Been thinking about typing this up for a couple of years now. To appropriate one of the more inane cliched aphorisms of our age, "There's no time like the present."
As BWPTDs and others have noted lately, to a degree we have come to know one another through this venue, (or at least know the roles that we are respectively playing). Ben likes statistics; HeWizard is a writer; MF Mike Payne seriously considered strapping on a suicide vest and visiting Tampa a couple of weeks ago, but the hopes of someday seeing Ramon in a Detroit uniform pulled him back; Kriz loves Jonas, Moose, and "shitty" teams; Bearded Thunder loves squat thrusts; the list goes on.
At very times, I feel like we've all--explicitly or implicitly--recognized the absurdity of the passion that we put into spectator sports. I could get fired from my job tomorrow and deported and I'd be pissed and "just a little worried about my future" (Benjamin Braddock--"The Graduate"), but you know what--I'd probably just go out tonight, have a few drinks, bitch, come home, read, surf the web, complain to the wife, play with the baby, and once things get straightened out in my life, I'll be over it. But Michael Bishop's fumble against Texas A & M in 1998 that cost Kansas State a place in the national championship game? I *still* dream about it and wake up really, really sad.
So, clearly, we are emotionally invested in our teams and our athletes. I'd like to take this a step further by asking the following question:
Which Piston, past or present, are you? Allowing that we only know these guys through an (often tightly controlled) media spin, which player acts like you, works like you, plays like you do in your home, your work place, your school, your life?
Is Packey the never-say-die boyish assassin Isaiah Thomas? Is Boo-urns blessed with the energetic hustle and Playgirl centerfold good looks of Jonas? Is PS Mateen Cleaves (the player or the announcer--not that there's a huge difference...)? Is Buddhafan comfortable residing off of center stage, but able to provide a sudden burst of needed energy, a la Vinnie Johnson? Is Kevin Sawyer having a forbidden love affair with Joe Dumars as Tayshaun Prince must be?
Who are we? Do we have a Chauncey? A Big Ben? A Moose? A Ron "Kamikaze" Lee? A, god help us, Kent Benson?
After the jump, I shall bare my soul before you.After much thought on the matter, I am wiling to make the following announcement: I am Rasheed Wallace.
I don't feel fully at ease with this recognition. As the few of you who might loosely track the general gist of my comments over the past couple years might know, I am not a big 'Sheed fan. No doubt, the guy was good--great at his best. But I never accepted his melting down in the dying moments of a play-off series finale. For all the grief Chauncey (unfairly, IMHE) got for the last couple of losses in the ECF series, it was 'Sheed who seemed to go through the motions against Boston while Garnett and Perkins lapped him by the second quarter in each game. He flat out didn't give a fuck during the Iverson year (understandable on an emotional level, but the people who ultimately pay your salary were spending their money to come watch you work), and the list goes on.
Still, he was the difference maker in "04 and nearly in "05. (Yeah, he missed an assignment on Horry. But a great defensive player at the top of his game doesn't mean infallibility. He was brilliant that year as well.) In the right situation--actually, in the *perfect* situation--Rasheed Wallace was top tier, all you could want, a transformative presence.
And what has this to do with MrHappyMushroom? I see so much of Rasheed Wallace in my work. As some might know, I'm a high school History/Social Studies teacher. I spent a half dozen years in Austin, Texas and then a couple in Karachi and now have been at an international school in Myanburmar for the past five years.
To somewhat mitigate what I fear will appear as arrogant bombast below, let me first acknowledge that there are *many, many* things that I totally suck at. I don't care how simple Bill Bryson or Stephen Hawking try to make it, I am absolutely incapable of understanding in any real sense anything at all that falls under the broad category of "science". I am one of the most physically disorganized people you'll ever meet, much to the consternation of the wife, past housemates, and my own self every time I waste another twenty minutes of my precious life looking for my fucking keys or glasses. After years of feeling inadequate about being unable to dance, I actually took some lessons a decade and a half ago (I have admitted this to almost no one) and was a complete and utter clumsy failure to the degree that I now formally consider myself to be learning disabled in regards to rhythm.
