Profound, True, and Obvious

Some scattered Olympics thoughts. I know the game was earlier here, but now it's 3AM, so bear that in mind:

-Congrats, D-Wade, you are officially on my unmitigated list of unmitigated love. I know, you were always deft and hell-raising, but in these Games you played like you wanted to scare people on the way to getting results, and occasionally bask in the terrific afterglow of your own menace. You were pissed that the NBA had forgotten you, pissed about the USA's need to prove itself, and no longer shackled by domestic partnership. I don't want to say that your 2006 ring didn't have a sense of purpose to it, but there's a huge difference between numb teleology and delighting in each step of the journey.

-Now that we've won gold, I'll go back to believing that the USA's participation in international competition is really stupid. Basketball players are a natural resource here. It's like if Colombia entered a contest to see who kept the most coke in their apartment.

-Medal ceremony: I watched, and it was Kobe, Dwight Howard, and Wade singing, or at least mouthing, the national anthem. Michael Redd was talking to himself, LeBron was working on the anthem for his own country, which is already in the works. The country and the anthem, I mean. Please, try and tell me that's implausible. You know how when you really burn your hand, or feel extreme cold, you can't tell which one it is? That was the vibe I got from Kobe's gigantic grin and trance-like swaying toward the end—at once utter, "uncool" sincerity and PR-madness.

-Spain is my favorite non-USA team because they're weird. And that's how all national iterations of basketball should seem to outsiders. You would never expect any other team to play like America, and so it should be with style and other nations. Note: It doesn't count when they play a more "pure," or boring, or rudimentary, version. Let's see some national character! Pass around that DuBois essay where he takes Hegelian racism and turns it into a reason why we've all just got to be ourselves: Each country has a unique role to play in the destiny of the game. Or, if that's too domineering for you, national athletic identity is nothing if it makes such hardy reference to the game itself, rather than the people playing it.

-More medal ceremony: How awkward did everyone look? I know they were happy and had their guard down, and among other stars, no one really has to serve as pillar, lightning rod, and monolith. But if you'd told me that, in their moment of triumph, Bosh,Howard and Kobe would have the body language of 14 year-olds just adjusting to life with braces and a growth spurt, I'd have called you mad.

-I have no idea why Argentina thought jeans, jerseys and medals were a good look. Though you can tell a lot about a man from his choice in Olympic telecast denim.

-Was that the NBA game beating all, the NBA game adapted to FIBA, or evidence that there's no such thing as a prescribed NBA game anymore? I'm inclined to call this a win for the most lofty principles of style and fluidity, which left their stamp on these wins even with Coach K supposedly getting all West Point about defense and zone-busting, or something.

-What I really took away from this Olympics: Berni. Ziller says he spent a lot of the first Spain/USA game trying to determine if that was a first or last name. More importantly, Berni recently organized a summer course at the University of Malaga called "Basketball: A Social Phenomenon." His description: "Not a lot of people know how we live and only pay attention at what we do on court. This was a chance to see everything surrounding professional basketball and it was a fun, interesting thing to do."

-While we were toughing out that completely unprovoked Phelps flashback, my girl and I started thinking of colognes for various Olympic basketball participants. Berni's smells like a shuttle bus. Scola's, some sort of burnt cooking. Email me for more details or patents.

-Had to write this now so I could justify getting political tomorrow.

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At 8/24/2008 8:17 AM, Blogger db said...

It's weird, but I've never *liked* Wade's game (though I do respect it, ref-baiting 2006 performance notwithstanding). And I still can't say I like it now, even though his Beijingperformance is impossible to argue with from most logical points of view.

Whereas, Kobe's game looked on the surface about the worst it could for much of the Olympics, but I could live with all that. When the 3 went down with about three minutes to go, it just kind of felt like his time.

I guess the difference to me is that Kobe is a much stronger student of the game, even if his actual personality prevents him from ever really just inhabiting the moment. Everything about him feels forced and studied, which seems to account for both his Asian popularity and US polarisation.

Wade has the effortless being-in-himself that is almost the anti-Kobe. But while it's impressive, it's difficult to trust as a student of the game because the basis of it is so internal to himself. Yet, for that reason it is more accessible to the public-at-large, as it seems to present "being yourself" as an authenticity we could relate to.

As someone outside the US, I was actually rooting for Spain to pull this out, but I really thought they'd go down by 30 again. A great performance by them, that extra pass around the hoop was a great FIBA signature to watch.

At 8/24/2008 9:44 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Are they gonna replay this? I tried to stay up, I really did. They have a whole day to replay whatever they want, but the NBC website is totally opaque on what they are actually going to show.

