As Weird as Finger Panes
It's not online, but you'll have to take our word for it. In today's New York Times, the following words exist:
If Milicic does decide to leave for Europe, his lasting impressions on the N.B.A. may be as a cautionary tale about raw talent from overseas and the fact that he helped to inspire a young group of bloggers who started the site Free Darko.
The site has gone on to be one of the better N.B.A.-related blogs and last year produced the book "Free Darko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Basketball Almanac."
I lead with this not only to crease my own mask (it likes it!), but also because it pertains directly to a post I'd planned to write anyway. Darko is inseparable from "raw talent", albeit in practice, less often the overseas variety. We fixate on players in part for their singularity, but also in many cases because of their ability to tickle the imagination. It's alternately laughable and pitiable to watch NBA teams wait on, and ultimately admit their folly with, the likes of Darko or Kwame Brown. It's like the change of seasons, but with less Wordsworth and more scrap heap.
How then, is that so different from what we've been through with (deep breath) Andray Blatche, Amir Johnson, Rashad McCants, Julian Wright, Donte Greene, Javaris Crittenton, Al Thornton, Alexis Ajinca, Anthony Randolph, and Bill Walker, to name a few. Asterisk as many of these as you want, especially since some are recent or facing coaching oppression, but there's a sinking feeling associated with all of them. I know GMs in businesses are supposed to eat crow, but you've got to think their investment is more personal, emotional—as ours is entirely.
We've also been right quite a few times, and in other cases been stuck waiting to see if, to name the ultra-dude, J.R. Smith will ever become whole. Or Thaddeus Young achieve stardom, Francisco Garcia get those minutes, and so on. Those may just be a question of admitting that not all ideas become flesh, or that a league full of superstars wouldn't make any sense (1965, I see you!). With someone like Amir Johnson—once posited as a stroke of luck who would make up for Darko—it's harder to know what to feel. Did we stake a franchises's future on him? No, but our enthusiasm for Amir was every bit as real and concrete as, well, ours for players real and concrete. And now, we are forced into an expressive bind: Either admit that we falsely expended energy, spewing it back forth into the cosmos, or find value in the act of love even if this love is in the end proven false.
And wait, isn't this textbook bad faith? GMs are just stupid. We are willing to let our love of the game, or at least some scrap of it, hinge on potential without a road ahead, sometimes well after potential has ceased to quiver and gone still, mocking, obdurate. We celebrate the uneasiness and blind faith, while GMs gamely wait on their investment to pan out. They made a choice, and are forced to live with the consequences. We believe more the less dreams come true. That's not to say we resent players who realize their potential, but that excitement is different than belief. Do GMs believe? Do enchiladas dream?
I would be happy to learn that the universe is one big circle made up of syllogism. So when I die, they would say "his blog ended up lending its name to the All-Star point-forward FreeDarko Greenton, as well as both encouraging and extinguishing a certain elitist strain of fandom." But I don't want to stop now. DON'T MAKE ME STOP NOW.