Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton and the Spurs

As I was switching between Suns-Spurs and news coverage of the Pennsylvania primary last night (and yes, you may openly accuse me now of everything mentioned in the last Top 10 list), it all seemed to blur together: Hillary Clinton is the Spurs. If you're a fan, that makes her relentless, unkillable, likable, a winner... and if you are not, unwatchable, annoying, willing to go low, and ultimately destructive to everything but her own cause.

The Spurs in the Finals have been, to put it bluntly, ratings death. Even if you are a Spurs loyalist, you can't argue with the fact that last year's series with the Cavs last year was watched by 26 people outside of Cleveland and San Antonio. When the Spurs played Detroit, it was rivaled only by Heat-Knicks in the '90s for sheer unrelenting ugliness. And basketball is unlike any other major team sport in one key criterion: how it is played is often more important to the casual viewer than who wins. (Or, to put it in terms that even the most rabid NFL fan can understand -- having the Spurs in the Finals so often would be like the Trent Dilfer Ravens being a Super Bowl dynasty team. Spurs Fan, I'm just telling you what the rest of the world already believes, and has believed for a long time.)

And as I was Duncan, Parker and Ginobili systematically dismantle the Suns last night with pick and roll, Hack a Shaq, pick and roll, Hack a Shaq, pick and roll... well, they're just a perfect playoff series beast. They have no young players to make young player mistakes. Their crowd senses the kill and gives them what they need to get there. They don't care that what they are doing seems dull to watch, or in the case of deliberate fouling, contrary to good sportsmanship and flow. They are just here to win, to make you play their game, and since they are a sports team, there is nothing wrong with that at all.

(A small aside on the announcing: Has anyone ever gotten more credit from an announcing team for fouling out quickly than the Spurs' Kurt Thomas? OK, we get it, he was a cagey signing, he's a good team guy for coming in and playing defense only, he wants vengeance on the Suns for letting him go to the Seattle wasteland, rather than pay luxury tax. And, um, he's a guy that fouled out quickly and didn't really make that big of a difference for them last night. Please, just watch the game before you staple your storyline to it. Sheesh.)

And their opponent, the Obama Suns, who used to inspire with their style of play and herald a new and more exciting age by not doing things the same old way as everyone else? Well, they went slow and negative with Shaq and responding to negative campaigning, in a realpolitick effort to just show that they, too, could win this tougher, more intense kind of contest. It seems like Frankensteinian surgery to these eyes, and diminishes the enthusiasm from their supporters, but it's What You Have To Do, so it gets done.

Just not as well. Meanwhile, the casual viewer tunes out, thinking it's More Of The Same, and the magic thing about cynicism is that when you think something it more of the same, it becomes it. Yay!

There is, of course, one big difference between Clinton and the Spurs. The former doesn't have the math the nomination, and hasn't for some time. In the only count that really matters last night, she picked up no more than 10 delegates, which is to say, less than the superdelegate count that has defected to the other side in the past few weeks. If Obama can keep from shooting himself in the foot in the next two weeks, the clock will run out on primaries, and the math will become irrevocable, failing some truly historic screw job of the Obama voters. (You'd think that a party that ceded control of the White House on a media-abbeted vote count screw job might, you know, not want to repeat the mistake in their own primary. But given that we're now more or less absolutely locked in to President McSame, it's probably not that important.)

In the NBA, the Spurs are up 2-0 in a best of 7 against an opponent that they've owned, for the right to move on to a next round series against New Orleans or (not likely) Dallas, a team that's nearly guaranteed to give them an easier time than this round. And judging by last night's game, the ill-timed injury to Grant Hill, the crunch time disappearance of Amare Stoudemire, the failure to step up from Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, and the always critical problem that Steve Nash can't guard Tony Parker more than Tony Parker can't guard Steve Nash... well, I still expect the series to go long.

But I'm not really counting on Phoenix winning 4 out of the next 5, or a Game 7 in San Antonio. (Though for the conspiracy theorists, that Kobe vs. Shaq plot in the later round 3 may still be too impossible to resist.)

More importantly, by getting past the Suns (presumably) in Round 1, the Spurs will be able to bring back the exact same cast for another run next year.

Just as, by poisoning the well in the primary, Clinton will be able to run again in 2012, since her party won't have the White House. And as a bonus, she'll also still have a full-scale occupation of Iraq -- and who knows, maybe Iran too -- to run against.

Winners all around!

1 comment:

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