At 8/24/2008 11:26 AM, Blogger Tom said...

That had to be one of the most enjoyable basketball games I've ever watched. 130+ points in the first half (only 20 minutes!). The collective swagger in the fourth quarter between Kobe, Wade, and Paul alone was bonkers. Lebron going off on some Any Given Sunday "game of inches" type ish... during Spanish free throws. Kobe taunting a group of cross-dressing Spaniards. Rubio being the savviest fucking 17 year old the world has ever seen. Fernandez putting down the dunk of the summer. Navarro's runners from 20 feet. Spain's neckbeard power being no match for American tats. Fuck. Yes.

At 8/24/2008 12:19 PM, Blogger bernard snowy said...

salt_bagel, I was under the impression it was gonna be on around 1:00 or 1:30 this afternoon. can't remember where I saw that, though, so don't hold me to it...

WV: bwebmpfp - Blazers' Webster elected to Parliament as member of the England First Party

At 8/24/2008 12:19 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I know I'm not the first person to say this, but Ricky Rubio REALLY looks like Pistol Pete. Like, physically. It's kind of weird.

Also, it sucks that I had to watch the game online because I like to maintain a normal sleep schedule. I didn't even Tivo it because I thought they'd replay it today. Motherfuckers.

At 8/24/2008 12:23 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@snowy: I could've sworn I heard some NBC broadcaster say they were showing the game today at 1:30 or something, but it doesn't show up on any schedule I've been able to find. I don't know why they make it so difficult to figure out when something's going to be on.

At 8/24/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

For once, the West Coast helped me out. . .

I've written this already is five emails this morning, so might as well air it out here. Still wondering if JCN's explosion kept this game from really being a meeting of absolute peers. Or if he's just another case of a player Team USA can't stop in international play.

Then again, Navarro was known to go off like that occasionally last year, especially when he got minutes. So maybe the integrity is secure. I hope so, since that was the most exciting aspect of the game.

At 8/24/2008 1:07 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

I love how the game was high-scoring, yet honestly I felt like both teams were playing good defense. I could be wrong, but it felt like there were fewer commercials, and I have to wonder if that was a factor. (tempo being key almost more in the american football sense rather than the 'chris paul is fast' tempo sense)

At 8/24/2008 1:16 PM, Blogger Anthony Wilson said...

Shoals, you thought Kobe was aiming for some good public relations during the medal presentation? I have to say, I really didn't feel that. He seemed extremely sincere last night to me.

To push that point a little further, all of them did. It was fun to watch, the joy, the camraderie. You can tell that those guys are like brothers now, that they formed a bond in the journey to Redeeem that will never be broken, and Kobe really did seem like a part of it. I think they genuinely like him and he likes them. Good for him. I think Kobe has settled down a bit, he's enjoying the other parts of the game now.

At 8/24/2008 1:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I meant that it could've been interpreted as either extreme. Changed the text to "at once" instead of "equal parts." Hope that clears it up.

At 8/24/2008 1:47 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Two thoughts:

Rudy Fernandez is the Spanish Dan Majerle.

Chris Webber should totally play in Europe. You can be a really effective immobile, jump-shooting, savvy passing big man in the Euro game.

At 8/24/2008 2:15 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Hours have come and gone, and no replay. All I'm seeing is boxing and rhythmic gymnastics. Two of the most unwatchable events. Not even Teddy Atlas can stir interest in the boxing. I'm upset that I have to watch it on the computer, I'm just as upset that NBC is missing out on such a no-brainer programming choice.

At 8/24/2008 2:32 PM, Blogger O said...

i think the whole spanish team should convert into an NBA team. Except navarro should stay in Spain. I mean, he just doesn't really fit in. With his demeanor and euro 'hawk, he strongly contrasts his Catalan vibed teammates, who don't seem to give a shit how their hair or baby floaters appear.

Having lived in Spain last year, being the only person shooting hoops more often than not, it's good to see the making of the next basketball power to go alongside the USA. I think Spaniards as a whole are better equipped for basketball than they know.

If you think about it, not only are a large portion of spaniards typically tall and slender, they also have a care free yet habitual approach to life, one which makes for clever and entertaining basketball.

At 8/24/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Tom said...


I agree completely. The defense was more of swashbuckling, over- play to the max style, but that doesn't mean it wasn't "good."

Another thing that was cool to watch was all the coaching players gave eachother. You have to think that the high-level basketball information that was shared these past couple of weeks will only improve their play for the upcoming NBA season.

