So We Can All Be Free

I'm running around Portland, trying to play real reporter for SLAM. As much as I fancy myself the [insert fancy sports writing dilettante here] of NBA coverage, by the end of today I'll probably be better known as its Fran Drescher.

So in the interest of the pain inside me, and whatever pain I may cause others, here's a bunch of photos of Gerald Wallace as a kid. I would link to the Amir Johnson candids I put up earlier this season, but wait...THEY'RE GONE FOREVER. Seriously people with blogs (the textless, whip-smart elegance of TYI excluded), back up your images. That's what I'm doing here, and tacitly daring Flickr to do its worst.

And how could I not, when I have these to share with you. Some forms of community are bigger than social networkings reticulated bird-brain. We have the ether on our side. They have only mice and switchboards.

Oh, and if you think this shit is creepy or stalky, obviously you've never tried to write a book chapter about a fairly obscure NBA players. The woodwork falls to pieces and you stand in the presence of unlikely relics.

Anyone in the media room at tonight's game, holler at me. I look like space.

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Learn As You Go

I don't read much, so it's odd that I'm kicking off Ballhype's books/sports series. But I did. It's all about baseball, I've meant to write it for a while, and I like it a lot. I hope you enjoy it.

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Baby Death

First, read Krolik's post from earlier today. It's excellent.

Secondly, if you've noticed a bunch of "image not available" holes here or on Heaven and Here, it's because my Flickr account has disappeared. At this point, I'm pretty sure it had something to do with my complete and total disregard for copyright laws. Or that other, absolutely irredeemable branch of it, in which it matters if I use an image of someone's ugly relative.

As you know, I've spent as much time looking for pictures as I have writing these things. So that's hours and hours of my life down the drain. Not to mention I now have a basically un-readable. This place is now a wasteland, and I don't have the time or energy to go back and fix it now. Realistically, there were about five-hundred images in that account; do you know how long it would take to just add a single, cursory one into each bombed-out post? Or even to make them totally image-less?

If any of you know how to clone my brain, bring it to maturity instantly, and get it to search for new images, please tell me. Or if someone wants to be an unpaid intern of some sort. Or knows how to travel back in time, using a machine found in a bank vault, and recall what I was thinking when I found these things.

Otherwise, you have heard the last from me until something else happens.

Update: Brilliant idea, MC Welk:

And I am getting somewhat into the idea of FD as this great, po-mo wreckage of thoughts and ideas. Like it was written less than three years ago but already has taken on the quality of far-off ruins. Actually, I used to feel that way about the archives even before the Great Loss.

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College Is No Place For Heartburn

In the last couple of years, the new rules have completely changed the way the game is played on the court and the way teams are built off the court.

The hand-check rules instituted after the 2003-04 season, LeBron and Wade's breakout year, as well as Steve Nash's first year with the Suns, changed the way the game is played, with shooting guards, point guards, and small forwards able to score as efficiently, if not more efficiently, than big men while being able to shoot far more. Overnight, lineups could be constructed in a whole new way-the Suns were the first team to exploit this by pushing Amare to the 5 and Marion to the 4 and playing fast-break ball, and the rest is history.

While it may seem like many of the league's elite teams continued to be successful without embracing the small-ball style the new rules favor, even teams that appear to be old-school in their execution took advantage of these new rules-Duncan still rules the Spurs, but they wouldn't have won in 2005 without Tony Parker, an ultra-quick guard with a shaky jumper, who benefited tremendously from the new rules and actually won the finals MVP in 2007 over Duncan. The only other team to win a championship under the new rules, Miami, also had a few nice contributions during the finals from an ultra-quick guard who can't shoot all that well. Dallas, another team who seemingly still plays the old style of basketball, wouldn't have been in the finals if it weren't for Devin Harris' breakout performance.

One effect the new rules seem to have had is that building around a good-but-not great offensive big who can't play defense is absolute death, as having an offense built around a big man scoring 25+ points a game on post-ups is no longer the best way to score and big men are now even more important defensively, as perimeter defenders now have almost no chance of shutting down elite perimeter scorers off the dribble, meaning the only way to stop them is to have a big man who can defend the rim.

The league's three worst defensive teams, Minnesota, Memphis, and New York all feature low-post scorers who shoot relatively low percentages for big men, lead the team in scoring, and can't defend anybody but are on the floor for most of the game because of their scoring ability, and Indiana, who were built around a low-post scorer and a perimeter defender, absolutely melted down after the new rules were put into place (although injuries and Melees certainly played a part as well, they weren't good even when they had all their players), and this year has indeed been better offensively with Jermaine O'Neal off the floor.

For NBA teams, the question has been whether or not their coach is able to adjust his style of play to the way the game has changed. That's a more difficult task than it would seem at first; the rules only changed 3 years ago, and most head coaches have been training for their jobs for the better part of decades, with their formative training coming in an age when defense and big man play ruled all.

The coaches of the NBA's fastest teams generally learned the game in some kind of unconventional way; D'Antoni learned the game over in Europe, where the shorter 3-point line, tighter rules, and bigger lanes have always promoted the same style of play as the new rules. Don Nelson and George Karl have always had a philosophy predicated on the exact opposite of conventional wisdom. Phil Jackson has an abundance of jewelry because of his ability to adapt his style of play to his team's strengths and the climate of the league. Jim O'Brien may have learned the game as a college, but he happens to be the son-in-law of Dr. Jack Ramsay, whose Blazers played the game fast and furious back in the day around an abundance of quick guards and Bill Walton's ability to zip outlet passes; no team ran on the court or in practice as much as Dr. Jack's Blazers. The other coach whose team is in the top six in scoring is Jerry Sloan, who has always been willing to adapt his offense...well, props to Jerry Sloan.

