Message from the ombudsman

To this point in my tenure as FreeDarko ombudsman (I prefer "public editor," but as this title was bestowed upon me, I have accepted that some things are beyond my control), I have not found it imperative for either me or my staff to respond so formally to any comments left by our readers. Much of the reader response has been quite positive, and the few negative comments have rarely risen above the level of crude insult, and as such, have been ignored. However, within the past week, there has been a great deal of criticism concerning the purview of this blog and its particular rhetorical style, and since we have but a modicum of interest in the outcome of the second round of the playoffs, we thought we might as well address these points directly.

Perhaps most distressing was a recent comment left by an anonymous reader suggesting that this site was "played" and was merely trying to emulate other more prominent sports and entertainment outposts:

Kobe's the next MJ, Kobe's NOT the next MJ, blah blah blah. The whole subject is worn out, tired, played. Don't care what Skip Bayless thinks about it, don't care what you think about it. The league is great right now for the players and the teams as they are, not for who the can be compared to. Move on, Page Two wannabes.

SilverBird 5000 responds:

Thank you for your succinct and well-reasoned criticisms. I wish I could say you were wrong, and that comparing Kobe and Jordan is in fact a worthwhile enterprise. But to tell you the truth, I don't care about it either. In fact, the only reason I write for FreeDarko (besides the money) is so I can get more traffic to my other blog - and true passion - The English Revolution, by SilverBird5000 .

Actually, your comment about the stupidity of comparing Kobe and Jordan reminded me of a post I once wrote rejecting the comparison of the English Revolution to other historical revolutions (particularly the French Revolution). Much like Kobe-Jordan, it is my belief that such comparisons inevitably marginalize the English Revolution, and detract from its singularly awesome revolutionary power. Besides, how could we possibly improve our understanding of the English Revolution by distracting ourselves with some other country/century's revolution? It makes no sense!

Finally, your suggestion that we are merely "Page Two wannabes", though seemingly odd in the context of a hit-piece on Skip Bayless, betrays a deep and undeniable truth. When you get right down to it, the most fundamental contributions of this blog - from its interest in sports, to the fact that its written in English - are painfully, and indeed embarrassingly, unoriginal.

I have nothing of substance to add to SilverBird's response, other than to recommend that you waste no time in clicking over to The English Revolution blog that he mentions. I find it to be of astonishingly high quality and a welcome addition to what I must unfortunately refer to as "the blogosphere."

To return to matters more germane to FreeDarko, I shall quote from a complaint written by another anonymous reader:

I like you guys so much more when you talk about something concrete instead of waxing lyrical about nothing in particular (debating 'fast', 'quick' and 'explosive' was a lowpoint).

Bethlehem Shoals, being the wax lyricist in question, answers this criticism:

To address this stinging criticism of everything I fancy myself to be, let me recount for you an important scene from my trip to New Orleans. Visiting a friend in that city in this day and age involves hearing a lot of insider speculation on where the place is headed. Usually, this means you find out very quickly that most of what you’ve heard is a lie, or at least a gross over-simplification.

My friend could not give a fuck less about football. But when we drove past the Superdome for the first time, I couldn’t help but ask if she knew anything about the Saints’ coping strategies. Would they lower ticket prices and become the people’s team? Count on Reggie Bush making them a regional attraction? Would the Bush-as-savior angle be an uncouth one for the franchise to publicly push, or was it even something they’d have to make explicit? I took a second to describe Bush’s style and the Times story on his "Basement Tapes," but only to make it clear what folk hero potential dude has.

About half an hour later, it somehow came up that her younger sister (also in town) had some interest in sports. My friend suggested, partly to be polite, that she might be of more help in this conversation, since she could actually make some sense of what happens on a football field.

Sorry to disappoint you all, but my answer was “why would I want to talk about that?”

As an aside, we here at FreeDarko have been alarmed at the number of readers who are commenting anonymously. Is the Blogger interface perhaps too difficult or burdensome to navigate? Readers are encouraged to email with any suggestions for improving the ease of commenting on the site, as we find feedback from our readers to be of great value. SilverBird had a different interpretation and wondered if the prevalence of anonymous commenting might be related to privacy issues:

What's up with all the anonymous commenting? Discussion is so much easier with people who have names. I understand the desire to keep a low profile online, but do you honestly feel like "Megalodon422" isn't deep enough cover? I'm just saying...

