Core Values

It's true, last night the man who might be the First Brother-in-Law espoused some basic FD ideology from the DNC stage. That would be when Craig Robinson, drafted ahead of Manute Bol and recently hired as coach of Oregon State, reminded us all that when Michelle asked him to assess this new man in her life, Robinson hit the courts with Obama. Since, and I quote, "my sister had grown up hearing my father and me talk about how to judge a person's character by what type of sportsman they are."

Then we heard the description of a game that, as I mentioned yesterday, Obama himself has compared to Tayshaun Prince. Factor in the swagger that inspires Jordan and Kennedy comparisons, which I guess makes for a bad president and no one wants to hear about right now, and you've got the candidate in a nutshell. Alternately fiery and cerebral, soaring and judicious. A lawyer who learned a rhetorical trick or two from the church, a guy whose idea of campaign stop banter consists of Socratic examinations of whether a barbeque-less barbeque can still be called a "barbeque," or must be referred to as a "cook-out."

You can call this an elaborate, inventive exercise in image management, an attempt to contrast the young(er), hip, athletic, authentic Obama with that aged heap of jowel that the other side's proffering. Or point out that, of course, this site would drool all over a candidate who points to basketball as profound force in his life, makes it a key part of his brand, and sometimes uses it as code for race. But bear in mind, whether or not this anecdote is being used as part of a campaign, it happened before this election, on the side of the relationship that wasn't already planning to run for office. That it holds true now is convenient, but it doesn't cheapen it. In fact, to my mind it's effective exactly because it's so ineluctable. Basketball is basketball, and, to completely twist and butcher a popular idiom, it can't lie. Give a realistic scouting report and it sketches the outline of a real personality, and vice-versa.

(See here for our most recent graphic representation of the matter.)

We've been saying this for years, and yet it's never seemed more relevant. All jokes about FBP aside, most players are as meticulously managed, or at least measured, with their image as politicians. It's only on the court where, between their actual play and the personality we see on display, they can't hide, control themselves, or really be controled in the way PR folks would like. Sadly, it would be absolutely impossible to keep Iverson from busting out the cross-over, even if you put him in a suit. In part this is because one's game predates fame and fortune, but also, basketball just works like that. To hear this trotted out as a way of validating a presidential candidate is refreshing, as is the notion this idea at least goes back a couple generations in Michelle Obama's family, which didn't have FD's pretenses and self-aggrandizing priorities.

Contrast this with Rod Benson's angst over "the athlete-blogger conundrum." What I found so perplexing about his concerns—if you missed it, or can't read, Benson worries that his blogging might have scared off potential NBA employers—was that the Internet is one big marketing tool. Blogs are platforms for self-creation, and reinvention, and everything else imaginary and brand-honing you could possibly imagine. Benson emphasizes that he's gotten less candid on BDL as he heard about more roster spots, and all along kept some material for his personal site due to its sensitive nature. But all this was a conscious choice to make a name for himself, which he did. It's made him an online presence the same way Arenas's blog made him "the first internet superstar." Last time I checked, professional athletes regularly speak to the media, and aren't exactly at a loss for public forums. Blogging is all about the illusion of intimiacy and informality; that goes for me, Rod Benson, and politicans alike.

Now, that's not to say that Benson is wrong. Plenty of teams might see him as a loose cannon who will say anything. However, if they want to see the measure of the man, what would actually come out if they brought him on board, they should pay more attention to what he does on the court. That's the part he can't so readily change, and isn't manufacturing because it helps his career. Blogging isn't unfettered truth-telling, but style sure is. If nothing else, that a lot of country was told this last night kind of makes my day.

Incidentally, if anyone's wondering, I am absolutely terrible at the game of basketball, and what little game I have bears little resemblance to FD ideals. I'm much more athletic than you'd think, but am so uncoordinated I can't use it for anything but blocking shots and lunging at steals. My touch is non-existent, so mostly I just play hard defense, get rebounds, and try and hit someone who might actually make a shot, preferably in a way that makes it look like I anticipated their movements. So allow me to revise Craig Robinson's point and say that it holds true only for people who play basketball well. I'd insist someone turn to my writing voice to find the real me, even though that falls victim to all my critiques of blogging-as-realism. Whatever, I hate you all anyway. God bless America.

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At 8/26/2008 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Gilbert Arenas apparently has some subversive remarks recently published , to the effect that he has never voted , but he guesses he must be a Republican because he has so much money now.

At 8/26/2008 2:49 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Shoals on the court is like a Jewish mini-Ronaldo Balkman.

At 8/26/2008 3:13 PM, Blogger Mr. Shrimp said...

