This week, The Nation magazine is running a special double issue about sports. It contains this pretty good piece by author of the classic What’s My Name, Fool?, Dave Zirin, an all-time great of lefty sportswriting and one of the broader field’s few big shots who know/care much about good old-fashioned political economy. A representative passage:
It’s obvious to me that what stands in the way of a logical financial agreement is Stern himself. His intransigence is the logical extension of a decade of dress-code dictates, bullying officials, and even changing the material on the basketball […] He has created a logic that no one dares stand up to and say, “This guy has to go.” He has become like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s dictator in the novel Autumn of the Patriarch.
You might want to just go buy the whole issue, since those good people are losing about as much money every year as the NJ/bk/USSR Nets pretend to.
While I’m at it, I may as well make this a full-on Required Reading entry, since we’ve been going all derelict on ya lately. Check out this dutiful – if not quite beautiful – overview of the coming FIBA/Olympic men’s basketball qualifying season from the seriously considerate, wonky yet nourishing blog The Painted Area. It’s the post from July 29th, fyi; I couldn’t find a permalink. Writes blogger jay aych:
It’s past due that this [Oceania] “zone” should just be absorbed into the Asian zone. And ideally an Olympic berth would be transferred over to Europe to give them three auto bids. Australia would arguably be the top team in this reformed Asian zone, but at least they would have to go through a full tournament to earn their title.
In EuroBasket for example, a team has to go through a gauntlet of quality teams and has to slog through a brutal schedule of 11 games in 19 days to win the title. By contrast, giving an Olympic bid to a zone with two teams is laughable.
That’s what I’m sayin’!
Our good friends over at Negative Dunkalectics – your Other home for theoretically-informed b-ball vignettes – recently had this to say about another of our good friends, Metta World Peace. Truly a tour de force of athletic realism. David Hill bequeaths to us this lapidary anecdote:
Some drunk fan standing behind him was going at him. “You suck Ron. I’m glad we didn’t draft you. You sucked at St. Johns and you suck now.”
Ron held the ball. He turned around and stood face to face with the heckler, staring him down with the meanest of mugs. Hypnotized, the fan slowly sat down in his chair. Everyone erupted in laughter. My friend and I were incredulous. We stood up and screamed. “Don’t let him punk you! He can’t do shit! He can’t do shit!” Ron looked over at us with that same icy stare. Slowly he curled up the edges of his mouth in a wry little grin. He turned and inbounded the ball.
Perhaps even in his rookie season Ron Artest knew that one day he was going to have to whip a fan’s ass.
That’s all for now I think. Peace be upon you, Metta!
The all-time NCAA scoring champ (44.2 ppg!) and five-time All-Star starting guard recently took some time out from dunking on Jesus to weigh in on the League’s present contractual difficulties:
“It’s going to continually get worse because America is built on one basic principle: greed.”*
“Pistol Pete,” always colorful, went on to offer up some more specific insights into pro basketball’s labor policies.
Asked about parity and revenue-sharing, Pete replied, “They don’t particularly care about balance. Just the TV markets. Everyone says we got [All-Star forward and free agent] Sidney Wicks but I don’t see him here … the reason all those teams like Chicago, New York, and Boston get the good players is because they are in the major TV markets.”** Wicks was ultimately sent to the Celtics after league arbitration despite signing with Maravich’s fledgling New Orleans Jazz.
In light of some spirited discussion regarding the integrity and openness of the NBA’s owners and front offices, Maravich, who once averaged 27-7-and-4, had this to say: “I dealt honestly with these people. I can’t tolerate any more deceit and deception on the part of the coach and the present administration. [GM] Pat Williams and [Coach] Cotton Fitzsimmons have lied to me.”*** Harsh words to be sure, issued after secret negotiations led to a trade from the playoff contending Atlanta Hawks to the brand-new New Orleans expansion team despite assurances to the contrary. After that, Pete says he “realized what a cold, flesh-peddling business basketball could be.” Ouch!
Everyone has a bad day at the office, but did the first-ballot Hall of Famer have any more general opinions on the NBA writ large?
