Bullish

How did the severely depleted and undermanned Bulls beat the defending NBA champs on the road? Do you really want to know?
Share |

A little more than a week ago White Sox play-by-play man/living cartoon Hawk Harrelson went on the MLB Network for a chat with Brian Kenny. Kenny, one of MLBN’s anchors and an adherent of advanced metrics, wanted to speak directly with Harrelson about comments Harrelson had made recently during a Sox broadcast, in which Hawk dismissed sabrmetrics as evaluative and predictive tools and embraced with his usual orotund vanity some less mathematically-oriented metrics: Grit, Leadership, Heart, so on. In person, Kenny’s arguments, including one that used Sabrmetrics to demonstrate that Harrelson’s 1967 season was even better than standard numbers indicate, went unheeded. Harrelson refused to listen, let alone budge. His view of the game remained a strange hybrid of the empirical and the spiritual. Stats are numbers alone, intuitions are not a hoax currency, what can be felt does matter, and the whole thing is zero sum: believe a number, kill a feeling.

What Harrelson reduced things to, and what essentially every anti-Sabrmetrician uses as his loadstar, was sentiment. Here was the game as gauzy, twilit mystery rather than the result of fully calculable phenomena. Harrelson even made up his own jokey metric, its acronym a clumsy echo of some of the rather unwieldy names of the new breed of baseball stats. TWTW, he called it. The Will To Win. If only Hawk had been talking about Jerry Reinsdorf’s other sports property, then he may have been onto something. While both standard and advanced stats fully support the idea that the Bulls deserved to beat the Heat Monday night, watching the game it was impossible not to feel that there was something unquantifiable at work; that the Bulls simply had a higher percentage of that weird, vague TWTW. There was a ghost in the building.

***

Pause for a moment and think about this: the Bulls beat the defending champion Miami Heat in a playoff game, in Miami, and with a fourth quarter lineup of Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.

Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose looked very nice in their suits on the bench. Luol Deng tweeted a celebratory photo of himself in a bland and sadly lit hospital bed. The replicant sitting in for Rip Hamilton was nicely behaved on the sidelines. Carlos Boozer doesn’t even merit mentioning. Which leaves Nate Robinson, Marco Bellinelli, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah. I don’t get it either.

The Bulls are still going to lose this series. But that was evident before the playoffs even began. A sweep wasn’t out of the question, though the Bulls stealing a win – say, game four in Chicago to avoid getting shut out – seemed reasonable enough. What didn’t seem reasonable was the possibility that the Bulls would win Game 1 on the road. Not after their seven-game Passchendaele reenactment against the robustly meh Nets, and not after the Heat skipped breezily by, who was it, the LaCrosse Catbirds or something. Winning Game 1 was somehow more than unreasonable. The Bulls – what’s left of them, anyway – are a zombie corps and gleefully dragged the Heat into slow, murky zombie play. Remember in Dawn of the Dead, that zombie fairy tale, when the mall zombies, who have gone from menace to afterthought to ultimately object of pity, take their revenge with hands and teeth on Tom Savini and the other bikers who’ve been tormenting them. It’s a staggering emotional transposition George Romero pulls off, getting you not only to feel badly for the zombies but to actually cheer for them as they disembowel and gut-munch. Rooting for the zombified Bulls isn’t quite as conflicted, this wasn’t nearly as violent, but also there it all is.

Even if they hadn’t won, the way that Tom Thibodeau’s defense desecrated and sabotaged the Heat’s James-Wade Machine would have been a sufficient victory. But the Bulls did win. It was a triumph of illogic and the inexplicable. It was a strike against the inevitable, a victory for sentiment. A good basketball game, too, but also and inescapably that.

***

In 2011 the Bulls also won game one against Miami and look at how that ended. This Heat team is better than before, the Bulls are worse. There will probably be reprisal-style blowouts – Miami’s dismantling of the Bulls in their first game after the Bulls ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak in March was particularly brutal. One thing LeBron James has gotten frighteningly good at in the past few years is playing angry. Michael Jordan at his antagonized worst was a glorious asshole, someone who knew he was better than everybody else and, when that fact was in danger of being forgotten or at least ignored, would go supernova screaming his own supremacy: the guy in a BMW doing 110 on the shoulder because he thinks a Honda Fit has cut him off.

James, on the other hand, simply goes hunting when he feels he’s been bested. This transcends the truism about playing with a grudge, almost elevates it. James is more like someone who feels he needs to restore moral order to the universe. This was evident in a minor way last night. After being harassed into the margins of the first half by Jimmy Butler’s near-perfect defense, James sought revenge in the second. He scored points, but it wasn’t how much he scored; it was how he scored. On one especially ominous fastbreak in the fourth quarter Butler got both arms around James but James just kept moving through Butler’s grasp for the three-point play. On the Heat’s next possession he blew by Butler for another layup and foul.

