|Critical Mass: Mainframe Malone & Co.|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
A weekly survey of what's happening at the busy intersection of sports and pop culture:
At the break
The guy who pitched the idea for the ad sees an understated, wry metaphor comparing teamwork and infrastructure.
His bosses think it's a stretch, but they give him the green light because he assures them the players are famous.
Your average Information Technology (IT) guy thinks the "e-business is a game, play to win" metaphor is cheesy and tired.
Most folks don't recognize the out-of-shape, unnamed "superstars" in the ad, though a significant portion of them think Muggsy is cute as a button, some of them note the "X Man" is sadly now shaped like the "O Man," and all of them mock Laimbeer when he whiffs on the high-five at the end of the spot.
Those who do recognize the players were once charmed by the idea that they could name all five starters (and Gervin, too) the first time they saw the ad -- it made 'em feel like old-school, hard-core fans, fans who are keepers of the arcane and trivial, because they know that history is nothing more than the story of the arcane and trivial all laid out nice and pretty like and made to sound like it's vital and significant.
Now, though, they're tired of all that, and they just can't help but think to themselves that this whole thing is silly: "I mean, come on, what kind of team is that? Who's shooting on that team? Seriously, where are the points coming from? Moses is a bad mother and all, but something's got to come from the perimeter, doesn't it?"
Beware of these people -- they will take up a tremendous amount of your time and you will understand little, and believe even less, of what they say.
In addition to the Det crew, there are the Celtics and Lakers fans whose one enduring bond is a shared loathing of Laimbeer. These people curse and spit every time one of the ads airs, calling the former Piston center a dirty, talentless thug and telling anyone around them that this isn't funny, and people shouldnąt be allowed to forget what he was, because he's no sweet lovable guy, he's no smiling, self-referential pitchman, he's Bill @#$%&@ing Laimbeer!
Dr. J, by the way, probably thinks the ads are complete head-scratchers: "Ice Gervin has an IBM gig and I don't. Riddle me that."
Meanwhile Moses, who loves the nickname "Mainframe," probably watches the ads from a very comfortable chair in his living room and says to himself: "I look good." The entire city of Philadelphia, all of Houston, and most of the thinking, breathing world raises a glass, nods its head and says, "Damn straight."
On the shelf
Remember when you used to cut pictures out of Sports Illustrated, Sport, Inside Sports and whatever else you could find? Remember how you'd glue them all over your Pee-Chee folders and book covers, staple them to your wall in funky little collages, laminate them, trace over them, get a friend to take your picture while you tried to duplicate what the players were doing in them?
That wasn't just me, was it?
Anyway, this book's full of those kinds of pictures (including one amazing frame-by-frame sequence of that shot Dr. J took behind the backboard and teased Kareem and Landsberger with in the 1980 Finals).
Put the scissors away, though; this is a pretty, hardback picture book for grownups.
On the Web
Wolff wrote an excellent globetrotting, hoop-loving book that came out earlier this year. You can read my take on it here.
This week, Wolff makes the not-so-popular case for what makes the Kings and Nets so appealing.
The answer is style, and flow, and spacing, and internationalism and other cool stuff like that.
On the small screen
The wickedly talented young Prior makes his first big-league start Wednesday night against Pittsburgh.
Don Baylor's boys are 13 under and 11 back going into the game.
Say it with me, Don: "I will not overwork the kid. I will not overwork the kid. I will not overwork the kid."
Come on, say it like you mean it. I want to believe you.
On the newsstand
My friend Dave once devoted an entire summer to Wiffle ball. He carried bats and balls in the trunk of his car, arranged games at the park, at the beach, in guys' backyards. All of us played from time to time, but Dave played every day. He was absolutely clear about what he wanted to do, relentless in his dedication to the task. In a way, he was a hero to the rest of us because he'd given his summer, and his life, a perfect sort of Wiffle shape and he was infused with a seemingly boundless Wiffle passion. It was great to watch, and we all felt aimless and lazy by comparison.
Green's article says that there are guys like Dave all over the country, and they've been practicing and professing the love for years, which is great to hear.
It also says Wiffle-mad folks have recently formed associations and sanctioned national tournaments and rankings and such, which, I don't know, feels like it's against the point of Wiffle ball, which is to be where you are and to transform that place, for an hour or two, into a field.
Not for nothing but ...
Smartest thing I read this week ...
The book's due out May 31, and I'll have more to say about it in a future column.
For now, I'll just say: "What he said."
TV viewing tip of the week
Eric Neel reviews sports culture in his "Critical Mass" column, which will appear every Wednesday on Page 2. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.