Finally, reader David Soll was impelled by a comment made by our Dr. Lawyer IndianChief about "post-colonial literature class" to take a stand for intertextuality:

As a fan of the rhetorical slant usually taken on freedarko, it bothers me to see Dr. Lawyer IndianChief assume a pejorative stance to intertextuality. If the doctor is unwilling to take on fully the Lacanian/post-structural mantle of every statement beginning as a response to the Other, it seems to me that recognition is at least in order for the dialectical approach taken in some of the finer posts on this blog.


There is, I'd like to think, a middle ground between a total "death of the author," Foucauldian paralysis and a more careful, complex approach to the intertextuality of opinion formation. The doctor claims to prefer blogs which can be appreciated in "isolation" - well, to me this sounds like a dismissal of what attracts me to freedarko in the first place. It is claims to isolation, not isolation itself (which I really do think is a fiction), that allows analysis to take over the game and constitute an unfree Darko. If what you're looking for is isolated claims to objective determinacy, nearly every other sports thinker in the country is already doing this, and their perpetual failure seems to (at least in part) have been the impetus for this far more compelling blog.

DLIC responds thusly:

I would like to say that I appreciate your well-thought out and articulated point, I realize that you are by and large complimenting us, but I think you and I simply have different worldviews here. My initial point was to say that: (a) we are not simply a blog of dissing Bill Simmons (i.e. the other guys) and that (b) we can stand on our own two, rather than reprazenting "what the blogs have to say about that" or "counter-culture" or "the iPod generation's take on basketball" or merely a "response" to something presumably larger (mainstream media). While in college, it bothered me to no end that people were only able to discuss (and hence praise) the artwork, literature, music of certain (often marginalized) populations IN TERMS of how such work spoke in reaction to a "dominant culture." That, to me, is how intertextuality allows people to diss great works of art and think that they're lauding them.

Invisible Man is an ill book. Why? Because dude is invisible. And we all know what that feels like. Shit is universal. I don't know if Ellison is speaking to or against James Baldwin, Joseph Stalin, or Uncle Sam, but I know I find it highly enjoyable. Does knowing a decent amount of Af-Am history enhance my liking for the book? Hell yes, but not necessarily. I'd like to imagine a baby born tomorrow in Papua, New Guinea could grow up with no frame of reference for that time period/situation, read the book in 15 years and still find it to be a great book.

And so I'm to the point where I'm getting inevitably hypocritical, because I'm the first in line to discuss/praise/insult Kobe/Lebron/KG for being everything MJ/Magic/Bird are not, but I still appreciate, for example, Kobe in isolation, because he's a smarmy fuck that can only exist in this New NBA, of no Dream Team and of no Laimbeer.

While I understand DLIC's point, it seems to me that he may be understating the importance of context in analyzing and appreciating a work of art, whether it be a novel or Ray Allen's jumpshot. At any rate, I find it unnecessary to quote such blowhards as Lacan or Foucault to make what is, in the end, a very simple point. After all, we're just talking about basketball.


At 5/12/2006 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I still appreciate, for example, Kobe in isolation, because he's a smarmy fuck that can only exist in this New NBA, of no Dream Team and of no Laimbeer."

burying the lead, in true freedarko fashion. that might be the best summary of kobe i've ever read. isn't that why everyone hates kobe, becuase even though he might not be the best or the most sympathetic, he stands for the league in a way that no other player can?

My question is, if kobe stands for the nba of a certain era, is that era now past? kobe was the standard bearer of high school to the nba, and the kobe-shaq lakers defined basketball for serious and casual fans alike. now that there are no more preps-to-the-pros, and detriot and san antiono have definitively closed the door on the star-driven lakers, does kobe make any sense anymore? are we all struggling with him because he's irrelevant?

verification = ukfcxk = ox-fuck

At 5/12/2006 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the anonymous posts reflect a lack of familiarity with the culture of this blog. The things anonymous posters have said generally backs up that theory, in my mind.

As far as I can tell, this is a basketball blog that isn't about basketball. Anons don't seem to realize this. Show them a little patience, and don't get as worked up about their posts.

At 5/12/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

to add another voice to the mumble, here is what a distinguished lit professor of mine had to say about freedarko. i'd sent him a link to burns's reminisince of tamar goodman, as a way of explaining why i still hadn't turned in last semester's final paper.

Your sports articles are clever and elegant but again, is it not merely esthetic charm? The ancient Rabbis were not unaware of the accomplishmnet of the Greeks but they noticed that the culture was unhinged. Ethics went one way the art another. And if they were wrong to say: Greek accomplishment: many flowers few fruit!, they were not entirely wrong. Israel always chose ethics over art.

real recognize real, i suppose.

