Kickass Reading Material

Word to your mothers, the three articles below are looooooooooong. Awesome stuff though and as good as anything I could ever hope to write. Print and read.

36 hours with the Atlanta Hawks by Lang Whitaker.

“This team has a chance to do something special if you believe in each other,” Woodson said. “If you feel like what we’re trying to do on the court isn’t going to work, speak up! I have zero ego as a coach, none. If you think you see something that’s going to work better than what we’re trying to do, speak up! Say something to me! But what I’m telling you guys is that if you guys will just consistently do what we’re asking you to do on defense, we’ll win games. I don’t give a shit about the offense; you guys can score more than enough points to win games. The offense isn’t the problem. But you have to get stops on defense, and if you’ll listen to what we’re telling you, I promise you’ll get stops. The shit works, okay? The shit works, but you guys just have to have the pride and the heart to buy into it and do what we’re asking you to do every time down the court.”

The Hawks weren’t shooting the ball particularly well, but they were making Dallas shoot jump shots and sealing off the drives that killed them a night earlier against New York. After one, the Hawks were up 27-19.

At the beginning of the second quarter, ref Bennie Adams whistled an illegal screen on Drew Gooden, and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who was pacing the sideline just in front of where I was sitting, exploded.

“Bennie, how was that an illegal screen? He was standing still!”

“His base was too wide,” Adams said, before turning and running downcourt.

A disbelieving smile on his face, Carlisle bellowed, “His base was too wide? What does that mean?” I don’t know, either, coach.

Jason Fagone from GQ has an amazingly deep story about Marvin Harrison and his sketchy shooting arrest in Philadelphia last year.

Think about the discipline it would take to make a living as an elite star of a multi-billion-dollar entertainment juggernaut without ever once being truly seen. In this sense, Harrison’s football career is not only historic; it’s also a sort of miracle. The dude skipped like a flat stone across a rancid pool and emerged, twelve years later, dry as a bone.

And when he stood up and looked around, he went right back to the place his heart had always been, the place he had never really left: Philadelphia, the city of his birth. His family was large and close, and although some members had been violent criminals, his inner circle struggled to protect him from those influences. His uncle Vincent Cowell was a respected anesthesiologist at Temple University Hospital. His mother, Linda, and his stepfather, Anthony Gilliard, were modest businesspeople who worked hard and fed needy families when they could. (Just like Marvin did: In 2006 at Thanksgiving, he donated eighty-eight turkey dinners to the poor of North Philly.)

From up high, Marvin appeared to be a millionaire athlete like any other; at street level, he was a businessman cobbling together a mini-empire in the hood. It was an iconoclastic way to reconcile his money with his roots—a tricky thing for any athlete flung from poverty into wealth. Many simply flee to suburban McMansions. Some, like Allen Iverson, go the other way, keeping questionable company and giving shout-outs to “my niggas back home.” But Marvin didn’t run and he didn’t flaunt. He just sort of hid. His life was exquisitely controlled—an extraordinary man’s attempt to become a ghost in his own story. For a long time, it worked. And then, for reasons that go well beyond Marvin Harrison—reasons having to do with race, class, jealousy, politics, and the problems of American cities—it didn’t.

Lastly, with the Australian Open underway, an old but relevant story by the late David Foster Wallace on Roger Federer.

Interestingly, what is less obscured in TV coverage is Federer’s intelligence, since this intelligence often manifests as angle. Federer is able to see, or create, gaps and angles for winners that no one else can envision, and television’s perspective is perfect for viewing and reviewing these Federer Moments. What’s harder to appreciate on TV is that these spectacular-looking angles and winners are not coming from nowhere — they’re often set up several shots ahead, and depend as much on Federer’s manipulation of opponents’ positions as they do on the pace or placement of the coup de grâce. And understanding how and why Federer is able to move other world-class athletes around this way requires, in turn, a better technical understanding of the modern power-baseline game than TV — again — is set up to provide.