9.18.2007

Born to Lathe



The whole three years I was enrolled in UT-Austin, I had only one storming Longhorn sports moment. Oddly, it wasn't Kevin Durant who delivered into the promised land of fan feeling; from the second he touched down in Texas, I figured him as belonging to the Association. No, predictably enough, it was you-know-when in the 2006 Rose Bowl. I had actually been lukewarm on Young up to that point; his dominance was so straightforward that it struck me as facile, and his less-than-sleek passing was the kind of thing that mocked anyone obsessed with ferocious QB mobility. Even his runs, the stuff his legend was made of, seemed to me almost insultingly direct, more a receiver dismissing a corner than a back dissecting the field. With that one play, however, everything fell into place before me: Young was pure, unadorned swag let loose to win football games.

I don't think I've being sulky in admitting that, sorry, Tom Brady doesn't move me. When he marches down the field, I don't see one man facing down hell with his bare hands. Instead, it's a hand-picked manager blessed with bushels of talent and the policy handbook from infinity. There's playmaking involved, but it's anchored in the belief that football wins football games. Across the chasm of uncertainty, the dork bridge of execution always can and always will provide guidance. Winning games in a heroic fashion is a matter of buckling down and applying one's self, not letting the will to power take over. There are always other gods in the way.



Vince Young, on the other hand, makes games his in the most elemental way imaginable. Watching the first half of the Titans game this weekend, I saw little worth remembering. Then, apparently, at some point he sprang to life and manufactured a stark semblance of victory. This is the Tim Duncan principle, but made rad; this is Jim Brown if he controlled the entire offense; this is the unquestionable worth of taking the snap and daring the other team to try and stop you.

Around the time of the '06 Draft, I wanted to write about Vince Young as the NFL's Allen Iverson. My reasoning was pretty shallow; I was in Houston in the time, and it was impossible to avoid just how thoroughly Young was a product of that city at that time. There had been plenty of black quarterbacks, and plenty of joy and anxiety over them. But Young seemed to, for lack of a better word, be the game's first hip-hop quarterback. At the time, I'd already lost faith in Vick as anything resembling a leader or an all-around orchestrator; now, he'll go down in the history as the embodiment of all that, to some fans, was negative about Iverson's arrival in the NBA. AI fazed out the sacred point guard position, refused to stick to scripts, and got a reputation for off-court shenanigans. Vick did all this and more, reinforcing to the choir of hate why someone "that black" couldn't play QB.



But there's another aspect to Iverson's legacy, one that even a semi-hater like myself must acknowledge. Allen Iverson made the game of basketball urgent and culturally relevant again, both on and off the court. He may have scared away scores of potential ticket-buyers, but he also left ab indelible mark on the game, both stylistically and competitively. Why was he able to do so? Because he was that fucking good. Had his style of play been a mere sideshow (Rafer), it wouldn't be so hard to get young players to work within the boundaries of an offense, or run certain ne'er do-wells out of the league. Iverson gave an entire generation of style its foothold in the NBA, through nothing more than his own breath-snatching proficiency.

That's why, on this trembling morn, I propose to you that Young will indeed be what Vick never could be, what Iverson did to benefit each and every man. Vince Young has come to once and for all decolonize the position of quarterback; not to necessarily "make it black" or whatever, but transmute it into something distinct from the Brady's and Palmer's of this world. That's not to say that he stands for one-man football, or could ever effective dislodge all those who came before. However, insofar as the folkways of sport twirl and evolve so that we may all grow wiser, Young's hell-bent determination and muscular simplicity are something worth acknowledging. Vince Young plays the game of football like no one before him, but this is only evident in the gravity of his drives. I hear that the sport has always been about effort and bravery, but to my knowledge, no one's ever shoved a team into competitiveness out of sheer self-assurance.



At the risk of upending this whole thing, that's some serious basketball thinking.

Quick scraps:

-Big surprise: National Public Radio is a friend of mine. So it was both warming and disconcerting to hear the NBA take over their airwaves this weekend. That's a slight exaggeration, but in less than twenty-four hours I heard a lengthy, solemn news story on Greg Oden; a rerun This American Life on meeting one of the non-pro dudes from the Nike freestyle commercial; and then, most perfectly, Chris Paul as a guest on the all-conquering Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I had something brewing about the NBA being NPR's new natural sport friend, but it all just came down to implicity Jewishness and the Knicks, which none of you need a refresher on.

