For most NBA fans, Dirk is neither white, nor specifically German, but the guy who finally asserted the value of the European Other. Luke O’Brien’s piece stresses that Nowitzki has made us accept him, albeit only after realizing that neither Don Nelson (the libertine) nor Avery Johnson (the taskmaster) had used him correctly thus far. Only Dirk could perfect Dirk, and if his off-season of wandering and thinking sounds straight out of Herzog—a slightly loopier version of the kind of masculinity post-war Germany learned to project—it was Rick Carlisle, as much as this introspection, that allowed Dirk to find himself. The Triumph of Soft is not about making people learn to love Germans, but fitting Germany into a larger, maligned sports category, and then turning that on its head.
From my latest “Three Seconds” column at SportsFeat.