Wednesday, November 15, 2006

sounds of the city all around & the music, the new licks you found

Reviewiera pulled 1 of its drunken state-of-the-NBA ad hoc committee sessions the other nite. Between eating a plate of nachos I really didn't need to ingest, & Fat consistently getting his Beam overpoured, the results were typically microcosmic & longue duree. Muse willing, Fat will be submitting the thesis he came away w/ from the evening's discourse, but my kernal of psuedo-wisdom concerned an overarching seismic shift in the League & its fandom.

The launchpad was my earlier revelation correlating the adulation of Rasheed Wallace by many Portland fans to Portland's "Little Beirut" identity tag in the late '90s & early aughties1. This realization is truthfully as close as I've ever come to actually positing a tangible correlation between a sports franchise & its fanbase in terms of a city's self-identity, a supposition usually easily proved bunk2. Fat brought up the point that starting in, say, '99 or '00, there were alot of NBA fans who basically focused thier energies around certain individual players, w/ little concern for the teams or indeed the course & saga of the season & the L as a whole. Two of those players were definitely Rasheed Wallace & Allen Iverson, both of which produced defining streches of thier careers in that period3. Chatting about the Rasheed-Little Beirut thing, & then the Rasheed-Iverson idolization years, I suddenly gleened a potentially macro-cosmic arch.

(1) Rabid homerism was essentially killed in the '90s when the Jordan Bulls won 6 championships in 8 years. Isn't there a statistic out there that something like 60% of Americans called themselves Bulls' fans in '98, or something along those lines? W/ the Bulls so dominant, I beleive that casual fans became apathetic to the plight & drudgery of thier local teams.

(2) In the post-Jordan hangover we were subjected to a bunch of Spurs & Lakers championships for 5 years, while the east was pathetically weak. Essentially, pulling for the local team remained a rather dire & depressing option. The better option, then, was to identify a handful of individual players (or, indeed, a player or two on almost every team) which you simply "liked," for whatever reason. When the Playoffs rolled around, you could peruse the bracket & say "I hope teams X, Y, & Z advance, because I like so-&-so on X," & so forth. You had little expectation of any of those teams actually achieving anything in terms of a run, since we all knew that every team was essentially a sacrificial offering to the Lakers or Spurs.

Othella Harrington!!!!
(3) Which brings us into the present-day, notably, the "trend" that kicked off in '04-'05, the year of Sonics & Suns, the class of '04. On opening night this year, Charles Barkley opined that "there are no more doormats in the NBA," & I, for one, agree w/ him. The past futility of following the local franchise hasn't so much ended, as perhaps every franchise may simply be more resplendent than they once were. Its okay to like bad teams again, because we have learned to appreciate them in different ways.4

Verily, the Empire is Fallen, Long Live the Provinces!!


1 Can Anyone Tell Me, Who is the Grand Poobah 'Round Here?
2 Especially w/ the frequency of free agent movement & trades in modern sports - its increasingly rare for a particular player, much less 12 of them, to come to "represent" thier team's city symbolically. If anything, fandom oft is little more than allegiance to a certain color scheme on a uniform. However, I'm not sure you can leave it at that, either. A sports franchise's uniform can easily be conceived of as city's flag or coat-of-arms in terms of a city's outward representation of itself to the rest of the nation. Portland fans always have & always will hate the Lakers, & honestly this might be more of a reflection of opinion about Los Angeles than about basketball. Similar currents used to be detected regarding the Jazz. By contrast no one seems to have a problem with Sacramento or Golden State.
3 In Wallace's case, playing his part in the Dunleavy Blazers reaching the Western Conf. Finals in '99 & '00, and then setting that record for techs. All the while some analysts were going so far as to call him the best PF in the L overall , in a time when the West was the Conference of the Power Forwards (Webber, Duncan, McDyess, Abdur-Rahim, Garnett). I have this distinct of memory of someone wearing a Rasheed Wallace t-shirt that featured a huge air-brushed print of 'Sheed, semi-comic book , semi-characteriture style, on the back. It was striking since it had been clearly created by someone w/ some semblance of artistic skill, produced, & sold - presumably in quantities large enough to justify the exercise. Iverson, of course, had that phenomenal lighting strike of a year in 2001, winning MVP & taking the 76ers to the Finals.
4 This point is more Fat's than mine, but this New Love owes huge tips of the hat to Simmons & Free Darko. Although neither really told me anything new, per se, both were intrumental in articulating ways of thinking about, & thusly positing different ways of watching, basketball. They have illustrated to us that its okay to love basketball, because it tells us something about ourselves, & its not completely retarded to assert that an interest in the travails of, say, Carmelo Anthony, somehow asserts something about oneself as a person. Say what you will about Simmons, but can you really deny that the dude's seeded a more vested, deeper love of the L in fans, & especially new fans, in the last five years? FreeDarko does the same, albeit at a more extrapolated level.

1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

This is the problem with trying to do history at the bar. I posited, you vetted, then posted unchanged, a theory laying important stress on the FreeDarko cats.

When we both know full well, when our brains aren't clotted with 'cho grease and Jim Beam, that FreeDarko is nothing but a whiter, more transparent, more prolific, and wholly inferior version of Chauncey.

Quick comparison:
Chauncey: best titles ever:
I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker!
high like giraffe ass
FreeDarko: worst sentence about anything ever:
"we're trying to link basketball with Destroyer"

Chauncey: best-ever quote attributed to Joe Dumars:
"Dunleavy Jr's contract? Yo, Chris Mullin can give Opie whatever he wants. Chris Mullin got a fucking Angel Dust problem too. That mean I gotta get me one of them?"
FreeDarko: "I liked Cat Power like eight years ago"

Mind you, the recent post on the pleasures of certain box scores was dynamite. I remember looking at Lionel Simmons scores when I was flirting with the Kings: he'd put up these 17/8/5/2/1 lines that just screamed "I'm Pippen without the rep! I must be the most underrated player in ball!". Then you'd see him play. Not one of those moments actually helped his team do anything. This history probably helped prepare me to understand the depths of Darius Miles' irrelevance on the court.

(Interestingly, Portland touchstone/icon 'Sheed has never put up numbers that compel in the slightest. He's a 14 and 6 machine for the Pistons, pedestrian as a crosswalk, but it's clear that he's crucial to the squad.)

So, historically, FD indeed were the cats who got big making the points. But artistically, Chauncey got there firstest with the mostest.

And if either DDT or I were gonna be honest, we'd admit that the Slamonline links played a huge role in our NBA fandom for a time. Indeed, that writing about the NBA could be done as art was most thrillingly demonstrated to me by the Wizznutzz, brought to my attention by the dudes at Slam. --But honesty can make for a muddled storyline, so we'll redact Lang for the nonce.

9:23 PM  

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