Meanwhile, the NBA's worst offensive teams are populated by old-school coaches. Pat Riley has always believed in the power of the center and physical D. Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman learned the game from Bobby Knight, the oldest of the old school. Mo Cheeks and Mike Dunleavy are set in their ways. Hawks assistant Mike Woodson was an assistant under Larry Brown.

Many head coaches are now hindered with the burden of their knowledge, a theory first applied to basketball by Malcolm Gladwell. The lessons they learned from decades in the game have effectively been rendered moot by David Stern's decision to open the game up a little bit and make it more like the European game. Mike Montgomery was simply completely unable to see what Don Nelson saw when he looked at the Warriors, because he saw the team through the lessons he learned from years of coaching the college game. When Scott Skiles' old assistant saw Marion and Amare, everything he had learned had taught him that there was no way to build an offense around Amare at the center, and Marion was no big man.

Last year, everybody who watched the Cavaliers play basketball except for Mike Brown knew that Daniel Gibson was a much better option than Eric Snow, but everything Mike Brown had learned had taught him that Snow's defense and game-management made him much more valuable skills to have in a guard than an undersized shooting guard. Randy Wittman would seem like a man with nothing to lose, but he refuses to throw out a lineup like Telfair-McCants-Green-Brewer-Jefferson because he is absolutely positive that small guards who can't shoot are useless, stringy 6-8 players with length can't guard power forwards, and it's always better to get a low-post look than a quick 3.

Whenever a coach refuses to change his offense, open things up, play smaller, or sit his young players in favor of mediocre veterans, we automatically assume two things: that the coach knows more about his team than we do and has a good reason for doing whatever he's doing. Both of those things are still true, but a valid reason in the mind of a coach could well have come from an age that is so different that it is less functional than a philosophy made with 1/10th of the time and experience, but based in the problems of the here and now rather than the problems of a bygone era. A ten-year old kid who has watched maybe five NBA games would say that dunking the ball is a good thing. The greatest basketball coach of all time would disagree. Sometimes, NBA coaches have to find their inner 10-year old to be successful in the face of change.

Hey Girl

Doing the darn thing at Deadspin today. And it's the same old story, this time told from the perspective of trying to get my life together to unleash myself full force back into the Freedarko fold.

Krolik is bringing the pain later on today.


MLK Day All-Stars

As fractured as we now find our nation--torn between red and blue states, secular and religious, haves and have-nots--today we remember that we were once even more starkly divided. It is a time to celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to reflect on his legacy. In the realm of sport, nowhere are the issues of race more conspicuous than in the NBA, so it is fitting that the Association does far more than any other professional sports league to celebrate MLK Day. Granted, the NFL isn't playing games on Monday night this time of year, and spring training doesn't begin for another month, but take a look at NHL.com and try to find a mention of Dr. King anywhere.

By contrast, the NBA offers up a full slate of games and festivities in his honor. Over on NBA.com, there are video interviews with some of our favorite players (Lebron James, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas) discussing the influence that Dr. King has had on their lives. However, other players have to let their actions on the court do the talking for them. From the perseverant Mississippian Travis Outlaw to the community-minded Chris Paul, the members of the first ever FreeDarko MLK Day All-Star team have all distinguished themselves with their inspired performances on this most noble holiday.


Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks
32 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
30 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks

Travis Outlaw, Portland Trailblazers
23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks

Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic
26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds

Ryan Gomes, Minnesota Timberwolves
35 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists


Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies
24 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists

Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
16 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds

Caron Butler, Washington Wizards
25 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals

Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
37 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists

Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics
24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals


Stamped and Moved

I really didn't think this would count as a live-blog of Suns/Lakers, first half. But then Billups was all "just tell 'em we're not trying to be Hollinger or Marc Stein," and that was enough for me to hear.

Billups: you think kobe saw the tom cruise video and thought, 'that is some real talk.”?
Bethlehem Shoals: it sounds like kobe, or at least the way I imagine kobe’s thoughts working. Has he ever considered converting?
B: i think he already is, naturally. he just needs to learn all the acronyms they have. i know all this bullshit because my aunt is a scientologist.
BS: is KSW a restaurant?
B: So, ksw: keeps scientology working. SP: suppressive personality.
BS: Kobe needs more acronyms in his life. Wasn't "kobe" an acronym at one point?
B: keep on balling eternally?
BS: Wasn't his record called "k.o.b.e."
B: i think it was called lifestylez of the well-travelled and emotionally retarded. one of the last fondle 'em releases. r.i.p.

BS: i fucking hate it when announcers say "so and so playing like a linebacker" or "billups is like a running back"
B: we're going to be liveblogging like strong safetys tonight
BS: wait, did chuck just call nash "a kicker”? that's like a triply-mixed sports metaphors. It's saying that the QB needs to be ripped so he can step up and bust heads.
B: i wish one of these dickfarmers would surprise me. like if boomer esiason looked up and said, tom brady is the new daniel plainview.

