Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Carmelo Anthony and a Nation at War

"Carmelo Anthony and a Nation at War"

It's a familiar story, but I'll tell it again. The year is 1993, and the Knicks have taken a 2-0 lead over the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals. Starks has made history with a single dunk, the power forwards stalk the paint like hunger stalks men, and Ewing's patrol of the baseline has never been more inscrutable. Then…Charles Smith. That anyone not debilitated or otherwise womanly can miss 4 consecutive lay-ups is enough to strain credulity. That a professional basketball player in his franchise's most defining game can do it strains a whole lot more.
At twelve years old, I had lost my faith. Just as the Israelites of my Torah portion wandered a godless desert, and so judged the sky likewise without, I looked up that night with tears in my eyes and saw nothing but the empty dark. If God wasn't in game five, where was he? Months later, this was the question I asked before Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. And so a boy became a man, and a faith was forged in the cold heart of America's greatest game.

That was a time when professional basketball, eschatology, and the human experience were one indivisible whole. We shivered together in the wake of the cold war, and discovered both our doubts and our solace in the singularity of a game. But as the 1990's dragged on, basketball became as pedestrian as our president's lies. Michael Jordan may have been born again, but the game remained atrophied in its nation's perpetual peace. And so I do not believe it a coincidence that in the fear and trembling of 9/11 we should find the kernel of sport's renewal.

In the preemptive hagiography of Lebron, the whispering prophecy of Darko's otherness, and, most importantly, the heroic cheeks of Carmelo, America is searching for its new religion. And so do I, a man who had turned his back on the game, likewise search. Indeed, it was Carmelo's performance in Syracuse's improbable March – my senior year of college, and a time of great angst and worry – that once again reminded me of Basketball's healing grace. He is a symbol of what the game once was, and a soothsayer of what it might be again. He is my signature player. Thank you. (thanks to MDD for pointing in me in the site's direction)

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