May 30th, 2011
Last night I saw Steve James’s latest, The Interrupters. Predictably, it’s hard, well-done, and raises as many questions as it answers, which is the point with his films. In one scene, a 17 year-old recently released from prison goes back to the scene of an armed robbery to apologize to his victims. No one comes away feeling good about the meeting; it’s hardly what you might call “redemption”, or a feel-good scene. But it brings some closure, and allows everyone involved to concentrate on fixing the present, instead of remaining stalled in the past. It’s a time-honored technique, as is the one-on-one moderating that Chicago’s CeaseFire uses to head off confrontations before they escalate into violence. But when most of the city’s murders are, as the film notes, interpersonal and not gang-related (structural) in nature, this approach makes sense. No matter how obvious it may seem. Well, obvious once you get moderators out in the neighborhoods whose own checkered pasts gives them the authority, and access, to intervene. It is totally inappropriate of me to stick Rick Reilly in a post about teen violence and making the world a better place. But if The Interrupters showed that on-site penance is powerful even if we see it coming, we might have to make an exception for journalism. Early last week, I guess, Reilly wrote about how the Heat are proving everyone, including him, wrong. He reiterated all the times he, and others, had bagged on Miami, before eating some crow, reveling in it, and comparing this “I told you so” to other times it’s happened. Somehow, though, it seems inadequate. It’s one thing to commit a crime and then go back, two years later; that’s two singular occasions, equal and parallel, separated by time and toll. Reilly’s mea culpa is more like those after-the-fact corrections in print media, or the Republican strategy of lying, then maybe recanting once the news cycle has had a chance to disseminate falsehood.I am by no means equating the Heat with politics or urban problems. The substance of Reilley’s column (ugh), though, goes well beyond being right or wrong about the outcome of sporting matches, and crosses over into truth and fairness—not so different from someone confronting the consequences of his past behavior. Reilly is looking, in one fell column, to make up for everything he and his right-seeming colleagues have said this season. Months and months and months of it. It shouldn’t be so easy. For this to be genuine, or mean a thing, Reilly needs to log just as many “oops” pieces. Of course, he’s hoping that things will turns around after one game of the series, so he can go back to his old ways. Otherwise, if the Heat have made him “eat crow” or “told him so”, is it any more than a technicality for him to acknowledge so? Was Reilly wrong and full of shit all along, or is he just inescapably out of step with the news-cycle for the time being?

Last night I saw Steve James’s latest, The Interrupters. Predictably, it’s hard, well-done, and raises as many questions as it answers, which is the point with his films. In one scene, a 17 year-old recently released from prison goes back to the scene of an armed robbery to apologize to his victims. No one comes away feeling good about the meeting; it’s hardly what you might call “redemption”, or a feel-good scene. But it brings some closure, and allows everyone involved to concentrate on fixing the present, instead of remaining stalled in the past. It’s a time-honored technique, as is the one-on-one moderating that Chicago’s CeaseFire uses to head off confrontations before they escalate into violence. But when most of the city’s murders are, as the film notes, interpersonal and not gang-related (structural) in nature, this approach makes sense. No matter how obvious it may seem. Well, obvious once you get moderators out in the neighborhoods whose own checkered pasts gives them the authority, and access, to intervene.

It is totally inappropriate of me to stick Rick Reilly in a post about teen violence and making the world a better place. But if The Interrupters showed that on-site penance is powerful even if we see it coming, we might have to make an exception for journalism. Early last week, I guess, Reilly wrote about how the Heat are proving everyone, including him, wrong. He reiterated all the times he, and others, had bagged on Miami, before eating some crow, reveling in it, and comparing this “I told you so” to other times it’s happened. Somehow, though, it seems inadequate. It’s one thing to commit a crime and then go back, two years later; that’s two singular occasions, equal and parallel, separated by time and toll. Reilly’s mea culpa is more like those after-the-fact corrections in print media, or the Republican strategy of lying, then maybe recanting once the news cycle has had a chance to disseminate falsehood.

I am by no means equating the Heat with politics or urban problems. The substance of Reilley’s column (ugh), though, goes well beyond being right or wrong about the outcome of sporting matches, and crosses over into truth and fairness—not so different from someone confronting the consequences of his past behavior. Reilly is looking, in one fell column, to make up for everything he and his right-seeming colleagues have said this season. Months and months and months of it. It shouldn’t be so easy. For this to be genuine, or mean a thing, Reilly needs to log just as many “oops” pieces. Of course, he’s hoping that things will turns around after one game of the series, so he can go back to his old ways. Otherwise, if the Heat have made him “eat crow” or “told him so”, is it any more than a technicality for him to acknowledge so? Was Reilly wrong and full of shit all along, or is he just inescapably out of step with the news-cycle for the time being?

May 27th, 2011

"It was me. Turnovers. I guess fouls—if you call it that." Rose showing us something in last night post-game presser. It’s not Durant’s fury, but it was good to see him get a little snide. That can be part of frustration and disappointment, too. Self-flagellation isn’t the only way to be.

