Love Is Not A Problem

I live for watching LeBron James play on the road. Not because so-and-so's girlfriend might decide to talk shit to a basketball demi-god ("Aeneas is a bitch!"), but for that one shock and awe moment when the crowd gives in. Invariably, James does something on the floor—could be a dunk, or a pass, or particularly vicious block—that elicits oohs and ahhs from the hostile crowd. Part of this has to do with Bron being Bron; anyone who can watch him nonchalantly is an idiot. But it's also a matter of that one play that signals the breaking point, where all that homer resolve falls away and you get a chorus of rosy-cheeked kids.

There are a few variations on this throughout the league—trust me, I've been gathering the data for months. You hear it for Kobe, but there it's mixed with groans and grunts. Hard to tell if the crowd's amazed despite themselves, or amazed at just how shitty Kobe can make opponents feel. Amare also takes the collective breath away, but with him it's almost comically visceral, like the whole arena just got kicked in the gut. With LeBron, though, you can really feel the ambivalence fall away, as thousands of people drop the act and admit they're in the presence of greatness.

Now, I realize that this is something every honest ticket-holder should immediately regret. After all, you pay your hard-earned cash to help others, not enjoy the game of basketball. What's more, this kind of universal appeal, which is somewhere between religion and bullies, doesn't exactly make you feel strong and in command. And face it, part of a real man's fan experience is feeling like you matter not as a passive spectator, but as a warrior in your own right. Any kind of self-conscious fandom is macho, unless it's a function of parenting, in which case it's proof that PARENTING IS THE NEW ASS-KICKING.

But you know, when this happens, I can't help but think: Maybe we're onto something after all. Maybe there are shades of liberated fandom, that will follow in the wake of our scorched-earth extremism.

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At 2/04/2008 7:55 PM, Blogger aeneas said...

aeneas is my first name.. who said that

At 2/04/2008 9:03 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

LBJ's recently run of joyful cruelty (Raps, Blazers, Lakers, et al.) sent me to the archives to re-live this, this, this, and this.

Next-Jordanism surely requires a multitude of acts, two of which must just as surely be (1) unexpectedly beating opponents in ways heretofore unseen, and (2) performing acts of heroism that force the audience to see beyond parochialism and consider the meaning and value of excellence.

Kobe should have done it. Perhaps it requires a level of the organic that he simple couldn't express. But it does make me wonder whether Bron's carefully constructed off-court blandness is itself a form of marketing genius: he remains both likable enough and enough of a tabula rasa that he lacks the KB-esque baggage that would prevent seeing with uncluttered eyes.

At 2/04/2008 9:08 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Instead of "marketing genius" I probably should have added--perhaps in the alternative--"divine boon".

At 2/04/2008 11:12 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Good battle between the two best young PGs in the game tonight: Deron Williams and ........ Jannero Pargo.

At 2/04/2008 11:38 PM, Blogger Ziller said...

I think a slightly lesser form of liberated fandom -- or objective observation, in stricter terms -- in the area can be achieved in the home arena without the immenseness of LeBron or Kobe... when the season's practically over.

Watching Josh Howard destroy my team after a lottery berth was assured was a degree more exhilarating than revolting. But it's about accepting/being forced to accept personal (team) fate in order to appreciate fully what's happening.

I think.

WV: tqjkyb -- Tariq (Abdul-Wahad) just killed you! Bobby (Sura)

At 2/05/2008 12:20 AM, Blogger ronald james davis said...

19 points
9 Assists
9 Blocks
6 Rebounds
4 Steals
5 Turnovers

At 2/05/2008 2:56 AM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

What's fascinating is that this phenomenon is only available in the oft-criticized NBA regular season. It's one thing to be impressed with LeBron's ascension in a February game on a Tuesday night in Philadelphia. It's another to watch him put your beloved team's playoff dreams in the deep freeze with that newly added switch-handed layup of his (my new personal favorite).

Yet another reason to assert that the NBA Regular Season should be considered a microcosm that cannot be put in context with the playoffs, history, or the general definition of "reality."

At 2/05/2008 7:22 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Kobe had the Jazz crowd in Utah chanting his name a couple years ago when Malone and Stockton were still there, and he had the Boston Garden chanting "MVP!" for him last year. Considering how traditionally anti-Lakers both of these buildings are, that says a hell of a lot about what Kobe can do to a hostile crowd. I've yet to see anyone, even LBJ, turn a crowd around like that.


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