B: is there a bball equivalent to the following nfl shit: the marlo-esque vindictive-ness with which the pats slap teams around
BS: this year's nuggets winning a championship. Playing every game on the road.
B: how about the way philip rivers seems to be begging for death. Rodney harrison is gonna make that kid look like he just watched the tape from The Ring.
BS: you know my stance on that. If a quarterback can't whup a safety's ass, he's a fucking kicker that happens to throw the ball
B: Rivers is like the alcoholic friend dude nobody likes enough to bother staing an intervention
BS: the basketball equvialent? Webber playing center against dwight howard?
B: webber seems pretty secular but he keeps making me think of tyler perry for some reason.
BS: are you sure he doesn't remind you of someone who would be forced to appear in a tyler perry movie? i.e. stringer?
B: at this point i think idris is doing that shit voluntarily

B: my la-born co-worker was telling me that bynum's injury will be good for the lakers. That the "other centers" will "get loose"
BS: do these people know who the other centers are? or what "get loose" refers to, anatomically?
B: get loose i think means watch the tom cruise video
BS: this tom cruise video is the most lakers thing i've ever seen. by which i mean, the logical meeting point of who kobe is, who kobe thinks he is, phil, and trevor ariza.
BS: see, here's the thing: rich powerful people are weird anyway. instead of it being a cult that preys on them maybe it actually allows them some degree of normalcy. Like how crispin glover movies make retards popular.
B: it allows them to feel more like god than they already do. Cruise talks about how if he sees a car accident he has to stop because he knows he's the only one who can help. That's what kobe used to think about smush

B: apropos of nothing, did you see frank caliendo in black face the other night
BS: um, no. who was he playing?
B: he was doing barkley
BS: isn't blackface okay for fat people? because all fat people are more like each other than they are like their own people
B: charles seemed impressed but there was a few seconds where i thought he might tear his fucking tonsils out.
BS: impressed by the impersonation, or by the fact that he was in blackface?
B: well, i guess it was uncanny. i don't mind impressions, i just don't understand people who get balls deep into doing them. caliendo said some impressions take him 2 years to master.that's not some shit i'd put on my bucket list, nahmean?

B: how much longer is phil gonna coach?
BS: i like when phil indicates that coaching takes a lot of him. it seems like most of toll it takes is orthopedic. i mean, i believe bynum means another 2-3 years of everyone. even shaq
B: i didn't see the spurs game. did popp smack the shit out of longoria when parker missed the free throws?
BS: no, she's a ghost now. ghost longoria seems more attractive than the real thing--ghosts are naturally sleazy
B: i wonder what they talk about. the dearth of ideas combined with the language barrier
BS: they are slowly counting down from 100000000000000. at which point, eva will finally administer a blow job
B: you think he ran lines with her for over my dead body? "how can you be here, you are a ghost"

B: yo, have you seen juno?
BS: have i ever ("quarterback from the low-post position")
B: i really want marlo to tell chris to kill someone and cap it with, "honest to motherfucking blog: kill that dicksucker."
BS: i would like to see marlo in a campus comedy
B: the only black person in juno is someone in the abortion clinic. no alias chick for her, i guess. i had to watch the end of the departed just to cleanse my palette after seeing that.
i'm mad.
that diablo cody is the marsha to my jan
for no reason.
i'm gonna keep talking until you chime in.

BS: i have missed everyone of these amare dunks
B: i'm sure it will be better than you think
BS: the dunks or this live-blog?
B: both
BS: i was hoping the dunks would be worse than i thought


Loud News from Above

So after a year and change at FanHouse, I've decided to venture elsewhere. Starting on 2/4, I'll be part of the hand-picked team at The Sporting Blog. Pencil me in the somewhere between Shanoff, the Artist Formerly Known as Orson Swindle, Chris Mottram, Brian from Awful Announcing, and Large from No Mas. I'll also be holding down a weekly column on the "real" site, which has already raised all sorts of questions like "could the fictive 'Bethlehem Shoals' get credentials?" I bet no one ever asked Big L that.

Anyway, I am mightily stoked, and ready to lead a more focused, less frazzled writing life. If you haven't heard, I'm also working intensively on this FD book, which is part of why posting has been scarce. However, I think this new gig will free up a little more time for me to tromp around here. Win-win for all us boys and girls.


My Shameless Moral Inventory

Sorry to shell you with videos, the mark of true blogger sloth, but this one's gotta have it. No big secret around these parts that I'm an ardent fan of Southern soul, and fucked-up Southern cities, and thus find Memphis endlessly awesome. I've always wondered, though, how exactly the Grizzlies fit into this environment. While basketball may not be jazz, it has even less to do with Stax or Hi.

So you can imagine my giggly consternation when I found this promo for Staxtacular '08, hosted by. . . Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley. Worlds collide and histories begin. Look, I know that Stax is a civic cause, Graceland with a socially redeemable streak, and one of that city's few recent achievements. It's not like this means these Grizzlies are fans. And yet the juxtaposition here is almost too much for me to handle. The thought of Gasol doggedly nodding his head during an ancient Eddie Floyd's set is either my personal heaven or everyone's hell, I'm not quite sure.

Stax blog, get at me so we can figure this out. So I can sort through my feelings.

And in nominally related news, Ziller informed me today that Rudy Gay is from Baltimore. I had no idea.


FD Guest Lecture: Spit Shine My Mirror

Chris Sprow is the man behind Chicago Sports Weekly. Make some room and watch out!

In the fall, while he was doing the pub grind for his new shoes, I spoke with Ben Wallace for a while about the importance, style, meaning—name your clichéd descriptor—of his new shoes. Wallace grew up dirt poor, in Alabama, and amidst the typical spiel, his sincerity was clearly evident when he said that it would have made a difference to “me and my ma” when he was a kid if there were $15 shoes around … as in, the kind you could wear and not get laughed at. Any kid who’s rocked the NikeNoAir’s while others wore Penny’s can feel this.

