Hook, Line and Dander
Sorry for the scant FD presence on my behalf. Seattle is a half-ton more costly than Houston, so grind-for-pay is first priority. That’s a delicate way of saying this: From now on, this site runs on donations. Get yours up as the season draws near!
Speaking of the season, I have one last crash of meta-preview/soul-stewing left in me. As we lay on the cusp of 2007-08, I am struck by the variety of what moves me. For every relative obscurity—Amir Johnson, Josh Smith’s contract year, the Baby Wolves—there’s something so obvious I hardly need exist for its narrative kernel to churn. Lord know already how many words I’ve expended on LeBron’s ascent, probably the most pre-packaged folklore Nike can buy. And this year, I’m ready to fixate on Durant’s maiden campaign. For as much as FD touts “NBA elitism,” a good deal of our writing not only concerns major issues—it approaches them through the lens of very basic hype-myths.
And herein lies my confession: I find hype, provided its attached to someone decent, incredibly powerful. I mean, you can write it off on account of media manipulation, or the stupidity of the average fun. But what exactly are you left with in sports if you wholly obliterate these two elements? Games are productions; players feed off of limelight; crowds generate emotion; reps spur outbursts; and most importantly, fandom is a collective act.
Don’t get me wrong, I watch most of my games by myself, and spend half that time bemoaning the presence of anyone but myself in the stands. But as many death squads as I’ve founded in my head, I know I need them. It’s not quite like the “Democrats and Republicans need each other for there to be democracy” line, which is more about preserving equilibrium across history. I’m simply not afraid to admit that, without the sheer multitude of fans, sports would be a far less resonant thing. Arena rock packs a punch that even the most trenchant house show can only imagine. The stage is bigger, the stakes higher, and the ritual raised to a fever pitch of investment. I would rather everyone felt like me about the NBA, but I’ll take more bodies to throw on the fire.
I also think it’s telling that, in the parameters I’ve set for myself as a fan, only the unknown and the over-known get included. While I don’t routinely spew the party line on corporation-underwritten narratives, or those that form the basis of network voiceovers, I am drawn to them. It’s because there’s something tactile, undeniable, and well, phenomenal about them. Following the next Most Improved Player give me a sense of personal achievement, or at least gives me a personal bond with the sport. But the game is only at full volume, and musters up its full grandeur, when everyone knows what’s up.
I know that the NBA has no audience; I mean more that, in instances of overwhelming consequence, you can’t look away and scoff. Sports are a populist institution, and even if we jock the regular season, it’s not real in the same way that the playoffs are. That’s part of its FD appeal, and yet there’s no way to enjoy the former and not be drawn to the glow of the latter. We certainly owe it to our own child-like enthusiasm to experience these occasions. However, that doesn’t preclude doing so on our own terms, or using that power as an entry point unto something more profound.