4.09.2007

FreeDrafto Minus 37: Night Falls On Yours Truly



I don't think that the age limit was put in place to draw me to college ball, but it has. While I can't say that I watched much before the tournament, I at least had to take the headlines seriously. After all, in the most workmanlike way imaginable, the NCAA was now the spawning ground for this year's lottery, the wiggly puddle out of which a civilization of frogs would emerge. Draft season is already in full swing, simply because declare-or-not is the most enormous uncertainty facing this year's crop of prospects. I know that the policy change got made in order to restore the NCAA's pride and clean up the NBA. However, it also had the effect of completely reorganizing the way these two worlds meet.

I remember when the draft was like a thicket through which all college glories had to pass. A thicket filled with monsters, international oddities, high school gambles, scouts' superstitions, and a general case of hermeneutic blindness. Declaring for the draft was the first step of surrendering to its wilds, like the existential extreme sport all its disciples knew it to be. I am incredibly ignorant when it comes to the philosophy of extreme sports, but suspect that it depends on a heroic balance of iron will and Zen release. Thus these student-athletes, cut loose from the NCAA's nuturing teat, from all the white girls, school records, and free beer, acknowledged that their effort would now be powerless in the face of the arbitrary and in-fih-nitt.



School was out the day they cut those ties, and with it, much of their authority and capital went tumbling into the dusk. Their NCAA careers were sharply over, and yet during this cramping limbo they would have no guarantee of a new career beginning. Now, that ain't the case. The lottery is primarily a question of the "how," not the "who," with the ping-pong balls more important than ever as a predictor of 6/26 distinction. Perhaps I am overstating this belief, for reasons I will clarify shortly. But look dudes, there's little reason to think that, after the lottery, we can't all draw up our mocks with more confidence than we've had in years. There just won't be that much new information arising, or intervening enigmas, to gum up the works.



I am tremendously depressed by the newfound synergy of the two sports. It means that the draft, and everything up until the point where these players don their new team's uniforms—maybe even only in the regular season—is still college ball. Still built on the back of their past performance in those ranks, still pointing to those as the authoritative point of reference. I don't even see team needs playing that much of a role past the first two picks; in this kind of draft, you take the best available unless you've got an All-Star at that position. The draft has once again been subsumed by the narrative of the college career, in a way we haven't seen since early exits became a way of life.

For me, though, this will be a personal tragedy. I have always thrived on the NBA draft, in part because it had become one of the most surreal, mystical rituals of all professional sports. If anything allowed for truthful manifestations of FreeDarko's most base principles, it was this month or so of hysteria, fantasy and occasional prophecy. This year, though, I will be denied this experience. Take, for instance, Julian Wright. I no longer have the right to invent him from thin air, or wonder wildly about what might be. No, I must humble up and admit that I don't know a fucking thing about Julian Wright, but that he sounds really cool. . . and I plan to spend the next two months in the film room so I can cultivate some right to feel this way.

15 Comments:

At 4/09/2007 4:18 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

Word to Frank Black.

Quality pic choices.

 
At 4/09/2007 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am impressed by your use of protest sign photos as conclusions.

 
At 4/09/2007 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Within two years, "Ju," as he's known around these parts, will be every single person on this site's favorite NBA player. I could list the reasons why, but I'd rather sit back and allow each of you to come to this realization for yourselves.

 
At 4/09/2007 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

college ball & specifically the tourney have always been a big deal...i feel like this is the most flagrantly irrelevant post i've read on this site.

 
At 4/09/2007 8:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

thank you for your feelings.

and sorry for writing so much if it could have been handily boiled down to "college ball is now a big deal."

 
At 4/09/2007 10:38 PM, Blogger Amphibian said...

The tadpole/frog analogy was worth the price of admission, Shoals. Great entry, and I'm glad to see you're having fun while feverishly hammering things out on the page.

Anon 7:55 - I think it was the rise of ESPN that drove the NCAA tourney to be the "big deal" it is today. I mean it was what, 1980, when the opening round games were first shown on TV.

