(Justin-like side note: I've been having some really weird pains in my chestal area lately. Despite the bad rap I get for my shaky wheels, I'm not particularly prone to fits of hypochondria, but it's been an unsettling thing for me this past weekend. The funny thing is, beside the smoking and drinking, I've actually been pretty healthy lately. But, of course, the ridiculousness of that last sentence identifies the whole problem, doesn't it? I really wish I wanted to quit smoking sometime outside the hours of 1 a.m.-8 a.m.)
1. What I've been trying to say is that David Stern is racist
The post I've lamely been trying to cobble together was a thesis piece on why the NBA commish obviously hates the black man. My inability to actually get it done is something I attributed to a "slump," but it might also be that I found elucidating the point to be much more difficult than my original arrival at the conclusion. I can't particularly break the argument down into a syllogism, which might be why I was having so much difficulty writing the post. But what I was trying to prove was that Stern has decided that the only viable target for the NBA is Corporate America, and he has concluded that Corporate America and the inner city culture adhered to by most NBA players are not sympatico. Thusly, he has spent much of his legislative time the last handful of years trying to whitewash the players, and ultimately the league. The draft age minimum, the dress code, the lowered technical thresholds are the most recent (and most transparent) amendments that aim to make the league less threatening to the rich white dudes that buy luxury boxes. The severity of the leaving-the-bench rule is a historical antecedent for the current rules, and the situation in the Suns-Spurs series brought the problem with it — it's complete lack of regard for basic human instinct — into clearer relief. That such an indefensible policy (or, more precisely, that a rule with such indefensible rigidity in its application) still exists is more de facto proof of Stern's prejudice and willingness to be irrational in his pursuit of a non-threatening league. Furthermore, the paradox of how Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson are treated by the League's marketing department is further evidence that appearances are what's truly important to Stern; despite the fact that Jason Kidd is a confessed wife-beater, he shows up in more NBA montages than the fucking logo. Iverson, on the other hand, has a fairly tame rap sheet that dates back to high school and one insanely overblown fight with his wife in which he was not really convicted of doing anything except screaming out of his patio door. But because he has tattoos and 'rows and talks exactly as you'd expect someone from a poor area of Virginia to speak. But when was the last time the League really promoted Iverson, who actually exemplifies all the clichés — grit, hustle, talent maximization — that we supposedly revere? And I don't think its difficult to find plenty of paradoxes that are equally as angering or suggestive of deeper currents.
And the real problem, of course, is that Stern presides over the league that really owes its entire existence to black people, and to only a slightly lesser extent black culture. When people talk about the issue of black attrition in baseball, I think to myself that it's unfortunate but a product of the fact that other sports — basketball and football, namely — have captured the imagination of black american athletes much more effectively than baseball. And then you look at the NBA, and realize that if Stern had his way, I honestly believe he'd turn the sport into a modern minstrel show. Can I conclusively prove this? Of course not. But I also don't believe that my theory is outlandish.
For some reason, I end up becoming a magnet for random conversations about sports at bars. This probably serves as a reasonable explanation as to why I so rarely actually meet girls at bars, since very few girls care about breaking down the draft or debating the relative merits of the stolen base. Anyway, no matter the point a sports conversation begins at these days, it appears all conversational roads lead to the Yankees; in so many ways, that franchise is the Rome of the MLB, if not sports in general. To extend the metaphor, while Rome is clearly burning right now, it's not really as compelling as a lot of people are making it out to be.
Of course the Yankees aren't this bad. This is a better collection of players than that assembled by Tampa, and yet those two franchises share a similarly unimpressive position in the AL East. But what does that mean? A lot of things. One, the team is old, and old teams are very often hard to predict, because an individual player's decline in baseball is often sudden and precipitous. Two, the bullpen is not very good, because Rivera hasn't been sharp and Torre's spent a lot of time the last three years beating the life out of any usable arm in the group. Three, the team has been unlucky in a variety of ways. Injuries have really hurt the starting rotation, things haven't been breaking their way, and the Red Sox are looking like a 110-win team.
