Friday, June 17, 2011

Chosen Ones And Others

Last summer, in the frantic and screechy days leading up to LeBron James's peculiar, image-shredding, goofily grandiose "Decision" broadcast, I got pretty busy. There were some (Ryan Genovese-assisted) suggestions of ways to spice up the broadcast, inspired by the ultra-perplexing Dean Martin Variety Show and a puzzling over the week's wince-y phenomenology here and at Can't Stop The Bleeding (twice, actually). When James finally signed with the Heat, it was a let-down in a bunch of different ways and at a bunch of different levels, but it was also something of a relief. Not just because I'd no longer need to wade through inherently un-verifiable pseudo-scoops as part of my Daily Fix duties, although there was certainly that. Instead, something seemed settled about LeBron, who is pretty clearly the best and among the most interesting players of his generation.

It wasn't that he was a villain, although that was the narrative that (justifiably) emerged in the wake of his decision to break up with his home state in what amounted to a televised infomercial for himself. Scooby Doo cartoons and sports columns are the only place in which people "are revealed" as villains, and anyway the hero/villain thing is never not-bullshit, at least in a sports-y context. The real revelation, not so much on the evening of The Decision but during a season marked by some petty bully-boy bullshit, some pettier mean-girl bullshit, and finally by a certain hollowness -- was that LeBron was less the fun-loving if somewhat thwarted figure that he had appeared to be during his early years in Cleveland and was instead seemingly dedicated to chasing a Jordan-inf(l)ected vision of Greatness. Not greatness qua being great, although that's obviously part of it, but greatness as in vastness -- championships and memorable photos of himself after winning championships, a brand that expands and engulfs forever and ever amen, and so on. "Global icon" was a term he used for it earlier in his career, and in all its bleak, un-human and multiple capitalistic crassnesses it was apparently what he meant. It's one thing to pull against a player whose style of basketball or on-court affect or locality of employment are unappealing to you. It's another, easier, thing to wish defeat upon a player who aspires with all his being to global brand-hood, to someday being raptured directly into the NYSE. That was the disappointment, for me, with LeBron -- that a player with so beautiful a talent (and with what seemed a healthy sense of humor) aspired to become a post-human, living/breathing/sweating/pooping corporation.

It has been an orgy of revilement for LeBron since his Heat lost to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, and while Bethlehem Shoals and I have discussed what that match-up meant to us in our GQ chats, and while everyone in the whole fucking world has discussed What LeBron's Problem Is, I apparently still had a little bit left in me on this. So I wrote something I'm pretty happy with about LeBron and His Sad Aspirations for The Awl. In it, I compare him to a Richard Serra sculpture, which is maybe not the high point of my metaphor-making career -- I'd imagine that would involve ham and either a politician or a quarterback, somehow -- but which did provide an excuse not to run a picture of LeBron with this post. So you're welcome for that, I guess?

1 comment:

  1. Actually that ending metaphor really super-worked for me. Not saying you can't/shouldn't work your processed-meat magics on the topic in future, just saying that it was an image that genuinely made me, you know, think.

    It made me think mostly about Serra's performance/work in Cremaster, which latter is not usually my favorite thing to think about, but it did make me think.

    wv: disfilly (the bitchy and condescending hobby-horse ridden by most sportswriters about most athletes)