8.30.2008

Basketball Culture Wars, Part 2



In the coming weeks, you will get so many basketball/politics analogies streaming from my throat that you, and I, might well collapse from annoyance. But they come to me, they work, and I am not trying to be cute. I honestly think these parallel structures both bring us comfort and illuminate dark corners, which is to so say, one serious deserves another. And I need an excuse to keep writing about the election, which has overrun my brain and will destroy us all, or at least keep this site tethered to that which attracts our modest pool of readers (Coming soon: Tags! And then, the deluge!).

I have been riding the Palin Express since I woke up yesterday, reveling in the steady amount of jack-assery that's been turned up on the woman, marveling at what a perfectly vexing political decision that McCain camp made, hoping and praying that this ball of confusion resolves into truth and justice. I've also been haunted by the idea that her selection is not unlike one of those draft picks so bold, and yet so inane, that it causes cancer on the spot for all those who spend their spring projecting the draft instead of watching the playoffs. For some reason, the ones that most readily come to mind are two from the pre-Colangelo Raptors: Villanueva in 2005 or Rafael Araujo the year before. Both were surprises, and in their own way, bold gambles. Villanueva's talent was undeniable, Araujo was tall when that still mattered. That's also the ending I'm looking for here: Araujo failed immediately, never quite realizing that only summer league games have no foul limits, while Villanueva was soon traded but still has some hope of eeking out a productive career. He just needs minutes.

These are what I anticipate being the two possible outcomes for Palin. This choice has thrown her career into overdrive; at the same time, it's an obvious choice of too much, too soon (Note: That Rob Babcock is about on the McCain campaign's level of sophisitication should be noted, but not dwelled upon.) Palin could very well have ended up mattering on the national stage, but now, thrown to the wolves before she's the slighest bit ready, with regard to either issues or sheer political poise, a disaster should be inevitable. I'd be fine with her fading out like Araujo, maybe ending up in the House one day; isn't Hoffa on some team's roster now? Or, the Villanueva version of things, where she gets exposure from this, takes some advantage of it, and is able to salvage a little something from what's bound to be a high-profile failure. In this case, she'd need one 50-point game before the Dan Quayle charges, or cries of exploitation, really start to stick.



For now, it's a fun, perverse, and slightly treacherous ride. I just hope it resolves into something sensible before too long.

Also, while the Recluse launched his take on this election's Duke/Carolina culture wars, I wanted to take on the broader topic of basketball culture wars. I'm not saying that has happened yet, but this Palin crap is so clearly positioned to fuck with the "Obama, basketball president" monolith. She's white, tough, scrappy, rural, so devoid of physical gifts that she didn't even play in college. Now that's real. Barry, on the other, was a lean, fluid gunner as a teen, before evolving into a guy who did a little of everything but wouldn't hesitate to cross you over. Palin's version of the game is near-extinct grain under siege, one that exists only in the monastic lair of large-town Alaska. Obama, on the other hand, has taken his game to Occidental, to Harvard law pick-up games, to Chicago city courts, to informal play against our troops. Now, we may look at Obama's relationship with the game, and self expressed through it, and find the same co-mingling of supposed opposites that makes him such a fascinating figure. Yes, I know I said this last week.

But how easy would it be to spin Palin as pure Hoosiers, and Obama as a tall black dude who prefers the blacktop and can hack it because of his cocky attitude? The former "Barry O'Bomber", who for all his pretenses of analyzing action on the fly, remains at heart a me-first egoist out to prove his badness. Hell, why else would he get out there with today's Heels? PURELY TO SHOW HE CAN HANG. Palin, she'd prefer to nod approvingly while some young men or women, unspolit by even the corrupting influences of college ball, exhibit the kind of behavior that will help them later in life. For her, it was a valuable learning experience and proof of valor, but as a lifestyle-marker, was discarded in favor of hockey (like the NFL down here).

I don't really anticipate basketball becoming a wedge issue here. However, it's an important part of both Obama and Palin's bios. So even if we don't see them fielding questions about ball in their respective debates, it is part of a larger cluster of signs and symbols that the Right's going to lean on in the coming months. Palin's experience helps bolster this "Barrack is Other" meme, making his basketball, and thus him, blacker and therefore less American.

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24 Comments:

At 8/30/2008 1:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Also, don't panic. We're trying to upgrade the site, or some shit like that, so read and comment as you would ordinarily. The look shall return shortly.

 
At 8/30/2008 2:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Okay, we gave up for now. But it looks like anyone who had this page bookmarked on Delicious needs to do so again. Sorry.

 
At 8/30/2008 5:46 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

If you look at the shadow cast by Obama it appears like a 530pm shadow cast at the time of year and latitude of the game, yet the other player are all at 315pm shadow cast. Did you get this picture from Reuters?

 
At 8/30/2008 6:50 PM, Blogger Aubrey Leatherwood said...

Palin as Hoosiers! LOL. Just found your blog and loved this article. I've been making a ton of my own analogies since the playoffs in spring, but this one, why it's intense commentating at it's best... hee hee.

--Aubrey Leatherwood

 
At 8/30/2008 10:47 PM, Blogger T. said...

As much as I'm on board with the First Basketball President, I'm going to have to call a foul for wearing running shoes while ballin'.

1. You might roll that ankle

2. You've become "that guy"

I'm hoping for some UndrCwn x adidas for the inaugauration.

 
At 8/30/2008 11:45 PM, Blogger lundym said...

Villanueva posted a delicious 47-point effort as a Raptors rookie. The political equivalent would be Palin feeding it to Biden in a debate, which is unlikely.