But I am a really good teacher. Not perfect; not without weaknesses; and not the ideal teacher for every student, (because it doesn't work that way). But I'm good. Maybe even elite. Part of it is genetics and upbringing. Both parents were teachers and they recently retired with nearly a century in the classroom between them. I'm a fairly smart guy and a very quick thinker. I'm a gifted story teller and even the kids who "don't like History" (ie, most of them), tend to enjoy and benefit from the time in my room. And I can relate to teenagers exceptionally well. Though my aforementioned disorganization hinders me, I am often tremendously energetic and push myself to do far more than all but the superelite class of teachers do. (Kind of like 'Sheed, I honestly think that I could be "superelite", but just don't have the desire to be "the man", don't quite have the focus or work ethic to be absolutely all that I could be professionally. And I'm fine with that.) Athletes can provide meaningful statistical evidence, but that's much harder in the classroom. (These mandated tests that G. W. Bush and Ted Kennedy foisted upon us with No Child Left Behind and Obama, Arne Duncan, and Rahm Emmanuel are currently dressing up in a different costume? Of limited use at best, and often times actively destructive to students, teachers, and the pursuit of true knowledge and understanding. But this is a diatribe for another forum.) But I could point to my students' AP Psychology exam scores (which have been consistently off-the-charts without even considering that my students aren't even native English speakers). And over the past few years, I've been looking for an appropriate way to plug this: Student-Run Microfinance in Myanmar. I started MLPISM almost four years ago and in that time, the kids have made nearly $30,000 worth of impact in combating poverty in this very poor country. (The source of my DBB name is, by the way, revealed on that page...)
"Shit, Mushroom!, You're not 'Sheed. The way you tell it, you are fuckin' LeBron!". Yeah, well, let's get real. I try to account for my weaknesses and failures, but the ole Self-Serving Bias gets the best of all of us. I'm not First Team All Time All Star. But might I have it in me to have found a place on the teacher equivalent of the NBA's 50 Greatest of All Time list, (understanding that there are likely fifty thousand teachers for every NBA player). Buuuutttttt....
I got a real bad attitude sometimes. I can proudly say that even in the most averse circumstances, I've never given up working for my students. But for those of you who have never taught, I ask that you search your memory banks for recollections of the various and sundry principals and assistant principals you encountered and even the upper echelon--"area superintendents" and the like--if you happened to meet any. A very few are great. A few are good. Many, most are somewhere between dreadfully ineffective and flat out evil. And if said administrator has a Doctorate of Educate diploma on his wall, good golly miz molly, run don't walk to the nearest exit.
At a public school in Austin, I served under the "leadership" of eight--*EIGHT*--principals in five years. And the realities behind that tally reveal all the toxicity of adult irresponsibility and selfishness that you would assume. I have no doubt that there are some young men and women in their late 20's today who are languishing in prison at least partly because the adults who ran their school let them down. In my last year there, I became aware of dishonest accounting and other tricks that kept the graduations rates and other data imperatives high enough that all of the six figure administrators could keep their jobs. (We had 300 freshman in 2001. We had 120 graduates in 2004. Our drop-out rate was listed as 3.3%!!!) I blew the whistle, went public and to parents. And I was banned from the district. Different circumstances here in Burma--rich kids, private for-profit school--but in my last place I had to contend with Director Tom, one of the most slow-witted, inept, lazy, and unethical people I've ever encountered. As it unfolded, I became increasingly antagonistic and it did not end well. "Poison" was the way that Tom described me to an (unknown to him) mutual friend. At the same time, I have a half-dozen past supervisors (and countless parents and students) who consider me among the best that they've ever seen "play the game".
If 'Sheed had been 5'10", raised by a couple of teachers, and only moderately athletic...yeah, I think he could have turned out--for better or worse--a lot like me.
MrHappyMushroom is Rasheed Wallace. Who are you?