State of Fiery Heaven Address
You might still be upset about Shaq to Phoenix, but I'm not. I'm loving the Diaw/Amare combo, and have to figure that Shaq will mostly just contribute in the personality department. And while I kind of miss Marion's melancholy, that's not really an emotion I associate 2004-05, my favorite Suns team. I'm still convinced that Odom/Bynum/Gasol will warrant a stamp of approval, even if it's not exactly visionary. It's Kidd's to the Mavs that has me really feeling like this season has shifted into high-gear, and it's one I'm not so pleased with. Everyone wants a championship, and they want it now. And they want insurance on that.
I've never felt that winning didn't matter, just that it wasn't the only thing. I also try and stay rational about the relative values of victory, but there is something to be said for quantity. Like fine, people make fun of 50-win teams that can't make it in the playoffs. I find it just as fatuous to praise the "well, they won when it mattered" team.
Which brings me to this evening, when the Suns and Warriors went buckwild and reminded me exactly why this site exists. Fine, so the Warriors aren't going to win a title, and the Suns might look very different in two weeks. Still, they can play a game of basketball, play it hard, and transfix me doing so. They can do that any number of times during the season, and maybe even a few times during the playoffs. And you know what, I don't really care if the basketball I like can't go all the way. It's successful sometimes, on more modest scales, and that justifies it in my books. It's kind of arbitrary which teams get branded boom-or-bust, win-it-all or lose all legitimacy. For whatever reason, small-ball, up-tempo, or just plain fun teams get it more often than others.
I also want to add a note on potential, because I think it's gotten too confused with our ultimate mission. Potential is funny, and intriguing, and in keeping with what underground, imaginative ethos this site has. But it doesn't justify shit. It's a sideshow I happen to like a lot, and I'll take it over staid vets. That doesn't mean, though, that I think it's part and parcel with THIS IS OUR BASKETBALL. While the Hawks are funny, I'd much rather see them become who they are. It's on-deck, who's next shit, not what I'd stake this site's integrity on. And it's a rare case indeed that someone like LeBron can embody both at the same time.
Proof: Last night, I went with Seth Kolloen to see Tony Wroten play. I spent forever trying to write about it, and somewhere along the way typed this:
A decent amount of the butts in the stands were there to support the halftime show: a troupe of jugglers and unicyclists from some elementary school. It didn't seem to go with the experience of seeing greatness in the making. Nor did the Garrison Keeler-sounding PA guy and his adjective-laden player intros. Or the cheerleaders who kept snickering mid-routine . . . . Watching Kevin Durant find himself in an empty Key Arena makes you wonder why his progress matters, and hearing the crowd react more vigorously to a break-dancing five year-old is just plain depressing. By contrast, it made a lot of sense to watch Wroten in a less real, or maybe more surreal, context. There's something innocent, or at least honest, about a player working through who he is that's fundamentally at odds with the finished product, bottom line setting of the pros. And, as surprised as I was to realize it, this jibes perfectly with what the most "pure" forms of amateur basketball are supposed to be.
Yes, that's in me. I kept it on ice because I couldn't explain it anyway, but now I see: It's proof that I don't take potential all that seriously, and that it has very little to do with FD's style + substance credo—which, I firmly believe, can be credible without having to answer to the absolute authority of the sports mainstream.
I realized the other night that, Liberated Fandom aside, I see the game in a weird way. When most people turn on a game they have no particular interest in, they watch to see who wins. That's the tension that draws them in, the drama that makes sports worth watching. It's the same way that people can't help but sing along with a catchy hook. All I'm saying is that, before I give a fuck if anyone lives or dies, I'm going to take stock of whether the game has style. If it does, I'll get sucked in, just as I was at that high school game the other night. If not, though, it might as well not even be basketball to me. Is that irresponsible? Should I spend all nine months preoccupied with the outcome of the NBA Finals? That seems tedious, and implausible. And that I reserve the right to enjoy a basketball game, no matter how unimportant it may be—and dismiss them even if there's a ton of invested value in the outcome.
ALSO: Matt at Detroit Bad Boys developed this beauty of a shirt, with my blessings. Cop that, and tell him I sent you so I can get mine free.