FreeDeMarco, Vol. XL7: We'll Need More Yen
If you're like me, you spent Tuesday afternoon dancing in the rain to Young Jeezy records with DeMarcus Cousins. If you're not, then you didn't, and you missed something tender.
In he strode, a man seven feet if he was an inch. In, too, strode his mother, his handlers, some handlers of the handlers, some random white women who seemed to be daughters and other familial relations of the handlers, and a phalanx of press people trying to get a handle on who was to handle which handler. ESPN was there, too. Of course. Diddy was not. Diddy was late, and the Diddy handler got on the Diddy phone to find out where the Diddy was. He wasn't picking up. Just how important was this athlete event to Diddy if he couldn't be reached? Wait a minute--why was Diddy even involved with athletes in the first place? The consensus landed on "competes for the same women."
On an otherwise sunny day, this storm had gathered suddenly, and it quickly washed away anything that wasn't tied down or cordoned off. The Italian man escorted by his mother and his girlfriend anxiously looked on before running his hand across a linen button up and bolting. In that moment, his hand streaked across the neatly folded crease as his mind arrived at the conclusion that more shopping wouldn't be worth the discomfort. How was he going to get at those summer suits while the storm consumed the one corner where he needed to be? Which salesperson would even notice him? Surely not the Fonzworth-looking motherfucker in his striped pink shirt and paisley bow tie who had drafted in the storm's wake before emerging on the other side to start measuring and accessorizing. Neither would the store manager, her costume chains hanging from her neck as she hung onto the big man, never leaving his side. It was a minor maelstrom; don't be fooled by the soothing wood paneling or the oppressive gentility of acting all bourgie.
Like any volatile summer weather, the storm subsided as quickly as it had swelled. The big man disappeared behind a mirror, the handlers went with him, the white girls got comfortable on the couches, the Diddy to-do was laid to rest with a few key strokes, and suddenly, all that remained were press folks staring at each other, muted Diddy videos on the big screen, and a steady soundtrack of Jeezy, Wayne, and Gucci. The calm came after the storm.
There is a fine line between knowing humor and mocking insult. Almost anything worth joking about forces the distinction upon us, and the NBA Draft may be sport's Aristocrats. For years, the NBA cognescenti have annually celebrated the draft's earnest appeal while also reveling in its absurd pathologies. Forecasting the picks and mocking the fashion are pretty much neck and neck. In fact, Draft analysis has taken on its own, sadly meta form of this comedic duality: for as much fun as we have speculating about how the Timberwolves will be reconfigured, there is almost as much fun generating hysteria for its own sake. The cheering and jeering easily intermingle.
For at least one day, Tuesday was meant to tip the scales back in favor of the earnest. Tired of lame jokes about Chopper suits and sensing the opportunity to facilitate good, wholesome, old-fashioned American opulence, an events company had organized a proper suiting event at the Sean John store on Fifth Avenue in New York. The premise was simple: this year's top picks would come to the House of Diddy, where they would be fitted for a sensible, well-tailored suit to be worn on Draft night. After selecting their pinstripes and matching their ties, the players would then be led through a small flea market of luxury retailers. The players could learn about Hommage shaving kits, Maserati sports cars, Mohegan Sun gambling packages, and Steinway Lyngdorf entertainment systems. The companies participating in the event could hope to earn some new customers.
Now you know why there was an emphasis placed on the word "meant" in the preceding paragraph. Reclaiming the Draft's attendant culture from the comedians who never tire of the sometimes ugly class- and race-tinged humor is an admirable intention. Doing so by asking the players to buy Sean John suits and listen to pitches for $200,000 stereo equipment belies some miscalculation in execution. I have no doubt that Evan Turner may truly want a 105" plasma television on a yacht with hidden surround-sound speakers. However, the absurdity of the entire premise--look at these average Joes buying average suits...and fantastically unobtainable everything else--is inescapable for anyone who will never be transformed into a multimillionaire overnight. Without graduating from college. Before ever reporting to work. Or even turning twenty-one.
And yet, there was dancing.
Lost amid the imposing size of the seven-footer, one DeMarcus Cousins, and the island-nation population that follows him is the disarming realization that DeMarcus Cousins is only a nineteen-year-old. As his giant right hand swallows yours in a handshake; as his stoic expression makes you wonder if the not-so-quiet whisper campaign about his attitude has some merit; as his sheepish posture while ambling around the store suggests that he may not be ready for what awaits him, you realize that this still is a kid. Not even the most thoughtful, measured, detailed Draft analysis serves as an adequate substitute for meeting the players, for seeing them in person.
The mere nature of reading about a Cousins or a John Wall on a blog, to say nothing of The New York Times' website, removes a player from everyday experience and elevates him as a celebrity. In turn, he is dehumanized ever so slightly. They all are. The process is only exacerbated as Draft conversations steal these children from our everyday vocabulary and insert them into the nonce lexicon of the NBA. No one describes his friends as long, questions a coworker for his sticktoittiveness, or wishes that his dad were more coachable. And similarly, no one ever says that DeMarcus Cousins has an innocent smile or is incredibly polite.
He does, and he is, though. That, ultimately, was what stood out most in the Sean John store, and it redeemed an event that couldn't help itself. (The players arrived in courtesy Maseratis.) Had Cousins picked an eight-button suit, it wouldn't have made a difference. Especially not when he stole a moment to dance as the handlers were buzzing about. As so many people got worked up over who was on the door, whether the lighting was OK, and if there was another floor model of the blue-and-cream tie, "Put On" blared over the speakers and DeMarcus started dancing. So did I. I instantly recalled watching the man John Walling, and seeing him celebrate his impossible put-back against Mississippi State. The self-seriousness of adulthood that was captured by all those busybodies, the conspicuous consumption that seems to motivate the Sean John brand--it all stopped as Cousins had a truly earnest moment. The good outweighed the bad for a little bit.
For our continuing FreeDeMarco coverage, check out the serious work Shoals has been putting in over at the FanHouse.