WV: solivso!!!!!

At 5/12/2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Pacifist Viking said...

FreeDarko posts are usually good examples of contrapuntal writing. But contrapuntal writing isn't just about form--it is inherently a different way of organizing thoughts and making connections, thus a different way of THINKING.

At 5/12/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger OG said...

thanks for taking time away from your basic research on nano and nanocomposite ceramics to address these concerns. keep up the good work!

At 5/12/2006 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I waver between thinking you guys are completely full of shit and thinking you're actually rather brilliant. I suspect the truth is in the middle. Regardless, I read every post. You're certainly not Page 2/Sports Guy wannabes and that's commendable in and of itself.

Oh, and I post anonymously (with an embedded closing signature) because I don't belong to Blogspot and I hope to keep it that way. My blog is "off the grid", so to speak.

Scott Carefoot

At 5/12/2006 3:40 PM, Blogger Jimmy the Tiger said...

Thank you for calling attention to the unwarranted namechecking (Lacan, Foucault...I'm surprised dude didn't throw in Deleuze or Derrida for good measure) espoused by Mr. Soll. We've all read that shit. When incorporated into art, intertextuality is a beautiful thing (James Joyce), but taken as a naked intellectual approach to life, it's so much hot air. Celebrating the art of basketball (as I think you do) is a more noble pursuit, in my mind, than any attempt to "academicize" the game. Right on.

At 5/12/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger Gentlewhoadie Apt One said...

Basketball is my least favorite of the 4 major sports. I follow it, but I don't check the box scores or know anything about, say, Denver's bench scoring or Portland's draft strategy. But thanks to freedarko, it's the only sport blogged about with the due amount of Penham Place aplomb (not to mention my beloved Ardmore Avenue erudite hauteur). Hence, I read.

Thanks for making me kind of care about the NBA from July through April. Way to go, dunbaums.

Also, more Ghostface references please.

At 5/12/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

In the words of St. Paul:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For me, FD represents an adult approach to the NBA: aesthetics, narrative and myth. Through this framework, FD brings a humanities-centered sensibility to enjoying the Association. Whether it be waxing philosophical, poetic or literary, no other blog or publication offers such a uniquely learned perspective on a game of physical prowess. Unconcerned with winning, losing and rooting for the "hometown" team, FD examines the epic, the tragic and the damned; exalting in the transcendence of the game and eschewing that which is mundane.
Sprinkle some hip-hop and Spurs-bashing into the mix, and voila! Freedarko.

At 5/12/2006 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would just like to add to the discussion that context is necessary for language and meaning and therefore one's perspective, be it analytic, poetic or political, is essential (and unavoidable) for the exploration of truth (one may add scare quotes around "truth").
What is remarkable on this site is the development of a common grammar among different readers who take to the game of a basketball a number of unique perspectives. Such perspectives are uncommon in traditional sports commentary.
Freedarko seems to me to be an evolving thing, and self-crticial as well.
And, most importantly, does Dirk Nowitzki have a good nickname yet?

At 5/12/2006 5:34 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

I like the Grand Teuton, but is that racist?

At 5/12/2006 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick response to DLIC, Brown Recluse, Esq., and "don't do this to yourself": I was invoking Lacan and Foucault because they represent (in some ways) the general perspective that was being dismissed by DLIC. I agree that the importance of context can be defended without falling back on complicated critical theory, but DLIC was talking specifically about what happens in "post-colonial literature class." Namechecking (or citing your sources, as some people call it) can be annoying, but to say that the question of context is simple is to overlook the tremendous backlash that this 'simple point' usually evokes. If it's a simple point on the surface, actually living it (the way most posts on this blog, as cephalapod points out, do) requires a good deal of nuance.

Furthermore, "don't do this to yourself"'s argument that thinking about basketball in complicated terms is somehow the opposite of celebrating it really does signal a fundamental difference of opinion between us, and one I'm not going to try to totally paper over by further clarifying my point. Just to say that I'm really not trying to simplify everything down to its context - I agree with FDIC that great art and great sports can open up their own context as they go (and as much as the next guy I hate hipsters who wear trucker hats with pictures of trucker hats on them). At the same time, though, Kobe is manifestly never in isolation. The entire game is about the antagonism that arises between players of different styles, and then the varying styles and identities which rise out of those clashes. This is the difference between a basketball game and a slamdunk contest. Sam Cassell's jumpshot is a completely different animal when it's performed in practice than when it's performed in transition at a pivotal moment in a playoff game's emotional trajectory. But this is a slightly different point from my original comment, which was just that criticism in particular - even clever, hyper-analytic, surprising basketball criticism - does not exist without context (much less the 'powerful other'), and the illusion that it can is often counterproductive.

