You Get What You Pay With


Read this first. It's all about structural change and Los Suns and brings you up-to-date on me on this.

However, sometimes, you write a line that's embarrassing, and then your friend writes something more thoughtful about it, and then you have to correct for the heat of the moment. "Fuck Phil Jackson" should have been "Phil Jackson is being cranky, dismissive, rude, and very predictably Boomer-ish." Eric Freeman had another stance: Phil is a hypocrite, since those books he gives everyone couldn't just be taken as lessons in basketball.

Upon further reflection, I've hit on The Secret of Phil Jackson: the secret is that Phil Jackson is only about basketball. We generally assume, as Eric did, that once sports get abstracted or intellectualized enough, it transcends itself and enters into dialogue with all other spheres of human knowledge. However, just as there are smart people who like sports because they provide refuge from figuring out the universe, there are figures like Phil who are, in effect, meaningful only as basketball thinkers. They may draw on other perspectives or methods, but that's not the same as equating sports with Zen or Bolano. Sports will not save you or society; they can just be approached with similar rigor.

It's not so different from applying the scientific method to being a chef, which I believe is called molecular gastronomy, or philosophy PhDs going to work for corporations. To presume a bleeding between all things is almost laughably modern. Get with the century.

The biggest proof I have here that Phil is being flippant or uninterested, not taking some kind of principled stance? He's outright dismissive of the question, even the issue. He hasn't done his research, and takes the same tone he always does when he feels like being a dick. If Jackson was really as deep, thoughtful, or political (pick your imagined compliment) about the non-basketball world as we suppose him to be, he would presumably have a better response. Instead, there's no difference between him and a commenter on AOL or Yahoo!.

Adande asked him about, and many have pointed to—if nothing else, as Eric did, as proof of hypocrisy—his sideline support for Bill Bradley. Guess what? Bradley was an old friend who, while liberal, was a mainstream candidate for President. It wasn't any great feat of will or imagination. It wasn't the world basketball gave him.

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At 5/05/2010 3:15 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

While I agree the comments made him come off as an uncaring jerk, he may be a smart, uncaring jerk.

At 5/05/2010 3:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I don't dispute that Phil is a smart man. Just not about everything. If he wants to disagree, fine, but there was nothing in his comments that couldn't have come from an anonymous angry commenter. At least give us some subtlety on why you believe in this hard and fast divide. Oh, and he sounded ignorant about the law. Not saying he has to agree with me, but that was straight up fart mouth.

At 5/05/2010 3:51 PM, Blogger C.S. said...

I'm more of the inclination to say that Phil has changed.

As I move through my twenties, I'm realizing that the constant morphing and struggling and adapting of views and additudes, all that turmoil, is a young man's game. It's a quite normal thing, to turn irrascible and entrench yourself in a position. When you get old (or rather how I imagine it is when you're old), you're tired of the roaming and there's something comforting about the "fuck it I'll make this my home" choice.

I say all of that to say that we can have both the Alt-Culture-As-Coach Phil Jackson of the 80s and 90s and have Crusty Establishment Phil Jackson, and it can maintain a linearity. It sucks to admit it, but a guy who I would probably have agreed with a few years back is no longer agreeable to me.

So I guess I disagree with the "just about basketball" theory and would posit in its place the "people change in ugly ways theory". Or maybe not in its place, but along side it.

Also, while writing this I suddenly got an overwhelming feeling that there's a parallel between Phil Jackson and Steve Jobs.

At 5/05/2010 4:32 PM, Blogger John Ashbery said...

I've been working on a secret theory for a while now, that basketball is in fact basketball. So I like this take Shoals.

It is hard to hear this kind of thing from Phil. And I'm not trying to make Phil sound better just because I like him here, but I think part of the issue is Phil wanting to cut away ill-warranted moralizing. Keep in mind that what he's doing is critiquing the grounds of the question instead of giving an answer, which we know he loves to do. I think he's saying something to the effect that this isn't some kind of new terrible law, just a way to enforce existing laws. But he's wrong, and he's chosen a stupid time and issue to be wrong about.

Basketball is basketball. Phil is good at that. But here he got dickish. I hope it's not the end of the road for 'not so dickish' Phil Jackson.

At 5/05/2010 4:33 PM, Blogger tmac said...

