An Uncluttered Life



We’ve been doing an awful lot of talking about talking lately; there are so many voices in my head Syd Barrett would feel right at home pulling up a beanbag chair and taking up residence in my frontal lobe. I’ll spare everyone the Gilbert allusions and the theory that Brandon Jennings had this whole new digital age thing all figured out and was in a position to be the first player to create his iconography without the assistance of the traditional press until he fell out of love with Twitter again. It’s a reminder that mastery over a medium that allows such open discourse is like trying to control air. Maybe some day. Dude’s still 19 years old and trying to work it out just like the rest of us, or maybe he's a step or two ahead and already on to the next thing.

Point is, almost everyone talks in the NBA and in many cases the why is more interesting than the actual conversation. Some use communication to build their profile, a la Gil and Brandon, while others speak only out of necessity. This isn't a star/grunt construct either. Several elite players have deepened their allure by being distant and mysterious, if not moody (Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett), and just as many journeymen have enhanced their careers by simply being good talkers. The vast majority is made up of players that range from nondescript to noble depending on their substance. Steve Nash, who has assumed a Bono-like role as the collective conscious of the league outside the context of the court, is an example of the latter.

Then there is Rasheed Wallace, who is one of the rare few whose words are as compelling as his motivation for speaking them. It received little play at the time, but Wallace essentially challenged the entire ecosystem of the NBA back in November. Long story short, Sheed remains convinced that Tim Dongahy wasn’t the only ref in on the con. Others have expressed doubt about the official version of events, but none have gone on the attack and with such complete matter-of-factness as Wallace. What takes this beyond the realm of outrageous outspokenness and into the realm of subtle genius is his rationale. In an interview he gave to the Boston Herald some weeks back, Wallace said, essentially: I’ll say whatever it is I want to say, cause fuck it, I can.

The money quote:

“You know, I say what’s on my mind, speaking my freedom, and I get fined for it. It’s a catch-22 with that (expletive), man. See, they think they can control people with money. Everybody don’t live like that.”

Sheed's invoking a blend of libertarianism mixed with some Marxian distrust of authoritarian institutions, common stuff to any third-year anarchist at Antioch, but by the conventions of the NBA, this is some revolutionary shit. It's tempting, then, to see Wallace as a political figure speaking truth to power, but that's not quite right because for all his bombast, he is essentially apolitical. For a politician there has to be some kind of rational benefit to challenging the status quo. Be it for power, a genuine desire to affect some kind of real change, or even megalomania, there’s a method behind it all. (Michael Steele may be the exception here). Wallace, however, seems far too cynical, or maybe wise, to believe that his words will ever resonate beyond that day’s news cycle.

He's not selling anything, not even his ideas. He has nothing to gain, and apparently also nothing to lose. If he’s right about everything he’ll shrug and go back to jacking 3’s. If he’s wrong, he’ll probably do the same. Either way he’s getting T’d up at the first sign of trouble. There is no end game here. This has caused some in Boston to question his sanity, if not his motives, but that’s the wrong read because he doesn’t seem to have one. A motive that is, beyond a strict moral code of the court that belongs to him alone.

Wallace leaves it up to everyone else to figure it out for themselves and for the scattered believers, Sheed is the true NBA iconoclast, questioning the league at every turn and referring to LeBron as The Golden Child. (Also Hedo Turkoglu as Turkododo. Nobody ever said he wasn’t funny as hell when he wants to be).

Quoting Mencken: “The iconoclast proves enough when he proves by his blasphemy that this or that idol is defectively convincing – that at least one visitor to the shrine is left full of doubts. The liberation of the human mind has been best furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt; after all was safe – that the god in the sanctuary was a fraud.”


It struck me as odd that David Stern would fine Wallace for criticizing officials, while allowing him to question the Donaghy madness without sanction. But by doing so, Stern would have inadvertently given credence to Sheed’s theories and opened them up to scrutiny, and by letting it go Stern relegates him to the role of the solitary man in the town square squawking about end times. He is easily dismissed, even banished from the realm.

But Sheed is not Sisyphus. He is not a prisoner of his rhetoric, and in fact, he has very little stake in the outcome. His latest contract will probably be his last and it’s not like he’s auditioning to replace Barkley on TNT. The truth about Donaghy, et al., will come out eventually. It almost always does and it might wind up setting some people free. But not Sheed. He’s already there, secure in his beliefs and without fear of real reprisal.

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At 1/20/2010 4:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another liberal jew who wishes he was black.

Black rappers resent Lyor Cohen, yet you aspire to be like him.

How is that working out for you?

At 1/20/2010 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the Sheed talk. Dude has his perspective (did he once compare NBA owners to land barrons or slave masters or am I making that up?)

I am curious if Sheed benefits from being in Boston particularly related to the TD stuff. I wonder if he was toiling away on a Detroit Team that was struggling if there would be a greater consequence. Or if the Boston fans were calling for his head. Obviously dude is getting Teched at a decent rate, but this may be less Stern related and more fuck you form the refs.