The combination of that last paragraph and the picture is priceless, and brought back some fond memories of Shoals's game. I think the point about the game revealing character only when played well is a good one, because otherwise one's game is too limited to really be able to display the many facets of a personality. I mean, my game in its present state says nothing at all; at its very best in earlier years, it said very little.

I guess the question is whether candidate Obama's game is really good enough to reveal anything. Reports indicate it is pretty good. Of course, at a certain level, couldn't someone manipulate his game in some sense to maintain a certain image, or have it "reveal" only particular things? If someone has a generally guarded personality, and had skills, I think he could control to some extent what the game reveals.

I guess I'd need to spend time around skilled players again to see whether that has any validity at all.

wv: abqjwltd - parent company of the first pan-Arab basketball league

At 8/26/2008 4:00 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Hey, I enjoyed your turn as the literary critic in Hamlet 2.

At 8/26/2008 4:17 PM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

Not that anyone asked, but I've decided recently that my game is totally Luke Walton. No real jump shot to speak of, and too slow/not big enough to be much of a factor on d, some of which is made up for with huslte. Yet despite being mediocre at most basketball skills, I still like to believe that good things tend to happen when I'm in the floor, thanks mainly, I claim, to my above-average passing.

The only other relevant tidbit worth knowing about my game is that in 8th grade I was booed off the court by the parents in the crowd for clocking a 5'4" 110 pound kid in the back of the head and to the ground. In my defense, he was jacking up a transition 3 near near the end of a 30-pt blowout, and one could argue (unsuccessfully) that it was actually just a horribly failed attempt at the ball. Furthermore this was the same kid who'd throw used toilet paper over the stalls singing, "bombs over stalls" so it's probably safe to say he had it coming anyway.

Sadly I do think this manages to be fairly revealing about my personality in spite of my lack of skill.

At 8/26/2008 4:38 PM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

I throw elbows at racial minorities, even teammates, and bribe opponents not to guard me so I can make gimme lay-ups. Then I shake my jowls in celebration screaming, "Mission Accomplished".

At 8/26/2008 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't the kid Carter B clocked, but that was totally my m.o.- transition threes at the end of a 30 point stinker*. (win or lose, I'ma GET my name in that goddamn box score.) I was such a human victory cigar, I didn't come off the bench, I came out of a humidor.

*known to pine dwellers as "going full McIlvaine"

At 8/26/2008 5:53 PM, Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Back in the murk of the before-now, when I still played organized ball, would watch any televised game and had to listen to half the Nuggets' season on the radio, I had a couple ball dreams I remember still. In them, my game was related to my real-life game - in the way that a thunder lizard is related to a trilobite.

At the time, all I could say was "I was like James Worthy...but stronger on the boards." Some years later, watching Antonio McDyess shineflare like Roy Batty, I realized my dreams had prefigured exactly that figure.

The sad part is that, back then, with the nightmare of the 80s pressing on my brain, I wasn't creative enough to envision, say, Amare.

All that said, if I could play like anybody from recent history? Maybe the late Nick Van Exel. That'd be fun, I bet.

At 8/26/2008 6:08 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Sadly for me the height of my (relative)basketball prowess came in 6-8th grade. I was already
5'9'-10" (I literally stopped growing at age 16) and had above average passing skills. I was like post-surgery, but still on the Kings, Chris Webber. Flat jumper that went in more than it should have, good rebounder, no shot blocking but solid body positioning. I hit turnaround game winners, worked flawless drop steps, and scored 20 points in games where every player on the team HAD to play.
I actually had the father of a player on an opposing team approach me and my Mom at our post game lunch at Taco Cabana to compliment my already mature game. Seriously.
Then our highschool freshman football team won district and the coaches decided it would be best for me to NOT go out for basketball and hone my already substantial girth in offseason football. I promptly stopped growing and saw my fundamentals diminish and my waistline expand...But thems were the days.

At 8/26/2008 6:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Before I point out my resemblance, basketball-wise, to Zendon Hamilton career at St.John's, I just want to say this:

I always thought the rule was that it's a cookout when black folk do it, and a barbecue when white folk do it. I've never been to a cookout thrown by white people.

But I'm not from the South, so those might just be the New York rules.

At 8/26/2008 6:34 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Another FD blog post ended by Shoals by concluding that he hates us all. This is getting to be a disturbing trend.

We don't always have to be the best at the things we love. Sometimes, in fact, it works out better if we're not. That's what makes Arenas an entertaining "internet celebrity" and Obama a (hopefully) successful campaigner; these things are NOT what they love, but it's what'll get the job done.

