Your Especially Nimble Din

I have no idea why I didn't include that League of Psychology post in my Big Picture favorites. As much as anything that's ever been nailed up here, it gets at how I view the game on a day-to-day basis. Maybe because it's always seemed somewhat incomplete: the catch phrase sang of psychology, but it ended up being much more about the nexus of aesthetics and persona, or performance and history.

Not surprisingly, this is what leapt into my mind when I woke up late and found that one of my favorite players had, in very real terms, fucked up. J.R. threw himself and another dude through an SUV windshield, with his companion still in serious condition. As soon as I chased down the facts on Smith's folly, one thought kept sticking: does J.R. being the kind of person who nearly kills himself and others make me like him more or less?

To be perfectly insensitive about it, the situation sums up his style, and career, as aptly as anything could. If seasons can be terms "trainwrecks," then Smith is most certainly an SUV nightmare that splits the difference between grace and self-inflicted woe. On the court, J.R. is forever halfway between disaster and perfection, and I daresay that this is responsible for much of up-and-down Nuggitude. At the same time, however, wouldn't a man prone to ditzy volcanism end up with Smith's narrative and his kind of game?

Throwing about causal arrows is, well, a lost cause. There's the single basketball act, the competitive actor, the professional employee, the celebrity persona, the uncut sleaze, the real him, and all manners of in-between-ness. Saying what precedes what, and what can claim the chunkiest corner of "truth," misses the point. Athletes as they exist in total are part-real, part-imaginary; they belong to themselves, but are hardly separable from the subjective fog we cast about them. What's more, so much of their meaning derives from sports, which to most sane people are nothing short of trivial.

Here's the thing, though: the moment you allow the real world to creep in, you suddenly have to consider morality. STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE: Way back before age had a number, Silverbird, Big Baby and myself used to joke about a so-called "Moral Commentator." This indispensable member of the telecast crew would be charged with breaking things down in terms of justice. If this sounds useless, it's because it is. Sports have their own code, and it puts winning and losing above all else. To be sure, there is etiquette, but this idea of honor resembles that among thieves or soldiers: goals preceding goodness.

If Bruce Bowen behaved socially as he does on the court, he wouldn't gain grudging respect—he'd be reviled. J.R. Smith may, on some poetic level, need to nearly kill himself and others to justify his basketball existence. I hope all of you immediately recoiled at that statement, or else you are probably a sociopath. That would mean, though, that Smith's real world doings do affect our understanding of him as a basketball player. Had no one been hurt in this accident, we would have no problem drawing comparisons between this event, what we know of him as a person, and his basketballular make-up.

Instead, I'm also left wondering if I can still watch him on the court, and in the rumor pages, without affixing some sinister. Ray Lewis may have beat his case and rehabbed his image, but his having been tangentially involved in a murder put a new interpretive spin on his "killer instinct." At the risk of distracting the comments section indefinitely, Kobe's charges made his competitive zeal into something vaguely unsettling.

I'm not in favor of forgiving and forgetting when it comes to athletes. I don't think you can hold a semi-imaginary figure accountable as you would a friend or public servant. But to pretend that we let these extracurricular gaffs disappear forever is absolutely ridiculously. They do color the way we see an athlete, even if this judgment only temporarily overtakes the "athlete" part of things. If a League of Style is inseparable from a League of Psychology, then in some cases we are forced to admit the limits of escapism.


At 6/10/2007 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, just like Ray Lewis, OJ will always be a murderer.

Sure, both were cleared (to an extent), and the details of Lewis' case less widespread, but make no mistake: He helped cause the death of another human being, even attempting to obstruct the law to salvage himself. Kobe will always be nicknamed "The Rapist" because the words "severe anal trauma" simply will not evaporate.

"But to pretend that we let these extracurricular gaffs disappear forever is absolutely ridiculously." You meant ridiculous, and you were 100% right. If you know about it, chances are you're gonna remember it. A black smudge, no matter how insignificant or unproven never seems to wipe off an athlete's ego, nor out of our mind.

J.R. is an immature, ignorant man. Is he tainted forever by one of his close friends nearly dying (and it being his and the passengers fault)? I would say no, because he simply made a mistake and ran a stop sign. However, his ignorance is brought to light by the fact that a millionaire being paid to take care of his body deemed a seatbelt unnecessary. Most people ejected from vehicles DIE. Perhaps, in the most extreme sense, JR can use this experience to fucking grow up, because nobody else is gonna do it for him.

