that. It's a celebration of frivolous excitement, not MLK weekend. Save that shit for the Finals, which should be the equivalent of all those U2/WTC/troops Super Bowl wellings.



At 2/28/2007 1:54 PM, Anonymous bernard snowy said...

"aesthetically exploitative" is as good a way of describing it as I've ever seen. feels much more honest than that godforsaken woe-is-me Book of Disquiet shit I was poisoning myself with for a while.

At 2/28/2007 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

being even remotely glad/relieved that a guy has maybe completely blown out his knee is ass... I look to this site for better perspective than that.
I hope livingston keeps his head up, there's more than enough haters as this site has shown.
Both pieces were wack... go back to the drawing board.

At 2/28/2007 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well this is not entirely on subject, but its been itching my brain recently and every time I hear the term "black super bowl" I cant help but cringe.

The league should be a multicultural nest. Fuck all those that think its a black only league. I can get sick of that sometimes. It's a league for all people. Sure, the majority of players, and probably an even number of coaches are black. So what? Great for them, they have the skills. e.g. what's with shaq hating on white folks with skills? (reference remarks about nash and nowitzki) Why is it a "black super bowl"? I dig basketball too. What decade was it that it became a black game instead of a jewish game? maybe when they got rid of the cages, but the point is it should be about what can be in the future and not based upon a reverse segregationist view of the past.

After all, its just people.

As far as Livingston goes, I feel for him as a person, but he was no great talent. He had physical gifts he never figured out how to use. I never thought he would be but an average nba baller, ever. His body was supposed to be the physical manifestation of what steve nash has in his head. But appearances are deceiving. I hope his knee heals up though, cuz those things suck.

At 2/28/2007 2:44 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

My sympathy for Livingston has nothing to do with him being a basketball player or an athlete in general; if I saw some random dude have the same thing happen to him I'd be just as sympathetic, as anyone should be.

At 2/28/2007 3:46 PM, Blogger Gregg said...

Seriously, the Livingston injury has made me a little bit scared to play. Or jump at all, for that matter. So much violence incurred on something we all do like 40 times a game.

At 2/28/2007 3:53 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I think the sympathy for the Livingston injury can be attributed to the awful visual of it. Lamar's spurs and Baron's back/knee injuries aren't considered "horrific" because they aren't accompanied with graphic and disturbing footage.

The Daunte clip, on the other hand, is disturbing. Though nowhere as awful in appearance as Shaun's, because of all the equipment he wears. And because Shaun's injury was more "freakish" than a football injury like Theisman or Daunte - both those occurred in "natural" violence of the game of football, whereas Shaun's injury occurred simply because he landed awkwardly after a dunk, as easily as any of us tripping down the stairs.

So that's why this injury gets more sympathy. For the record, Theisman and Daunte both got lots of sympathy, too. If you had said something to the effect of "I'm glad it happened to Daunte, he'll never live up to the promise of being the next Cunningham anyway", I can guarantee you would gotten the same amount of negative feedback.

You have been getting a lot of negative feedback in the comments lately, though, so I'll finish with this: Your writing is still one of the brightest spots in the basketball season. Keep it up, and having Billups, Joey and TAN posting here occasionally really is a testiment to the brilliance of your own posts.

wv: lzeecfag: Tim Hardaway's response to Granderson's column.

At 2/28/2007 4:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

sml--thanks for the support. i have no idea why i'm getting bent out of shape over anon's who tell me to "go back to the drawing board."

you're right that there was sympathy for culpepper, or palmer, at the time of the injury. but while theismann will wear a badge of honor for the rest of his life because of the leg, culpepper kind of got thrown into the dead-heap last season.

and fine, livingston's injury was more demonstrative. but come on, like odom's long-term security wasn't jeopardized by injuries. it's a totally illusory distinction to say that one guy's career-threatener is somehow more of a personal tragedy than a career that's looking like it's weighed down by cumalative frailty.

plus how simplistic is it for someone to try and take me down with "you are a mean person." i said that i wanted greg oden and durant to turn into drug addicts. i'm fully aware that it's mean to not spend all day crying about livingston.