At 8/26/2008 7:23 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

I'm sure most have seen it, but this Anne Marie Cox interview with Reggie Love is must read, and takes the whole "find the person in the play" theme to new heights. Most of the article is politics and basketball, and this passage speaks for itself:

AMC: If the McCain campaign was a basketball team, what basketball team would they be? And I think maybe Pistons, you know, for the aggressive play and all the sharp elbows, but my husband has also suggested the Princeton defense - do you have an opinion?

RL: Well, I think you may be referring to the Pistons of the 80s and early 90s....

AMC: Yes, I am referring to the Pistons of the 80s and early 90s. The sort of classic Pistons, and he's referring to the classic Princeton defensive game. Do you have an opinion about that?

RL: If you had to say that McCain was a basketball team, and which basketball team would he most be like?

AMC: Ya, sort of the attitude they bring or the style of play they, you know, have.

RL: Well, I don't want to insult any of the teams...

AMC: By comparing them to McCain?

Reggie wrote later to clarify exactly why he was hesitant: "I don't want to insult any of the NBA teams, I have a lot of teammates and friends who still play in the NBA."

At 8/26/2008 7:33 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

My game is like if Jason Kidd couldn't handle the ball. Being 6'5" and not in a pro/college setting basically relegates you to standing in the post and waiting for catches, except that I have terrible touch and a great eye for small openings. The most common thing to hear me shout in game is "IF YOU CUT I WILL HIT YOU WITH A PASS, SO CUT."

At 8/26/2008 7:54 PM, Blogger McDirty said...

My game resembled that of a young Pace Manion, only I tripped over other players feet instead of my own. My one claim to glory was a three point play that won our church-ball semi final game. We were then massacred by a well coached team with names on the back of their jerseys.

At 8/26/2008 9:10 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Carter's game is actually like that of Stanford bench legend Diamond Joe Kirchofer: three-inch vertical, general thuggery, and his only offensive move being a push-off with the left arm that allows for a baby hook over his left shoulder. Unfortunately, Carter does not have an awesome mustache.

When I played regularly (stopped in 9th grade), I played the two, three, and four was usually good for a few baskets a game, almost all of which came off of clever cuts or opportunistic put-backs. I was a pretty shitty defender because I lack lateral/any quickness. I was basically equivalent to any collegiate white bench utility guy.

At 8/26/2008 9:21 PM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

That push-off/hook is deadly.

Also Spike Lee's at the convention wearing the UNDRCRWN shirt. Badass.

At 8/26/2008 9:43 PM, Blogger Jason Gill said...

I'm 5'10 and want to play like I'm 6'9, which leads to me as a poor (or maybe a bankrupt-for-the-third-time-and- living-on-quarters-from-college-kids) man's Charles Barkley. Awake I dream of fulfilling that promise by the time I'm 35. Asleep I dream I'm playing keep away from Shawn Marion with Steve and Amare in a bodega with a loaf of wonderbread(true story and: what does that shit MEAN).

At 8/26/2008 9:45 PM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

Small, but slow. Like Brian Scalabrine minus fourteen inches, one hundred pounds and gingerness. I also had an unreliable midrange game, in that I was never sure if my 15-footer would clank off the front rim or back iron. And those were the salad days. Now I think I have the opposite of game, which would be, what, job?

At 8/27/2008 12:36 AM, Blogger Trey said...

At my best I'm Pau Gasol. At my worst, I'm Brad Miller. Usually, I'm something in between, but never with a goatee.

Also, I'm fairly certain I went to college with the girl in the first picture. She had a roommate I was in love with.

At 8/27/2008 1:53 AM, Blogger related to carter said...

carter, who did you clock???? I don't remember that

At 8/27/2008 3:57 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I (6'5") fancied myself a PG when playing outside because I love Magic's game so much. But as soon as I started playing organized ball, I ended up somwhere in the bermuda triangle of Robert Horry without the reliable 3-ball, Chris Webber without the shot knees and Horace Grant without the goggles.

At 8/27/2008 10:25 AM, Blogger Zach said...

At my best, I'm Dwyane Wade with Chauncey Billups' limited athleticism. I hit awkward gaps in the D, shimmy, shake, and inexplicably drain an off-balance shot in the lane. I'm slow, but I know how to keep the ball away from defenders. This normally happens when I play 21.

At my worst, I'm Flip Murray shooting 2-20. I can get into the lane, but nothing goes down, and I get yelled at for my passes.

At 8/27/2008 11:16 PM, Blogger O said...

as bush's hands grasped her neck, merkel felt the angst and social embarassment d-wade felt until he set it straight at the olympics.

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