Anyway, in the spring, Wallace had signed to join Stephon Marbury to pimp the Steve and Barry’s “Good Deeds” line in what might have been more of a coup for S&B if one guy didn’t spend his summer damn near bragging about his taste for too-young poon and showing off his religious affiliation to general misogyny, then followed it up with a season that makes people wonder if that’s peat moss they smell in the Garden; and the other didn’t go from a “good signing” to a Hollinger panic attack. If for whom the bell tolled got a buck for every point and board, on average, he still couldn’t score a pair of his own shoes. Regardless of the state of the cheap kick campaign, Wallace still felt he had to do this, for selfish reasons too. “Your name is a brand. That’s something I’ve learned,” he told me. “It’s important what you get involved with.”

This is, of course, is something of a copout. I’ve rarely heard of a case of athletes turning down gigs or goods that pay. No. 23—the apparent, not the heir—might be a symbol, but he also put his name on everything from batteries to bright whites, wieners to sugar water. His godlike status is ours, David Falk’s and Phil Knight’s creation, not merely his own. But I wonder, could it ever be the same if the marketing machine didn’t run so in step with MJ’s greatness? What if, in a media sense and in a commercial sense, you could stand to stand for nothing? What if you were associated with nothing? What if, in the age of image-shaping from the inside, you could foment a nihilistic approach to all but the game? And don’t say Timmmay; incapable isn’t a proxy for won’t.

I concluded with Wallace, and told him, ultimately, that there was some good here. “Nobody will get killed for these,” I wrote. “And that’s a good thing.” But I also thought later, what if someone got killed for shoes with my name on them? For you to not be named Wilhelm Maybach or Gottlieb Daimler, or someone of that ilk, and have that happen, is it not just the height of sick satisfaction? The point is, guys are more clear than ever about what they are associated with, because they’re being sold by the league as “people you can relate to,” which made MJ awesome, in a way, because if you tried to craft an ethos for him, he sold Hanes, and made you wince. You were never sure with him.

I called Nike headquarters the other day—where Mars Blackman is an accountant, and Chris Webber is athletic, and they hijacked the Force and bottle it—as a reporter with a query. In the history of the Jordan symbol, that majestic, suspended, tongue-wagging shadow, how many have been produced, I asked? Eyeball it, I said. How many Jordan symbols have been stitched, screen-printed, molded, burned, or transposed in some manner, into existence? A hundred million? That may encompass only the shoes. Twice that? Maybe it covers the t-shirts too. Key chains? Headbands? Boxer briefs? Bumper stickers? A billion? The people there seemed equally confused. I could imagine them handing the phone off: “Who is it? He wants to know what? Fuck it. You take this one.”

And on this matter, they’ll, “have to get back to me.” I’m still waiting. I wanted to know because when I watch shows on the subject of archaeology, I’m stunned by how many surviving items seem to involve worship. Buffaloes on cave walls? They considered them sacred, we’ll hear. Pyramids? Ancient burial chambers and idols to the gods, they explain. Sure, there’s plenty that isn’t, but it’s amazing how much of it is. I wonder: From an interpretive standpoint, do we have a tendency to assume something is sacred because it really was, or is it sacred because it still exists, and it comforts us to think the things that survived somehow bore some timeless value? (There could also be the truthier notion that ancient societies were extremely focused on worship and the next life, what with their short life expectancies.)

And I wonder, will they in the lost future believe we worshipped the jumping man? Carbon plastic shoes are better suited to survive than holy leather-bound books with flimsy cellulose-based pages. And I know they will find how this symbol exists on every continent—wherever they may have drifted—whereas true religious symbols seem, comparatively, extremely geo-specific. Sure, you see patches of Bibles and crosses in China. Some Korans here and there in what used to be North America. A pile of Mormon lit in the Congo. He could be a retired basketball player now, but to them, MJ’s churches were huge arenas, bigger than our places of worship, and his symbol is everywhere. There he is, jumping through the air. Was he an instrument of a God, leaping over a streaming river of flame, escaping the fiery earth as God reached down to pull him up, grasping the outstretched arm from heaven?

The ease of information, and dissenting opinion, may have moved us past the point of myth-building. That we can’t agree on a religion that unites the Earth is matter of many issues, save for the religion of self-preservation, but it is certainly a problem of transcription. God—regardless of your version—has never really had decent access to word processing. Be it stone-carving, papyrus, quills and scrolls, the backs of envelopes, longhand, right on through a steady electric typewriter, and on to your current mode, it’s been a puzzling affair. Godhood is a tough racket. You rely on folks constantly claiming to be speaking on your behalf. Did anybody give you a seat on the canon committee? No, they just shouted out to you, assumed their inspiration, and crafted the book the say “You would have wanted.” Hell, they even say you wrote it, speaking through them. If only the paper survives, if what flashes through the series of tubes ultimately dies, we'll have written a million pages for our athletic gods, far more than all the guidebooks on the god of your choice combined.

Last week an email came in from some PR flak representing a new initiative by the Utah Jazz. The team was setting up, through a profile/chat/MySpace/Facebook/ I'm14WithTitsSoLeerAtMe service, a way to connect with their players, "...like never before!" Connect with a member of the Jazz. This might be tight if I was in Utah, living it up minus caffeine, not allowed to come out and play on Sundays, styling may hair to mimic my Adam Keefe poster, but what the hell is the NBA thinking? The truth is they are mired in the false belief that to love our stars is to know them. David Stern and the like believe that created a personalized NBA, we can create a personalized experience, and for a society that is so disturbingly over-communicated (remember when you couldn't text about nothing ... all the time?), communicative actions with stars is a good thing.

