Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sports Illustrated Pieces: John Calipari & the Denver Nuggets

Two stories from the latest Sport Illustrated that struck me both for the level of the writing and thoughts about fandom they elicited in me.

The larger of the two pieces was "Too Slick, Too Loud, Too Successful Why John Calipari Can't Catch A Break" by S.L. Price. It's a profile of the University of Kentucky Men's Basketball Coach and features the same type of interesting and in-depth writing I usually see from the author.

One thing I did find, though (and maybe Price either did this intentionally or at least knew of it), was a difficulty in telling whether Calipari was a good guy or not. Not to say that every piece of entertainment I consume has to be black and white in terms of it's good guy/bad guy depiction, but me thinks it raises the bar on the quality needed from the story if this ambiguity exists. Fortunately, Price handles the task with aplomb and it's a really solid read.


The second piece from this March 14 issue that I found noteworthy was "Defiant In Denver" on the post-Carmelo Anthony Nuggets. Written by Lee Jenkins, the story gets heavily into the comparison of a basketball team with a number of solid, but not spectacular pieces working together (the current team) against a superstar-led one (that with Carmelo).


This idea of a team and the sum of it's parts rather than the efforts of it's star is interesting to me, but probably even more interesting is the idea of rooting for such team. Fandom is a concept I've thought of quite a bit lately and there's a number of different ways to look at it. Some people become a fan of a particular star and that's where their rooting interest is tied up (Michael Jordan as a good example). Really, though, I'd say that Seinfeld had it pegged for many when he said "we're just rooting for laundry." Wherever we live (or wherever we once lived and formed a team attachment)... that's who we root for.

This concept comes up for examination based on the contents of these pieces from Jenkins and Price respectively. In the Nuggets story, you've got the idea that a team could become easier (or in fact, more likely) to root for based on the makeup of it's parts. The Calipari profile is interesting in that the idea of it being easier to cheer for non-superstar players is actually turned on it's head.

Calipari as a coach has made his name by unapologetically seeking out the one and done type of high school who will star for a year in college and then move on to the NBA. Now, I'm as much of a "follow a team for my entertainment value / root for laundry" type of guy as anyone, but... Calipari's approach might be a bit much for me were I a fan of a team he came in to coach.

Now that I think about it, maybe that's where the aforementioned ambiguity about the character from the Price story came from. Interesting concepts to chew on...