My approach to Josh Smith as a Piston

Kevin C. Cox

So it was late night and I wrote something long and self absorbed about how I'm approaching the Josh Smith signing from this point forward (since there is nothing I can do about it). I apologize if it's out of place and I'm sorry Mike that I'm not the one who's capable of posting the objective take of why it might work (I just can't see it, you'll have to show me).

I began my college education as a science major and, not to toot my own horn, I was fairly good at it. However the whole thing left me largely unsatisfied, as the search for how things were was not enough. There is nothing wrong with science, its actually interesting and fun, but I had no passion for it, something that, I believe, it is owed. So, I abandoned my scholarship (something for which my pockets have not forgiven me) and decided to move towards arts. Yeah, get a good laugh and crack an unemployment joke. Back with me? Good. I wanted to be a creator but a different kind. I wanted to see and understand the world but in a different way. In reality I did not want just the world but the possible worlds too. Enter Comparative Literature.

Sports on the other hand were always with me. Being abandoned by my father (boo-fucking-hoo) my grandpa took it upon himself to give me a father figure. Problem was he was a stoic man, who couldn't voice his emotions and lacked the patience to deal with long-winded conversations about other people's feelings (from him I get my attitude). But he loved me dearly and sport was how he showed me. It was the most sacred thing to him, after family, and I was the one he shared it with. I spent a large portion of my childhood traveling through parks, courts and stadiums. I spent a lot of time on my backyard practicing my swing as he threw me the ball (I'm Puerto Rican, of course I played baseball) and defending my man (woman) on the court as he watched from the sidelines every single game.

Sports, well, it is personal for me. It's how I constructed a whole set of values, given to me by my father (grandpa) through his sports lessons. It was also him who taught me about all the narratives that were built within the games and the people participating in it. For example, Roberto Clemente is not only a great baseball player, he's an icon. Sure, he was great on the field, but he also died trying to help people and that's a worthy way to die. Relevant. And he was a Puerto Rican, a Hispanic, a black man, one of us. He was the image we looked up to about the quality of person we could be. He was how far we could get in spite of how many characteristics we had that the world despised. To a kid from a barrio to look upon this black latino and see a man on top of the mountain was to see the possible worlds.

My ever-growing interest in literature and sports intertwined early, but it has been during my "higher" education that it has become more prevalent. It is thanks to my studies, after all, that I learned to love LeBron's defiance, to the disdain of those around me. Narratives, beyond the numbers, rule our perceptions and the emotions that govern our relationships with teams and athletes. Feistiness is not quantifiable. Neither is heart or motor or whatever bullshit we throw around to make our heroes seem more heroic. Narratives are not true or untrue but they are modifiable. We don't want to just see a game, we want to see a story unfold, with good guys and villains, and obstacles and triumphs, and twists and turns, and odds not only be defied but broken. Those are the best stories, the ones that defy the odds.

Now, in good literature, the deus ex machina is considered lazy and the easy escape of a writer who got too deep and couldn't figure another way not to drown. A good book, once the ending is reached, brings forth the images in the tale that, while seemingly fleeting and irrelevant at the time, told you exactly what was going on. You just were so caught up in a good story that you couldn't see this.

But the opposite can still be good and, dare I say, it is probably the most satisfying narration in sport. We crave the "out of nowhere" kind of tale. The small school kid with the so-so numbers, who was being emotionally held behind by the troubles that surround him and, by applying himself in a "me against the world" kind of feat, manages to come out victorious. We seek the improbable turnaround.

I may be reaching, but you can see what I'm getting at.

(As a relevant aside: for some reason the current media and fans seem intent on dividing sports fanhood in two camps, the eye testers and the stat heads. I, since I like to fancy myself a smart person, like to use both. Generally, because I'm, as it has been established, quite the gifted mind, I find that often the numbers confirm what my eyes have told me. I have a problem when those two don't meet and find myself rather suspect of the subject or situation)

The problem with me is that life, in its infinite shitiness, has led me to be the sort of person that does not truly believe people can change. But, fuck, I'm a sports fan and a literature student and if there is one thing those two offer in spades is possibilities. And possibilities cannot be set, or written in stone or follow one single line. Possibilities have to be fluid and capable of, even for a second, make you believe that there can be something better out there. It shows you something unseen, an alternate reality.

Odds. That is the key, the odds. They rule almost every single action and outcome. Generally, they are right too. But at times life offers that small window that brings in Tinkerbell and takes you to Neverland.

Ultimately, we are all children too. What we do here is dream, through the inner workings and results of our favorite team, about that thing that our beating heart (our mind really) craves and becomes, in a ephemeral moment, real. Or it at least becomes possible, no matter how impossible.

Some people hate to say it, but sports are often a reflection of life, the harmless kind, of course, but a reflection still. We go for teams that resemble our value system and players that we can look up to and respect. We create and follow the narratives that best suit our hearts and minds, whether it is who we are or who we want to be.

I've talked a lot and said nothing, so what I'm saying is ultimately this, I like good literature but there is nothing I'd enjoy more than see a true story where all the odds are broken. That's what I hope happens with Josh Smith. That is what I'm be rooting for. I'll be hoping for new stats and a new outlook. I'll be hoping for growth. I'll be hoping he's the so-so kid, held back by the circumstances around him, that suddenly breaks free and climbs to the top of the mountain. I'll do it because I'm a fan and a kid with a silly (against all odds) dream.

(Apologies for any mistake. This was a stream of consciousness post and I'm not going to re-read this now. So, sorry not sorry.)

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