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Friday, March 13, 2009
Meet Your Blogger: Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game


Anyone who has read Rob Mahoney's work at Upside & Motor and Hardwood Paroxysm knows Rob as one of the blogosphere's best young basketball writers. He makes the analytical creative, and the abstract accessible. His new Mavs blog, The Two Man Game, is an example of both. Also: Confessions of a 6-4 Geisha.  

What are you doing with a sports blog?
Doing something I love, and sharing it with everyone who will put up with me.  I've loved both basketball and writing since I was a wee lad, and blogging is the most natural amalgamation of the two. 
 
Beyond that, having your own blog is the best way to fully develop your own perspective.  I'm of the opinion that you don't really know how you feel about something until you're forced to defend it.  Do you really think this trade worked out well for Team X?  Prove it.  Do you really think that this certain aspect of Player Y's game has improved this season?  Convince me.  The blogging game is a series of challenges, whether self-imposed or reader-instigated.  We bloggers are constantly in a world that goes beyond show-and-tell; it's more show-and-prove.  Whether I'm trying to convince the reader or myself is irrelevant, because in the process I'm learning and, hopefully, teaching a thing or two about the Mavs and the league from my side of the world.  I'm not trying to write about the divine truths of the game of basketball in an irrefutable way.  I'm here to present facts, engage in discussion, and cause reflection on my end and yours.  As I mentioned before, it's all about perspective.  If you've read my writing and feel like I still need to explain exactly what that perspective entails, then I'm probably not doing my job right.

Dallas MavericksWhat, to you, is the point of a sports blog?
The beauty and the curse of the medium is that it's open to anything.  Personally, I think that blogging is a prime platform for in-depth analysis.  Beat writers have their place in the sports world, and television/radio analysts have theirs; each provides information and insight in their own way.  But how much analysis can one really cram into a 20-second broadcast blurb or a newspaper sidebar?  In blogging, 99% of the restraints are internal.  There isn't a producer or editor-in-chief telling you to slice your prized feature piece in half or "wrap it up" so they can cut to commercial.  That opens the floodgates for ridiculous amounts of information, and provides a new avenue to take advantage of all kinds of multimedia (video, audio, etc.).  Could any other format fully utilize diagrams, advanced statistics, and video in the same way?  Of course on the flip-side, that question can be rephrased as 'Could any other format fully utilize pictures of scantily clad women, top 10 lists for everything, and video of Michael Phelps and a bong?'  To each their own, I suppose, but I intend to use my powers for good.
 
The latent effect is open discourse.  Whereas your television analyst of choice may be inaccessible, most bloggers have made themselves available and easily reachable.  Most answer the e-mails and comments of their readers in a way that encourages blogger-reader interaction, and blogs become communities for kindred spirits to swap ideas, bring new perspectives (there's that buzz-word again), and challenge/make fun of each other.

Image courtesy of Rob Mahoney You're a major contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, had a superb NBA blog called Upside & Motor, then started the Mavs-specific "Two Man Game."  How's the transition going from NBA generalist to team-specific blogger?

Team blogging has an entirely different dynamic than blogging about the league in general.  For generalists, there's just so much information to consume and only so much time to write.  If you get caught up trying to make a story out of every DUI and every losing streak, you're going to drive yourself nuts.  As a result, I think my approach with Upside and Motor as well as with Hardwood Paroxysm emphasizes shorter, reactionary posts to major events and longform pieces addressing league-wide observations and players/teams under the microscope.
 
With team blogging, the temptation is to focus too intensely on the details.  The natural audience of team blogs is the hardcore fanbase, and so you look long and hard at player tendencies, individual play breakdowns, and patterns in on-court chemistry and production.  Coming from my blogging background, I'm always trying to incorporate elements of both approaches.  It's important to talk shop and really break down the tape, but it's crucial that we as writers (and fans) remember that every play, every game, every hot streak, and even postgame quote is a piece of a larger, comprehensive whole.  It doesn't matter if it's within the framework of previews/recaps or in a flat-out "State of the Team" address, but determining where your team is and where they're going is more important than understanding how your third-string center defends the side screen and roll.