I don't think 'disinterested' means what you think it means

At 5/05/2010 4:54 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

As someone who has a fair amount of respect towards Phil, I am disappointed to hear him take such a conservative view on this subject. At the same time, why are you trying to get your politics from basketball coaches, even one as otherwise intelligent-seeming as Phil Jackson? Honestly, its a little like getting your politics from rockstars and actors... you can do it, but is that really who you want to learn from?

And while I respect that the Suns are taking a stand, that is happening in their state. Why should Phil have anything to do with it? Did he sound like a dick talking about it, yes, but the man is in playoff mode right now. What does this have to do with him?

Last thing - putting on a jersey with "los" on it does not seem like much of a political stance to me. I'm not nearly as impressed as some seem to be by this.

At 5/05/2010 5:00 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

JA--He seems more interested in "doing Phil" than paying attention to what it means that he's "doing Phil" in this case.

tmac--thanks for catching that. I do know what it means, I've just been writing a lot today. Oh, and if this is who I think this is, fuck you.

At 5/05/2010 5:06 PM, Blogger John Ashbery said...

BS- I think that's a great way of phrasing it.

J- I don't think it's getting politics from a sports coach. It's reading Phil Jackson. Because this is basketball.

At 5/05/2010 5:54 PM, Blogger DJ Slick Watts said...

Shoals, I don't think he was being dismissive, exactly: enforcing the law the feds don't and "the American people are really for stronger immigration laws" (the like truth-content of those statements not being the question here, thankfully) are, more or less, Fox News talking points. He's not being cranky, dismissive, and rude, so much as he's being reactionary.
If Phil doesn't think it has to do with basketball, he doesn't have to answer the question. Once he does, he's responsible for his answer.
All of this is to say you were right the first time. Fuck him.

At 5/06/2010 2:36 AM, Blogger Vigilant Fan said...

Ah, the rational response when presented with an opinion you can't abide: the angry profanity of a frustrated child. How dare Phil Jackson have a political view that diverges from what you deem acceptable. And Fuck Lost too amirite?

At 5/06/2010 11:09 AM, Blogger Thomas said...

angry profanity is a perfectly rational response in this situation.

At 5/06/2010 12:49 PM, Blogger Grace said...

Thomas- agreed. Slightly more enraging issue than say, Phil's take on health care.

VF- I dont think that its an opinion he cant abide as much as the "former persona" of an NBA coach being false? or at least harder to hold in your hand than we thought.

At 5/06/2010 1:23 PM, Blogger Josh said...

@John A

You are saying that basketball is basketball, and (forgive me for extrapolating) basketball may even be about basketball? I find your ideas intriguing, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter :)

At 5/06/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger roadkiller said...

@ Joshua - By publicly and adamantly stating opposition to the immigration law, something sports figures rarely do, let alone on a sensitive subject on behalf of the hometown team in a state where most season ticket holders and other fans disagree with you, then making clear that "los" is intended to symbolize both that opposition and also support for civic unity generally, Mr. Sarver and his players forced all viewers to be reminded of the issue throughout the entire game, undoubtedly drawing many viewers into conversation and debate about the issue with nearby friends and family. Putting "los" on the jerseys seemed to me like a pretty damn strong political stance. It impressed the hell out of me, actually. On a more personal level, I hate the Suns, but because I agreed with their stance yesterday, I watched their game and cheered them on the whole way.

Sidenote @ Bethlehem Shoals: I think this issue is exactly the kick in the ass freedarko needed lately. No offense...

At 5/07/2010 11:32 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Dear FreeDarko,

How would you feel about having a link on the right to the Playoff Talking Points? I would feel good. Usually, there is enough shameless plugging to just find a link on one of the top posts, but with all of the Phil Jackson drama-drama-drama, I had to scroll a long way to find one today! So I guess I am also upset with Phil.

I do agree with Phil that the Arizona law appears to have the purpose of merely enforcing the US law, albeit in a pretty ugly manner. But isn't the takeaway here that US immigration policy, in addition to US politicians and voters, is shitty? Phil, by taking the fact that Arizona is merely enforcing poor US policy to its logical extreme, is really making a statement against US immigration policy in general! Compare this to Los Suns, who are merely jumping on the bandwagon of opposition to an apparently racist enforcement. Poseurs.

