Fries All Around Me
Last night when we went to look for the cat, she promptly popped out of some bushes a few blocks away from our place. So the war is over, the serpent gets repacked, and I can now officially embrace coyotes as fucking rad.
The post: As has been exhaustively documented, FreeDarko had its beginnings in a fantasy basketball league message board. That league endures, and has seen some pretty gory history in its day. For the benefit of myself and others, I am here presenting our league's Top Five Precious Moments.
Oh, also, we've decided to open things up to two strangers this year. Hopefuls should send a short essay to the gmail, and we'll go from there.
5. In the draft 2004-05, the Recluse was so hungover that he took personal favorite (and prospective future employer) Primoz Brezec in the middle of the third round. Panicking, and in utter seriousness, I grabbed Marquis Daniels two picks later. In my defense, that was after his one brief showing of excellence, and some magazine had him rated highly.
4. At the outset of 2002-03, I got a new roommate. He was a total stranger, and had been staying with a girl from work (who I had a harmless crush on). She gave him good marks, we needed someone to fill an empty room, and he liked the NBA. Seemed good enough. Unfortunately, he was a Utah Jazz fan, would spend every night trashed on my couch hogging League Pass (to watch the Jazz), or howling along with My Morning Jacket in his room. Drunk. Did I mention that we'd included him in our fantasy league, and he never did anything?
We eventually decided to kick him out, and made up some barely believable story about a deep rift in the house and bad habits that were destroying friendships. I'm not sure if he fell for it, but we didn't really give him a choice. Once he was gone, the league held a dispersal draft. That was how I finished that season with a backcourt of Arenas, Kobe, and T-Mac.
3. In 2005, FreeDarko the blog was in existence, and this league suddenly meant something. Gearing up for the draft, Big Baby was threatening to put his money where our collective's mouth was, and boy did he ever: Gilbert Arenas at #3 overall. This plunged the whole process into chaos, as we all tried to decide how much we wanted to win, and how much we hoped to match Big Baby's chutzpah.
2. For reasons I still don't get, 2004 was the year that The Recluse decided to start a "sub-250" league, comprised entirely of players below 250 on the Yahoo! rankings. I think we did it on autodraft, and it was kind of miserable to watch from night to night since no one ever played. However, that was the year that The Troubled Griffin briefly resurfaced, spreading his wings for a few glorious weeks that single-handedly won things for BR.
1. The crowning moment of our league, and arguably the moment FreeDarko was born: Going into 2004, I badly had to keep having Arenas on my team, seeing as I had since his rookie campaign. The Recluse inexplicably demanded Pau Gasol in his area, and Andreo felt similarly about Dwyane Wade, crown jewel of his beloved Heat. However, all were on the verge of stardom and no secret to our bunch. Thus, we coined the Signature Player Act, in which each manager was awarded a player that Yahoo! deemed a third-rounder in our league (or worse).
There was a supremely complicated system behind this, that involved a panel of judges judging people they knew the least well in the league. I got Arenas, Andreo got Wade, and then, pure zonkers. It eventually came down to Shoefly and Silverbird fighting over Melo, and both the authorities and the clockwork unable to decide. So we asked the two of them to submit a short essay on why they needed Melo. Silverbird gave us the following on 10/23/04:
"Carmelo Anthony and a Nation at War"
It's a familiar story, but I'll tell it again. The year is 1993, and the Knicks have taken a 2-0 lead over the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals. Starks has made history with a single dunk, the power forwards stalk the paint like hunger stalks men, and Ewing's patrol of the baseline has never been more inscrutable. Then…Charles Smith. That anyone not debilitated or otherwise womanly can miss 4 consecutive lay-ups is enough to strain credulity. That a professional basketball player in his franchise's most defining game can do it strains a whole lot more.
At twelve years old, I had lost my faith. Just as the Israelites of my Torah portion wandered a godless desert, and so judged the sky likewise without, I looked up that night with tears in my eyes and saw nothing but the empty dark. If God wasn't in game five, where was he? Months later, this was the question I asked before Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. And so a boy became a man, and a faith was forged in the cold heart of America's greatest game.
That was a time when professional basketball, eschatology, and the human experience were one indivisible whole. We shivered together in the wake of the cold war, and discovered both our doubts and our solace in the singularity of a game. But as the 1990's dragged on, basketball became as pedestrian as our president's lies. Michael Jordan may have been born again, but the game remained atrophied in its nation's perpetual peace. And so I do not believe it a coincidence that in the fear and trembling of 9/11 we should find the kernel of sport's renewal.
In the preemptive hagiography of Lebron, the whispering prophecy of Darko's otherness, and, most importantly, the heroic cheeks of Carmelo, America is searching for its new religion. And so do I, a man who had turned his back on the game, likewise search. Indeed, it was Carmelo's performance in Syracuse's improbable March – my senior year of college, and a time of great angst and worry – that once again reminded me of Basketball's healing grace. He is a symbol of what the game once was, and a soothsayer of what it might be again. He is my signature player. Thank you.
Needless to say, Shoefly didn't dare write one of his own after that. If you want to be in our league, give us that same hope. But about fantasy basketball and the FreeDarko dream.