Which Way to Christendom?


I can take no credit for the following idea: Skeets said it, left me to think about it for hours, and then said this morning that he'd barely considered it since opening the floodgates. And frankly, I think it deserved better. It may have come out of a discussion of a certain incident I'm sure we're all quite sick of, and not at all interested in hashing out any further. But it's just as applicable to yesterday's GW musings, and sets up a brand new line of inquiry concerning style and intention. Now, I want us all to come together and see it through.

Skeets asked, simply enough, why it is that only defensive plays (or players) are branded as "reckless" or "irresponsible," when certainly there are offensive plays that pose just as much of a destructive threat. This obviously breaks down two ways: Guys who put themselves at risk, and those who endanger the well-being of others. The latter category is easier to get a handle on, but it's generally incumbent upon the defender to get out of the way. The way basketball is constructed, defense reacts to offense. Sure, LeBron could run down the court and crash into someone, or leap right into them and break a nose. But the former is so "reckless" that it borders on incompetence, while in the case of the latter, we make it the duty of the defender to judge whether it's worth trying to draw a charge. If there weren't that agency involved, the charge wouldn't have once been a heroic act.

(Furthermore, in both cases, the defender will be on the ground, while the most serious concern is falls from up above.)

But what about players who play with a self-destructive streak? Or someone like Manu, often described as "out of control." Perhaps inspired by this excellent comment, I've begun thinking about the responsibility involved when a player takes flight. I'm not saying they should hold back and get all timorous, but that through experience guys who jump a lot gain a sense of how to go up in a way that, when they come down, will minimize their likelihood of dying. Or even just knowing how to break their fall when caught by surprise. Falling is, after all, an act of style, and can tell you a lot about a player. And in the sense that it's directly tied to their mortality, it may be one of the most revealing of all.

P.S. Because I am bored: Elevating the Game is like FD with history; When A Man Cries is my favorite soul comp ever; and The Furies is the perfect cowboy-noir movie. And Flower Traveling Band are playing a reunion at the Knitting Factory this weekend. THE WONDERS OF THE WIDGET ARE THERE FOR YOU TO PROBE!!!!!!

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At 3/12/2009 2:44 PM, Blogger Brendan K said...

I'll admit I'm surprised. I wouldn't have expected a western as the first official FD film reco. If you'd made me guess, I'd have called you for "Rashomon" probably.

At 3/12/2009 3:53 PM, Blogger Ahab Slammers said...

Part of the difference has got to be that when a player does something reckless at the offensive end, his focus is likely on the hoop and the primary risk is likely to himself, right? For example: Manu flings himself at the basket with abandon, it's reckless, but what he's flinging himself at is the rim, which won't really care if he clobbers the hell out of it. On the other hand, if Manu flings himself at the basket and, say, Mardy Collins flings himself at Manu, it's hard to deny that Collins is committing a much more aggressive and dangerous act, because unlike the rim, Manu's definitely going to feel it if he gets clobbered.

That's overly simplistic, of course, and does nothing to account for Kevin Garnett using his bony-ass elbows as deadly weapons after every defensive rebound, or Shaq doing a blind 90-degree turn in the post to bury his left elbow in the strong-side defender's sternum, but still: recklessness flying toward the basket is self-sacrifice (or at least that seems to be how we think about it) while recklessness flying toward the guy with the ball is, well, sacrificing the other guy.

In any case, it's admirable from a purely competitive standpoint whenever a guy is so passionately involved in each trip up the court that he loses regard for his own well-being, but it's somewhat less admirable when he also evidently loses regard for the well-being of everyone around him. That's true at either end.

At 3/12/2009 6:22 PM, Blogger Z said...

While they may not be termed "reckless" or "irresponsible," offensive plays certainly can be. When they're called, offensive fouls are of the "player control" variety.

It just doesn't happen as much. I think you're spot on with the defense reacting to the offense. More often than not, the offensive player is in control and knows where they're going. If an offensive player can't control where they're going, they're probably not in the league, hyper-athletes like Wallace notwithstanding.

At 3/12/2009 6:38 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I wish I could remember who said this, but one NBA player claimed that the most important aspect of dunking was knowing how to land.

With Wade, who has even made falling down the motto one of his early commercials, I believe there is a method to it. The way I see it, with him it's almost like the roll martial artists or Parkour runners do after some of their jumping maneuvers. When he knows there's going to be contact, upon landing he doesn't try to break the fall or land in a stable position but rather to tip over into a controlled slide. He really seems to slide towards the photographers often, which also carries the benefits witnessed in the Finals aganist Dallas.

LeBron in contrast seems to manage a stable landing on most of his drives. Granted, he's built to almost always exert the greater force in a collision, but he also does extra training for these situations. There's video of him having an elastic band tied to his waist, then attacking the basket while a trainer pulls from behind, but from an unknown angle. It's obviously different forces than an opposing 280 pound center crashing into him from the blind side, but it still helps to build the body control necessary in such situations.

At 3/12/2009 7:27 PM, Blogger jza said...

This issue is one of the things that separates the great players from the very good. It's an understanding of the game.

A guy like Billups understands that hustle is important, but if it means flying to the basket over a pair of 6'10" 300lb-ers and risk landing on your head and missing the next 2 weeks with a concussion, he'll work for the jumper.

This reckless disregard for your body plays well on Sportscenter and Nike Commercials but it's not the kind of play that wins championships.

Then again, there are the players that don't have that understanding/talent or they're just big and uncoordinated. GW, Ben Wallace aren't going to rack up 20+10 most nights out.

Maybe you could say it's a Blue Collar Player vs. White Collar player type thing. winning team swill have a good mix of both. Many players will not develop to their full potential because they value hustle plays(BC) over strategically sound(WC) ones.

At 3/13/2009 2:01 AM, Blogger El Presidente said...

LeBron is an excellent lander, but he needs to hang on the rim a bit more to ease the landing. Anything to keep those knees going a little longer.

At 3/13/2009 2:02 AM, Blogger El Presidente said...

I forgot to add. I will always believe the hard landings and heavy weight of Amare contributed to his knee problems.

At 3/13/2009 8:07 AM, Blogger W2 said...

Delonte West comes to mind whenever I think about reckless. For me there is a fine line between reckless and playing with heart. The kid is undersized and skinny but he absolutely brings it with little respect for his own body, ultimately inspiring his teamates. This makes me love him, but then miss his game tremendously as he sits out on IR for weeks at a time.

If he could find a balance and stay healthy the Cavs are a much better team.

Thoughts from the Lakes-Spurs Game...

-Duncan looked tire, Spurs miss Manu offense, I love Kurt Thomas because he reminds me of Anthony Mason, Kevin Willis, and Buck Williams.
-Would you let your wife, grilfriend, or mother alone with Kobe Bryant. I wouldn't. Dude just creeps me out. Trevor Ariza is a three point shot away from being James Posey.
-Speaking of reckless, when Marv Albert shouted "Thunder Tomahawk" after the whistle on a Laker dunk, I nearly pissed my pants. Dude was so excited. Too excited. Imagine a Marv only broadcast. Yikes.

At 3/13/2009 12:36 PM, Blogger goathair said...

The only offensive play I can ever remember being called reckless is when Kobe got suspended for that flailing arm thing he used to do.

And Wade definitely falls on purpose. There's an article from GQ from a couple year's back where he said he hadn't learned the right way to fall when he was a rookie.


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