New Posts: Nash and Ninja Turtles

I’ve got two new posts up on Medium. One about fading NBA star Steve Nash, and one about the live-action Ninja Turtles trilogy.

I have little interest in writing NBA profiles that span an NBA players career, replete with stats. Whereas basketball writing has moved from traditional boxscore numbers to more advanced stats, I’m more interested in avoiding numbers and writing about how watching a player feels. I’m influenced by The Classical’s Why We Watch section—I want to read a fan’s perspective, a personal insight on watching a player. Not that I accomplished that with the Nash post, but it’s at least on the road I want to follow further.

The Turtles one started out as bullet-points for a brief post here, then somehow lengthened into more of an essay. I have no idea how to write about films (hence the bullet-point posts like this and this); there’s no greater reminder of how little I understand cinema than trying to write about it. That said, despite that post being rushed and unbalanced, I’m somewhat proud of how it came out.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I think Brendan Keogh said. To paraphrase, worry about writing a lot. Then worry about writing well. I’m starting to realise that I can spend so much time rewriting and editing and shuffling things around, but the writing won’t be as good as I want because I’m not as good as I want to be. These posts are just two of the 1,000 or 10,000,000 things I’d have to write before I get good at this writing malarkey. There are of course lessons in editing my work—I’m not going to just throw it out there soon as the first draft is finished. But right now it’s more important to publish and move on than to tinker excessively.

New Post—on the NBA’s Detroit Pistons

I’ve posted on Medium again, this time about the 2004 champion Detroit Pistons, and how they don’t get the credit they deserve. Yes, a complete homer of a piece. You can read it here.

This was actually an old post that was supposed run elsewhere but never did. I tidied it up a wee bit but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered doing too much to it. Writing that was a time and a place for me. I still wanted it published online somewhere, but more to get it out of my system that any sort of pride (although I am of course linking to it).

I’m glad that I tried to write some present tense, in-the-moment, sports stuff. Sure, it came out overdone and melodramatic, but at least I tried. I could never get the quiet mood in my head that I wanted for the final paragraph into words but, again, I tried.

I miss the hell out of that team and that period of basketball. I miss Detroit’s announcer, Mason, and his ‘Buhbuhbuh Ben…Wallace!’ calls. I miss chants of ‘Dee-troit bas-ketball’ and watching Tayshaun chase down a layup and watching this team never crack under pressure. I tried to pattern my game after Rip’s (and failed miserably), I bought a stack of Pistons’ DVDs on Ebay and the official championship book. I bought two Ben Wallace and one Rip Hamilton jerseys. That would never make it into my post, it was long enough already.

Linkage

My latest post is up on UKASD. It’s about going to the season-opening game for the Glasgow Rocks, Scotland’s professional basketball team. Click to read it.

I got a bit carried away with that one. It’s about 2,300 words but I expected it to be shorter. Thankfully, I won’t really discuss the quality of my writing. Because I’m about to compare myself to David Foster Wallace. I’d been reading Consider the Lobster, a collection of his non-fiction, when writing that post. I see his influence on the thoroughness of it, in the price of drinks and what music played, stuff I would normally leave out.

Not that you’d be able to tell from reading it, but that post took ages. Chunks of it were taken from an old, unfinished story about attending a Rocks game shortly after they moved to their new homecourt. Before I attended this game, I reworked that draft, leaving space to slot in the new stuff. It should have been straightforward. But I kept tinkering with it, moving stuff around only to change it back again. The final draft was more similar to the first than any subsequent versions.

I’m glad I wrote it; it’s given me more of a feel for longer posts. The post-writing process is the same as always, however. I wait eagerly to see my writing online then, as soon as it is, I feel really embarrassed and can’t bring myself to read it again.

Viewing Snapshot

I was off work sick yesterday, and so watched a few things.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A mostly enjoyable watch, but one that lasts too long. It’s not a Western of slow, lingering shots, but still rounds out (in my version) at two and-a-half hours. By the end, as the camera darted between gun holsters in preparation for a shootout, I couldn’t have cared less. I’d lost my enthusiasm.

Eli Wallach’s character, Tuco, is by far the best thing about this film.  Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name is iconic, but Tuco is the human and comedic heart of the film.

