Before we begin, make sure you check out Bethlehem Shoals in a special guest appearance with MJD and Danks on the Postin' Up Podcast!
I may be the only regular contributor to FreeDarko without any Jewish blood, but that shameful fact doesn't mean I am any less of a Woody Allen fanboy than the rest of the crew. Although I've seen "Annie Hall" many times, I only recently learned the story of how it went from a two hour and twenty minute examination of Allen's neuroses (proposed title: "Anhedonia") to the prototypical romantic comedy we all know and love (proposed title: "Me and My Goy"). In his book When the Shooting Stops, Ralph Rosenblum recounts how, in order to maintain a coherent narrative, he and Allen had to cut out many surrealistic scenes from the film, including one featuring five famous philosophers playing basketball against the actual New York Knicks.
Allen has been notoriously reluctant to include any deleted scenes in DVD editions of his work, so the chances of anyone getting to analyze the form on Kant's jumpshot are extremely slim. (If anyone can get this on YouTube, you will have FreeDarko's eternal gratitude and enough FD t-shirts to clothe your family for generations.) Without the film, we will have to rely on Rosenblum's memory of the play call:
Knicks ball - out of bounds - Jackson to Bradley - shot! No good! Rebound - Kirkegaard. Passes to Nietzsche - fast break to Kafka! Top of the key - it's Kafka and Alvy - all alone - they're both gripped with anxiety - and guilt - and neither can shoot! Now Earl Monroe steals it! And the Knicks have a four on two
The scene also comes up in an amazing piece on the Knicks that Allen wrote for the Guardian a few years back, which Dr. LIC recently found. He provides some explanation for how he came up with the idea and also gives the result of the game!
I was extolling the concept of the physical over the cerebral, so I wrote a fantasy basketball game in which all the great thinkers of history - Kant and Nietzsche and Kirkegaard - played against the Knicks. I cast actors who looked like those philosophers to play those roles and they played against the real Knicks. We used the players on the team at that time including Earl, Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier, and we shot it inside Madison Square Garden after the last game of the season. Of course the Knicks were smooth and beat the philosophers easily; all their cerebration was impotent against the Knicks.
The essay is full of interesting facts (he had Knicks season tickets with Diane Keaton; he named an adopted son after Moses Malone), but what struck me most was his discussion of basketball's unique appeal, which absolutely cements his status as FreeDarko precursor:
I love the showmen in basketball, the extrovert players....Basketball is a game where individual style comes into play....In basketball now, these kids learn in the schoolyard and develop their own styles and rhythms and moves....Just as Marlon Brando had this highly-individual, original style which was like no one else's and everything he did was very poetic, so Michael Jordan was something else.
Is basketball poetry? Is it method acting? Is it jazz? None of these serve as the perfect comparison, but it's clear to me and Woody that basketball is an art form unlike any other in American sport. And for that reason, I'm looking forward to a winter of watching Kevin Durant, The Warriors, and other assorted favorites. I know they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and, but uh, I guess we keep going through it...because...most of us need the eggs.