“It’s difficult to be happy in this business… I’m completely frustrated with basketball. I’m sorry I ever came into this league.”****
* 1976 interview with George White of the Houston Chronicle
** Excerpt from Maravich’s autobiography, Heir to a Dream (1987)
*** 1974 interview with Darrel Simmons in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(Note: this may or may not be a teaser to an upcoming article which may or may not be a book review of a recent biography on the life and times of Pete Maravich.)
Achilles’ weakness was his heel – his flaw was his pride. Lebron’s weakness, is, famously, his love for his erratic jump shot…
This week, LeBron James did something that athletes rarely do: He invoked God’s will to explain a loss.
An excellent overview of the 65 basic categories of dudes you will run into playing pickup basketball more or less anywhere from one of the best weirdo bball blogs around. Proof they’ve played plenty of pickup ball:
Pickup ballers don’t want advice. They really don’t.
As I ended my conversation with Webster, I thanked him for talking and reiterated how this game — this random, unremembered juco shootout from 1988 — will always be the greatest sporting event I ever witnessed. Nothing has ever come close, before or since.
I could tell he was flattered. But he was not surprised.
Now more than ever.
Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind.
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his adolescent nephew, 1785
It would be anachronistic to hold this one against ol’ Teej. He couldn’t have known about Dr. Naismith’s daring experiment or the rife subculture, literary tradition and generations of edified young folks it has nourished for twelve decades; it’s an epistemological limit for which we’ll have to grant him a pass. Yet, in the same breath, he was able to prefigure so exactly a different strain of then-nascent American life that has remained salient to this day:
As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. […] While this gives but moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind.
Oh, the perspicacity!
This nifty little letter to a 15-year-old Peter Carr — rumored in the margins to be the real father of Sally Hemings’ Jeffersonian offspring — has been anthologized (included in the abstemious selection of letters in The Portable Thomas Jefferson), idolized (by 2nd Amendment fetishists) and psychoanalyzed (I wrote about it in my diary the other day) but compared to his remarkable, lengthy epistolary exchanges with, say, atheist patriot Thomas Paine or Revolutionary financier/soldier/printmaker Dr. Benjamin Rush it’s really kind of a throw-away. So what keeps it so germane, so ripe for re-reading across the centuries? The answer is, naturally, Gilbert Arenas.
Anyone who watched the Magic after the big trade, and therefore any number of scrub guards evade Gil like he was Al Capone’s taxes, knows that basketball has certainly done much violence to our protagonist’s body. I swear sometimes I can hear his knees creaking. But anyone who saw him play his way from second-rounder to All-Star with the Wizards (née Bullets) or listened to him speak almost ever knows that he has “character” for days.
He sports his own sneaks during games these days, abjuring an endorsement deal that might cramp his style. For years he kookily sported the number 0 on his jersey, as if in some semiotic gesture which argued that he’s not just signified – no – he signifies. His award-winning blog often took on a confessional (read: actual person-esque) tone. Bethlehem Shoals once characterized his demeanor during the post-“finger guns”/Javaris Crittenton debacle press conferences as resembling “somewhere between a suicide note and the grizzled drop-out who could’ve been a contender.” He once said the following in response to allegations that he was cheating in Halo 3:
“It’s a glitch,” he explained. “It’s a glitch in the game. I seen some kids that were like 600s, they won 600 Halo games and we only had that game for two weeks. And all the kids go to school.”
But the fact remains that Gilbert, despite his erratic shot selection and ¡Ole! style of defense, is one of the most belovable players on the Orlando squad and [due to contract constraints] looks like he will be for some time. For an explanation as to why, perhaps Jefferson’s letter might again be instructive. I’ll leave you with my favorite passage.
Though you cannot see, when you take one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth, in the easiest manner possible. The knot which you thought a Gordian one, will untie itself before you. Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition, that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty, by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by an untruth, by an injustice. This increases the difficulties ten fold; and those who pursue these methods, get themselves so involved at length, that they can turn no way but their infamy becomes more exposed.
It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.
And of course, this:
Dwight Howard’s frequent looks of disgust aren’t — as so many major-market fanboys love to posit in the comments sections of the many slipshod articles about the subject — silent invectives against Orlando or SVG or his teammates. Rather, they’re simply the frustrations of a patently great player bent on nothing short of greatness.
Magic-Bucks tonight; let’s those of us who watch do so with this in mind and see how it goes.