At 8/24/2008 4:28 PM, Blogger Pistonscast said...

What's Going on World.

John W. Davis here from www.pistonscast.com. We have a great Chauncey Billups versus Isiah Thomas debate show that I wanted to share with you. We discuss which Piston Point Guard is better with Sports Economist David Berri the co author of the Wages of Wins. We would love for you to check out the show and feature it on your website. The show has the rocky theme music going and old archive soundbites from Chauncey and Isiah. It simply gets you in the mood to consider which player is better!

Chauncey v. Isiah Debate:


David Berri Article on Why Chauncey Billups is statiscally better than Isiah Thomas:


At 8/24/2008 10:28 PM, Blogger T. said...

john w. davis = horribly misreading his audience.

(seriously? berri?)

At 8/25/2008 12:03 AM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Mr. Davis has inspired me to spamplug my imaginary blog about the 1985-89 Knicks where I write 7000 word free-associative prose poems from the point of view of Eddie Lee Wilkins and have headlines like "Hubie Brown: Threat or Menace?"

So you see, that comment wasn't a total loss.

At 8/25/2008 1:35 AM, Blogger goathair said...

a) Back in high school we used to have to wear our football jerseys to school on Fridays. Some guys wore them with jeans and some wore them with khakis. The girls make fun of the guys who wore them with khakis. I think this probably explains the jeans/jerseys/medals look.

2) Rudy was responsible for my two favorite plays in that game. In the first half, he popped that three at the top of the key after two or three crosses. And the dunk over Dwight. Dan Majerle is the perfect comparison. Except Dan is somehow more tan.

At 8/25/2008 2:13 AM, Blogger T. said...

jawaan oldham - if there's prose about Trent Tucker, I'm there.

At 8/25/2008 3:11 AM, OpenID tredecimal said...

Gerald Wilkins/Johnny Newman slash would be an especially evil level of Basketbawful though.

At 8/25/2008 5:33 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

I don't know...Rudy kind of reminds me of a young Brent Barry. I'm cool with any and all Thunder Dan references though.

At 8/25/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I had the chance to watch the game live in Beijing, so take my observations with a grain of salt because I was just so excited to be there.

- I expected the US team to approach warm-ups in an organized Coach K-college style way. But LeBron and Wade were shooting half-court jumpers, Dwight Howard and Redd practiced corner 3s. Most of the other guys just casually shot around while only Kobe jab-stebbed invisible opponents out of their defensive balance.

- Biggest cheer for Kobe during intros, LeBron as a not-so-close second.

- Rubio is going to be amazing. I know that's not exactly news. I had never seen him in person before, but he really impressed against top competition. No hesitation or problems when bringing up the ball against whomever (often Kidd or Kobe), leaving several different defenders behind with his patented move of faking right and going behind the back to drive by them on the left side. He also played the most minutes of all Spaniards(with Spain losing their rhythm a bit in the second half when he got his breathers on the bench) and was integral to the success of the 2-3 zone (which worked well in some stretches and allowed crucial open 3-pointers in others) with his quickness and active hands. He's not a great scorer yet on that level but he's everything else you can want from a PG - and all that at age 17!

- I stand by my opinion that Marc Gasol won't really be effective in the NBA despite showing a few good moves in the final. He just takes way too much time to prepare his moves and doesn't get the separation from defenders that Pau does.

- With Calderon healthy, Spain could have won it. There were phases when they clearly couldn't match the intensity and depth of Team USA. Spain did minimize the impact of their athletic disadvantage by switching between man defense, 2-3 zone or 3-2 zone but they couldn't overcome that they basically just went seven (useful) players deep. Navarro and Rubio played for very long stretches, seeming tired at times. Calderon handling the ball could also have given Team USA a few less easy baskets off poor passes by Spain.

- Fernandez can be a Manu-light, but only if MacMillan will give him the freedom to roam the way Popovich allows Ginobili.

- I felt the "LeBron-as-dad" observation you guys made and therefore was surprised to see him trying to get others to do some kind of silly dance when they had just stepped onto the podium to receive their medals.

- One other thing I wondered about: as I understood it, the whole "Redeem Team" campaign was not only centered around the US team establishing their dominance again but also about being great and humble sportsmen after some not so classy showings in previous international tournaments. So with a professional Nike-led campaign, how could they pass up the chance to stay in the Olympic Village? The players all said that they found it amazing there when they visited, so why not use this perfect opportunity to symbolically state that they are athletes just like all others? Or did I misunderstand what the US team was sent to accomplish?


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