Top of the World!
"This is what I imagine JaVale McGee will look like in the dunk contest" - me
"Now I know how Brandon Jennings will win this dunk contest" - Eric
Kyle from Truth About It hipped me to these -- he was working on a truly massive, admirable post on the lost 1977 contest, and had some questions. I responded with "I remember reading about this", and drooled over this video for about five years. If you want to see my early thoughts on this year's field, here I am. Katz has compiled video previews. I failed, though, to stress enough that I really envision McGee experiencing some sort of centrifugal mishap and being torn limb-from-limb like Rabbi Akiba.
I woke up this morning and asked myself if this wasn't a totally new dunk contest paradigm: no swingmen, three big men when every one of those other than Dwight Howard has failed to impress (I never liked him much in the contest, either), and the wild card/sidekick in Brandon Jennings who is there only to entertain. That DeAndre Jordan, not DeMar DeRozan, seems like the biggest snub tells you something about the direction this group of competitors signals. I'm not sure exactly what the aim is -- get back to me after we see how it pans out -- but this represents a clean break with the past. Embracing the misfits and introducing a clear element of absurdity. Or maybe focusing on new kinds on weaponry. Whatever, when the dunk contest matters, it's as central to the culture of the sport as any non-playoff game. We look to it year after year because inside, something's been missing for a long time.
I now want to turn my attentions to a more serious topic: the Ted Williams story that has all the country aflutter. First, let's get one thing out of the way: some part of me will never stop laughing from reading a "Cavs Hire Homeless Internet Sensation" headline on my phone while still in bed. Sorry dudes, that's how it is. Also, for Williams, this is great. Obviously. I know nothing about him, but when a guy goes from nothing to something overnight, and finds his life back on track when he thought he was done for ... well, that's when I write sentences like that. And the more I think about, the more insidious, and just plain manipulative, it seems.
For one, the whole notion of random, unicorns-and-rainbows charity administered in a state with really, really serious job shortages and foreclosure plague (how are drug sales these days? I'm guessing no one can afford it) is kind of insensitive. Maybe even crass. I understand that Williams is a decent guy who is very deserving of a fresh start. But come on ... it wouldn't make more sense, as something other than a publicity stunt, to spread the charity around a little? I know, this also lands the Cavs and others a valuable employee (job creation!), so it's not pure altrusim. And yes, they are paying him -- he's working for his! Still, though, if you want me to feel like the world is a better, kinder place for this, well, it takes more than a one-off stunt. Making dreams come true isn't the same thing as affecting change, obviously, but at least we can ask for action that falls somewhere in between the two. It's the only remotely sane, responsible thing to do in this day and age.
And, while all this is great for Williams, there's something too Hollywood about this that seems a little unfair. He's not the only homeless dude with marketable skills, or a hard luck story that at one point, showed real promise. Especially -- not to sound like a broken record -- in this economic climate, in places (like Ohio) where jobs and homes can no longer be taken for granted. I guess now everyone can dream of being discovered by viral video, or stake all their future hopes on the Internet. Except then, don't we just have the homeless version of inner city kids trying to make the NBA? This isn't proof that America still makes it happen -- it's yet another gross distortion of the American Dream (whatever that is), pushed to such a clown-ish extreme that it replaces the social safety net with a fucking game show.
I'm also not entirely convinced that this kind of instant-fix is a recipe for lasting stability. Recovery and the transition back into polite society isn't like flipping a switch. Not saying we should punish anyone, but again, everybody knows that overnight success is rarely the foundation for a strong and constant future. Finally, never underestimate Dan Gilbert. He roused a lynch-mob against LeBron to keep the Cavs brand in the headlines and remotely relevant; when that inconvenient team got in the way, he had to pivot, and become a saint. Who knows what's next? It's not like they have anything to lose as an organization.
Speaking of all this, THE SUNS FIRED CONNIE HAWKINS, CURRENTLY FIGHTING CANCER, FROM HIS LARGELY CEREMONIAL POSITION CANCER. Apparently he didn't show up at the office enough. Fuck that team, once and forever. I invite someone to give me a good reason to retract that.
You should read this Go Yago! dude. He writes regularly and is keeping the flame alive.