At 2/28/2007 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a mean blogosphere.
Don't get it twisted
(get it?)

At 2/28/2007 4:55 PM, Anonymous db said...

As a resident Livingston nutrider on many boards, I of course disagree with most of what you say, but not only enjoy it but would also say that the haters should back the fuck up.

I think the thing which is shaking people about the post is the abject nature of the injury, which I can't even look at, and anyone with any empathy is going to feel the same. Now Shoals, you've put that on ice while you deal to your own dissatisfaction with his trajectory. Fine, but I think you have to deal with the reality that you're pimping for a non-intellectualised approach to the emergence of future stars (Stoudamire, the Smiths) while *at the same time* you use your intellectual tools to displace the horror of the event.

And ultimately, this is where your initial post, quoting Larkin, felt to me a more honest statement of your position in some ways. The thing with Coltrane is that once he started using his sizeable intellect and knowledge of the game to delve into the outer reaches of aesthetic modernism, the white intellectual gatekeepers couldn't deal with it.

Perhaps Livingston was in some ways more FD in his game than FD can feel comfortable with? To me his very angularity and displacement of our ability to comprehend a "force of nature" was what made him a fascinating player. I felt like he reflected both my analytical style and (to a lesser extent) my game on the court - with all their flaws. I'll miss him.

At 2/28/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger Gladhands said...

I didn’t have a problem with your post until you said that you’d like to see Oden and Durant develop drug problems.. I didn’t find that bit of baiting objectionable because it was “mean”, but rather because it’s incendiary for the sake of being incendiary. You’re better than that, Shoals.

I'd also like to add that I never saw even a glimmer of the potential that everyone else seemed to see in Livingston. I remember watching him and thinking to myself, 'This guy just can't play'.

At 2/28/2007 5:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

db--i can't stand phillip larkin. that quote stuck with me since i read it in high school because of its horror. coltrane always has and always will be one of my favorite five musicans ever, including "selflessness."

point taken about livingston vs. amare. maybe it's that, as i said and gh echoed, you could feel some tremendous coming on with amare. not so with livingston except on a cerebral level.

and about the durant/oden thing. . .i was trying to piss someone off, i guess. though i wouldn't mind seeing it happen to some less pivotal guys.

plus, the basic thrust of that: obviously the live fast, burn out, don't fade away, narrative of drugs works well with FD-ish basketball guys.

At 2/28/2007 5:44 PM, Anonymous ml said...

that's about as ridiculous as your reasoning for why there aren't many female characters on the wire. totaly baseless and stupid. sorry, I most always enjoy your writing, and I realise that you often fall back on the "not serious" crutch, but really, what do you know about livingston and or his motivation aside from the fact that you have never seen him in a solid and well defined role? seems to me like you are just trying to offer a different opinion from everyone else.

At 2/28/2007 6:19 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I'd like to second what sml said about your writing and this blog being one of the best things about the NBA season. One of the things that makes this place great is that it's not just a bunch of safe opinions and politically correct commentary, and the very fact that I may disagree with some things I read here keeps me coming back.

As far as Livingston goes, I think one additional factor might need to be considered as to what is behind a lot of the sympathy: he's still on his rookie contract. Maybe it's harder to relish in the demise of a player if you realize that not only were they never able to reach professional success but they weren't able to cash in either.

The real worry in all of this is what effect this year is going to have on Donald Sterling. Here is an owner who was notoriously the worst in sports, who never wanted to pony up in any money for anyone and who seemingly didn't care at all about the success of his team. But in the last year or two he seemed to have turned a corner and looked to have his Clips on the road to respectability after following what appeared to be sound advice by paying his players and coach to keep the whole thing rolling. But after all that, the Clippers are arguably the most disappointing team in the league this year and you have to wonder if Sterling will feel like he's "learned his lesson" and will return to his previous strategy of not paying anyone for anything anymore. Surely Livingston's injury could be taken by an already-skeptical Sterling as a sign that he may have made a mistake. For the sake of the Clippers and the league, I hope not.

