Ain't No Use Clutchin' At The Butter
Or, if for once you want a title that makes sense, "Who Owns a Meme"?
I don't claim to have invented the "Positional Revolution". That would be the players who dared to do fifteen-hundred things at once, or the coaches subverting the conventions of their day. But I do know that I coined the phrase, started the conversation (on the internet) at least, and, have pursued it with some seriousness for the last 4.5 years, along with the help of brave souls like Tom Ziller. Unlike that batty "Liberated Fandom", which was formulaic, purposefully rude, and at some point gives way to common sense, I am relatively proud of the writing I've done about positionality in the NBA, and even the phrase "Positional Revolution" itself. When I was in OKC, I had a long conversation with Sam Presti about it and didn't feel the least bit self-conscious, something of a minor miracle for me.
Why am I bringing this up, on a near-defunct blog whose readers are well familiar with my snappy little phrases? Well, it appears the Positional Revolution has gone mainstream, and I've been left behind. There is a band that makes a perfect analogy here, but I'm blanking on their name. Last summer, the blogosphere suddenly flared up with new discussions of position, and quickly, the phrase "Positional Revolution" entered the picture. I thought this was neat, until it kept going, with no acknowledgment of, well, ME. Finally, I spoke out, and was accused of, basically, not understanding that online, everybody knows I made up that term and constant genuflection would be a waste of everybody's time. I posted something pissy that updated my thoughts and then went on with my life.
Well, it's back again, but this time, I genuinely worried from a "branding" and "marketplace of ideas" standpoint.
It doesn't really matter that Rob Mahoney and I disagree on some of the finer points of positionality and its discontents. If you want, when my back hurts less and I'm less generally angry, I can link up all the posts I've done, many of them with TZ, on the subject of structure in basketball. Basically, categories must wither and die, and instead you get heuristic groupings that vary depending on situations. The re-distribution of responsibilities takes place not only on the macro- level of a starting line-up, but also within the ebb and flow of any given possession. This is possible because of players who feel, and respond to, the game in this way; as I wrote in 2007, "the Positional Revolution becomes most radical when the inflamed individual is transubstantiated into a form of basketball logic." Certainly, it doesn't really get into defense, something Danny Leroux has dealt with.
The point is that, when the phrase "Positional Revolution" is written about at great length on the New York Times site without my receiving any credit, it upsets me. I can't assume that everyone reading Rob's piece there knows about what I've done in the past. Is that egotism? Maybe. But it's also a question of how much right I have to be identified with this conversation that sprang up from the web—especially when it's a phrase I coined myself. When I load up the NBA page of Business Insider, a site I write for, and find Adam Fusfeld crediting Rob with ushering in a new era of positions, I can't help but get frustrated and write in this tone.
I know, I have no right to complain about anything, my life is one big party, etc. But you try and spend hours and hours working through an idea—even coming up with a snappy name for it—only to find yourself more or less invisibly as it starts to find a wider audience. Or, to be perfectly blunt about it, this was my Revolution. Take it up if you want, just don't, in effect, pass it off as your own. And yes, at some point, omission is an insult, not proof that my ideas have become part of the ether.
On second though, I'll just trademark the term, and content myself with royalties. Since that's what this is really all about.