Monday, June 11, 2012

Shhhh...He is Legend

When I was 12/13 one of my very best friends was a classmate named Derrick. Derrick was the funniest kid I'd ever known, that any of us had ever known. He had this technique of telling a joke, whereby he would deliver his punch lines through a clenched jaw, holding back his own explosion of laughter, convincing you that it was about to be the most glorious gem you'd ever heard. When the punch line finally came, he would cackle louder than anyone, head thrown back, hands hammering whatever surface was closest, his entire face soaked with tears. This was the late 80's, when mamma jokes ruled the day, and Derrick was the master. I've incorrectly recycled so many of his originals I feel like I should cut him a check.*
Not yet?

But there was a flip side to this arrangement. You see, sometimes I was behind Derrick, laughing along at the target of the joke, and other times I became the target. Once Derrick was focussed, his hunger for laughs was insatiable, and the filth and vitriol would increase with every uproarious crowd response. Kids are like that. Eventually, he would cool off, and there was comfort in knowing that your position as target was always short-lived, that one day you would return to the other side, a tiny child following a tiny piper. 

And sometimes I'm a rat, and Deadspin is my piper, and I follow along willingly because they are verbally annihilating something/someone I loathe. I love them for it. Sean Newell might very well be the Derrick of Deadspin, and his recent piece LeBron James Is Finally Good At Basketball might be mamma joke of the week around the water cooler. But it falls into a few traps:

1. Belief that the word "fuck" in an argument is not only provocative, but makes your case even stronger. 
2. An assumption that arguing against the crowning of an athlete as icon is equal to disregarding said
athlete's talent. 
3. Exaggerating, or in some cases, fabricating, your opposition's argument in order to make yours seem more just. 

According to Newell, LeBron's performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals "ushered in Go Fuck Yourself Basketball." Newell calls all naysayers "chuckleheads" because, in discussing
LeBron, us chuckleheads like to remind his fanboys that he "doesn't come up in the clutch" (he rarely does,) "disappears late" (these two aren't mutually exclusive,) or "plays hot potato with the basketball because he doesn't come up in the clutch or disappears late" (now you're just being pouty and redundant.) Newell goes on to reference KG, Pierce, and Allen as "Boston's Big Whatever." 

The Boston Celtics discuss possible strategies
during a timeout. 
I'm not fucking myself because LeBron had a phenomenal series, that he came up clutch, or didn't disappear late. I grew up in a time when a number of players did that. A number of players still do (re: Kevin Durant since he's been in the league.) And I'm not fucking myself because you pretend not to remember that three future Hall of Famers, each of whom have a number of clutch performances under their belts, are called The Big Three. Show some respect. The Big Three are, combined, 247-years-old, and pushed the world's darlings to a 7th game without home court advantage. 

I'm not fucking myself because you say, "The reason these kind of performances are revered as 'clutch' or 'legendary' is because they are rare." That's only partly true. They become "legendary", or rather, players become "legend" when they perform the magic so often it becomes the opposite of rare; it becomes habit. I'm not saying Jordan, Magic, or Bird ALWAYS came through. What I am saying, because it's fucking true, and because it's the main point we try to make after yanking you sucklings from LeBron's tit long enough to hear it, is that Jordan, Magic, and Bird were anointed only AFTER their magnificence became habit, only AFTER championship trophies and rings. We're not holding LeBron to a higher standard. We're simply holding him to THE standard.

LeBron James is an all-world performer, a man with the size of a 4, and the quicks and handles of a 1. He's like nothing we've ever seen. There. Happy? My problem is that so many anointed him on potential and acted as though we were the rubes for not playing along. "He's the greatest we've ever seen," you all say, and perhaps one day that will come to pass. But he's been in the league 9 years. Know what you were saying even before he was drafted in '03? Same. Exact. Thing. When he's wonderful we should go fuck ourselves, and when he's not, we're holding him to a higher standard, and it's all our fault. 

"Last night we watched LeBron do everything that could rightly be asked of him and in the process say I know you'll always want more, so Go Fuck Yourself." No. We watched LeBron continue an unbelievable season, one that deserves a ton of credit. But there's no need to fuck ourselves. We're fucked already. We're fucked because Sportscenter will proceed to fuck us with an adjective contest to describe LeBron. We're fucked because, rather than highlights of actual plays, we'll get stills of LeBron reading Twilight in the locker room. We're fucked because, if the Heat win a title, we'll be yelled at, "See! He's the greatest ever! We've been telling you since 2003!" And you have. But here's the fact you conveniently choose to ignore: only reaching the bar set by legendary players of the past makes it actually fucking true. 

This is Derrick now. Doing work. We are very different than the children we were. He's still great. 

No comments:

Post a Comment