Wednesday, April 9, 2008

An Homage to an Influence

So a couple of weeks ago I sent an email to Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko fame asking him a question. He is a huge influence both on my writing and on the way I think about basketball. Here is both my email to him and his response:

"Hey Bethlehem,
How's it going? I have a quick basketball question if you've got a minute. So, however much I appreciate the idea of liberated fandom, I'm an old fashioned guy and happen to just love the teams I love (that being said I could watch any basketball pretty much anytime but I think that tends more towards fanaticism than liberation). To make matters worse, I am from central Texas and am subsequently a Spurs fan. And as a Spurs fan I have a question about an infrequently touched upon topic, either on FreeDarko or your posts on SN: Manu Ginobili.

I understand how the Spurs system is antithetical to so much of what you value in the game (although I appreciate in your most recent article on the Suns that you pointed out the somewhat protean nature of the team i.e. they can run or play strangle-me-now slow ball), but it seems to me that Manu is indicative of so many of the characteristics you appreciate in a ball player. First of all, he's gutsy, really gutsy. And he is an assassin, maybe not on the level of Kobe, but he certainly has the killer instinct. His mediocre grasp of the English language hinders him from having the type of swagger that so many of the players you love have, but I think on the court he is a stunning combination of focused, resourceful and forcefully improvisational. And let's be honest, his physicality is out of control. It just doesn't make sense. People don't move that way. Why would a person contort their body that way? Certainly not to be more effective. He looks like an exuberant, flailing five your old if that five your old were hitting 50% from the beyond the arc in the last 15 games and had a gigantic nose.

Either way I feel like he is such a dynamic player and in some way an enigma and it suprises me you haven't spent more time examining him. I gave up trying to convince people of the value of Spurs basketball a long time ago so this is not some challenge to write an article on Manu (if you want to feel free). I just wondered whether you had any of the cuff thoughts on the sneaky Argentinian. Thanks so much for your time. I love your writing, it’s really an inspiration.

When Many first busted out, we were all over him. Then he kind of went into remission, and now this season he's fully insane again. I think his game, when unleashed, is tremendous, maybe even the most stylish Euro-to-NBA play I've ever seen. However, it's impossible to separate it from the Spurs context, and from the knowledge that it might be squelched at any moment. Put simply, it always feels like his brilliance is a mirage, or something I shouldn't get too attached to. And it's weird that his dynamism doesn't infect the rest of the team in any way. It's like he's energy-proofed or something.

Also my views on the Spurs have changed as i've realized hwo dumb it is to just say I LIKE STYLE over and over again. I think it's possible for me to say that the Spurs are inventive, flexible, and seamless without finding any aesthetic value there. They're not shit, they're just a very beige form of versatile beauty. But really, without Manu, there's just zero zip there to keep me interested. I'll acknowledge them, but I don't watch them much.

I hope that makes some senes. My hands are about to give out for the day.


I thought it was a worthwhile correspondence. And while we're on the subject of FreeDarko, how bout a brief tribute to the photos:

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