Almost Answered

Almost Answered is a basketball documentary, about the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and their surprising run to the 2001 Finals.  The main character, understandably, is star player Allan Iverson (the title derives from his nickname, The Answer). Iverson was the subject of so much coverage throughout his career that there’s little fresh to say about him. But this film also gives time to then-coach Larry Brown, former team president and enthusiasm-machine, Pat Croce, and Iverson’s support acts Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, and Dikembe Mutumbo*.

One bit that I found odd was when the Sixers make the Finals, where they’ll face the heavily-favoured LA Lakers and their two stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The film goes for the old-underdog angle. Cue former Philly players saying variations on ‘No one was giving us a chance’, and David/Goliath comparisons. The Sixers lost 4-1 in the Finals. Whoever wasn’t giving them a chance was pretty accurate with their prediction.

Almost Answered is an interesting watch. I would’ve liked a little more focus on the non-Iverson players but, given the 45 minute running time, what we get is perfectly acceptable.

*I watched this on my phone, which really struggled with the bass of Mutumbo’s voice. He should do voice work. All of it.

Watchmen

Watchmen is good enough that I saw it twice at the cinema, a rare occurrence. A few weeks ago I started to watch it for a third time (this time on DVD). I wasn’t particularly enjoying it, and when I had to stop it early, I felt no great rush to return to the film. Last night I decided to see it through to the end.

No wonder it works so well in the cinema: it’s visually impressive, stylish, and the action scenes work well. Particularly on the big screen, it appeals to the eyes.

But, just as regularly, it fails to appeal intellectually.

Much like his latest film, Man of Steel, there’s no subtlety to director Zach Snyder’s work. The Watchmen comic gives you things to contemplate, but they’ve been sheared off in the film. Snyder spells out so much for the audience, perhaps concerned that if they’re busy thinking they won’t enjoy the big fights. A plot point can’t be revealed unless a character explains what’s already obvious. Laurie can’t realise who her father is without Dr Manhattan spelling it out in case we missed it.

Survive and Advance

I might still be too close to Survive to do it any justice. Maybe I was in an emotional state yesterday, having been sick and feeling run down. Let’s just say, the room was dusty at certain points yesterday, causing my eyes to water while watching this.

Survive and Advance tells the story of the a college basketball team, North Carolina Sate, and their Cinderella story of making the NCAA Final 1983 and beating a massively-favoured Houston team.

The documentary’s alternates between a recent team reunion and flashing back to the events being discussed. This works strongly on an emotional level, as anyone with a passing knowledge of this team knows that team’s coach, Jim Valvano, died of cancer years ago, and his absence hangs over the reunion,

I first learned of Valvano through Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated and his heartbreaking article on ‘Jimmy V’, As Time Runs Out*. It’s been a few years since I read it, so I’d forgotten about Smith mentioning how charismatic and enthusiastic the coach was. Survive shows clips from a speech Valvano gave. You wouldn’t think he was a coach. A comedian or entertainer?, perhaps. He’s a man clearly having fun, a man clearly loving being alive. Even when he’s not  being discussed, there’s a big Jimmy V-shaped gap in the reunion. It’s easy to imagine that, if he was there, he’d be the focus of attention, his former players barely managing to get a word in.

The sadness is poured on hard towards the end: Valvano giving an honest ESPY speech which is tough to watch, one of his players and an assistant being reduced to tears. The last ten minutes are a particular struggle.

Watch Survive and Advance. Just be prepared for it to tug hard at your heart-strings.

*I moved Gary Smith’s book, Beyond the Game, into my bedside unit, so I could re-read that article once I’d watched the documentary. Last night I looked at the book, thought I can’t face that yet, and read something else instead.

And-one

Lebron James steals a cross-court pass and starts a fast break
As he crosses halfcourt, he’s fouled
After the whistle, he dribbles the ball upcourt
He runs past the opponent’s basket, up steps, and into the crowd
He climbs all the way to the executive boxes
He passes security and dribbles into the concourse
He runs around the arena, and re-enters on the other side of the building
He comes out through the tunnel
He talks to his team-mates on the bench
He says Hi to his mum
He stops to take a photograph with fans at courtside
Then he lays the ball in
And Heat fans cheer because they think the basket still counts