It's not. I don't care if Tim Duncan turns the corner as a talker and gets hired by Galoob, it's not good. I don't care if Ron Artest finally fills the void left by Fred Rogers. Don't they know it was better for the league when he made it scary to sit in the front row? Recently, the Sonics hired away from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer the sports editor to work on their media. The guy who was supposed to be on the other side, to direct the critiques, the reportage, the scrutiny, and help us build the myth, is now on the inside, creating the image. Free Darko works because more and more, distance is pristine. Sports media is so fawning, so a part of sport, that as much as it gives, it takes away the imagination.

Sure, there are moments where you want to know an answer, and the answer is a nugget, but to stare at the stars is to imagine other worlds, to look at them through the telescope is to know that a distant planet that could have maintained life is a coarse, lifeless rock. The league and the players in it are going, in some cases, to such great lengths to show you who they are, that they’re forgetting the distance is part of what drove our fascination. We can see their exploits; it’s more fun for the fan to construct their personalities. Instead, your imagination is broken because Gil ain't a feminist, he just stumbled across the Cliff's Notes for Madame Bovary. Keep us away. Let us interpret. Quit being so image-conscious and so communication-addicted that a mute Kirk Hinrich feels forced to talk to me after a game when he really wants to sneak away into the dark tunnels. He doesn't have a mystique, but maybe the distance would let us create it for him.

MJ never blogged. Even his best attempts at personhood just came off like a trip on Haley's Comet to give us the occasional view, before he flew off back into his celestial orbit of the basketball universe. The good gods are the ones who let us tell their tales. The other ones just look pushy.


Nobody But You

My resident expert on all things Latin is too busy watching the Cowboys to help me translate this, but assures me that someone gets called a queer at some point. Enjoy!


Never Be the Same

(Just remember who said it. And thanks for the tip, MC Welk.)

Kitsch or old world horror:

The Greatest:

Every Book I Ever Read:

We live in a political world:

A few more here. First one to make the "he got his extra fuck last night" joke just got it taken from them.



The people of America will frequently be politically apathetic, and deflect their own guilt by accusing celebrities of the same. As if those wealthy, important, busy people had nothing better to do, or were to blame for the indifference of the masses. This is especially fallacious when it comes to athletes, who are not role models and spend a lot of time on airplanes.

However, every once a while, an issue arises that seizes the great and powerful as if by storm, forcing them to take notice and assert their reluctant social relevance. This year, our nation's right to live the principle of plural marriage hangs in the balance. No one on our shores cares about this more than the Chicago Bulls and the Portland Trailblazers, who fought a double overtime battle on the hardwood as the Iowa caucus results rolled in, and who all have at least twenty wives. Right down to the trainers and announcers. Therefore, they have chosen to take action the only way they know how: by making a mixtape dedicated to the candidate they believe is most committed to achieving their goal. They will stand up and fight—for polygamy—by loudly touting their human horse in the political race.

With the Iowa caucus now cemented as corn-fed prophecy, we are able to share some of the players' choices with you. They all reveal an incredibly subtle taste in music, eschew all radio rap, and have absolutely no overlap between them. This is democracy in action on many levels, a marketplace of ideas from which we might very well never recover.


Chris Duhon: Hillary Clinton

If there's only one thing you can remember about Chris Duhon, make it his love for the ladies. Don't let his altar boy looks fool you, this man gets trim for days--literally. He has exactly 30 wives, one for every day of the month (whenever there's a 31st, he takes a night off). The first woman with a legit shot at the presidency may seem like an odd choice for someone whose number one issue is legalized polygamy, but Duhon is confident in the knowledge that Hillary let Bill get some on the side.

Mixtape: "Longfellow Serenade: The Best of Neil Diamond" (the name makes him giggle)

Kirk Hinrich: John Edwards

People like to think Hinrich is some hick, and himself the son of a Midwest dock worker. But one of us once heard him dismiss a Bulls employee as a "cracker-ass cracker," and his nickname 'round the stalks used to be "Young Glove". The vote here is for the Edwards daughters, who happen to look like wives 3-5 of Hinrich's harem of 50. Kirk's always wanted to make a difference, and if Edwards gets elected, he can subtly exchange his wives for the President's kids and all of a sudden be in a position to make moves. Chew on that, Karl Rove!

Mixtape: "Stick It In, Crank the Ignition: Two Decades of French Joe C Impersonators"

Joakim Noah: Dennis Kucinich

Noah is torn between his love of the limelight, his man-of-the-people internationalism, and his secret longing to attend Antioch. Luckily, his need to keep fourteen wives in his stable lights the way; Kucnich is a staunch monogamist, but he's down with being open and letting people live their lives. Even if Noah didn't practice polygamy, he'd be drawn to Kunuich's unreconstructed, timeless campus liberalism, and his affinity for people losing their jobs overseas. Also, Michelle is handsome and all, but Kucinich's wife is actually, unqualifiably, hot. Just the way that Obama's ethnic and crusading and all, but Kucinich really wants to shake things up.

Mixtape: "Principled Lady: Great Moments in Caribbean Boogie"

Joe Smith: Mitt Romney

Smith has an obvious interest in the religion founded by his namesake, and his years of research have resulted in profound respect for the Church of Latter Day Saints, although he has not himself converted. His affection for East Coast hip-hop has him in a more Five Percent state of mind (another uniquely American religion founded by a Smith!), but whenever he plays in SLC, he always gets to thinkin' what if. Celestial marriage sounds dope, and he's got multiple earthly wives already, even if D. Original has him beat (34 to 22).