 
At 4/10/2007 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

commenting on some shit that happened in 1980 sounds pretty irrelevant to me... especially when it's the same shit going on now and everyone's accepted it.
I'm not trying to be the "comment section asshole", because i read the site. Just thought this post felt completely like a waste of time...

 
At 4/10/2007 12:10 AM, Blogger T. said...

not to mention that Bird/Magic was shown tape delayed. and the NIT was the big tournament for a long long time. Quite a bit different than "always"

Anywho - it's not so much about the importance of college ball (if I read this correctly) but rather the beginning of the storylines for players. Think about Shaq in LSU yellow and giant kneepads. Or Billy Owens running point for 'Cuse. Or Vince Carter slapping backboards at UNC.

I consider the time from the One Shining Moment throught the first two months of the season to be one giant mash-up of jagged edges and rounded corners. I love to watch how stars in one arena become stars in another, or role players, or bench players or espn.com bloggers.


People always mention that they don't pay attention to the NBA until post-All-Star (or even worse, the playoffs) - I think of those first couple of months - aside from watching my team - as watching the rookies.

 
At 4/10/2007 12:37 AM, Anonymous torgo said...

Maybe I read this right, maybe I didn't. Are you decrying that the unknown (the draft before you started following college ball) has become the known? That knowing who all these guys are is going to kill the fun? If so, I understand where you're coming from. At the same time, though, don't worry too much. If nothing else, there will be the talented foreign players (this year, it seems like Yi Jianlian, and as always, Tiago Splitter), or the random Renaldo Balkman pick that severs ties with reality. I imagine, in the coming months, some prospect will be found, a GM will be convinced, and a team will pass on a sure thing. The beauty of the draft will continue.

 
At 4/10/2007 1:33 AM, Anonymous tom said...

if you've completely discounted college ball as a part of the basketball universe up until this point (like I have), then it is a bit like watching a prequel to a classic. It's informative from a narrative standpoint but it's boring and takes away from the mystique of the original.

 
At 4/10/2007 11:34 AM, Anonymous J James said...

Any of y'all read Paul Shirley's columns at ESPN? He had one recently where he reflected on his NCAA tournament experience (he was one of those guys who broke down in tears as his team was headed to defeat) that was worth reading. A meditation on the difference between college and pro ball.

T is mistaken about Bird/Magic being tape-delayed, you are thinking of Magic's first NBA Finals the following year. And it was a very long time ago that the NIT was considered more prestigious than the NCAAs -- the switch happened in the early 50s, I'm thinking. Whenever New York City stopped dominating the college hoops landscape.

 
At 4/10/2007 11:45 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'll take full responsibility for this post having failed, since i'm the one who wrote it. however, that doesn't mean i'm not right.

the age limit, the increase in talent in the ncca, and its legitimacy in the eyes of people like me, is not insignificant. and has a huge effect on the way the draft narrative plays out--and whether it belongs to college or the pros. that was my point.

 
At 4/10/2007 12:26 PM, Blogger Zack said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/10/2007 12:47 PM, Anonymous ZMarker said...

Shoals, the fact that the age limit coincided with one of the strongest freshman classes in years shouldn't be overlooked.

However, Julian Wright was a sophomore this year, he was never burdened by the age limit. If he had came out last year he still would've had played a year of college ball. Are you saying that the newfound legitimacy and necessity to take college headlines seriously changes your draft experience even for players that weren't tied to it?

Either way, I think the age limit makes it damn interesting to look at the '05 draft and figure out where Durant, Oden, and Conley (+Brandan Wright) would've gone, not only in relation to Bogut, but Webster, Green and Bynum.

 
At 4/10/2007 3:21 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

I thought the post rather adequate in capturing the sea change that the age limit establishes. I am pretty sure that the ISU/MSU final was hown live and that it was the 1980 Finals on tape delay. I am also somewhat sure that Owens never played the point for the Orange, that was Ellis transfer team where Stevie Thompson played some point (horribly) and that rather slight frosh (can't recall his name) attempted at various times to supervize while many of us in TVland prayed for Adrian Autry.

 

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