At 6/10/2007 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If a League of Style is inseparable from a League of Psychology, then in some cases we are forced to admit the limits of escapism."

One of the truest lines to grace FD, and perhaps one of the most defining.

At 6/10/2007 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm labeled as a bad character
no matter what I do I'm labeled as a bad character..."

At 6/10/2007 8:07 PM, Anonymous Jacques Derrida said...

You can't hide behind aesthetics and unnecessarily flowery prose.

At 6/10/2007 8:15 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

sorry dude, the correct answer was "jean baudrillard." better luck next time.

WV:txdxppt= like the texas dmv, but for putting together presentations on speed

At 6/10/2007 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donyell Marshall is horrible.

At 6/10/2007 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down 15 in the first quarter, Van Gundy suggests the Cavs play LeBron through a third or fourth foul. And I agree. He keeps screaming about trusting LeBron.

At 6/10/2007 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LeBron got pissed after the airball FT. That was a nasty, angry dunk.

At 6/10/2007 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This game is a worse mutilation than any brutality on the Sopranos.

At 6/10/2007 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for J.R.

wv - wonketr - user of a famous blog.

At 6/11/2007 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, as it turns out it wasn't a great night for TV. The NBA gives us refuse, and the Sopranos gives us the worst major series finale since Seinfeld.

At 6/11/2007 12:54 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"I'm not in favor of forgiving and forgetting when it comes to athletes. I don't think you can hold a semi-imaginary figure accountable as you would a friend or public servant."

Is there a typo in the first sentence, and you meant to say that you are in favor of forgiving and forgetting athletes? Because this is confusing me a little.

It seems to me like actors conform to the same set of conceptions here as athletes, although the performance masks the real person to an even greater extent there. It's not like parents won't take their kids to see Shrek because Eddie Murphy picked up a transvestite prostitute and lied about it all those years ago, but it's always in the back of everyone's mind that that's probably why he only makes family movies now.

Shoals correcting an anonymous commenter on his misuse of Derrida with a Beaudrillard reference is a random example of why I love FD.

At 6/11/2007 3:20 AM, Blogger T. said...

FD is the only blog to use David Crosby, Jay-Z and (is that the Temple of the Rock?) in the same post.

At 6/11/2007 4:00 AM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

I too will cosign to the FD lovefest for the entire League of Psychology post, and especially the line:
"you'll find action figures and trading cards [in the other major sports], but nothing in the way of mankind unfolding before himself."

Thank you for articulating more perfectly than I ever could why I love basketball and why it I believe it is the relevant sport.

At 6/11/2007 10:15 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

The NBA is David Crosby; freedarko is Julie Cypher.

At 6/11/2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

The League of Psychology post has always been my personal favorite FD post, and I definitely agree with Anon 6:28's comment that your line about the `limits of escapism' adds something important to the concept.

In my comment to the original League of Psychology post I referenced Yankees-Sox. Since then, I have become disillusioned with Yankees-Sox for that very reason. It became too real, and the off-field exploits of the involved players became too intrusive to the on-field action.

Is this a fundamental danger of the FreeDarko method of following sports, Shoals? When you pin your hopes on players as volatile as those to whom the adjective FreeDarko is applied, isn't there an inherent awareness of the risk that the grand illusion will be shattered?

What happens if Darko himself proves to actually be a Serbian Gangster?

At 6/11/2007 1:13 PM, Anonymous randyduck said...

If Spurs fans were cool they would have "Stop Snitching" signs for Cleveland witnesses.

If Spurs fans were cool a lot of things would be different.

At 6/11/2007 2:04 PM, Anonymous JCN said...

so i read the site daily, but am just now coming to terms with what FD really means. . .so with that said was the end of Sopranos especially FD?

David Chase basically gave a big eff you to all his fans and said my style will overwhelm all of your expectations of substance?

At 6/11/2007 4:10 PM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

aaron's question has me worried that i might actually need a little hand-holding for a second. even amidst all the myth making, i pretty much think of FD as being about disillusionment, or at least about saying piss off to the league's own version of poetic license, diegetically and beyond. so if it's always about more than the court around here, what exactly is at risk of a shatter when we're reminded that, when thrown from a car, even j.r. smith won't be taking flight?
i mean, i hear you aaron, that being a fan of the volatile can be a volatile fandom, but i guess i'm just confused about how that's a revelation.

At 6/11/2007 4:11 PM, Blogger Brian said...

You got those backwards, JCN.

The desire for this fictional narrative to tie up in a neat bow - that's style.