At 5/07/2010 11:35 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

PTP is done, I think, since they've got people at every game now. And this deep into the playoffs, I'm running out of things to say about these teams. But am still churning out long posts about . . . stuff over at FanHouse. I should put up a feed or ad or something.

At 5/07/2010 11:44 AM, Blogger Silas said...

It occurs to me that a lot of your earlier speculation about Steve Nash (that his reputation for being an activist is a posture/fan-imposed illusion) is actually much more true of Phil. I remember being really disappointed when I read “Sacred Hoops.” Several different people had told me that the book was insightful and revelatory – and I guess it was, but only about basketball. I kept waiting for Phil to connect the sport – which is obviously his passion – to any other aspect of his life as a human being, and he just didn’t. As I read, it became painfully clear that Phil just doesn’t really think, or care, about the world beyond basketball. His whole “zen” persona only applies to his relationship with the sport. All the bullshit about riding his motorcycle or sitting on his porch in Montana is only significant because it’s time he spent not coaching.
As much as he obviously enjoys the mystique, I think he knows in his heart that the image is false.

At 5/07/2010 11:58 AM, Blogger Silas said...

And oh yeah - if Phil is just now wishing that Bradley had won? That tells me that he's not really up on his politics.

At 5/07/2010 1:20 PM, Blogger MichaelSDG said...

I think this also suggests the nature of the late 60s-70s Zen yuppie posturing, which turned itself into a psychological logic of emotional management.

As someone said before, Phil is being a reactionary, and his views have become insubstantial and territorialized, turning himself against his former persona--though that persona was likely only artifice which is why he has become turned against himself.

But most acutely, we must remember that sports in a majority of cases does transcend itself and become something external to itself. Though basketball may simply be a job for Phil, which he must manipulate and succeed at, for those who consume it it is a part of life. And I wonder, is Phil reifying a reactionary apolitical LA lifestyle or producing it, and are these actions one in the same?

At 5/07/2010 2:59 PM, Blogger Silas said...

I had a similar thought, Michael - being a rich old white man in LA just seems to do something to people - but I think it's worse than that.

What I hate so much about the knee-jerk reaction that "Sports and Politics shouldn't mix!" is that it isn't just about defending a contrary viewpoint. Despite what VigilantFan and others keep insisting, the argument here is not that Phil isn't pro-immigration, it's that Phil obviously doesn't care.

I wanted to believe that Phil Jackson cared about politics for two reasons. On one hand, yes, I assumed he would be progressive and would champion a progressive viewpoint in an otherwise conservative arena. But more than that I figured if anyone could finally bridge the gap between the intellectual bubble of sports and the rest of human experience it would be Phil. I care about basketball, but I care about other things way more, and I think it’s foolish to pretend that basketball exists in a vacuum. People who insist that Sports and Politics can’t, or shouldn’t, mix are really denying that what happens in one part of life really does effect the rest of it. Everyone has an opinion about immigration, and it effects everyone, not just people who live in the Southwest. Hiding from it is childish, and I always hoped that Phil was bigger than that.

At 5/07/2010 7:14 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

"And I wonder, is Phil reifying a reactionary apolitical LA lifestyle or producing it, and are these actions one in the same?"

Michael, what does that even mean? I went to college and you are either a genius or trying way too hard to sound like one, cause that statement makes no sense. I mean it kind of makes sense, but it mostly sounds like you are trying to sound intelligent rather than actually being intelligent. Or is that one and the same?

"What I hate so much about the knee-jerk reaction that "Sports and Politics shouldn't mix!" is that it isn't just about defending a contrary viewpoint... the argument here is not that Phil isn't pro-immigration, it's that Phil obviously doesn't care."

Silas, you make a good point, that basketball and other sports don't just happen in a bubble and as human beings maybe these players and coaches should have an opinion on something outside of basketball. However I think you all are guilty of putting Phil on a pedestal. You assume that because the writing on FreeDarko tends to be of a deeper, more intellectual nature, and Shoals does a great job of using basketball as a framework for discussing the outside world, that the rest of the NBA-consuming world as well as players and coaches think like the fans who read this website. You are wrong.