The urge to narrativize sports is a strong one. Whether as part of a wider arc of a season or in the particular rhythms and pivotings of a single game, the need to find context for a game within the structure of a story speaks to our need to make sense of what we’re watching and interpret it in sensible linear fashion. And as with any kind of story – literature or films or television – when you’ve seen enough sports you begin to be able to recognize tropes and patterns, either borne out of creative laziness or because you’ve simply trained yourself to spot these things.

The most visible iteration of this in sports seems to be with comebacks, particularly when it’s one’s own rooting interest giving back the lead. The plot twist looms, vast and unmissable; you feel the other team’s run coming. This comparison is in every way false – nobody is sitting down and plotting out the course of games – but the sense of dread that hangs over every growing point deficit is the same dread you feel when Harry Dean Stanton goes looking for the kitty on the Nostromo or, maybe overstating a bit here but still, the bodies pile up in Santa Teresa.

Funny thing, though: those layups were James’s last made field goals of the night. The last one he attempted was an airball with the Bulls up four and thirty seconds to play. Butler’s last shot, a few moments prior to that, was a made three.

In other words, the narrative just broke. The expectation had already failed and then the narrative broke. Thus Nate Robinson, standing at the top of the key as the game and shot clocks wind down, frantically waving off a screen by Joakim Noah so he can speed by the bollard-like Ray Allen and finger-roll the ball in; Robinson, with ten stitches in his mouth, courtesy of James’s MVP elbow; Robinson, who had talked and misshot his way out of three cities in two years before signing a minimum contract to anchor the end of the Bulls’ bench, did away with whatever shreds of predictable or sensible were left Monday night. It was beautiful nonsense, significant-seeming on the surface and silly underneath. If this manifest chaos has to be named or said to reflect anything, The Will To Win works as well as anything else.


Share |

Comments

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
houston real estate

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work.
best whatsapp status

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
la boxing

oral anavar for sale I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. fitness tracker

Dog Parlour I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and Pet Shipping I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!! mulch installed bolingbrook

This was a really great contest and hopefully I can attend the next one. It was alot of fun and I really enjoyed myself..
High Trust Flow Backlinks

Windows 10 professional download I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work! inversion table for sciatica

Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post.
buy bitcoin with paypal

The problem is not only finding these backlinks but also spiting out the data and submitting links to those pages in an easy to use way.You can do this manually using Yahoo site explorer but it only gives you the link count, it doesn't give you pagerank data for each site and if you do find pagerank data it doesn't collect the data in an easy to use fashion so that you can submit to only sites that have good pagerank and dofollow. seo packages prices

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information.
http://www.techgyd.com

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
Past Life Regression Portland

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information.
steroids uk forum

Enormous blog you individuals have made there, I entirely appreciate the work.
type essays

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work.
Escort In Bangalore

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
Michael

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
regenerative thermal oxidizers by TKS

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information...
men's undershirt

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful...
Valentines Day Cards Memes

I really like your take on the issue. I now have a clear idea on what this matter is all about..
voyance gratuite

Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post.
cherry hill workers comp lawyer

This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this..
pregnancy massage at home in NJ

Unbelievable work man!! Keep your heads high you probably did it.
office furnishings

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work! clickergame.org

Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.
high quality backlinks

Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post.
free credit score government

visit the Paris Music Website I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. invigorating body to body massage Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task. outcall tantra massage london

I'm really happy to find this site and did enjoy reading useful articles posted here. The ideas of the author was awesome, thanks for the share.
food brand management

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It is the old what goes around comes around routine.
follixin funciona mesmo

I’m reading the stuff of your site continuously n I have got really a lot of the things that’s very important. You have put the great effort here.
HqEssays

This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this..
free submit website

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
seo keyword packages

I really like your writing style, great information, thankyou for posting.
pre diabetes

useful information on topics that plenty are interested on for this wonderful post.Admiring the time and effort you put into your b!..
adeus estrias

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
best multivitamin for women

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information.
Financial Advisors Whittier CA

This is such an extraordinary asset, to the point that you are giving and you give it away for nothing. I adore seeing blog that comprehend the quality. Im happy to have discovered this post as its such a fascinating one! I am dependably watchful for quality posts and articles so i assume im fortunate to have discovered this! I trust you will be including more later on... His Secret Obsession Review

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
Web Design Services

Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.
Divoom outdoor 2 review

I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task.
SEO Services Preston

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
cool stuff

News Bucket Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! buy web hosting

here I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task. Lovers Day Messages 2017

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
investment property

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!
wedding photographer in singapore

Best Licensed Moneylender Jurong I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. Moneylender Jurong Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task. Best Moneylender Jurong

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free Dofollow Blog Comments

visit site I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task. tesco helium balloon

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It is the old what goes around comes around routine.
browsing history deletion

I wish more writers of this sort of substance would take the time you did to look into and compose so well. I am extremely inspired with your vision and knowledge.
Revive Her Drive Review

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has proved your hard work and experience you have got in this field. Brilliant .i love it reading.
latter and blum new orleans