Mixtape: "Ammonite Wizdom: Obscure Early '90s Hip-hop from New Jersey" (mp3 available at Cocaine Blunts)


Steve Blake: FUCK VOTING

Years spent living in DC and the Pacific NW have radicalized this young man, whose shaved head once symbolized a solidarity with his closely shorn black teammates, but is now evidence of a different kind of struggle. You'll find Blake setting fire to one of his teammate's Range Rovers before you find him in a voting booth. Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee? It doesn't matter, they both suckle at the corrupt, hollow teat of Christian capitalism.

Mixtape: "Empire Death: Crust Punk From Scotland and Northern Ireland"

Jarrett Jack: Rudy Giluiani

Jack plays like a bulldog—a bulldog of a point guard! That's like Giulani, a bully of a mayor and an iron-fisted prosecutor, trying to have some common touch on the campaign trail. These two men need each other. Giulani has been married eight times and some of these must have overlapped. A few of Jarrett Jack's twenty wives think they're married to Cuba Gooding, Jr., and the pocketbook ain't disagreein'. Plus everyone wants to be from New York.

Mixtape: "A Man's Got to Mean It: Rural Black Eighties Hardcore"

Travis Outlaw: Mike Huckabee

Anyone notice how Huckabee went from a fringe hick, to a novelty act, to a viable candidate who made the same old crap seem refreshing? That's a lot like Travis Outlaw: wasted draft pick, athletic cyclone, and now all of a sudden a deadly shooter and clutch item. But like Huckabee, the Fender-cranking preacher who somehow won a primary, Outlaw's teetering between incidental and truly original. Poor Man's Gerald Wallace (thanks, Ziller) or Rashard with a motor? Only God knows. Plus he has three wives, and Huckabee is a fundamentalist.

Mixtape: "Quiescent Shapings: New Delta Musique Concrete"

Coach Nate McMillan: Barack Obama

Basketball is a font of eternal youth. Politics can bring on age's majesty and wear with unspeakable quickness. Except in this case. A Nate Supreme has seemed forty since he turned twenty-five, while Obama's got hearts fluttering like he was Elvis. But wait, when the cards come out, these two men are of the same generation, and have shared together some very general and fuzzy hopes and dreams. They know each other. And if one of them—not saying who—had a few legal girls on the side, the other one wouldn't dime out his brother in the struggle. Both are very good husbands, too.

Mixtape: "4-2 = me +u : Sweet JUCO Soul"

*Original concept, color illustrations, and much of the text provided by BETHLEHEM SHOALS.


The Cheers of the Gratefully Oppressed

Virtually every aspect of my personality aligns me with the liberated fandom espoused by the founders of this fair site. To give just a few examples, I have a healthy distrust of all institutions, enjoy many things that don’t make perfect sense, am Jewish, and will probably read and write about willfully bizarre novels for a living. When it comes to sports, I feel no special allegiance to a player outside of the enjoyment I get from watching him perform, although that enjoyment can certainly be tied up in other issues. Yet, despite all these points of agreement, I feel no desire to stop pulling for the teams I backed when I used to dress up as a San Francisco Giant on Halloween. With my favorite basketball teams (Golden State Warriors and Stanford Cardinal, for those who give a shit), I can acknowledge certain aspects of a player’s game that I dislike or outright hate, but I still cheer when those same guys make productive plays (in terms of strict output).

I’m usually perfectly fine with contradictions – or pretend to be, at least – but this one’s been bugging me ever since I started reading FreeDarko. The two forms of enjoyment seem to be at such great odds that I’ve occasionally assumed there must be something wrong with me, as if my pinko commie proclamations were somehow covers for a natural fascist streak. At the same time, my refusal to even attempt to divest myself of beholden fandom suggests that there’s something deeper at play, or, at the very least, something missing from liberated fandom that the support of one team provides.

Let me be clear that I do not want to expose liberated fandom as a sham concocted solely to convince a bunch of hipsters that basketball is the new irony. While I’ve always harbored the observational tendencies on which it relies, the system itself – and the work of the other writers here – has made me a calmer and more discerning fan than I once was. During the Mavs/Warriors series, I felt no hatred for Dallas or Barkley; instead, I simply accepted the positives aspects of Dirk, Howard, and the gang – even in the two losses – and analyzed them as I would anyone else. Furthermore, liberated fandom’s lack of emphasis on the final score means that I can now watch teams like the Hawks without feeling guilty, and that should validate it right there.

For the most part, it’s not too difficult to bring these tastes to one of your favorite team’s games. An exciting play is an exciting play, after all, and teams are going to score a certain number of points anyway, so why not wish for a Josh Smith dunk instead of a Tim Duncan post-up? And while it will never be possible to root for a team over time and completely disregard the final score, the liberated view can mitigate any anger that might arise from a particularly close loss. For instance, last Friday’s Nuggets win over the Warriors didn’t piss me off at all just because I knew I’d seen Iverson and Melo at the top of their games.

The far more interesting issue at play when someone practices these forms of fandom simultaneously is that beholden fandom requires cheering for things that would never fly with a purely liberated fan. I got lucky with the Warriors, but I can safely say that I only really like the games of three (maybe four) players currently on Stanford. Still, my passion for the team doesn’t waver at all. My enjoyment of the team never feels cheap or dirty; it is as real to me as anything I get from watching Tyrus Thomas jump. However, if the aesthetic considerations that I bring to other teams don’t always serve as justification for my fandom, then it would seem that I get something entirely different out of the Cardinal’s Right Way defense and structured offensive sets.