Most people, just want to get through their day, do their job well, and get on with life. Especially guys as old as Phil during the most stressful part of the NBA season. YOU want Phil to be special. YOU want Phil to be an intellectual, because you've bought into the hype that he gives his guys books and he wears a goatee and he always looks like he is thinking really really hard about things. But maybe Phil is just a guy trying to do his job, which is to be fair extremely stressful and time-consuming. You seem to think that just because he's been there before and won it all ten times that he doesn't really need to spend as much effort getting his team ready as most coaches do. You are wrong. Phil is an old man trying to make history and get 11 rings. He has been openly considering retirement for a while now, and last season was talking about only coaching home games because the stress of travel was getting to be too much. Take the man off the pedestal and realize that he's just a man, not perfect, not the Zen Master the media hyped him up to be. Is it his fault for putting on airs and trying to seem like a crazy genius all these years? Yes, but part of his job is to convince other players and coaches that he is a genius and is in fact out-thinking everyone else at all times. Does he not call timeouts because he is a genius or just plain lazy? Does he really deserve those rings or did he just get really really lucky to get such great players on his teams? Phil has always presented himself as a mystery, and now he has let it slip that maybe he isn't that special after all, and maybe its just because he's getting old and doesn't have time to give a shit during the playoffs. And you all act like small children who just found out Santa isn't real. Get over it!

At 5/07/2010 9:20 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

way harsh, joshua. for all intensive purposes, you can bite me.

Also, I would definitely hesitate to say that a very wealthy person trying to become the most successful NBA coach of all time is simply trying to get through the day and do their job well.

At 5/07/2010 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great!!.............................................

At 5/08/2010 10:36 PM, Blogger Derrick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5/12/2010 10:19 PM, Blogger Michael said...

My point was, is Phil Jackson being turned into an apolitical douchebag by his current job? Or do faux-political pseudo left-wingers create the LA lifestyle, which feigns the political, but really isn't? And does having a big-time coach cause people in LA, as consumers of his product, to feel apathetic toward the situation and reify his view. Is that clearer?

At 5/13/2010 7:56 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

Hi Spanish Bomb, sorry for being harsh but I actually wasn't talking to you at all. In fact I agree with you that Phil might not have been agreeing with the policy, just doing his typical "saying something without really saying anything at all" routine to get out of a sticky conversation. What I was trying to say was, everybody gives Phil way too much credit for being this maniacal genius when really he just seems like an intelligent (not genius) guy who did a lot of drugs when he was younger, read a lot of books, expanded his mind, knows the game of basketball and knows how to manage players with huge egos and keep them from ripping each others heads off before they get at least a few championships. To get angry at a person, even a celebrity, for not having an opinion you like says more about you than that person. You don't like Phil's politics? Don't vote for him when he runs for office.

I also agree with you that the Suns putting "Los" on their jerseys is an empty gesture. What the heck has it accomplished? Its great to say you are against something, but what are they really doing to prevent the law from coming into place? Are they petitioning the lawmakers, are they carrying signs outside the capitol, are any owners or players using their personal money to contribute against the campaign? Are they actually putting any effort to stoping the law or just talking about it? And don't use "they're in the playoffs" as an excuse because you all just ripped Phil for not wanting to get involved when he is stuck in the exact same pressure-cooker that is the NBA playoffs.

Jared Dudley did an interview on the BS Report from a few days back and he described the situation. The owner came out and said, "I want to put these jerseys on to make a statement, any objections?" Amare and Nash said they were for it, "and once the captains were on it who was going to disagree?" So I don't buy that everybody on the team actually cares about the law, just that nobody wanted to go against the big names. Sorry, I'm just not ready to give them the Nobel Peace Prize for this.

So, Spanish Bombs, sorry for being harsh but it was not actually directed at you in the slightest.

Michael, your statement is LA-bashing which comes from a place just as ignorant and hateful as any racism. You've met some spiky-haired douche from LA and decided the entire city is like that? Or you've seen vapid celebrities on TV and decided they all must be like that? How is this different from the guy who has a bad experience with a hispanic person and decides all Mexicans are a problem? You assume douchebaggery because of geography, while the Arizona lawmakers use race and geography to create fear and mistrust towards an ethnic/national group (hispanics in general, Mexicans in the specific). Direct your statements against individuals, not entire cities, and maybe I'll take you seriously.


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