Hoops Manifesto

This was fun project I’ve been working on for awhile. The idea was to set out some of my personal beliefs about basketball. As I continued to work, it spiraled and morphed into the silly, melodramatic, and self-indulgement mess you see now. I’ve put it up as a post but it will also be a page, accessible from the header at the top if you should ever feel the need to look at it again and giggle about my writing abilities with your friends.

“Prophecy and prescience – How can they be put to the test in the face of unanswered questions? Consider: How much is actual prediction . . . and how much is the prophet shaping the future to fit the prophecy? What of the harmonics inherent in the act of prophecy? Does the prophet see the future or does he see a line of weakness, a fault or cleavage that he may shatter with words or decisions as a diamond-cutter shatters his gem with the blow of a knife?”

You can’t watch, discuss or appreciate today’s NBA without understanding Michael Jordan. I rooted against him in every game I ever watched him play, regardless of the opponent, but he can’t be ignored, forgotten or dismissed. He was the a Jedi Warrior on the court. Remembered for tongue wagging and limitless hangtime, his true gift in my mind, was his seeming ability to make things happen on the court, to bend the course of events with force of will alone.

His fallaway jumper went in because he wanted it to. He defied gravity because it was his will. Nothing he did was instinctual or coincidental, it was all deliberate and decided. He saw the infinite possibilities inherent in each contest and chose the end result and manner of delivery which suited him best.

“To attempt an understanding of Muad’Dib without understanding his mortal enemies , the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.”

The best basketball is played when every player on the court has something at stake; not some arbitrary or individual goal, but the shared desire of every teammate and fan.

The most common and most effective manifestation is hatred of an opponent; a rivalry, not just in name or by jersey, but in actual dislike of the other team and a desire to not just beat them but thoroughly destroy their desire to ever step on the same court with you again.

“What do you despise? By this you are truly known.”

“Yueh! Yueh! Yueh!” goes the refrain. “A million deaths were not enough for Yueh”

Just like professional wrestling, basketball has its heels, its villains, it’s irredeemable souls. For some the pleasure comes in revelling in the proximity of their demise, for some it comes in the whole hearted desire to see redemption attained. From both perspectives, a tortured soul is reason to watch.

“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man – with human flesh.”

There are no sure things on the basketball court. What you know will happen may never materialize. All the confidence in the world is no match for reality.

“Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends on the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from a belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.” 

Each player participates in perpetuating their myth to various degrees at different times, but the myth-making is largely out of their control. Like the stories of Robert Bly and Sam Keen, a mythical template has been applied to a modern human being.

An awareness of both their mythical template and the source of their mythical template, that this myth was a construction of the people around him, is crucial. The myth represents our projections and is not a reflection of an actual human being. Only with this understanding can a player move freely through fleeting moments of greatness to find a permanent home, residing alongside greatness in our memories.

“There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to build psychic muscles.”

For every champion there are scores of the disappointed, defeated and discouraged. Only one fan base celebrates at the end of the season, while everyone else chokes down the hopes of next year from half-empty goblets. Every disappointment makes that one magical season taste even sweeter; at least that’s what I’ve been told. If the Pacers ever win a championship I’ll let you know.

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

The regularity of improbabilities in basketball is intoxicating. Each game is a chance to see something you’ve never seen before. Something beyond logic and reason. Something for which you have no schema, no context, no rational structure for understanding.

“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, grace – those qualities you find always in what the true artist captures. You can find it in the turning of the seasons, in the way sand trails along a ridge, in the branch clusters of the creosote bush or the pattern of its leaves. We try to copy these patterns in our lives and our society, seeking the rhythms, the dances, the forms that comfort. Yet it is possible to see peril in the finding of ultimate perfection. It is clear that the ultimate pattern contains its own fixity. In such perfection, all things move towards death.”

There is basketball as competition and then there is basketball as exhibition. The two often have an inverse relationship despite sharing mutual time and space. The seeking of perfection in either is a narrow precipice with failure spiraling away on either side and immortality atop the highest pinnacle. Different players seek different goals; perfection in motion, perfection in results, but each is a dangerous goal and the path is littered with the legends of those who have failed.

“And that day dawned when Arrakis lay at the hub of the universe with the wheel poised to spin.”

 All quotes were taken from the science fiction epic, Dune, by Frank Herbert.

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2 Comments

Filed under Background, Random

2 responses to “Hoops Manifesto

  1. Chicago Tim

    One of the things I love about that Michael Jordan shot, which you can see better in larger, color versions, is that all the Utah fans have looks of horror on their faces, with many of them starting to cover their faces with their hands, while there is one young fan in a Bulls jersey raising his arms in joy. In other words, everyone in the stadium knew it was going in.

    • Right next to my desk I have a huge blow-up of a similar photo of Reggie Miller. It’s a game tying 3-Pointer from May 10, 1998 against the Knicks in the Garden. You can see Allan Houston in the edge of the frame scrambling to recover. You can see the face of the fans, several with hands on their heads screaming in horror. Even Spike Lee is in the shot with an “Oh Crap” look on his face. Everyone in the building knows that shot is going in and it hasn’t even left his hand yet.

      The photo is from the Indianapolis Star, it’s towards the bottom of this article:
      http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/people/m/miller_reggie/reggie.html

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