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.
-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).