At 2/28/2007 6:51 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Maybe I didn't understand exactly how you feel about Livingston or potentially great PGs in general, but I guess the measuring stick here would still be Magic Johnson, redefining the position as floor leader, making plays possible that hadn't even been envisioned before. But which PG (Freedarko or not) after that has really had an immediate impact in a similar way when he first set foot on an NBA court?

Stockton took three years before he jumped from under 700 assists per season to over 1100 (8.2 pg to 13.8, with increased minutes). You could argue that Kidd was the one guy who realized his potential pretty much from the get-go and also stood for a distinct style as far as playmaking goes. After him you have Nash, who hadn't really started revolutionizing (maybe too strong a term, but for a lack of similar players right now I'll stick with it) the floor general role until his 9th season. And he needed the right environment and only then became a game-changer. Same thing for Billups, although to a lesser degree as far as league-wide impact goes.

Somewhere in between you have Penny, who I'd say was on the verge of having the kind of impact people envision for Livingston, and he was definitely closer to realizing it before ultimately failing. I'm not to sure yet what to do with Paul and Deron Williams.

My point, which probably doesn't really contradict what you said: I do think that PGs can turn into game-changers all of a sudden, because the learning curve is pretty unpredictable and the set of surrounding players is really important. Some can impose their style right from the start (Magic, Kidd), some take a few years in the right situation (Stockton), and for some the moment of enlightenment comes at some point down the road (Nash, Billups). I haven't seen that much of Livingston, and he certainly doesn't fall in the first of these three categories. But from what I've seen, I wouldn't rule out that he could fall in one of the other two, most likely the third. Or do I now have to say that he could have fallen in the third category?

At 2/28/2007 7:20 PM, Anonymous HonestTea said...

First, thank you for writing.

Second, I don't know why the thrill of cerebral play is more valued than the thrill of low post magma. Is that just part of being FD? I understand that unfulfilled potential is a big FD factor, but is Josh Smith's athletic potential that much more exciting than Livingston's court vision potential?

That is not to say that the Johnny Stockton should suddenly be included in the halls of FD, but for every Stockton and Dumars, there's a Nash and Isaiah.

I recall the exercise in assinging some sort of FD metric. One of the stats were steals+blocks+turnovers. Aren't turnovers the birthright of the Floor Vision Point Guart Who Is Still Growing Into Potential?

This constant stop and go of the development of Livingston could be just as tragic a scenario as the MF surgury stopping Amare's development into Vesuvius on the blocks. (Which, thank the Roman Gods, did not happen)

... or am I totally wrong and court vision simply totally not in vogue in these here parts?

At 2/28/2007 10:45 PM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

so there was the belief that amare's overall game and league longevity benefited from his injury. that makes me wonder if livingston's injury will rid you of the saga of his impending impact not by vanishing him, but by him realizing it. wasn't it magic, after all, that livingston was most compared to before we got proof negative? magic wasn't the most athletic cat, and his game didn't need it. perhaps in the way that amare was forced to learn the game by his injury, livingston will be forced to embrace the "cerebral" elements that were his hype to begin.
injury as the pen of potential's (freedarko's) palimpsest?
of course i don't know from knees, so cat may never even run again. but there's alot to be said for an ugly cap dropped on the limitless. give me the sky and i'll chill on the ground, but give me a ceiling and i'm likely to hit it.

At 2/28/2007 10:46 PM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

i'm not sure i've ever used the word "cat" before. that was weird.

At 2/28/2007 11:07 PM, Anonymous bloodofthewig said...

