Monday, June 20, 2011

The 25th Year Anniversary Of Boston Fan Feeling More Than You

So I'm currently in San Mateo, CA, on assignment for the new job, in a shared computer in a "business center" (i.e., room with open terminal and web access) in a Best Western. (Hey, stop on by. We'll work out in the similarly mini-sized room with the six pieces of equipment, assuming the little kids are done goofing off in there.) I check the web mail accounts and the blog to make sure things haven't caught on fire, and hey presto... lookie here! Right there in the right rail, the stories about other blogs that I recommend you look at during slow times in the FTT posting order, it's...

Wow, Len Bias has been dead for 25 years! Isn't that important? Worthy of comment, and publicity, and a Wot It All Means Now, Innit Important, 500 words of grating pain piece?

Only, of course, because it happened to a Boston team...

You see, Bias dying was a *tragedy*. Not like what might happen to your team, of course. Pelle Lindbergh drank and drove and died for the Flyers of my youth, cutting short a brilliant goal tending career, but this matters not at all to anyone, partly because we all knew that drinking and driving was stupid, partly because hockey doesn't really travel in the same Wot's It All Mean Then circles as basketball, and mostly because it didn't happen in Boston.

Am I overstating the case? Wasn't Bias's game so transcendent, so magical, so filled with game-changing goodness that he was... oh, I can't even finish the devil's advocacy; I'm not going to make myself and you sick over seeing it again. No, no, no and hell no, it wasn't. I don't care if the man's sweat smelled like fresh bread, he never missed a jump shot when he cared because he had telekinetic powers, or that his Maryland teams only lost when the opposition and the referees conspired to keep the Terrapins down because no one needs the word terrapins when we already have tortoises and turtles. (Really, it's a scuttling amphibious lizard with a hard shell. It needs three names?)

I was watching ESPN Classic the other day (don't judge), and they have on the terrific 1993 NBA Finals, where Michael Jordan's Bulls took down Charles Barkley's Suns in one of the best series in my lifetime. I remember watching that series for the first time in a hotel room (what is it with me and hotel rooms?) in Key West, Florida, on my first honeymoon with my first wife, sunburned beyond the point of tolerance and hoping against hope that the Chuckster had enough with him to win. That Suns team benefited from the smooth game of Richard Dumas, a scoring wing player who was a rookie then, very athletic, heady beyond his years, and held all sorts of promise. Dumas fell to the Suns following drug issues in college. With Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Oliver Miller and a solid bench, the Suns looked primed to contend for years, especially if Dumas was able to develop his game in the way that he looked like he was going to go. Here's a rookie on the stage with the two iconic NBA stars of his era, and he's more than holding his own. I liked every part of Richard Dumas.

He, like Bias, had issues with illegal narcotics, and liked them more than he liked being able to continue playing basketball in the NBA. Dumas never fulfills his promise, never helps the Suns get over the hump. And he's so well known for this tragic career that you can barely find him on the Internet. Here's an interview from eight years ago. Enjoy.

A few years before Dumas, there was Roy Tarpley, who's an opera waiting to be written; suffice it to say that he was twice the player that Dumas was, though very different, and he more or less cost the '80s Dallas Mavericks any chance at a title. You don't read much about Tarp these days, either.

Finally, my favorite player to watch in my home laundry prior to the Allen Iverson Experience was Andrew Toney. No less of an authority than the Chuckster called him the best player that he ever played with, and considering that Chuck worked with Moses Malone, Julius Erving, KJ, Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, that's kind of saying something. Following a missed diagnosis and a persistent ankle problem, the man they called the Boston Strangler was gone after barely reaching his prime. I can still see his cobra rattle jump shot and ridiculous first step when I close my eyes and concentrate, and had he simply been able to stay healthy, maybe the Sixers get another title or two. Don't hear too much about Andrew, neither.

But Len Bias? Oh, that's tragedy. Much more tragic than anyone else's tragedy. Beyond the pale of tragic, that a franchise that's won more championships than nearly any other might have an athlete go pop in the noon day sun, just like what happens to franchises every damned year, in every damned sport, and at least three times a year if they are named the Clippers. But now that he's 25 years gone, and fewer and fewer people who care about sports actually remember seeing him play...

Can we finally let it go, Boston Fan? Even for you, this amount of wallowing is unseemly. (And if you use this bashing to wallow some more over how y'all are just persecuted for caring too much... well, bravo, really. And can't you start trying some of Lenny's drugs just to get a greater understanding of his demons? Please?)


Dirty Davey said...

Honestly, in the Bias tragedy the Celtics are at most an afterthought. Those of us who have the deepest regret and were most shocked at the time are those who were fans of the Terps, or of the ACC, and saw a lot of Bias in action. Nobody in Maryland thought of Bias' death as something that "happened to" the Celtics--it happened to a great player, at a point where a lot of us were wondering how we were going to square our love of Bias with our general hatred of the little green men.

Afterwards, no one in Maryland was talking or thinking about the Celtics: it was about the way the basketball program was being run, and eventually about the replacement of Lefty Driesell and the beginning of a long slog back to respectability.

It ain't about the Celtics, and it sure as hell ain't about the Celtics fans.

Dirty Davey said...

and re: "You don't read much about Tarp these days, either."

Are you saying you don't read my comments on FTT?

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