It's Meta, And It Matters
I know people hate getting up and going to work, or campus, or whatever, but working from home has stresses you can only begin to imagine. Especially if you're prone to crippling self-doubt, think you're the center of the universe anyway, and throw off your day by sleeping till noon.
This is part of a comment from "Turd," which I'm assuming came out of my bald-faced assertion that there was some "two Americas" shit going on in Howard's dunk:
I think you had a ton of promise as a writer, but you seem to have been intent on completely undermining it with the megalomaniacal and insecure "voice" you claim to be aware of. My problem with a lot of what you've written on race (and it's not really race that you've written about so much as "hip-hop culture" or whatever the fuck mass reproduction of underclass black culture is getting called these days) isn't so much with the content often missing the mark. Everybody does that, and it's near impossible to make hard and fast manichaen judgments in this realms anyway. The problem is with your tone, which is so often condescending and authoritative even when it has no right to be.
The basic premise of FreeDarko is that we have a different relationship with sports. The whole "fifth grade opinions voiced as revolutionary manifestos" thing sums up what others have called "Shoalsian bombast." I'm not sure it's true, or real, or empirical in the way that cap-munching NBA analysis probably should be. From this site's first days, there's been a clash between the Spurs unquestionable dominance and my desire to see the Suns win a title. I think I've found ways to negotiate that, mostly by casting FD as idealists, and sports as the site of something at once bigger and smaller than the outcome of the game. Winning isn't the only thing.
At the same time, there's something patently absurd about this. It works for me, but I can't really discredit anyone else's more grounded, empirical views. Hence my lack of enthusiasm for the Cavs trade: I see that it helps the team a lot, and yet it doesn't move me. That probably makes me a bad basketball writer. Or maybe I'm just after a different kind of commodity, one that can't just be dismissed with "go to And1". I believe in the transformative power of sports. . . by which I mean, their power to transform sports. As usual, it's pretty basic music/arts criticism applied to sports. If I'm condescending or authoritative about this, it's because I'm trying to assert myself. There's really no way to half-ass "the Gerald Green trade matters more than the Cavs deal".
Of course, when I do write about more traditional basketball matters, I don't sound insane, or over-confident. I try and sound authoritative but shit, that's the whole point of making claims about ROY races and division rivalries. That's why I can write places other than FreeDarko.
What I've yet to really figure out—and what really embarrasses me about a lot of the now-unreadable archives—is how to sort out all the ways socio-cultural issues play into my view of sports. On a basic level, there's a really base, postmodern attempt to use extremists, terrorists, and activists to connote the way I feel about basketball within itself. That's crass and imaginary, I know, but I don't think anyone seriously believes that for me, the NBA is the new Russian Revolution. I'd like to add that Billups, who said commenter places miles above of me, does this kind of shit all the time, and only an idiot would think he's trying to establish himself as a socio-cultural authority about race in America.
The problem is that I do see race a lot of the time in the NBA. In a very serious way. That's the same problem I ran into writing about The Wire. It's a television show, with characters—much like the way I see the NBA—but it's grounded in very real societal issues. And yes, I'll fully agree that once you cross that murky line, that same bombast does come across as inane and entitled.
When the issue is "hip-hop culture" in sports, or questions of player vs. audiences, it's a little less of a minefield. But so many other people addressing these things are just fucking stupid about it, so it's hard to not get caught up in the fact that, duh, I do give them more thought than the average MSM columnist. Do I really know what Dwight Howard's thinking? No, probably not. I was trying to point out that there could be rather awkward irony at play in his Superman dunk, something other people have said about the entire Souljah Boy phenomenon. Of course, the way I write this site lends itself to pushing the envelope; if I'd been a little measured, less general, and less prone to confuse fantasy with reality, no one would be grumbling about that post.
So it all comes back to this: I am trying to figure out how to modulate my writing so it can address things that aren't one big inside joke. Before I left AOL, I did a column on the rift between many beat writers and the players they cover. It was relatively provocative, but stayed within the boundaries of good taste. There are a lot of piece in the archives that, franky, are terrible and should never be read again, exactly because they confuse that "culture as zany metaphor for basketball" fervor with "I care about this shit and want to address it" slant.
The basic problem is this: This site does nuance, but with an apocalyptic undercurrent. Frankly, that's the energy that keeps me motivated to write as much as I do. However, I could probably stand to be a little more mindful of the effect this has on posts that aren't just my own delusional vision of a sport. Because the bottom line is that, while I've come up with a version of the NBA that doesn't have to answer to no one, the second that NBA intersects with the real world I am accountable. People calling bullshit is certainly helpful, but at the end of the day, I need to be the one to mae sure I'm not risking irrelevancy every time I try and show that the NBA is more than just my imaginary friend.
P.S. THE FORTHCOMING BOOK HAS ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THESE PROBLEMS!!!