Eyes of the Leaking
I would like to heartily thank everyone who made it to our little shindig yester-soir. I am hoarse this morning and feel the world is a slightly different place, so we must've accomplished something.
That said, it's strange for me to meet people who know me only as the entrails of FreeDarko. I can make sports small talk with total strangers (that's what it's for, right?), but membership in the FD community demands more than that. And yet most of my in-depth conversations about the game are with friends who know my dark secret: I don't know shit about basketball, and rent my clothes each night over this awful fact. Each time I web-chat with a writer far better-versed than me, or sit down with someone aware of my alter ego, anxiety eats my goblins. The clutch sets in at my throat, and I back myself into a corner from which I am ill-equipped to escape.
There's a fairly simple explanation for this, or maybe even two. First of all, I've never played the game seriously and still don't recognize it's a standard human activity. Baseball purists are the most pure because they love the shape of field and the path of a ball toward home plate. Remove all the humans and the sport would still be beautiful to them. I'm at the other extreme of spectrum; not only do I feel nothing when I see an empty gym, I have almost no interest in basketball when it's not brought to life by NBA employees. Without question, that's because most of what I know about basketball, I learned by watching the pro stuff. There's never been any practical pressure for me to understand its universal workings, so my technical know-how is a mixture of impressions, deduction, and bullshit.
When it comes to X's and O's, I'm in one of those "understands the language, yet can't reliably speak it" situations. I'm not clueless; when something works, I can explain what happened and why. But if it's time for diagnostics or all-out abstraction, I trip myself up awfully fast. The reason I have come forth with this career-threatening confession? That basketball lends itself to this amateur-ish treatment says a lot about why I enjoy it so. Most joggers have a passing interest in cardiac fitness; not everyone who enjoys sex stays up on the latest developments in urology.
Last night, I ended up talking with Padraig about LeBron's role on the Cavs, and whether or not James could play more like Magic-era T-Mac or Philly Iverson. I totally failed at figuring out my end of the argument, mostly because I was at the mercy of my brain's ability to conjure up highlight footage. I felt like absolute shit about this for fifteen minutes or so, before realizing what a ridiculous problem I'd created for myself: those three players are all radically different, and any "role" they take on is going to be shot through with their respective styles. Yes, in technical terms there's a finite number of basketball acts. But just as baseball lends itself to radio and basketball doesn't, this form of description or conceptualization only tells part of the story. Compare that to football, where telestrator holds the key to all truth.
In the NBA, pure execution doesn't allow for victory, much less an absolute understanding of the facts. In fact, I'm not even sure it exists. Even on the Spurs, its language can't account for all the improv and nuance that infect every scrap of technical essence. Individuality isn't merely interesting, or useful; it's what animates the the sport, the means by which technique becomes something real. That's why, despite my shortcomings as a scholar, I feel like my appealing to a higher power is in line with what the this Association's all about. I would rather watch LeBron than sketch him in hypotheticals; if that makes me deferential to particulars, it's because that's where I find the heart and soul of the NBA.
(Skeets found the video.)