-Generally, Celtics blogs are the worst thing on earth. So it's a bit strange that, for the following gripe, I'm linking up the only one I can stand, Shamrock Headband. But it's because I love them so that I wanted to call them out for falling victim to the inveterate homer-ism that make Celtics blogs such an oozing cottage industry. You know, the Oden/Durant lottery technically belonged to any team out of the playoffs; tanking, too, could've easily been the plot of the Grizz. Yet somehow, both of these were projected Celtics causes. And now, I'm reading more and more insinuation that the Oden injury in some way reflects on the Green Guys; this SH post is only the most read-able example of this. Look, Boston is relevant again. It's not necessary to make everything a Celtics issue out of sheer desperation. To say that Oden's injury proves that the Celtics are now lucky. . . well, you could just as easily make that case for all those teams who drafted ahead of Boston (and weren't Portland).

31 Comments:

At 9/18/2007 12:48 PM, Anonymous Laphonso said...

Excellent post. I too am a basketball fan with high hopes for what Young could mean to football, the definition of "quarterback," and to sports in general.

Why the photo change from the initial post?

 
At 9/18/2007 12:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i could bullshit you, but it's not one of those days. there was already one piece of media that referred directly to vince, and plus i worried that the photo might be too well-known.

 
At 9/18/2007 1:40 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

Black QB moves Shoals in ways White QB doesn't. Shocking.


So true on the Celts fans tho.

 
At 9/18/2007 2:20 PM, Blogger Martin said...

I think the point guard revolution legitimized by Iverson we predicated on the paradox of having a point guard who is the best option available on 99% of the team’s offensive plays. This conflicted with a point guard’s positional duty of distributing the ball and creating offense for the other players. I think Iverson was more potent iteration of what we witnessed with Isaiah Thomas and his pistons- though I think Zeke was the best option probably only 50% of the time due to superior teammates like Dumar’s and Johnson who were respectable players on offense. The Iverson point guard paradox was the brought about by AI’s lighting quickness and almost yo-yo like dribbling and ball control abilities. I was recently watching some old AI YouTube and the thing that struck me was the extent to which AI has lost a step. Some of the videos from his first 3-4 years are simply amusing- watching players stagger in a drunken-like stupor when faced with the impossible task of maintaining a defensive crouch stance and keeping up with the Iverson’s quickness. He could literally get open at will- I suspect the only thing that kept coaches from simply sagging off Iverson was the illegal defense rules in place at the time. Because the first defender was powerless and he knew it- he had no chance of stopping Iverson from blowing by him and getting to whatever point on the floor that he wants. However, despite his offensive abilities, AI did pay homage to the point guard traditional roles during All-Star games. Perhaps he did so out of boredom or out of wanting to be a good sport during the All-Star game, or perhaps even it could be the case that AI was actually a fundamentally sound point guard with the IQ to spot the person in the best position to score and distribute the ball to them- be it Jermaine O’Neal at the post or Ray Allen spotting for 3 (gasp! naysayers consistently refute this as evidence of AI’s PG abilities).

To the matter at hand- the reason I view Vick rather than Young as the football embodiment of Iverson is due to the aforementioned paradox. It seemed as though Vick, like Iverson was often the best option on offense a situation that conflicted with his fundamental QB role of ball distribution. Vick’s scrambles were probably the best way for the Falcons to gain yardage. I would concede though that Vick, unlike AI had no passing game to fall back on- as a result his heightened scrambling ability was driven by the desperation of his QB survival instincts. Because if Vick could not gain yards by scrambling- he would become effectively useless and extinct. On the other hand- my theory (arguable- and strongly refuted by the AI haters) is that AI’s shoot first offense was borne out of a situational analysis with two viable and effective options i.e. pass or shoot- with AI settling for the more effective of the two choices.

To avoid submitting a way too long post I won’t get into the black/white racial implications of a player- subverting the traditional or “right-way” duties of a position. But those play a huge role in the AI, Vick, Young revolution analysis.

