We Dance to All the Wrong Songs

As some of our most tried and true idols begin to lose some of their luster, now more than ever we must focus on the construction of the mythology of tomorrow. Even in its darkest hours, this will always be a league of heroes, both big and small, worthy of celebration. In serious need of breaking into that canon is the mythical beast that is Ronny Turiaf. During his first year and a half in the league, he perfected the role of the bench cheerleader. Now, in just his second full season, this is the year he makes the leap from local fan favorite to league-wide cult hero while revolutionizing what a "hustle player" should be.

When Ronny Turiaf's promotion to the starting lineup was first announced, my immediate concern was not of his absurd foul rate or even the fulfillment of the TOIH prophecy, but of how the bench would handle his absence. By which I mean, not so much how the second unit would adjust to not having Ronny around to provide the spark, but how the cluster of individuals still in warm-ups would sustain its influence on the ebb and flow of the game if Ronny was checked in rather than busting loose on the sidelines during key stretches.

We hear about a player's off-court issues or on-court personality, but the Turiafs of the world remind us of the oft-ignored side-of-court dimension. For the majority of last year I thought of Ronny as a human-like mascot that was allowed to wander onto the floor occasionally for reasons unknown. But in his role as a sidelined sideshow he is by no means a purely ornamental decoration; there is both utilitarian and aesthetic value to Ronny's out-of-bounds outbursts.

While previous bench favorites such as Mark Madsen rarely succeeded at eliciting more than giggles, Ronny's celebrations are capable of consistently providing a shot of adrenaline for the fans, himself, and his teammates. I firmly believe that he more than once spirited the crowd and team to victory last year from the end of the bench.

All that said, my initial trepidation about the effect of an increase in playing time and the corresponding loss of much needed towel-waving time was clearly misguided. First off, he hasn't quite worked out that foul rate issue, guaranteeing he'll continue to have at least 20 minutes a night not-so-firmly planted to the pine. The fact that he enthusiastically takes credit for every foul in his vicinity, while badass in its distinct way, might not be helping that situation. More importantly, however, what Ronny accomplishes on the court can't really be viewed in any way except as an extension of his sideline antics. Whether it's by committing an uncalled technical after every dunk, roaring with each blocked shot, or nearly coming to blows with teammates over loose balls, Ronny has thankfully discovered the basketball equivalent of this:

Which, considering the traditional interpretations of his role in the team hierarchy, is a revolutionary accomplishment. Perhaps unfairly based on the ├╝berwhiteness of dudes like David Lee, the prototypical energy guy has always been tied to Protestant work ethic, hustling on rebounding and defense, and above all else, selflessness. In essence, playing basketball "the way it was meant to be played" and giving the 11-foot-rim crowd boners. While Ronny undeniably incorporates all those features in his game, he has also injected equal parts swag and absurdity, escaping the banality of those that came before him.

The fact that his heart was literally too big to play basketball only enhances his myth. He both watches and plays the game with an enthusiasm so contagious that even Kobe can't help but shift from smirk to smile in his presence. Ronny transcends to a higher order of being than hustle players by bringing a spirituality typically reserved for our stars to a role typically reserved for minutes-grubbing materialists like Brian Cardinal. He does the dirty work that traditionalists ooze over with a style that demands attention and respect, making him the olive branch extended across the aisle, capable of bringing joy to all sides.


At 11/08/2007 4:29 AM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

Full disclosure: "minutes grubbing materialists" was lifted from my e-mail exchanges with Shoals. I have no problem admitting the best line in the piece wasn't actually mine.

As far as the stylistic differences, maybe I didn't express my point clearly enough, but what I was trying to argue is that Ronny makes a celebration out of the mundane. As I see it, the Madsens of the world are purely the spectacle without the functionality. The Rambises are the functionality without the joy. Where Ronny succeeds in my eyes is in marrying the two.

At 11/08/2007 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. As a Lakers fan I'm so excited about Turiaf's rise that I fear a little for Odom's return and what it will mean minutes-wise. I just hope Odom gets Kwame's, Mihm's and Cook's minutes.

What strikes me about Turiaf is that the emotion he exhibits seems so unreflected. A lot of what he does when celebrating makes him look a little stupid, but he just doesn't care. Nor does he channel this into a (faux?) tough guy act like Kenyon Martin or a stylized routine like Vince Carter's unbarable double-gas motorcycle revving.