Additionally good boy Ray Allen also had a few words to say regarding refs and he too went unpunished. Does this somehow soften the blow or if it is ignored does it get less press.

I know there is a point in here somewhere, but that part usually escapes me.

Related to Gatrios Powertop...need a hug?

At 1/20/2010 11:51 AM, Blogger 7.5 PSI said...

OT: Mr Shoals, tell your new/old employer you need your own RSS feed. The Shoals to chaff ratio over there is getting me down.

At 1/20/2010 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@7.5 PSI I concur. What's taking so long for the Shoals RSS feed?

At 1/20/2010 12:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I can't officially recommend you read only me, but if you feel that way, try putting:


into an RSS reader. If it doesn't work, blame Ziller.

At 1/20/2010 12:44 PM, Blogger Arthur T said...

power to the people: http://feedback.aol.com/rs/rs.php?sid=sports.

write-in campaign for shoals RSS feed in effect at fanhouse feedback, let 'em know. I hate finding some Blackistone and Mariotti in my feeds.

At 1/20/2010 12:57 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I know that Sheed isn't dead yet, but I wonder which of the younger players have potential to play a role similar to Sheed in the future. I imagine that in the past there were more players like him and that his comfort with calling the league out on its shit is more of a throwback to a time when intelligent independence was not stomped on so much.

With the increase in informal social media communication, players will have an opportunity to say more, but might not have the sophistication nor the inclination to question the financial and political motivations of their masters. Certain players such as Jennings, Battier, Nash (...?), are honest, to be sure, but it's one thing to be critical and another to openly put oneself in the line of fire almost compulsively. Furthermore, Sheed might have some kind of grandfather clause in place where he is somewhat tolerated, but any younger players who do try to play a similar role in the future might get silenced pretty quickly. The NBA is pretty 1984ish like that. Too bad it's such an amazing and addictive sport.

At 1/20/2010 1:49 PM, Blogger Mouth said...

Excellent post.

Freedom of Speech is a beautiful thing when someone with so much realness brings it like Sheed does, "speaking [his] freedom."

It ain't gotta be "revolutionary." It's real. It's Sheed unfiltered. Was it him who said a few years back (I think I read this or something resembling this on SlamOnline, maybe), "As long as the Man CTC*, I'm gonna do my thing."? It might have been Isaiah J.R. Rider.
*Cuts the Check

Regardless, Sheed is one of my favorite millionaires. His reputation and legend will outlast that of David Stern.

At 1/20/2010 2:09 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

In case some people didn't get it, this was not written by me.

At 1/20/2010 2:11 PM, Blogger brooklyn13 said...

Sorry for being dense, but what exactly is humorous about making fun of the Turkish guy's last name? It's long? Hard to pronounce? Wallace is a freakin' idiot? (except when he says something you like)

At 1/20/2010 2:32 PM, Blogger Mouth said...

Yeah, usually I identify the target of my gratitude with a "Mr. Shoals," but this time the kudos goes to Parker Brooks. Any instance of intelligently linking Rasheed Wallace and H.L. Mencken, even if the author accidentally equates the NBA/David Stern with some form of G*d, is good stuff.

At 1/20/2010 3:03 PM, Blogger fm said...

Fantastic post, Rasheed is the most misunderstood player in a league full of misunderstood players. and he may be molding Kendrick Perkins into the next Sheed.

At 1/20/2010 3:28 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I am a Rasheed Wallace fan, I used to see Rasheed Wallace playing video games in the Student Union, and Kendrick Perkins, you, sir, are no Rasheed Wallace.

BTW http://www.fanhouse.com/staff/bethlehem-shoals/rss.xml works for those who ain't mathematically aware.

At 1/20/2010 4:21 PM, Blogger The Secretary said...

Kind of amazed that you guys have not picked up this story yet:
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/20/white-basketball/ (All-white basketball league being launched.)

At 1/20/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

I wish a ref would tell Sheed he's Derrick Coleman without the pity.
wv - encorne: another tv season with Leno.

At 1/20/2010 11:58 PM, Blogger jamiejee said...

I believe the correct H.L. Mencken quote is as follows: "Of a piece with the absurd pedagogical demand for so-called constructive criticism is the doctrine that an iconoclast is a hollow and evil fellow unless he can prove his case. Why, indeed, should he prove it? Is he judge, jury, prosecuting officer, hangman? He proves enough, indeed, when he proves by his blasphemy that this or that idol is defectively convincing—that at least one visitor to the shrine is left full of doubts. The fact is enormously significant; it indicates that instinct has somehow risen superior to the shallowness of logic, the refuge of fools. The pedant and the priest have always been the most expert of logicians—and the most diligent disseminators of nonsense and worse. The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by such learned dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe—that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power, and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent."

At 1/21/2010 2:02 PM, Blogger Jerry Vinokurov said...

What the hell is with comment #1 up there?

At 1/21/2010 5:02 PM, Blogger Teach said...

Comment #1 must have been written by 'Sheed himself


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