February 10, 2006

With Poetry I Paint The Pictures That Hit, More Like The Murals That Fit, Don't Turn Away, Get In Front Of It

Two posts in one day? Kevin Garnett's gone mad! HE'S GOT MAD COW'S DISEASE!!!

I feel urged to wax poetic about basketball and why I like this sport so much. This could be long, so strap in.

There are reasons, oh lord, are there a multitude of reasons that it makes the most sense, but the big one will always be the intimacy. That old familiarity. You can't play baseball without at least one friend (unless you're out back of the shed hitting grounders to a figure painted on the wall - but if that's the case then you better wear a helmet because DAD'S GOING TO BEAT YOU WHEN YOU GET BACK INSIDE FOR DINNER), and football can only be played in your mind. You could skate around and try to triple-deke your imaginary goalie opponent, but even then, you'd have to find an open patch of ice and a net... and your parents' mortgage is due, so tough shit, Ricky. No, but you can grab that roundball and go down to the park, can't you? You can dribble and pop shots until it goes dark, and even then, if you've got a quarter, you can spark the overheads and go until the bugs get to be too much. And you can really calm down out there, really take it in, really run down a lot of things in that twisted amalgamation of human thought between your ears. Because it's all about the shot, the dribble, the bank, the motion.

And if you don't know, you don't know. And that's what seperates us, what makes it possible to understand and respect - instead of flail about with pseudo-analysis and broken logic. Us basketball players know the game, we know the fundamentals, we know the plays. And damn it, if you don't know, then you don't know.

Basketball also represents a unique team dynamic. 5 guys who work as a unit but also as individuals. 5 who must do their individual jobs right, but not do them too well, and definitely not do anything to take away from the team. You can shoot well, but don't shoot all the time. You can pass well, but you have to shoot once in awhile. Rebounding is fine, but step out and pop a jumper now and then. And on defense? Shit. Without 4 soldiers on your side ready to step in for you, you're dead. The entire team needs to know that the guy next to him is willing to help out if he gets beat. Otherwise, this whole thing crumbles. But again, it comes back to the individual. You have to play defense well, but don't lose track of the team. It's a push and pull, this connection. You play well individually to be a good teammate, and your unselfishness allows you to do great things individually. Ah, that's fucking poetry.

But the professional game will always be the best, and that's because the game is so deep, so talented, and so rich with drama and the great Human Experience. You can watch an Association game and see things happening on a very simplistic level: Banks is popping that pass too soon, he needs to penetrate further. If you knock down Parker once, he'll distribute more. If Eddie rotates over, that play doesn't even begin. The movements are critical, they are the building blocks. But it can also go up a level. It's possible to look at the game as a fluid event: The defense is tired. He can't run the point without someone cutting to the ball. The Wolves aren't hitting their shots. It's like something Bob Wilson once told me about the game of craps. He said "And the dice have a weird way on the table. Once they start making points, they stay on it, usually. Take this next roll. We've hit 6,8, and 9 on our last three rolls. Statistically, there is a much higher chance to hit 7 or 11 on this next one, but that's the thing about statistics. The dice don't know that." And that's perfect for basketball. If the Wolves miss 5 shots in a row, and KG backs someone down and then pops a turnaround from 16, statistics say he should make it. But KG doesn't know that. And the ball doesn't know that. And the rim doesn't know that. And more importantly, as fans, we KNOW he's not making that shot. If Buckets takes a contested shot when we're on a roll, it's going in. When he does the same thing in a drought, we all groan, and clamor that it was a terrible shot. Ah, the game.

You can analyze basketball on even more levels than that, though. You can see what the team is doing in response to what the other team is doing. The zone? Killed the Wolves on wednesday. The full-court press? If you don't break it, you're hopeless. You have to not only break it, but then make a move yourself.... sort of like the best defense is a good offense. The team has to be the one dictating the moves. The winning team is usually the guys who are making the other team react.

And then, you can go upstairs and analyze player moves, statistics, salary. This part of the game is very fun to do, but it's also a quagmire. This is where lazy fair-weather fans stick their nose in the door and make bold assumptions and idiotic statements. This is where talk-radio thrives, in this cavern. If you don't watch the team consistently, you don't have the right or the ability to comment effectively about the moves and transactions of the team. End of story.

And if you don't play ball, well, that doesn't mean you can't be a fan. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy this sport as much as anyone else. But it does mean that you aren't seeing the whole thing. You aren't capturing the entire event. You see what's there, sure, but you can't understand why it's happening like it is. The base level is missing, and the foundation is built on the experience AS A FAN, not as a player.

So what does it matter? Am I any better than Big Greg in Woodbury who thinks the Wally trade was bullshit because he had so much heart, just because I can properly shoot and dribble a basketball and know my way around the court? Well, not better. But I am close to the game, and when I see NBA players make their moves and perform their drills, well, shit, I know it from experience. And that brings the familiarity, the knowledge. And so, in a way (prepare to crank up hyperbole, NOW) I guess I speak their language, or at least, I understand it. I'm not fluent, oh no. But I know a few nouns and participles. And you don't have to stop and explain to me why Nash is going under the pick and roll against AC.

It's because AC isn't a threat to shoot.

Ha ha. See, I know.


Joshua said...

Listen, usually I don;t like to tell people on teh net when they do a good job, inflates the ego and trhows the whole intersphere off kilter.

You got it, tonight, though. Trying to explain the game to someone who doesn't play is like trying to teach Hellen Keller ping pong, "What do you mean, you can't even hear that shit, bitch"

Anyway, I added you to the blog roll. I stopped by to see what was going on becuase watching the game tonight was getting painful. Etuh? Forchristsake.

Joshua said...

Wow, I should lay off the sauce when I type.

That should say "utah"


Dave Snizewski said...

You know you understand the game when you start watching other things besides the guy with the ball. I appreciate all fans of basketball, educated and not. The more the merrier in my book. What I don't like is when the uneducated try to explain to me how it is. A smarter person than I would just smile and nod, but I have to prove them wrong. Steve, you always try to help me out, but I can't be stopped. I fume and get angry. I just want to scream, "stop talking, you are just showing how stupid you are and it makes me mad!"

I'm a helpless cause. I'm a hoops junkie.