1.06.2011

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.

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15 Comments:

At 1/06/2011 2:05 PM, Blogger dtothelux said...

"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."

Is anyone (let alone Quicken) arguing that they're trying to end poverty here? It seems like they just wanted to give a homeless guy a break because 1) he could use one, 2) his voice makes him employable, and 3) it's good press. I doubt they think they're making broad societal changes by offering this one guy a house and a mortgage. Anyone who has ever done some small charitable act has realized (and considered) the fact that it's a drop in the bucket. So what's the better alternative? Do nothing? Obviously not. Do more? Well, yeah; that'd be nice. But a little is more than nothing.

"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."

I'm a little confused as to what "this day and age" requires of sane, responsible people. Must all charitable acts benefit enough people that it can be considered at least partly to be "affecting change"? What's the difference, exactly? Is doing nice things for people who need it -- if you're in a position to do more for more people -- now "insensitive" and "crass" towards every other poor person you aren't helping?

"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?"

Yes, this is a totally legitimate concern and not at all ridiculous. Homeless people across the country are currently being incentivized to ditch their more prudent plans and develop their radio voices for a shot at the big time.

"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."

Again, no one in the entire universe who thinks this was a good thing is arguing that it adequately replaces charity or welfare.

 
At 1/06/2011 2:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

It's a gesture. A well-meaning one, sure, but the kind of thing that -- increasingly -- distracts us from the scope, and depth, of problems. This thing is huge news. What is it taking coverage away from? Is it changing the tone of the news cycle?

 
At 1/06/2011 5:05 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

Can't decide what I enjoy more, the look on Darnell Hillman's face when he's introduced or his "BOTTLE SHOP" jersey.

Possible darkhorse: that NY POST article's "Robert Saver" typo.

 
At 1/06/2011 5:29 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

dtothelux handled it.

Your Ted Williams diatribe is a plump red herring. No one is claiming the Ted Williams hiring is a significant change for anyone other than Ted Williams. That's fine. A remarkable good thing happening to one person can be a relevant national news story without it being, or becoming, a bad thing. Your beef is with the underlying problems, and you're right, the disparity of wealth and opportunity in America, and the cycles of poor education, crime, drug abuse, homelessness, and recidivism are repugnant. But this post is pointing your guns in entirely the wrong direction.

 
At 1/06/2011 10:45 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

You really have no point here other than that you don't like Dan Gilbert and you assume that anything he does is cheap and crass. I haven't seen one news story that has made more of this Ted Williams story than it is. It's not too much different than the waterskiing squirrel or a dancing baby. Except, that for one person it is possibly life-changing. You come off here as being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian. Either that or a cranky liberal. Not sure which is worse.

 
At 1/07/2011 6:14 AM, Blogger Ian said...

My reaction to the Ted Williams story has been somewhat similar to Shoals. It's a nice story and all but it's been embraced a little too enthusiastically, almost uncomfortably so. Americans love the homeless/insane guy with amazing talent narrative so I'm not surprised that he's been embraced but it does feel as though reality will eventually catch up to it all (Summer 2011: "Cavs fire alcoholic play-by-play announcer")

 
At 1/07/2011 10:21 AM, Blogger Yago Colás said...

The Hawkins thing, which I missed, and which coincides my rereading of the tragedies and crimes against him in "Foul!", is a disgrace! I'm writing Steve Nash.

 
At 1/07/2011 10:51 AM, Blogger T McLaughlin said...

Shoals makes some good points here. The most important ones to me are the "instant fame" thing and the "game show" ideals we as a country embrace.

Williams seems like a decent fellow, but how will this all affect him? Is it really good for him in the long run to have all this media attention? I don't know the answer but it's a valid concern.

Also, Shoals' emphasis on the American Dream becoming the success of 1 or 2 reality TV stars per year is a true issue. Every major media outlet would like you to believe these characters represent all that is good about the country. If that is the truth, it is a sad state of affairs.

I enjoyed the Williams story, it reallly made about 20 minutes of my day (more than most things). This post is a bit contrarian, but it also has valid concerns.

 
At 1/07/2011 10:54 AM, Blogger T McLaughlin said...

Notice the sweet repetition at the end of my 2nd and 4th paragraphs. This is how your comments look when you're at work trying to hide freedarko

 
At 1/07/2011 11:30 AM, Blogger The Dummies said...

"He's not the only homeless dude with marketable skills, or a hard luck story that at one point, showed real promise."

Somewhere, Antoine Walker is smiling.

 
At 1/07/2011 11:45 AM, Blogger Yago Colás said...

btw, in honor of the Hawk, someone should do the following dunk that Hawk remembers Jackie Jackson doing when he was a kid: "The Double Dooberry with a Cherry on Top": "On a fastbreak, he'd take a pass at the foul line and jump toward the basket, holdin the ball in his two hands. While he was going forward and up, hanging in the air, he wold lower the ball down to his waist, raise it over his head, lower down again, raise it back up, and *then* slam in a dunk. Nobody in the world can do that shot but him."

 
At 1/07/2011 12:56 PM, Blogger daemian said...

the main issue for Williams is that he is highly likely to relapse when his life improves if he doesn't put some serious safeguards in place. Nobody seems to realize that. You don't go from being a drunk/junkie/bum to being a civil member of society without putting a lot of extra work in. Good luck to him.

 
At 1/10/2011 1:28 AM, Blogger chris said...

Sarver's an asshole, no doubt about it. This would have never happened if Jerry Colangalo was still in charge. He was all about bringing back older players and taking care of them. Shoals, as a lifelong Suns fan this is sick! I don't care if the blow, the do, I can watch great NBA from other places. Karma is a bitch, right Sarver?

 
At 1/11/2011 3:20 AM, Blogger William said...

No matter what Phoenix does, I will always feel ok by remembering that they basically sold off player after player for "cash considerations" and would've had the sickest team had they not done so.

 
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