At 5/12/2006 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't they call him the Dunkin' Dutchman for a while,? But that might be a little anachronistic to his mid-range game, as well as played.

Also, Don't Do This To Yourself: a) I think you missed the point of Soll's comment and DLIC's rebuttal and b) you can't berate namechecking and drop Deleuze and Derrida in the same breath and c) since "we've all read that shit" as you say, wouldn't that be a recognized common ground, and therefore allow us to understand the complete argument more wholly?

At 5/12/2006 6:00 PM, Blogger Thomas M. said...

Rik Smits was the Dunkin' Dutchman.

Dirk would be the Dunkin' Duetschmann.

Verification = vipwo!

At 5/12/2006 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott Carefoot
If you're trying to be funny , forget it . You are awful.
Stick to your pathetic blog .

At 5/12/2006 8:36 PM, Blogger crawfish warmonger said...

a telling thing about how i view this blog is that i have it in my bookmarks under 'sports', whereas Simmons is under 'funny'. the name dropping never irritates me, i thought it was part of the charm. if i wanted to read the thoughts of a basketball fan who thinks 'detournement' is what happens in March, it's not as if i lack for options there.

At 5/12/2006 10:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I think I'm way too long out of school to drop meaningful references to Paul de Man or Martin Heidigger (aside from just name checking right there with the lead) - but I come to FreeDarko because it allows me a space to read people who appreiciate hoops in a context much larger than the usual critic's palette of ppg, PER - and deal with more heady issues. Or at least it gives me a chance to stretch my vocabulary in a way I haven't had to use it since writing papers for poli sci 144 back in Berkeley.

Besides, it gives all of us a home to over intellectualize a bunch of 20-something multi-millionaires whose biggest daily decision is if the team is wearing black shoe/black socks or white shoes/white socks with this evening's uniform. Anywho, I can't think of any other place on the web I could write a paean to Terence Stansbury and drop references to Styles of Beyond and Ghostface in it and have it read AND appreciated. (Just ask, and I'll write one too).

Word Verification: sywkr = Skywalker = Kenny "Sky" Walker

At 5/13/2006 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... Kobe in isolation, because he's a smarmy fuck that can only exist in this New NBA, of no Dream Team and of no Laimbeer."

I don't get this. You have two true statements, that Kobe is a smarmy fuck, and that today's NBA has no dream team and Laimbeer, but you hinge them with a statement that may be true, but certainly isn't backed up. Why is it impossible to see Kobe playing ten or fifteen years ago? He actually is a ten year veteran. I can see arguments why Kobe wouldn't be as smarmy in the Jordan era as he is now, or that back in the day they didn't have smarmy fucks like Kobe is now, but you didn't make any of these arguments. You just threw it out there, and hoped we were watching closely as it sailed over our heads.

I bring this up because it's pretty much the only thing I have against FreeDarko. There is basically a lot of stuff that is accepted because it sounds pretty, or seems too good to be true.

At 5/13/2006 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that when I finally enter the ranks of graduate students (like at least one of the authors of this fine site) I'll be confident enought to comment leaving my true handle. Don't worry, that moment's only 3 months away. As an addenum, I realize this is somewhat random but then again I've become friends with Mr. Ron Bacardi tonight and am somewhat drunk. To cap it off, go Pistons. Those of us from the midwest must have something to hope for.

At 5/13/2006 1:33 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

re: freedarko's academic tendencies. i've basically been doing this for the past year and a half instead of paying attention to grad school. i know that silverbird's been suffering the same fate these last few weeks, and i suspect the blog has had a detrimental effect on dlic's research. i guess what i want to make clear is that, yes, this is part of who we are, but in many ways freedarko is an alternative, even a rebellion against, that world. we're as much of a threat to comp lit. as to skip bayless.

WV (no lie): RANKPITY

At 5/13/2006 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody has commented on the englishrevolution.blogspot.com. That is some clever stuff, "too good to be true" from the 12:43am comment.