And that's all. Is there really anything that interesting about anything I just said there? I don't think so. So why should anyone who is not a Yankee fan — someone who will likely be a part of a rapidly growing population this season — spend any amount of time talking about this? This team is no more interesting than the Indians, who similarly played so far beneath their Pythagorean record last season that it would be the first thing omitted from a regression analysis. There was no hand-wringing from the Baseball Tonight crew, no Eric Wedge death watch. And yes, I realize that they're THE YANKEES, and this means that they're supposedly important to everyone. But, c'mon ... we have no shortage of interesting things happening this year in baseball. Can we just agree to leave it alone until they hit a hot streak and force us to acknowledge them again?
3. (Long-standing beef edition) People really need to learn the meanings of the words they use.
Feel free to use the previous section of this post as a primer for anyone who abuses the word "irony." Is it that hard a concept to understand? Irony ≢ funny. I've had three people tell me something is ironic in the last four days, and not once were they even within skeeting distance of the correct meaning of the word. I also heard someone use the term "diorama" in the following context: "There's an entire diorama of ideas going through my head." The person then followed up with the phrase "The menagerie of my business ..." at which point I suffered from immediate, widespread organ failure, and would not have survived had someone not rushed one of Bill Safire's "On Language" columns to me immediately. Lucky me, I guess.
It should be explained that I spent a good portion of the weekend hanging out with people from Scottsdale, and almost every single person I spoke to was an aspiring "entrepreneur." One of those "entrepreneurs" explained to me that he owns a porn site that remains, at press time, bereft of actual pornography. His plan is to convert one of the rooms in his new house into a studio for the purpose of creating some pornography. "I could be in the movies themselves," he said to me, keg beer in one hand as he brushed back his overgrown, styled bangs out of his eyes with the other, "but I don't think I want to get involved in that side of the business, you know? It's better to keep that separation there." He also claimed to have a grandmother who is some big shot at Pepperdine's law school, and promised to "get me in, for sure."
That story was apropos of nothing; I just felt the need to share it.
4. It is possible that both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant will be outstanding basketball players, and that neither the Trail Blazers or the Sonics will look back on this draft with regret.
One of my ongoing complaints is how everyone seems to approach questions as if the decision were binary. I realize that I've been accused of harboring "black and white" views on many things, but that's reserved for cases in which I believe the potential exists that a right or wrong answer can actually be divined. But how can anyone tell me with a straight face that they know that only one of these two guys is going to turn out to be the better pick by a significant margin? I don't mind analysis, even if it's somewhat unhinged or really just conjecture, because I understand that 24-hour sports networks need to fill up the airtime with something besides poker re-runs. But how is it that I haven't heard one analyst say that it's possible that the Blazers simply can't go wrong with this pick? Does this bother anyone else?
5. At least Greg Dobbs doesn't bother lecturing me about the evils of outsourcing.
I decide not to post for a couple of weeks, and I come back to a blog that looks more like the 700 Level than it does an argument blog. And you know those painkillers they give out for appendectomies are good when Brett Myers' injury isn't enough to fade the high of a man who's been a veritible Monsieur Visage de la Tristesse the last year or so.
At least Justin brought up one interesting point in his last post, which is how the concept of clubhouse chemistry plays into winning and losing. I happen to think there's something to be said about good chemistry; at the least, it certainly can't hurt, and to whatever extent you're willing to accept basic business principles as being applicable to the management of a baseball team, an environment that fosters respect and co-operation is highly favorable. However, I don't believe that bad chemistry is all that horrible; as Justin stated, these guys are well-paid professionals and one should expect that they don't need to like each other to do the job. So, good is good, but bad probably isn't that bad at all.
I agree that this Phillies team is compelling for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I get a lot of enjoyment watching good things happen to teams that are hamstrung by the efforts of complete idiots. I actually called Justin the other day just because I had to remark on the beauty of Charlie Manuel "shaking things up" by benching Pat Burrell for Jason Werth against soft-tosser Doug Davis a couple of nights ago. For the 400,oooth time, Burrell absolutely annihilates lefties, and even better he draws walks, which Davis is ultra-proficient at giving out. Chucky Autism cited Burrell's 1-for-10 career mark against Davis, which is more proof that the man is completed retarded. 10 at bats?!? Even an evangelical wouldn't be willing to draw any kind of inference from such scant data.
Now, the Phillies will provide me the opportunity to witness the exploits of The Sextapus — a gloss that was borne of an otherwise uneventful TGWNA field trip to Chase