An uncharacteristically heated post by Shoals. Perhaps a new style is on the horizon. In any case, sympathy for Livingston, the man, is obviously not at issue here. Whereas the whole essence of FD swirls around unrealized potential, all that talk about Livingston as the future of PointGuardism, without any basis whatsoever aside from combo of size+handles, was wearing thin. The Clippers could have packaged him and Maggette for some top flite talent that could have delivered a #7 playoff seed today--but the allure of mature Livingston torpedoed that. NBA GMs are awful gamblers because they're either in love with spectres of talent to be, or terrified of once spurned talents making good somewhere else (although this doesn't bother ANYBODY in baseball). Whatever.

The more interesting development in this thread is the emergence of an awareness of the distinction between mental basketball gifts and physical gifts, i.e., court vision vs. 48 inch vert. In my mind, that's a false distinction. It takes an incredible amount of hand/eye/leg/body coordination to dribble, explode, maneuver in the air, flush, regain balance, land, and run back on D. All in less than 1 second. That's some serious mental 3-D spatial reasoning going on. Executing a perfect one-handed touch bounce pass on the move to an invisible cutter may not be testable in a combine format, but it is no less a feat of hand-eye-spatial-split-second virtuousity than a dunk in traffic. The distinction between the physical and cerebral is a phantom. I know that based on what I'm saying, musical virtuosity and aural/digital dexterity is nothing more than another athleticism. But that's exactly what i'm saying.

At 3/01/2007 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bloodofthewig, I think there are definite distinctions between the type of athleticism of a nash/jkidd, and of a amare/d.howard. Or, as you called it, the phsyical and cerebral. While your right in saying that both require inherent athletic gifts, that doesn't mean that both are the same.

I think the difference lies in that, where the kidd/nash beauty exist in their mastery of the basketball universe and it's subtlties, the game of amare/dwight simply breaks the bonds of the games restrictions and exists on a different plane. The aura of being able to simply jump higher, move quicker, and exert more possible force than others on the court evokes almost a superhero-like quality about them. While cerebral achievements sits at the top of the class, physical achievements are a whole different grade completley.

At 3/01/2007 1:21 AM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

No need to let a couple muppets slow up your dribble, Bethlehem.

At 3/01/2007 8:42 AM, Blogger zacboswell said...

I think anon's should man up and put a name to their words. Also, I see many people understandably reacting to the Livingston twist on a visceral level, whereas I interpret your comments as being theoretical. Correct me if I'm wrong: you don't so much relish in the injury so much as find relief in the possibility of a repose from constant speculation regarding the manifestation of Livingston's FD-ness in the form of Lig domination.

At 3/01/2007 8:58 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

zb--that's it exactly. and you can understand why i'd be confused that suddenly, concern for athletes and their feelings is a given in the blogosphere.

At 3/01/2007 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with bloodofthewig, the kid's potential has tortured GM's for far too long. Livingstone along with Corey Maggette should have been packaged before the deadline for an AI, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen hell maybe even KG type of top flite talent. The small probability of realizing Magic Johnson type potential would have made most GM's part with their established stars. I like to think of GM's as being one of three types. The simply awful- see Billy King, The Gambler- Jerry West, he will roll the dice on potential and will occasionally score a Kobe Bryant but more often than not turns up short, he is the kind of GM that would mortgage the team to get his hands on Livingstone. Lastly we have The Predictably Boring- Grep Popovich type, the kind that only goes all in with pocket Aces, the king that only gives goes after blue-chip top talent and has no time for potential. People often forget that Manu was no Darko, he was an established stud in Europe when the Spurs were drafting him and as concerns Tony Parker, it appears Pop settled for him rather than chose to wait for him to realize his potential- if Pops aggressive wooing but ultimate failure to get JKidd to Texas is anything to go by.

At 3/02/2007 12:01 AM, Blogger PostmanE said...

You want it to be one way, but it's the other way.


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