Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Go Pistons. Rah.

I've never given two thoughts about basketball (positive thoughts, anyway) before moving to my current digs. Basketball was a distant blip on the radar during my Bay Area childhood, and when I lived in Memphis TN it was a Big Issue without a Big Team to rally around. MSU (er,
'U of M') were all right, but Memphis didn't get the Grizzlies (hahahah) until after I skipped town, and the price tab for the Grizzlies was such that I wouldn't have cheered for them anyway.

But now... I kinda like the Pistons. Modern basketball with its multimedia 'heroes'-- Shaq and Kobe (thankfully now off the Nutella jars) and Citizen Jordan and creepy ickle Memphian Anfernee Hardaway-- can't stand it. But the Pistons, the defiant anti-team with its anti-stars and 'goin' to work' attitude-- sure, part of it is a crafted image, but they believe in the image for all they' ve got.

I have to smile at a team whose most notorious player has the phrase 'scruffy irritant' tacked to his tail like a Homeric epithet. I gotta cheer for the very idea of team cobbled together from other franchise's rejects that suddenly, somehow, synthesized into a giant-slayer. And it's just too darned funny to follow a team that plays to kill with its back against the wall but blanks when they're actually on a roll.

I don't want to read much about them as people, but I dig them as characters-- 'Sheed, Big Ben, Rip, freaky-armed Tayshaun Prince and the gang. The Bad News Bears they ain't, though-- that collective chip on the shoulder looks to be gin-u-wine. Rodney Dangerfield they ain't, either-- they really don't get any respect. It's clear to me now that the only reason the Pistons got the positive coverage they did last year was because everyone outside of the LA metropolitan area was dying to see the overpriced Lakers take a fall.

Take the Staples Center out of the picture, and suddenly everyone wants the Pistons gone. The hilarious "Apocalyptic Detroit" column out of the Miami Herald was intended to be funny (I think), but its tone comes awfully close to non-satirical pieces written about the Pistons of late. Stick 'Sheed and company against a team that isn't top-heavy with Hall of Famers and can actually play defense, and the press throws a grand old Pistons Grave Dancing Party, with 'Sheed as the guest of honour.

Then the boys subjected the Spurs to two consecutive maulings at the Palace of Malice and, as the SF Chronicle's writer pointed out, it was abruptly the Spurs who didn't deserve to be in the finals. I swear, sportswriters are as capricious as the British music press. Individually, some may be on crusades, but collectively they seem a fickle lot.

It doesn't matter now. Thanks to the hubris in San Antonio, the Pistons did what they appear to like best-- they sailed through an elimination game. Even if they lose tomorrow night, it's been a memorable ride that should shut some some (hypo)critical types up.

So, I echo the cutesy family diner on Allen Road-- "Go Pistons. Rah." Sounds lukewarm for a final Finals game with a 'dynasty' at stake? Maybe, but I said I'm new at this whole basketball thing. Carry on, scruffy guys. Cheers.