What It Means to Be Ugly
I don't know if it's fate or laziness that paints me into this corner every late December. But it seems like all I can manage—despite the semi-emergence of Dorell Wright as a baby Josh Smith—is abject introspection. If I recall correctly, a few years back I offered to renounce basketball in the name of Clinton Portis's costumes. This time, I've been flung into a tailspin by the recent debate over change/authenticity/defiance/basketball.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of revolution: The kind people get from too much art or music, and what keeps others able to believe in social change. Granted, that's an over-simplification, but both are relevant to how I see sports (is it "sport"?). I don't know why readers get surprised when this site smacks of aesthetic criticism, or seems all too eager to lapse into fickle elitism. Duh, that's alien to sports; it's what myself and most of the other FD'ers cut our coming-of-age teeth on, and it's pretty consistent with the credo of liberated fandom. Yes, I want to believe, but I also reserve to right to cash in my ennui. It's bitchy, but it's also the sign of elevated, perhaps foolhardy, standards.
I have no particular allegiance to J.R. Smith, Gilbert Arenas or Gerald Wallace. When they stop filling my mind with starry wonder, I stop rooting for them, or clearing out time on my schedule to watch them play. If it worked any other way, than being a fan of obscurity would really suck; without some element of mystery or untapped possibility, a team like the Bobcats just plain blows. And since that aspect of them begins and ends with my own version of things, the only authority I have to answer to is myself.
That's why, despite having spent season upon season claiming J.R. over Josh, you'll never find a post from me explaining why I'm now for both. I can tell you why each is valuable, but I don't have a good explanation for the shift in polarity. If I tried—if I tried to rationalize what's basically a kid's eye view of the game—then this site would get very unbearable very fast. Then, and only then, would it take on the truly odious characteristics of criticism.
Wait, you say, don't you do this all the time? Doesn't this contradict all the talk about the Suns or Warriors are bellwethers of change? Well, yes and no. I believe that teams can win by running, by throwing positions out the window and letting each player be himself. However, I also recognize that the Spurs are darn hard to best, and that big men in the post are like cash in hand. I also don't know how realistic is it to constantly take my opinions are some sort of epoch-clanging oracle; even if teams and players I liked never made the playoffs, I'd still watch them. I'll take a fleshed-out style/psychology game any day over a brutely effective one, no matter what the difference in degrees.
FreeDarko is first and foremost about the fan's perspective, which, for this sport, often resembles a coping strategy. It takes the self-absorption of baseball fans and the moral fervor of the NFL heathen as its point of departure, and then assumes a certain separation of game and mind. Need I say again that I'm also embarrassed and somewhat bored by discussions of pure basketball, which is why I can only argue so well about where the game is headed in rings and wins terms. I like it when the Warriors overthrow the Mavs, or when the Suns dominate like they did last fall. It gives me an excuse to pull out the "history is moving" megaphone, and invests me more in the nuts and bolts of the league's daily operations. But as I told Emynd yesterday, there's a fine line there between real belief and enjoying the sound of it.
I guess it all comes back to the Suns, again. The 2004-05 team remains my favorite talent assemblage of all time. They were downright ecstatic to watch, and if someone were truly crazy, he could think they'd change the world. Of course, the Spurs squelched them in the playoffs, reinforcing the calm hand of orthodoxy. Amare and Nash alternately put on performances for the ages, but that was part of San Antonio's plan to neutralize the overall Suns system. Then came the 2005-06 Phoenix squad, less profligate and more self-standardizing, and 2006-07's thinking man's assault. Only then did it become reasonable to call them The Future, after they'd shown more than a glimmer of sustainable success.
So that's my Rosetta Stone, and my Garden of Eden, rolled up into one. That's where my demented fan's view intersects with hope for the future. Does that mean that, ideally, I could be less misguided about basketball? That's the question for the ages, and honestly, I don't know the answer. But if forced to choose between mitigated progress and truly fantastic stasis, I'll almost always take the latter.
My birthday is 1/1, so give me money. No, I am not an immigrant.