To the same commenter, Mr. Jack, merely observe: Back in the old NBA, either Mahorn or Laimbeer would have roughed up the young ibn Jellybean (that's arabic), or else Magic/Bird/Barkley/Erving/etc. who MADE THE LEAGUE INTO WHAT IT IS would have taken him out back and quietly scolded him with some moral suasion. Or roughed him up.

At 5/13/2006 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you missed my point

At 5/13/2006 2:48 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

people: this is the problem with posting anonymously. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT POINT YOU ARE REFERING TO.

now, if the goal here is to mischieviously suggest that something has been misunderstood by someone somewhere. . . i'm not quite sure what to make of that.

At 5/13/2006 2:52 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if that was the most recent anon--i was trying to say that someone being in grad school doesn't mean shit to me and probably creates more false confidence than anything else. it's the inclination to apply that's meaningful, even if it's somewhat misguided

At 5/13/2006 3:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry that was me posting as anonymous. I think I messed up clicking the other button

At 5/13/2006 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh the pain!


At 5/13/2006 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the russian revolution was much cooler than the english revolution. and the cuban revolution was cooler than the russian revolution if you ignore that whole, you know, outcome thing.

At 5/13/2006 1:03 PM, Blogger Gentlewhoadie Apt One said...

I don't know what to make of the fact that a blog about the english revolution seems to have been created explicitly to provide fodder for an off-hand joke.
That's pretty real.

At 5/13/2006 1:49 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

Wow, that picture of Amare almost made me cry. My goodness, but I do miss him.

At 5/13/2006 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a relative latecomer to FD, so I can't speak to the history of the site...

However, Ralph Ellison aside, it seems to be 100 percent about context.

In the world of the typical sportswriter, there are established tropes, reference points, phrases, etc. that constitute the entire universe of the commentary. The only world that they care about is the one "on the court/field" and then occasionally the one that expands to the immediate personal lives of the players, when something scandalous or heroic happens.

This changes once or twice a year, when someone dies, there is an international crisis, etc., and the sportswriters wring their hands and beat their breats and exclaim, "It's only a game."

Someone like Simmons expands this context by placing sports within an entire cosmos of popular U.S. culture. His appeal is that his universe is a more diverse one than that of Skip Bayless et al.

The editorial and philosophical stance of FD seems to be rooted in the idea that it's illusory to separate sports into its own ghetto category of things that we shouldn't care about but do. It implies a criticsm of the viewpoint that it's OK to invoke Derrida when discussing a piece of art (high culture) but using the same referents for sports (low culture) is nonsense and/or pretense.

From my perspective, there is no attempt to "intellectualize" sports, but a legitimate view of basketball from the perspective of people who don't try to separate basketball from the rest of their identities.

The cliche would be the biochemist, the copyright lawyer, and the astronaut all cheering for some sports team and "embracing the dubmness" of the whole venture. But that's the real pretense; isn't it more valid for a biochemist to understand the battle between the Spurs and the Pistons in the same way that he understands lipid proteins?

Similarly, for a person whose consciousness is populated with commentary from Foucalt or Gide or Nietzche, then why should that shut down in the face of certain aspects of their lives?

This isn't to try and make sports into something that is essentially life-changing, but I can tell you that whether the Lakers win or lose has a greater effect on my life than my personal understanding of Einstein's theory of special relativity.

Because the established identity of sports and sports commentary is so deeply entrenched in its "separate universe" culture, attempts at integration are seen as contrapuntal rather than holistic and natural.

At 5/13/2006 4:41 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

mj, good points. but for this hypothetical biochemist, isn't it his life and values that are the context? meaning, he's no more obliged to engage any particular thinker, idea or author than he is the cliches of the sports world. i guess i'm saying that i'd like to believe that one can have a wholly idiosyncratic appreciation of basketball, one that draws as much as it needs to on the high, the low, and the in-between without ever someone being held accountable to anyone/anything else on a technicality.

sports journalism is like ocean sounds, i find theory torturous, and i can count on one hand the works of literature i've gotten through in the last four years. yet freedarko clearly resembles all of these endeavors in some ways. but actually bringing it to bear on/calling it before any one of these contexts would probably involve downplaying what it has in common with the other to.

unless you just want to think of freedarko as a series of chain reactions that result from the natural push and pull of competing genres. we're what's left at the bottom of the reactor and WE ARE DEADLY!!!!!!!

At 5/13/2006 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Y'know, you could always just not offer the anonymous posting option...

At 7/21/2006 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um....where's Mark Clayton? I want more Clayton blogs!!!


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