During this week's great Lakers-Jazz game, Bynum and Farmar rightfully got a lot of the headlines, but Turiaf played an almost as integral part. And during a replay one of the best plays of the game, a Walton to Bynum alley-oop plus foul, I caught myself looking away from the action and concentating on the bench in the background where Turiaf immediately started a feet-up-to-the-chest dance. Which excited me just as much.

Oh, and through his operation and recovery, Turiaf became close friends with Fred Hoiberg, which should count for something.

At 11/08/2007 4:56 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I generally agree with Carter's Turiaf argument, but, as a right-thinking Bay Area basketball fan, I have to defend Powe within this model.

From a purely functional perspective, I agree with T. that he's not very FD, although I think you could make an argument for his college self given his domination by way of a relatively simple style. His personal history is so amazing, though, that it's impossible not to read his play as some extension of that, even if I'm not sure exactly how the two connect. No matter the connection, though, every movement becomes incredibly soulful in a way that the contextless games of your Brian Cardinals lack. Perhaps that's unfair to those guys, but it certainly explains the draw of Powe (outside of the outside geographical affinity, although it's not like I ever loved Ray Young, Luke Whitehead, and Marquise Kately). In a way, Powe is like the more unassuming version of Ronny -- for both, the on-court minutes are almost secondary.

bcevyrmb: because of every rambis

At 11/08/2007 8:12 AM, Blogger dizzle said...

I assume that was Barry rolling on the floor? Great. Being a Chicagoan, Jack Haley comes to mind. Probably in the same general category, but a wildly different beast than the madsen. Literally never played, hardly even got dressed, on the roster simply to cheer when timeouts were called and to be friends with rodman (also unusual).
wv: nibmgpfi - nene in beast mode? getting pretty fucking insolent

At 11/08/2007 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nevermind Van Exel, look at Elden Campbell's (on Van Exel's right side) reaction. He just looks so disgusted and confused at the entire thing.

At 11/08/2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just wanted to prove how cool I am by pointing out that I got the "New Noise" reference. Fuck that album is awesome.

Great article, also.

At 11/08/2007 10:17 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/08/2007 10:42 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Paul Millsap is this, but with actual talent.

At 11/08/2007 11:26 AM, Blogger Enjolras said...

Turiaf has became friends with Etan Thomas, due to his recent surgery.

Back when he was with the 'Zags, he was a monster.

At 11/08/2007 11:38 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Please, it's "canon," and "Ronny" should probably be spelled with one "n" as well. Fear the Mansap.

At 11/08/2007 11:42 AM, Blogger lost said...

he's the bizarro-Oakley


At 11/08/2007 11:47 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Nice post, Carter. Though to be totally honest, I read this post and thought it was Shoals being ironic the whole way through, until I read the comments. You fooled me!

I agree with what you wrote, it's just a little bit absurd. This post is the equivalent of Damien Hirst's diamond encrusted skull.

At 11/08/2007 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Ronny dancing like no one's watching is infectious contagion that speaks to the yearnings of the human spirit is always pleasantly surprising, is surprising. It's unaffected and unabashed and all witnesses join in as the spectators become participants.

At 11/08/2007 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

goddammit Matt!
I wanted to be the first to refer to The Shape of Punk To Come. If any of you don't own this CD, fucking buy it now.

At 11/08/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

"as the spectators become participants" pretty much captures everything awesome about Ronny.

@sml, my feeling was that any post about Ronny sort of has to be absurd.

@mc welk, duly noted on canon, correction made. But if I'm wrong about Ronny's spelling, then so is wiki, espn, nba.com, etc.

As far as Millsap goes, he belongs in this conversation because he does the things that Ronny does but better (although I don't think you can argue that Ronny doesn't do them well), but he definitely can't rival Ronny in terms of depth of feeling, whether it's his sneer or his smile.

At 11/08/2007 1:56 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Regarding Ronny vs Rony, officially he used to spell it with one 'n' but he changed that after his surgery-shortened rookie year and has since gone with the double 'n' spelling. And for Kaifa worrying about what will happen to Ronny's minutes once Odom returns (maybe on Friday), supposedly they're gonna go with Odom at the 3 this year so it'll be Luke's minutes Odom gets, not Ronny's.

At 11/08/2007 2:10 PM, Blogger lost said...

mc welk,

thanks for not leaving me to be the spelling prick today.

also, thanks for reminding me of Rony Seikaly. I was previously unaware of his nuptial achievements.

At 11/08/2007 3:14 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...


At 11/08/2007 4:45 PM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

oh weird a refused reference

At 11/08/2007 5:18 PM, Blogger wreakjavik said...

