From my appearance on Paul Flannery’s “Talking Hoops” podcast for WEEI, Boston. Doing these things with people you know, especially when they’re for an institutional outlet, can be really weird. Anyway, those mileposts are pretty representative. Though there’s a good chance that “Chauncey Billups” actually refers to Chris Ryan.
That terrifying fellow Mobutu Sese Seko (the blog one) visits GQ.com. Among other things, your Yankees/Heat analogy is torn to shreds and fed to fat pigeon-dogs:
While the Yankees are accepted as a historical inevitability, like misunderstanding the founding fathers or making bad jokes about travel, the Patriots seem to get a pass because of football’s layers of personnel and structure—neither of which exist for the Heat. In football, signing one guy to a team can’t change the balance of a conference. Randy Moss might be a playmaker, but Darelle Revis can put him on an island. Both men serve under a pyramid of specialists and technocrats. Meanwhile, the Heat play under a coach who’s routinely reduced by fan commentary to a cipher, a poor beard for the fact that egos set the tone and ignore the sober official voices.
If you want to kill something today, read this post instead.
For GQ.com: How LeBron can learn from Dirk, and we can learn from that:
LeBron isn’t Dwyane Wade; he doesn’t attack like Wade, and isn’t nearly as harrowing off the dribble. Wade’s been given the role of closer because it makes sense, and yet somehow, that casts doubt on everything we want to believe—and feel in our gut—about James. Wade is in the mold of Jordan, both in personality and game. To crib the easy analogy, that makes LeBron into Scottie Pippen. Some people simply can’t accept that the Pippen-esque marvel could be better than the Jordan-ish guard, since Jordan is the greatest, and Jordan-esque equals best.
I really should have included a sentence about “hard” and “soft” expectations. Oh well. Imagine it in there yourself, if you find this post lacking.
James had passed to Bosh. Wade had been the fourth-quarter warrior, all but unstoppable, and James more of a facilitator (watch the tape). Bosh, despite that last shot, continued to stink. Who was the man? Was Bosh worth it? Was the manly, assertive Wade being forced to take a backseat to a passive-by-nature James? What is a superstar? Where lies Truth? Won’t this tension lead to utter disaster in Game 4? How can these players not be as freaked out, or unnerved, as we want them to be?
Two Links To Things I Wrote For Today
1. The last GQ.com NBA Playoffs Kibitz with David Roth. There will likely be one more, but Roth won’t be here for it. So consider this half of me, or us, saying goodbye. That explains the tone:
Shoals: You are a kind and decent person who understands the instructive value of sports. I root for the devil, both because he is the devil but because he has the best laser shows and most impressive collection of severed heads. Am I weak and ugly and looking to over-compensate? So what if sports are aspirational. I don’t want to relate to things.
That was the end. Click to see how we got to there.
2. The latest “Three Seconds” at SportsFeat, dealing with corruption and evil and how hard it is to really break through and change the world:
There is no dark side, only varying degrees of risk. To say otherwise is to pretend that “dirty” isn’t relative, or that—again, returning to PEDs—going too far isn’t the greatest sin imaginable. To say otherwise ignores how much money, and what kind of egos, exist at the tip-top of college football or international soccer. Business is dirty. Why would the backrooms of sports be any different? Anecdotally, we acknowledge this. Yet the unspoken double-standard, and feigned shock at high-level scandal, sticks with us out of some combination of hope and fear.
I hope that keeps you from sleeping, or otherwise feelings good about yourself.
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?
"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.
Yet another GQ.com guest today. It’s Nadav Samin, who recorded as Siah in the 1990’s. If this means something to you, we probably have a lot in common. Nadav checks in with an ode to Chris Bosh’s pump fake:
Like Chris Bosh, the pump fake goes under-appreciated. Used by an inside-outside forward like Bosh, the maneuver is the culmination of a strategy to keep the paint free for cutters and dunkers. Bosh forces big men to come out to him, and the game is then won or lost behind their backs. This is a really specific, and subtle, form of dominance, and that also happens to be the position that Bosh occupies on the Heat. Beyond Wade’s stupefying blocks and Lebron’s complete physical domination, it is that understated pump fake that defined Game Four for me.
There’s been so much focus on Bosh bringing the pain against Boozer, we’ve neglected to think about what this means, long-term. He won’t give you 30 points every night. But the spaces he does fill, and is learning to, will define his role with the Heat.