Tuesday, June 16, 2009

6/16/09 - Kobe Kobe Kobe (sigh)

So, the LA Lakers get another title, Kobe gets another title, the Magic go home empty-handed, and Turkey Glue, D12, and the rest of the Magic get a summer to console themselves with the soothing purchasing of Lamborghinis and the launching of vanity rap careers and watching Transformers 2 and whatever else a millionaire NBA star does to console himself in an offseason not washed in the glow of a championship. I'm pretty sure they'll be just fine.

But from the sports narrative perspective, I'm disappointed that Kobe got another title, because of the way that it validates this whole athlete-as-steely-warrior meme that holds that to have a killer instinct a pro (or amateur) athlete has to be kind of a jerk. Or a lot of a jerk, depending. The goofballs (Dwight Howard), the dry wits (Steve Nash), the happy-go-lucky spotlight-eschewing beach-loving space cases (Lamar Odom) don't get much slack in the perceived mental toughness department, maybe because of the way that athletic competition serves as proxy war, and war tends to the serious. Although this breaks down as a straight 1:1 - what of the dark, cynical gallows humor? That takes place, if at all, definitively offscreen, away from the viewing audience. And, additionally, there is a viewing audience. It's entertainment, after all.

Nontheless, it's disappointing the way that the warrior/grinder is celebrated. Kobe is validated because winning is so important to him, when clearly what's most important to him is winning while being awesome, and as an occasional pickup basketball player (go-to move, the airball), there's no type of player I'd least rather play with.

Here's the subtitle for the article SI did on Dwight Howard toward the beginning of the playoffs:


"Great centers don't come any more easygoing than Orlando's Dwight Howard. But can he take the Magic to the Finals—and get one big, bad dude off his back—while keeping his smile intact?"

And the article proceeds to follow that, with the main thesis being that Dwight Howard, with his goofy nature, imitations of his coach, ADD photo shoot style, and all the rest, just isn't and serious and focused enough to win the NBA title. Which is infuriating. Because last I checked, basketball is a game. And sure, to make a living at it, and to play at the highest level, it's a lot of work, but it's still a game. There's still a lot of it based on fun, and on artistry, and on improvisation (within a defined context), so I don't get the binary that states that one must be a basketball Terminator in attitute to win it all. It's like the asinine dress code on ESPN, whereby grown men and women dress in power suits to talk about football. It would be a lot less disenguous, and a lot more reflective of the kernal of truth at the center of sports, if ESPN anchors would just sport sweatpants and the jersey of whoever their favorite player is. Because it comes off as dressing up something fundamentally non-serious as something important, when any spectator can see that despite the passions they inspire, sports have their foundation in play; ergo, playfulness should not be so shunned.

So, great, Kobe wins, the grinder wins, the warrior wins. Now can he please retire the bizarre underbite-as-intimidation facial expression. Because it makes me want to reach through the screen and tell the man to grow up, already.

1 comment:

Andrew said...
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