I must get to that answer by way of a short digression. This fall, I attended Rosh Hashanah services at my childhood synagogue for the first time in four or five years. In that time, the temple has undergone a number of changes: new rabbis, new cantor, new sound system, and, in the real capper, a full band complete with bongo drums and a guitar has been added to the strings, organ, and choir. Objectively, a few of these changes are improvements; the cantor has a pretty great singing voice and the band is quite competent. What has clearly changed, though, is that the entire operation has been secularized to a degree that even irks a bunch of secular Jews. I am in no way religious and haven’t been for quite a while, but the synagogue always felt holy to me. That’s no longer the case; I have little connection to the place other than that it reminds me of past Bar Mitzvahs and Sunday school.

On the face of it, I shouldn’t logically feel much of a connection to those things that were lost when the temple underwent those changes. However, the synagogue, like the teams I root for, is tied to so many of my life experiences that I must have some attachment to it. I do not believe in nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, but these institutions did somehow shape me into the person I am today, so I cannot feel nothing when they undergo changes. In a way, favorite teams are like family members: we get disappointed at them when they falter, criticize out of love, and hold bizarre allegiances to them even though nothing but geography and similarly random circumstances brought us together in the first place. These attachments become so ingrained that they’re not just difficult to break – they’re ultimately impossible to break because they have been so instrumental in the development of our passions and modes of observation. Frankly, breaking a connection to a team can often feel like a willful dismantling of an identity.

A favorite team also has the draw of a community. Liberated fandom can obviously produce a community of its own – this site is proof of that – but faceless discussion on the internet is much different from screaming along with 20,000 fellow fans or knowing that wearing a particular hat can start a conversation with someone who might eventually become one of your best friends. Beholden fandom offers a feeling of mass productivity, the idea that, if we all work together, we can reach a goal. Writing that sentence made me feel a little sick, but that is really what any group – like this motley band of writers and commenters, to use just one example – tries to do in whatever endeavor it chooses. The goals of FreeDarko might be less defined than those of a group of face-painters, but the differences between the two groups are matters of degree and proportion – not of structure.

Beholden fandom obviously has its ugly side; there is nothing awesome about abject hatred of an opponent just because they happen to wear differently colored clothes. Like any passionate collective, though, it should be judged on both its positive and negative traits. Liberated and beholden fandom may not always intersect, but the fact that I and others are able to practice both simultaneously suggests that the concepts are not as adversarial as they might initially appear. The key is to juggle them without letting each lose its essence, to let each form of fandom inform and add to the other. Just as the beholden fan shouldn’t disregard the legitimacy and interest of the opposition, the liberated fan shouldn’t assume the worst just because someone finds joy in the crowd.


FD Guest Lecture: The Death of Superman

The year begins with a post by a guest. Here's PhDribble, lighting the way:

Superman has fought the Dream, the Hoya Destroya, Mr. Robinson, (Daugherty), Zo, Ostertag!, Chairman Yao, the Big Ticket, and the Big Fundamental. For more than a generation, he has outmuscled and outwitted his center(al) competition. But we’ve reached a truly sad chapter in our superhero’s saga. Shaq is suffering. There's no surprise "rise from the ashes" waiting for us in next week's edition. He will never fight Dr. Dwight, Gode, or The Riek (whoever that is.) For this time, it's the real death of Superman.

Shaq suffers from the late stages of the disease known as Progeria (just like the guy from Bladerunner.) Sadly, there is no known cure for Progeria. The symptoms have been clearly mapped out in scholarly and popular journals before: absurd athleticism at an adolescent age; high levels of type-g pheromones most attractive to college coaches, scouts, and entourages; expert discussion of high draft "potential" and "upside"; the occasional episode of “makin it rain” (with propensity for relapse); and a rookie-contract-extension pay raise. In his mid-twenties, a player living with Progeria attracts all-star appearances, PER propaganda, scoring titles, finals mvps, etc... Finally, in his mid-to-late thirties the patient suffers a gross degradation of skills, bad knees, an overpaid contract (often resulting in a buyout,) and hometown calls for retirement.

Now, in full disclosure, I have had mixed and greatly varying feelings toward Shaq over the years. In Orlando he obsessed me with his atomic potential. In LA he astounded me with his era-defining dominance. In Miami he annoyed me with his relentless swatting at Kobe and cocky self-contentment. Now, on his last legs he saddens me. Lay-ups where there used to be dunks. Fouls where there used to be blocks. Fat where there used to be muscle. (We can all rip him for being lazy at the gym, but is that really what's going on?) Shots blocked by guards. Three second calls on both ends of the floor. Always the last man down the court. Not even a gesture toward covering the pick and roll on defense. Even the new "3 for 2 rule" in which the refs call a lane violation and award him another shot at the free throw line. It's deeply humiliating. And when Shaq recently called for more touches, we just shook our heads. “There he goes again...another washed-up old man who doesn't see what is so obvious to the rest of us.” It's just humiliating. It's the kind of physical degeneration one associates not with a 35 but with an 85 year-old-man. It bares all the classic symptoms of late-stage Progeria.

Pat Riley has seen this before:
“I did a lot of reading and research about this,” Riley said Thursday. “You look at what happened to the teams after the five greatest centers in basketball retired. In Minneapolis, after George Mikan retired, they went down the tubes, and it took them five years to recover. After Russell retired, it took (the Celtics) six years to get back to the championship form. When Wilt retired, it basically took this franchise seven years. When Willis Reed retired, same thing. When Bill Walton left Portland, even though he was very young, it took them a long time. And when Kareem left Milwaukee, they had to rebuild. Anytime a significantly great center left a team, that team struggled. But what we have a chance to do here is change that. I think the players realize that.”
But there's a significant catch in the Riles rhetoric. Riles wasn't talking about Shaq. Riles said it to the Los Angeles Times on October 6th...of 1989. He was talking about the retirement of Jabbar and the Lakers' recent acquisition of Vlade Divac.