May 27th, 2011
That’s what a “kibitz” is, according to Google image search. Here’s an excerpt from what it means, on GQ.com, when it’s David Roth and I gettin’ deep about the NBA Playoffs:Shoals: You know how they say “all politics are local?” Well, all Bulls ads are local.Roth: The thing with Rose, if I can put on my Brand Manager  Cap (it has earflaps!) for a moment, is that the Chicago connection  works for him. LeBron is from no-place at this point. Spiritually, he  has apparently always been from a gated community near Miami. I think  you’re right that the thing that works about the Rose commercial, and  maybe doesn’t work for you about Rose, is that he seems to mean it—it  feels like he cares because I guess he’s repping his stuff. All the best  sneaker commercials have that. There was a Melo one in Baltimore I  remember really well that way, with a creepy cameo by a nodding Jim  Boeheim.Shoals: “His stuff”. That sounds like you are saying he’s earnest about his balls.Next week, the Finals!

That’s what a “kibitz” is, according to Google image search. Here’s an excerpt from what it means, on GQ.com, when it’s David Roth and I gettin’ deep about the NBA Playoffs:

Shoals: You know how they say “all politics are local?” Well, all Bulls ads are local.

Roth: The thing with Rose, if I can put on my Brand Manager Cap (it has earflaps!) for a moment, is that the Chicago connection works for him. LeBron is from no-place at this point. Spiritually, he has apparently always been from a gated community near Miami. I think you’re right that the thing that works about the Rose commercial, and maybe doesn’t work for you about Rose, is that he seems to mean it—it feels like he cares because I guess he’s repping his stuff. All the best sneaker commercials have that. There was a Melo one in Baltimore I remember really well that way, with a creepy cameo by a nodding Jim Boeheim.

Shoals: “His stuff”. That sounds like you are saying he’s earnest about his balls.


Next week, the Finals!

May 27th, 2011

"You Only Need To Watch The Last Five Minutes"

Do these people still exist? If so, what do they make of the Heat and Mavericks this past week? I suppose you could have just tuned in to see them dismantle a late lead. The better teams won and all that; the youngsters collapsed, there was an air of inevitability about it, and everything that came before was rendered irrelevant. Except what if you care about process, context, or narrative, or more plainly, tension and release? In a way, an ending like tonight’s is even more dramatic. The Bulls had this game … until they didn’t, and the Heat swooped in to clinch the series. Same with the Mavericks on Monday. It was fun, scary, and overpowering. A nail-biter is one kind of story. This is another.

Addendum: Okay, they still exist. Thanks, Kevin Pelton.

May 24th, 2011
Are we missing another angle on the Joakim Noah hate speech story? When Noah proved himself as a player and earned everyone’s respect, he relaxed, stopped trying so hard, and felt comfortable being himself. His boho goofiness became endearing, his manner less forced—and, most notably, Noah stopped coming off as jock-poseur. There’s no other way to put it. Noah is a cosmopolitan weirdo with bits and pieces of the whole wide world in his personality. All too often at Florida, though, it seemed like he was trying hard to conform to what he thought being a star athlete was all about. That meant approximating machismo, and confusing attitude with intensity. The irony of it was that, as transparent as this posturing was, it also called his quirkier qualities into question. Noah told Kevin Arnovitz, convincingly, that gay slurs aren’t who he is, aren’t what he’s about, and so on. It’s not cant, and Arnovitz knows it. But you have to wonder how much this incident may, after all, still be about Noah. His biography backs up his claims of tolerance. At the same time, it reminds you how Noah, without thinking and perhaps out of insecurity, can fall into behavior that obscures the real him. It’s not hard to read between the lines of Noah’s predicament, and see a kind of “queerness” there. Certainly, this does not bode well for the proverbial gay NBA player, for whom this problem is more than a metaphor.  

Are we missing another angle on the Joakim Noah hate speech story? When Noah proved himself as a player and earned everyone’s respect, he relaxed, stopped trying so hard, and felt comfortable being himself. His boho goofiness became endearing, his manner less forced—and, most notably, Noah stopped coming off as jock-poseur. There’s no other way to put it. Noah is a cosmopolitan weirdo with bits and pieces of the whole wide world in his personality. All too often at Florida, though, it seemed like he was trying hard to conform to what he thought being a star athlete was all about. That meant approximating machismo, and confusing attitude with intensity. The irony of it was that, as transparent as this posturing was, it also called his quirkier qualities into question. Noah told Kevin Arnovitz, convincingly, that gay slurs aren’t who he is, aren’t what he’s about, and so on. It’s not cant, and Arnovitz knows it. But you have to wonder how much this incident may, after all, still be about Noah. His biography backs up his claims of tolerance. At the same time, it reminds you how Noah, without thinking and perhaps out of insecurity, can fall into behavior that obscures the real him. It’s not hard to read between the lines of Noah’s predicament, and see a kind of “queerness” there. Certainly, this does not bode well for the proverbial gay NBA player, for whom this problem is more than a metaphor.