Sunday, May 31, 2009

On the NBA's Cranky, Manic Depressive Tendencies

Of all the explanations and rationalizations and manic hand-wringing over the reasons for Cleveland's defeat, of all the arguments that have been formulated against Mike Brown and Mo Williams and Delonte West and Danny Ferry and St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the city of Cleveland itself, of all the bandwidth occupied today by angst-ridden commenters blaming defeat on an inexplicable shortage of Lorenzen Wright or J.J. Hickson, of all the attempts to somehow condemn or marginalize LeBron James himself (although, in fact, based on the ridiculous numbers he put up in this series, you could make an effective argument that he is actually underrated)--it is this one, from Charley Rosen, that most confounded me. It is, I guess, one reason why the NBA is in a constant state of emotional anguish, why it is "always in trouble," and why the culture of the game itself is one of pathological self-obsession on all sides (fans, media, and the league):

LeBron's swaggering and continual self-promotion was the most egregious of these haughty antics. It's only fitting that the prestidigitations of the Magic made LeBron disappear in the same cloud of chalk dust that he ostentatiously employed to announce his imperial presence before each game.

I have little doubt that Charley Rosen could argue, quite effectively, that he has forgotten more about professional basketball in the past 24 hours than I will ever remember (and in his column, he does make some interesting points which allude to the basic fact that explains everything, which goes something like this, according to one addled Cleveland friend of mine: THE ORLANDO MAGIC ARE A BETTER TEAM THAN THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS). But I refuse to believe that unfettered joy is somehow what doomed the Cleveland Cavaliers, just as I do not believe the league was somehow better, as Simmons and other have argued, when players were permitted to wrestle and brawl and charge into the stands after fans in truly regrettable sportjackets. Does this mean that Dwight Howard smiles too much to win a championship? And wouldn't Howard's invocation of the Lord as the central factor in Orlando's success qualify as a far more "haughty" and "ostentatious" gesture than the explusion of microparticles of chalk dust into the air?

I speak as a casual fan, but I presume I speak for many like me when I say that these have been the most compelling playoffs in recent memory. And yet it still seems like no one is quite happy with the NBA or its superstars, and its superstars are angst-ridden,* and even the NBA doesn't seem quite satisfied with itself. It is a twisted and psychologically complex relationship; Nike is perhaps the only self-assured party here, and their attempt to assuage us with Muppet propaganda has failed miserably. I suppose, if nothing else, this explains the game's continued attraction to tormented Jewish filmmakers.

*Rosen suggests LeBron's refusal to speak to the media after Game 6 reveals "an ego of... humungous proportions." I would argue that Rosen's attempt to delve into Freudian analysis of a player's refusal to utter five minutes of banal cliches, when in fact he will have six months to address every possible issue at hand, is probably a little overstated. But that's just me.

Update: Apparently Rosen has harbored a longstanding (and, as far as I can tell, largely inexplicable) grudge against LeBron. Is this "New Paltz bias"?


Melissa said...

How is thanking God ""ostentatious"? Isn't that directing attention *away* from oneself, as opposed to using chalk to draw attention *toward* oneself?

It would seem that you are now WORKING for LeBron. I sense North Coast Bias!

Michael Weinreb said...

Well, I do think there is a difference between "thanking" a higher power and essentially claiming him as a teammate (which would mean either the Lord works for cheap, or the Magic have a an awful lot of cap space.)

Also, does North Coast Bias mean I should be writing favorably about General Motors? And Cedar Point?

Tyler said...

Perhaps we need to start asking some hard questions about LeBron James. Maybe he is merely "really great," but not "all-time great."

Michael Weinreb said...

You are entitled to those hard questions, Tyler. Though it is worth noting that Jordan won his first NBA title in 1990-91, at the age of 28. And LeBron will turn 25 in December.

Sharon said...

It is important not to drink the Kool-Aid. One always needs to keep a sense of emotional distance in order to accurately judge the true merits of a talent. Perhaps Mr. Weinreb has gone too far.