 
At 9/18/2007 2:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

here, i'll save someone some valuable time: iverson played option qb much like vick in high school, and they're from the same area.

i guess my iverson/vince comparison is more about what they stand for than what they technically do. i don't know that there's only one way to "play black," but certainly iverson and young could make one version of this into part of the canon.

and joel, i'm not going to apologize for not being moved by pinpoint accuracy and 8-yard passes.

 
At 9/18/2007 2:42 PM, Blogger Leee said...

Shoals, do you hate the WNBA too?

 
At 9/18/2007 3:16 PM, Anonymous westney said...

I don't see why we can't just stick with the popular VY = MJ comparison. There are so many similarities I won't even try to go into them here, but unlike with AI, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see VY rattle off a three-peat of Lombardis somewhere in his prime. Yes, he'll need some teammates, but it will be his determination, talent and skills that will bring it home.

Look at it this way: AI never wrested the NBA game away from the SOP and heightened or reinvented it. He just took advantage of loopholes in the framework that was already there. I view Vick as doing the same thing in football... nothing revolutionary, just freakishly good at exploiting the inherent deficiencies in the game.

Jordan on the other hand most certainly heightened and reinvented the game, changed its landscape (for better or worse), and left a footprint not only in the recordbooks but on the hardwood and blacktop. This is how Vince Young left his impact on the college game and how he will on the NFL. It's a talent that goes beyond just being able to break down a defense, but really just brings the entire game to a new level based on sheer will and natural ability.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoals,

You state that you are unmoved by Favre and unmoved by "pinpoint accuracy and 8-yard passes".

Favre is improvisation. Favre is individuality. Favre is all the things you profess to like. Too bad you can't see past his color.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left out the obvious: Favre is neither 8-yard passes nor pinpoint accuracy.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that was sloppy of me. favre is obviously not those things, and i like watching him.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

yeah, i have zero idea why i used favre there. he is kind of pompous, and i hate the media's fawning over him. but if anything, he's pompous in his belief that whatever the fuck he does will work.

that's difference from vince young in some important way, but i can't figure it out at the moment. maybe something about the whole gunslinger/gambler attitude.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:41 PM, Blogger Philip said...

football sucks. don't reference it again. thank you. that is all.

p.s. and if you're wondering, no, i don't really define myself as an american.

 
At 9/18/2007 3:47 PM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

VY = LBJ, yeah? Both are bigger, stronger, faster than anybody at their positions, both are by far the best player on an otherwise undistinguished team, if LBJ had gone to college he could've led his team to a title through sheer omnipotence too.

 
At 9/18/2007 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The black QB will be the end of Football. Unfortunately we all gravitate towards our own kind, and the white QB is what is keeping white people away from Nascar. Much like a Walmart is considered a rural white thing since the faces that represent Walmart is white even as 90% of it's employees are minorities. Populate an NFL team with black QBs and rich white folks will be looking for alternative entertainment, since i have never seen a black face on ESPN's big game hunting shows, so it could be the next growth sports.

Collar

 
At 9/18/2007 4:32 PM, Blogger goathair said...

So who is Randall Cunningham?

 
At 9/18/2007 4:44 PM, Anonymous MaxwellDemon said...

I watch about a football game a year. Fortunately, the hype is often believable, so I was hipped to the importance of the Brady-Manning Thunderdome last January and the Vince Bowl in '06. No single game has convinced me that watching colossi collide is a Sunday well-spent, but Young's day in Pasadena was about the most muscular sports performance I've ever seen, period. To me it's key to recall that Leinart, in defeat, had a stellar game as well--makes the Texas win that much more impressive.

Anon 4:29--we don't flame here, but if you read *any* post on this site, you'll realize that you and your argument are in the wrong place.

 
At 9/18/2007 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The black QB will be the end of Football."

Uh, Doug Williams would like a word with your dumb-ass. He was also born in... 1955, so you've got about 50 years of catching up to do, you racist fuck.

I feel like I'm a part of "Three Kings" sheesh.

 
At 9/18/2007 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No mention of Donovan McNabb yet?

If he had been drafted by the Cowboys, he would be considered their 3rd greatest QB by now.

Philly = Racism w/o reputation.