Between the Refused reference and the Ronny love, I have gone from a casual reader to slavish devotee in the space of one post.

Viva FD!

At 11/08/2007 5:39 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Kaifa: No worries about Ronny not starting or having his minutes reduced when Odom returns. The Lakers are set at not allowing Odom to play the four this season. They think that is part of the reason he has been getting hurt so much. Walton is going to move to the bench when Odom returns, so Ronny's job is safe for now.

At 11/08/2007 5:51 PM, Blogger J.R. said...

Refused is certainly FD: jazz infused hardcore, hardcore techno mes amis. When do the FD music reviews commence? I want a "Dennis Lyxzen as World B. Free" tirade, and I want it now. Flip it so that Jazz is the most NBA of all musical forms, not the other way around.

At 11/08/2007 5:53 PM, Blogger Justin said...

I have so many Ronny stories from his time here at GU (by the way, it's always been "Ronny" but feel free to project your revisionist spelling on past events that didn't happen). The man lives by his own (beautiful) creed and will literally talk to any human being alive at any time. He is the antithesis of the cloistered superstar. That gets him into a lot of weird and humorous situations, but all of those situations arise from his deep love of and faith in people around him. Plus, dude rocks 6 languages now.

At 11/08/2007 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy shit! Just saw this at TrueHoop.
Steve Nash INTENTIONALLY tripped Ray Felton on the play where he was injured.


This, along with the Baron/Manu flops of the past week have made an ugly start to this season.

At 11/08/2007 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Wild Yams/Nate Jones: That is great news, although Odom seemed more effective when he posted up rather than hanging out at the 3-point line.

Now if Walton still gets around the same minutes plus the ones from Cook, than I'm good.

@ Justin: That was the kind of vibe I got from the snippets of interviews I caught of Turiaf. And please share some of the stories, you won't find a better forum than here (except maybe Forumblueandgold).

WV: vintg - that's already a word, dammit

At 11/08/2007 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is like a bizarro Rick Reilly on acid.

At 11/09/2007 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, not one Ronnie Milsap reference, with both names mentioned several times in consecutive replies. Not one.

At 11/09/2007 6:13 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Alright, well I'll start with one that always comes to mind when we're talking about Ronny and that may have some carry over onto the court. Ronny always always always wants to be involved in fixing things and helping people who need help. It lights up his face - getting his hands dirty. He and I were passing acquaintances - he knew my name, I obviously knew his, but we weren't everyday friends.

Anyway, I had been DD one night and had finished getting everyone home in my friend's car. It was on empty and she gave me some cash to go fill it up so that she didn't have to do it in the morning. At the gas station, I discovered her gas cap didn't work quite right - there was a hitch or something, but I wasn't getting it. (Drunken) Ronny saw me from across the street struggling with this thing and changed direction, literally jogging to figure out what was wrong. After some good-natured Creole swearing and a lot of knicked up knuckles, he eventually popped it off and beamed at his own accomplishment before patting me on the head (I'm 6'5") and whistling off to wherever he was headed. I live and breathe GU basketball, but I still recognize that some of the guys are dicks (coughBlakeSteppcough) and I have a good enough perspective on things to realize that Ronny was cut from a different cloth.

At 11/09/2007 10:43 AM, Blogger lost said...

@myself-Oakley is the bizarro Turiaf. [fixed]

same super-powers, but with convoluted logic , malevolent instead of benevolent. also Oak's face am more beautiful like Bizarro.

@Ian- i think 'bizarro' and 'on acid' may be redundant. or do you mean to imply that it's doubly malformed? but it could be a double-negative, like two waves of distortion of equal amplitude canceling each other to create normalcy. It all depends upon whether they are in phase, as in constructive interference, or out of phase, as are Patrick Ewing's nostrils.

anyhow, 'Rick Reilly' and 'on acid' are redundant

w/e, nice post. it and Justin's stories make me want to watch laker games from a simple, sports fan point-of-view.

At 11/09/2007 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Bizzaro Rick Reilly on acid.

What I mean is this: Assume we have a bizarro Rick Reilly (ex: "Me am hate athletes in wheelchairs!") then say that this bizarro Rick Reilly dropped acid, further distancing himself from the real Rick Reilly in all aspects, but keeping the same subject (inspirational athletes). Kind of like Bizarro Superman wearing the regular Superman costume.

Did that make any sense?

At 5/17/2013 5:55 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

it is quite a picture that they took for Ronny Turiaf's promotion. I would like to see more pictures like that at Sportsbook Lines forum but it is quite hard for the copyright


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