They're Sharp Cause I'm Smiling
So I've been sifting through Kobe's website after True Hoop asserted that it would make people like KB24. Especially in the video Henry linked to, something becomes clear: Kobe Bryant is boring. But not in the standard athlete-talks-to-media way. Kobe is most comfortable as a professional dad with concrete pursuits and a faint echo of well-earned leisure. It's not remarkable, but, at the risk of bringing up Arenas, it's certainly "knowable." I remember a commentor claiming that the pathological Kobe is the real thing, and this new incarnation is a put-on. That presumes, though, that genuine awkwardness is always going to be more awkward than genuine. Certainly, when the single-minded prodigy grows up, he can't altogether shed the shape of his soul. What he can do, however, is make peace with it, and mobilize it in the service of the utterly congenial and ordinary.
Here's a munchkin for you: why do we embrace Obama's somewhat mannered personality, while insisting that with Kobe, it's cynical persona? Both wear their intelligence, their impeccability, and their hygiene on their sleeves, while emphasizing their right to be loose within this. And yet one is seen as the most authentic politician in ages, while another is continually labeled the Great Deceiver of sports. I know athletes aren't politicians—if nothing else, the public craves authentic candidates, while in sports these complaints can quickly morph into a thug-hunt. But isn't Kobe a different kind of athlete, one for whom public life isn't a non-stop culture war? And at the risk of blasphemy, doesn't Kobe's steez offer a better template for Obama's image than other Senators do?
Ask yourself this: if the Kobe in that video weren't talking basketball, and his face hadn't become a visual cue for hatred, why wouldn't he be electable?
ADDENDUM BEFORE MORNING: This post was meant to merely point out that there's a similar structure to who we know them to be, but that they're seen as polar opposites in terms of authenticity. However, since people seem to want to take it far more literally, I'll bite: Kobe's Colorado problems (and franchise-murdering) are dark occupational hazards of being a star athlete, just as cocaine was for up-and-coming professionals in the eighties. Granted, one involves another person and the other is purely a decision about the self. Still, I could see them cast similarly as missteps that made a man realize where he really fit in. Except in Obama's case, this is taken as the height of candor; when Kobe hints at it, we scoff at it as spin.