 
At 9/18/2007 5:56 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

@ Five Pound Bag: I've hung my hat on the LeBron = VY10 comparison, myself, and find it apt so far. I see none of Iverson in him, and it's far too early to hear talk of Jordan (how could a football player approximate Jordan anyway?).

Also, I can't speak for Shoals but I think an earlier and whiter Young, Steve, also embodies a bit of this improvisational and positionally revolutionary mindset, though not to the extent Randall Cunningham or even Brett Favre does. I'm not a Packer fan but I caught some of Favre's shovel-pass wizardry in Week 1 and was awed in a b-ballish way. He can't do it like he used to, but he's still a maverick in a league of stone-faced sheriffs (and yes, he throws a lot of interceptions too).

 
At 9/18/2007 6:05 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

Yeah I can see the comparison. I'm not sure that VY is that revolutionary though. Dude can stand back and deliver the accurate 8 yard pass also. He's a stronger, faster, slightly less accurate Donovan and McNair. Tommy Frazier is the only footballer I could compare to AI.

And culturally, Vince is extremely insignificant in comparison to AI.

Still, I see the comparison.

 
At 9/18/2007 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to call a guy culturally insignificant when he won the Rose Bowl using nothing but his testicles. The only apt comparison in all of sports is Michael Jordan, though LeBron's 48 points of nut flex in last years playoffs ranks high up there.

 
At 9/18/2007 9:26 PM, Blogger Bobby Generic said...

Anon 5:22 -

To call Philadelphia a racist city is borderline absurd. You're talking about a place that has fallen in love with the likes of Allen Iverson and Julius Erving, two of the most culturally significant black athletes across all sports, of all-time. Don't forget about Charles Barkley either. The people that don't like McNabb tend to not like him because he's more of a manager's player than a player's player...that is not a very Philadelphian quality.

 
At 9/18/2007 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YEAH, ask A.I. how accepted by white Philly he feels. THAT'LL go over well.

 
At 9/18/2007 10:47 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Philly has a racist town is an interesting discussion. It has a large black population. Unfortunately, it also has a large crime problem right now, one that has made news lately. Whenever that happens, the white community in the city (the ones that don't flee) tends to become biased... see Brooklyn, circa the 80's and early 90's, during crack's golden age.

Similarly, when I've been to Philly lately, I've found that it's become slightly more outright racist than it used to be (IMO). It's not to say the city is completely racist (I only reserve that distinction for Boston), but it seems heading in that direction.

Again, just my opinion. It'll be interesting to see the reaction from the fans are on the local sportsradio shows to McNabb's comments today.

 
At 9/18/2007 10:50 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

although billups always forgets it, i lived in/around philly for eight years. i hope that sheds a lot of light on everything ever said on this blog.

 
At 9/18/2007 11:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i am beginning to think i kind of fucked this post up, hence the numerous appearances in the comments section.

i fully acknowledge that favre, steve young, and cunningham did a lot to de-stifle the QB position. but there's something different about vince young. it's almost like he's not playing the same role on a team; he's the nightmare of a running quarterback, but used as something totally productive and respectable.

 
At 9/19/2007 1:04 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

"No single game has convinced me that watching colossi collide is a Sunday well-spent..." - beautifully put, and exactly the reason why I remain only a very casual football fan.

 
At 9/19/2007 11:28 AM, Blogger Joey said...

Please pardon Celtics fans. First, they're still trying to elevate Larry Bird above Bill Russell because, you know, that's how it goes in Boston. Second, their baseball team is flirting with the historic destiny it seems to fulfill on a regular basis.

 
At 9/19/2007 7:24 PM, Blogger PeteJayhawk said...

jesus shoals, are you fucking kidding me? you dont like favre because "he's pompous in his belief that whatever the fuck he does will work"?

he's a fucking professional athlete. they all believe that. thats how they ALL are. professional athletes' unwavering faith in their own abilities is what allows them to do what they do and is the thing that separates them from people that are merely athletic. i cant believe you wrote that.

 
At 9/19/2007 7:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

unwavering faith is different than arrogance or presumptuousness.

 
At 9/25/2007 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

VY reminds me of early Elway in the way he can carry a team on his back. No other QB in the history of the game made chicken salad out of chicken s**t quite like No. 7. Young could be next to do the same.

 

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