Using the show to invite watchers to rethink their relationship to style, and what narrative and fiction means in their lives...that's fucking substance.

The Death of the Sopranos (which I mean in some ways literally) was VERY FreeDarko.

At 6/11/2007 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Big Lead pointed me to this pic of DerMarr. Haha, he really is wearing a Cookie Monster pelt.

At 6/11/2007 4:31 PM, Anonymous Daklin said...

I think that part of what Shoals is hoping for with J.R. Smith (or at least what I'm hoping for) is that he'll learn to harness his ability to wreck mayhem in such a way that, while he'll still self-destruct at times, it will result at least occasionally in the annihilation of his opponents as they cannot stand up to his raw power. His potential is tied up in his utter inability to tap his potential.

At 6/11/2007 5:49 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

That Miami game this year where JR absolutely lit those fools up is what we're waiting for here in Denver. That was "wrecking mayhem" in the best possible way.

And yeah, as the biggest JR homer here (or perhaps anywhere.. I've got his reverse dunk in cleveland as my work computer wallpaper for fuck's sake), I'm of course relieved that he's relatively okay after being thrown from a car... I just hope that his friend recovers, because that'd be some shit to have hanging over your head (not to mention the probably charged that would get filed for something serious like that). Fingers crossed over here.

Cookie monster pelt.. haha, perfect.

At 6/11/2007 8:10 PM, Anonymous JCN said...

Brian help me out here. . .(this is without getting into all the semantics of what everything in the last episode meant and the symbolism, etc)

The way I see it:
Substance = “Right way basketball” and doing things conventionally, thus the quote unquote right way to end sopranos would have been with everything so neatly resolved.

Therefore the style of The Sopranos is the fact that Chase basically flew in the right way of ending a show by doing it his way…

Or am i just completely backwards on this...

At 6/11/2007 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes, I feel like I could just "re-imagine" the NBA. I wonder, watching these finals, what it would be like if the whole league had re-draft. A fantasy league, if you will.

Who would be drafted first?
Merlin? The King? Steve Nash?

Would the parity be so great, that we would see the competition as watered down across the board, or the exact opposite?

I guess it depends on your point of view.

At 6/11/2007 10:00 PM, Anonymous txb said...

JRs passenger didn't make it. RIP.

At 6/11/2007 10:41 PM, Anonymous Goot said...

Don't like that last picture.

At 6/12/2007 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan:1. JR's driving record is published in today's Star Ledger (6/12/07), at one point , he had almost as many points on his New Jersey driver's license as he ahs scored in his best games; and

2. also today, Ledger Sports Columnist , Steve Poltiti, bemoaning NBA's lack of care for the "casual" [caucasion] fan, in running against the Sopranos":"The Sopranos isn't the only thing on television that ended with a black screen."

At 6/12/2007 9:06 AM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

Just to expand on the above for those who don't wanna search for it:

"State motor vehicle records, meanwhile, showed that Smith amassed 27 points and five suspensions of his license in less than a year."


That seems like Eddie Griffin-level blatant idiocy and horrible decision making, and now he's lost a friend for his actions. Motion for immediate revocation of FD upper echelon status?

At 6/12/2007 9:40 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Does anyone know anything about NJ traffic laws? How is it possible to get five suspensions in a year and not have your license revoked outright?

Anon: I read the Politi article after I saw your post thinking that it was a real article about race playing a factor in ratings, but then I saw that his only real idea was to have games start at an earlier hour. That black screen bit is a Freudian slip if I've ever seen one.

At 6/12/2007 10:06 AM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

I'm not familiar with NJ's traffic laws, but I did go back and recheck and the article and read the second page. Found this:

"In all, Smith's license was suspended five times, most recently on Feb. 7, 2006, but he was a driver "in good standing" on Saturday because he had paid all necessary restoration fees, Horan said."

So... maybe ones license can be restored simply by paying a fine? Don't believe there's a system like that here in MD. Sounds ridiculous to me, but that's what I'm getting from the article. I'd like to hear from somebody who actually knows about this stuff though as well.

At 6/12/2007 11:48 AM, Anonymous Daklin said...

I'm from New Jersey, and as far as I know you can't get back into good standing by paying a fine. If you have below three points, you can take a course on "defensive driving" (read: not being an idiot) and have them revoked. And if you don't get any points on your license for a year, I think you lose one of the points that you have. When you get more than 12, or something like that, your license is suspended.

No idea how J.R. maanged to rack up 27 points. The restoration fees should only matter once he has below 12 points on his license, and is just an administrative thing.


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