Before the Olympics last year, you compared a few members of the U.S. team to a piece of advanced American weaponry.  Does this mean Dirk Nowitzki is Big Bertha?
Big Bertha falls right in line with Dirk in a lot of ways, but the metaphor isn't perfect.  Dirk's game is much more subtle than bombardment via artillery shells, and Bertha had many more practical applications on defense.  Of course the way to take down either is to crowd them, and to smother them in a way that negates their range.
 
An equally imperfect comparison might be to blitzkrieg warfare.  Dirk would never be described as lightning, but the meticulously planned, focused, all-out offensive has me seeing images of off-balance jumpers.  To Dirk's credit, the nature of his skills allows him to do more with less.  He overcomes superior defenses and teams filled with quality players through meticulously planned footwork (even on seemingly improvisational possessions) and a designated point of attack.  He doesn't need a huge frame or ungodly athleticism.  As a seven-foot jump shooter, he took the league entirely by surprise, attacking in a unique way that was equal parts visionary and revolutionary.  If one needs proof that tactical points of attack are more important in basketball than overwhelming force, one needs not look farther than Dirk.  Also, he is particularly effective against Frenchmen.

Speaking of metaphors, you wrote in your Upside & Motor New Jersey Nets preview that Devin Harris is the Jackson Pollack of point guards.   Does it still hurt?  
 It's always going to hurt to lose one of the premier abstract expressionists of the generation.
 
At the time of the trade, I
was curious as to what the Mavs hoped to accomplish.  Turning the iso-heavy Maverick attack into a motion offense seemed like a pipe dream.  In a perfect world, Jason Kidd would get everybody moving, jack up the pace, and be an All-NBA defender.  In reality, the offense itself would shackle Kidd just as it shackled Harris, and Kidd's defensive prowess escapes him against the league's quicker points.  I've come to appreciate what Kidd can do on the floor.  The real problem is that a lot of what the Kidd-led team does well is only a marginal upgrade over the Mavs' previous production, while Kidd also manages to fall short in several respects (scoring and on-ball defense, for example).  Jason Kidd is a leader and a future HOFer, but he can't single-handedly ignite the offense the way that Devin Harris can.  Rick Carlisle is trying his damnedest, but I don't think it's in the cards for this offense.
 
Every 'and one,' every step-back jumper, and every completely ridiculous half-court buzzer-beater serves as a constant reminder of what could have been.  I would have loved to see Devin play under Carlisle this season.  He's a great coach and I think that Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard's skill sets are more accommodating to Harris' style than they are to Kidd's.  What's done is done, but that doesn't make the HARRIS jersey in the back of my closet any less lonely.

We almost decided to forego this Q & A altogether and just link to this post by 48 Minutes of Hell principal and your Hardwood Paroxysm colleague, Graydon Gordian.  We won't ask you to tell us why you're eating ice cream without a utensil, but kindly explain why you're dressed as a maiko, replete with kimono, fan, and white makeup?
College is all about experimentation.
 
Plus, Halloween in Austin is nuts.  When my costume plans fell through at the last minute (I don't recommend shopping on the 30th), I decided to get a little creative and hit up the geisha garb.  For the record, I'm not envious of anyone who has to cake on that much makeup.
 
The costume was a definite hit, though.  There were a lot of delayed reactions, where people would either stare or break out into giggles when they got close enough to see that I'm actually a guy.  I have to admit: with the wig, makeup, and fake eyelashes to boot, it was a pretty solid costume.  It also marked the first time I've been groped, and the first time that a guy has "danced up on me" at a party.  What exactly a 5-5 dude had in mind dancing up on a 6-4 geisha is an interesting question altogether, but we'll save that for next time.