Our Kind of Scraping
Were this a real blog, Josh Howard's drag-racing arrest would've hit this page immediately; we would've coined some half-hearted jokes about driving cars fast while blazed, which hopefully would've been recognized their own irony. And kaloo fucking kalay, another athlete fuck-up to generate page views for us.
We're not a real blog, and in fact, we're the sort of blog put in a decidedly awkward position by Howard's latest shenanigans. Nothing but positivity here, endless attempts to sculpt and reconstruct players' personas so they can resist being needlessly dragged through the mud.
We presume there to be some degree of complexity in every human being, and—not withstanding the fundamental unknowability of our subjects—professional athletes are no less contradictory than the rest of us. Otherwise, they would be supremely one-dimensional and boring, which is probably where my expectations (and preferences) differ from most other watchers of sports. It's like this Olympic thing: Sure, the All-Stars look sparkling together, but so Hollywood sex scenes. What does man learn of himself when everything falls effortlessly into place, smooth, gliding, and unblemished?
The case of Josh Howard, though, could very well underline the hypocrisy, or at least the fragility, of this site's conception. Some might say it's Kobe did us in. After all, I've tirelessly defended him against all attacks. On the other hand, I've always maintained that Bryant is flawed beyond belief—just that flaws are not the same as automatica damnation in all matters. Howard, though, seemed until last spring like an unassailable good dude. Devotion to family, to school, to surrogate, to the spirit of the game, to team, and cherished by his franchise. Then things started to unravel. After a torrential start, where people like me got caught up and called for him to supplant Dirk, Howard slumped. There were back problems, which may or may not have triggered the whole thing, and the death of the great-grandmother who had raised him.
We all know the rest real well. He smokes, everyone smokes, Josh Howard upstages the playoffs with infamy while he performs poorly. Handing out birthday party invites in the locker room before a critical contest. Suddenly, he becomes dispensable; I still don't know if he played into Avery's firing, or whether a new coach makes Howard more or less safe after a few months of non-stop shopping. Now, over a FanHouse, Matt captures to paradox that Howard has become: Doing wonderful things for his Winston-Salem community through basketball, then arrested that same night for drag-racing. To paraphrase Matt, it's a shame that Howard managed to rehab his image a little, only to immediately tear it down again.
I'm not here to excuse Howard's traffic violations, or his previous ratting out of the entire league. Nor are they even similar: One is youthful recklessness, the other out-of-control honesty. But what they do have in common is that, if you take the events of 7/30 as a whole, and looks at the entire pot explosion (not just the dagger), they show how hard it is to paint Howard as a good guy or a bad guy. And—what do you know—it's almost like he's thwacked harder, maybe gleefully, by the media for his having again ravaged his own credibility. Through no fault of his own, he's set a high bar for his behavior, since, you know, there's no way anyone could have traces of both angel and asshole within him. Certainly, the juxtaposition Matt cites is a better story than some random NBA player of questionable (or unknown morals) driving too fast.
So maybe I'm supposed to come on here today and be like, "oh, I'm so stupid for supporting Howard, he does bad things and deserves to be mocked. He has failed us." I guess. But really, I'm more concerned with us figuring out how to reconcile these two sides of Howard, something he'll have to do himself going forward.
You could argue that Melo's had to do something similar, without nearly the "good guy" rep to burden him. All Anthony had to do was prove that he wasn't as rough as Iverson. Howard, it's like if David Robinson woke up and found J.R. Rider living inside of him. That's a challenge for him, but also for all of us who like to think that there are values inherent in being a fan. If we owe athletes anything, we at least owe them the capacity to contain contradictions. Something that's a pretty basic right, and point of pride, for everyone from Christian fundamentalists to non-retarded socialists. Hell, it's this, and not his mealy-mouthed record, that's made Bill Clinton an icon.
Or, if you want, I can get some commenters riled up by bringing in Obama's "abandonment" of the netroots. . .