Wednesday, December 9, 2009

6th Row Center Court

Very close to me, I'm watching giants weightlessly stampede like blurs. They glide across the court like personified gusts of wind back and forth along a timed continuum and I'm in a daze. Squeaking shoes leave the ground, upward. Acrobats. Humans advanced, handling the ball like an extension of their own dynamic forms. Together moving like one violent organism cutting between liquid and empty space. Buzzing crowd, always buzzing.

This game is a rush.

Whistles blow, timers shriek, and the lady behind us continues to yell "Defense!" in a foreign accent that makes it sound like "Day-fez!". The man next to me quietly reeks of booze. The guy in front keeps bumping my leg as he puts his arm around his small girlfriend's shoulders. All the while, I watch these symbols in the flesh, closer than I've ever been. They're playing a game I knew as basketball, only it's not the basketball I've ever known.

During shoot-around these men never miss. The ball is shot in a looping trajectory and cuts through net again, again, again. The long limbs belonging to these men move fluid and loose as they go though their reps. Some of them work with coaches. Some of them by themselves. The Machine goes through stretching drills with bands wrapped around his arms, legs, and wrists. Even bound, The Machine never wastes a dull moment to scan the crowd for young women. Even during the game, he's always keeping his eyes on the prowl. During the game. During the game, you realize just how quick these men move. Bodies flash and disappear in front of the ball-handler at all times. Everything is coordinated on a higher rhythm, faster than life. A lightning intuitive precision. You have to be immersed in this flow since birth to stand a chance and then you must possess the skill-set to outwit the rapid hurricane.

Watching the small ones thread between moving giants like tornado chasers. The genius knows his limits. He wanders fast and drunkenly amongst the redwoods, with his stringy hair the last thing to catch up to his quick frame. "You have no chance Nash!" another drunk behind us yells. "Lakers are gonna win by twenty. You watch. They're gonna win by twenty," this seemingly useless blob continues repeating.

"No chance at what?" we ask ourselves. Though it's clear this two-time MVP has no chance of holding rapt the imagination when number twenty-four is on the floor in gold. Looking at this man from so close after admiring him for so long, I'm struck by just how made for this game he appears. Everything about him is chiseled to an aerodynamic absolute. His body composition, the shape of his head, his length, his height. When he moves, there is no wasted motion. Everything he does appears driven by purpose. Every step, shudder, look, is to better outwit this game. This game is his opponent and best friend. He does not belong to these other hyper-beings. He's somehow greater than them all. He has forged himself through thousands of meticulous hours of self-scrutiny and advancement. He's isolated and nurtured everything necessary to reach the potentials of his inherent genius. He sees a canvas. He aggressively creates. He effortlessly desires so much more than any man around him. He moves in reverence to this temple. He dedicates. He sweats in worship. He excites. He dazzles. He sees the patterns. He is the game.

Then there is the spectacle. The men bringing their Sunday's finest on their arms. Thousands of eyes rolling side to side watching the players or one another. The witnesses. Each one absorbed in separate lives, coming together, sitting beside strangers, acquaintances, or loved ones, packed to the ceiling, releasing themselves to a greater circus. We cheer is unison, file to the restrooms together at the half, admire what we ourselves can not do. A night at the show.

When it returns, the game moves fast. The rhythms ebb and flow. The known grows. By the fourth, the opposing subs have been sent to play in signal of defeat, like medics sent to sort through the carnage of a futuristic battlefield. The victors rest. Towels around their necks, a days work. It must be quite a way to live a life. Playing this game, because they're the best, because other people want to see them play. Living 82 games on a travelling carnival schedule adhering to an evolved infrastructure. These are dignified performers. The fans pay homage to their ability. They cheer, they follow, they identify, they love. Team colors. Histories. Cinderellas. Players. Personalities. Shots. Impossibilities manifested. Uniforms. Logos. Dunks. Spirits. Cascading leather. White Nets. Wood floors. Motions and boundaries of a higher purpose. Echoes of the basketball punching the ground like heartbeats, dribbled by losers, men, heroes, warriors, idols, caretakers. The ball beats the floor repeatedly, these dark bouncing echoes of sound and vibration are sent like phantoms through the fans ears, skin, minds, hopes, dreams, souls, whatever, you tell me how far it goes.

I love this game.