I easily forget how Villanueva, as a rookie, could inspire awe from the Toronto faithful. Here was a dude at 6'11'' playing on the perimeter, with the most preternatural knack for offensive boards I've ever seen. Damn shame his only future press will come from alopecia charity events.

 
At 8/30/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Hence my 50-point game reference. I meant "she'd have to have that in order to be CV-esque." Will change.

 
At 8/31/2008 3:59 AM, Blogger TheGreatPumpkin said...

As long as we're critiquing Barry's aesthetics,

1) Why pants, not shorts?
2) Why tuck in the shirt?

In any case, Obama has described himself as a Tayshaun Prince type on the floor. Doesn't that make him more of a "white" player than "black"? (i'm not accepting the taxonomy, just working with it) Isn't Prince just Luke Walton or Mike Dunleavy with longer arms?

 
At 8/31/2008 4:08 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

Except for the fact that Tayshaun is, ya know, good.

 
At 8/31/2008 4:19 AM, Blogger Ian said...

I've been wondering about Barack's tight sweatpants/tucked in shirt look as well. It looks terribly uncomfortable.

And where can I get the Punahou School Obama throwback jersey?

 
At 8/31/2008 7:18 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I think the tucked-in shirt is a generational thing. MJ always has his shirt tucked in, even in these recent videos where he shoots fade-aways over 13-year-olds.

I'm with T. on the shoes though. So I'm wondering what kind of sneaker he should go with. Can't wear Kobes, Melos, or Starburys because of the character issues of these players. Gilbert's "Black President" sneaker might be a little too strong a statement. And LeBrons are too corporate.

I think it gets tricky with the history-burdened Jordan shoes, especially considering MJ's "Republicans buy sneakers too" postulate. The Barkleys don't work because of "I'm not a role model" and the ultimately not fulfilled championship aspirations.

So I conclude that he should go with some CP3's (although the shoes are ugly in my opinion). Scrappy little guy well on his way to superstar status, going strong against the giants of the game, makes even Tyson Chandler look good on offense, has the positive Katrina ties.

Then the only worry would be that McCain - or Palin for that matter - appears in Deron Williams Player Edition Nikes.

 
At 8/31/2008 9:00 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

T - I was gonna write the same thing... I'm so mad he's wearing runners it's not funny... Plus, they're 4 year old Asics Nimbus, they must be past their best by now...

 
At 8/31/2008 10:25 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

In Obama's defense (thankfully, not to R. Lobstah's inane ramblings this time), Obama was on the campaign trail and was probably limited as to how many different pairs of kicks he could bring. In the UNC pics below, he's got on basketball shoes, although I'm not enough of a sneakerhead to tell you which ones.

The pants thing is weird, though, and seems to be a consistent thing. I would guess that he's trying to cover up his body, but then there wouldn't be these.

 
At 8/31/2008 12:57 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

T: I was thinking the same thing about his running shoes. You would think Nike or Adidas would have sent him a pair of ballin' shoes.

 
At 8/31/2008 2:12 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Also, I've seen Kobe sport the sweat pants with the shirt tucked in look at practice and before games. I think LeBron and D-Wade were making fun of him about it on one of those Team USA road to redemption spots.

 
At 8/31/2008 4:09 PM, Blogger Jason Gill said...

As far as the shoe issues go, I've personally been in situations where I wasn't planning on getting in a game, and had to play in sneakers. Granted I'm sure there's no dearth of space on his massive campaign plane, but sometimes you just don't pack everything.

As for the outfit, the look that would probably fly the lowest under the radar is looking as much like the 47 year old dude at the Y who hits the open J as possible. Although, by all accounts, his game doesn't reflect that (seems like a slasher more than anything, based on pics), I think that that is precisely what he wants to show people.

As much as I'd like to see him out there looking like one of the fab five, I'm not holding my breath...

 
At 8/31/2008 4:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think of Prince as a poor man's Marion, same as I do Josh Childress. Certainly not the most brazen game to have, but not incompatible with a little bit of swagger.

 
At 8/31/2008 8:32 PM, Blogger T. said...

kaifa - I don't see him as a signature shoe type guy. Hyperdunks? adidas team signatures?

 
At 9/01/2008 4:57 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

He's be all over a mid-range Nike like a Zoom Dynasty or a Zoom BB. In my professional opinion. I am a qualified shoe fitter guy (with certificates to prove it). Also, I can't go up the street without a spare change of kicks.

 
At 9/01/2008 11:09 AM, Blogger Brother Tallness said...

the tucked in sweatpants is probably the best way to avoid the whole politicization of basketball shorts dilemma. Too baggy or too long and he becomes too black. Imagine the field day fox news would have with a pic of Obama rockin his nike shorts slightly below his waist exposing the name brand of his boxers.

On the other hand, anything above the knee vaporizes the carefully calibrated cool. no way he ever could have been playing ball on the southside of the chi lookin like j. stockton.

let's not even get into the ramifications of being seen in the high black socks.

 
At 9/01/2008 11:28 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

brother tallness - great point on the sweatpants.

T. - I was thinking which line of sneakers would fit well with Obamas personality/image, be it for the narrative of the player or the sneaker itself. I'm still advocating CP3's.

 
At 9/02/2008 4:39 PM, Blogger jbruddy said...

Neighborhoodies has the Punahou throwback...
http://www.neighborhoodies.com/obama-throwback-jersey-p-229.html

 
At 4/13/2009 2:08 AM, Blogger 平平 said...

^^Thanks!!

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At 8/25/2010 6:30 AM, Blogger kenan said...

I love the obama picture playing basketball. LOL latest sports news

 

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