And that's how NBA: The Life is. You live, you learn. You learn, you win. You win, you star. You star, you decline. All we can ask for is that those diagnosed with Progeria will not suffer too much.

The earlier stages of Progeria can be equally as unsettling. As upstarts grow into mature veterans, we treat them as if they were middle-aged, responsible adults. But as Holly MacKenzie so aptly wrote on SlamOnline,
One of the biggest things I wonder about when I am in the locker room waiting to talk to players (Amare, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington, to name a few), is just how young they are and how quickly their lives have changed, with little to no counseling on how to handle it. And, truth be told, when you are 18, 19 years old, you don't want to listen to people telling you how to handle this newfound fame and fortune, you just want to live it up. It is a tough state of reality facing the society that our athletes live in and sadly, it isn’t going to get any easier.
As much as we'd like to believe that unimaginably obese contracts can make men of boys, as much as we can be fooled by the symptoms of Progeria, we should not lose sight of just how young these guys truly are. “Boobie" Gibson missed Cavs game this season because he got his wisdom teeth out!

Right about now, Gode should be obsessing over his major. Durant should be disappointing his professors in his hastily-written and under-researched 1200-word essays. Roy should be celebrating his high score on the LSATs. Lebron should be surrounded by idiots and crazies in his first cubicle shitjob. Carmelo should be learning that he can't eat as much junk food as he did when he was a growing boy. IggyPop should be enjoying his promotion. Rip Hamilton should be defending his dissertation. Damon Jones should be head-hunted. Kobe should be thinking about buying his first house. Of course, in any situation Jason Maxiell should and would be eating babies.

Gode may have best captured the sad realities on his blog, “My family is also here for the holidays so that’s good. In all it was a great Christmas. And one last thing I didn't get anything. Darius Miles told me that its the first year of me being Santa Claus I’m not getting anything anymore I’m gonna be the one giving out stuff, so here to being a grown man.”

It has long been thought that a player contracted Progeria simply from the wear-and-tear of years of Lig play. But this hypothesis has not accounted for why most players never suffer the worst phases of the disease. It is clear that players who sign NBA contracts are the most at-risk population group. But among these hundreds, data has shown only a small portion to display signs of Full-Blown Progeria Disorder (F-BPD.) Athletes who signed an NBA contract were shown to be 41 times more likely to fall into the category of Progeria Spectrum Disorder (PSD) than F-BPD. Thus, they never reached the highest highs in their twenties nor sank to the lowest lows in their mid-to-late thirties.

But in recent cutting-edge research, specialists have identified the cause. The evidence has pointed to a surprising conclusion. Progeria doesn’t come from anything a player did or did not do. Progeria comes from us fans. For as fans, we narrate a player's career as we would a man's entire life. We imagine that he matures in what amounts to dog years. We transmit the virus by transforming him into an NBA legend. He begins a diaper dandy and retires a washed-up old man.

The group most vulnerable to Progeria are Hall-of-Famers. In fact, the sad statistics show that 92.5% of HOFers suffered from severe Progeria in their last years in the Lig. Unfortunately, HOF status is awarded retrospectively, so that it provides no ability for contemporary fansicians to diagnose an athlete with F-BPD until it is too late.

Leading scientists have offered the following algorithm as the closest approximation to an accurate diagnosis:

    1/ [√([Ynba + (2/3)Yncaa] x H)[ASS + (4/7)ASR]/6.5 ]

    Ynba = Years in the Lig
    ncaa = Years in College
    H = Height - 72 (in inches, adjusted for NBA levels)
    ASS = All-Star Starter
    ASR = All-Star Reserve

Scientists have observed that as the output of this algorithm approaches closer and closer to zero, the likelihood of F-BPD becomes all but certain. Those players whose output hovers at the 0.8-0.7 will be fine and no doubt will survive under the prolonged effects of PSD. But those whose numbers dip below the 0.5 range are severely at risk. And there has been no known player whose output has reached a 0.3 who has not succumbed to severe F-BPD.

These numbers remain dodgy among specialists. [Reggie Miller is thought of as one of the out-lying cases that disrupts the rule. Yet a strong minority of fansicians believes that Miller suffered from F-BPD and hid the gravest symptoms on the privacy of his own court.] A leading member of this specialist community wishes that his little brother were more interested in basketball because his little brother is a math major and really could help on the algorithm. But no doubt as statheads across the internet become more and more interested in the Race for the Cure for Progeria, there will arise a more accurate algorithm that can detect symptoms earlier and earlier.

And so, for now, we're left with the last stages of the Diesel. How can we handle his collapsing career, his physical degeneration, and his still hefty salary cap number? How can we cope with F-BPD? I wish I could say I will enjoy Shaq’s last days, but it's just not that emotionally simple. In a perfect world, he would waive the final years of his contract, have a run of last games in the Lig, blow kisses to his adoring fans from the "Marketsquare Arena" to the "Garden Floor," from the Palace to “Seattle”, and walk off into a green-screen sunset.

But that perfect world is unfair. It's asking Shaq to walk away from tens of millions of dollars. It's asking Shaq to forgo what he has earned. To pay a price for our romanticized narratives of the game. To act differently than any of us would act. It’s asking him to be superhuman. It's wishing he were Superman.