Nothing passes the time quite like nostalgia.
I can stare at my screensaver, a slide show of all the pictures on my computer, for hours on end, and I’ll reminisce about the events of each image, smiling all the while. 75 of my top 100 songs—if I were to make such a list—would be ranked, not because of their enjoyable melodies or head-bobbing beats, but because they are inextricably linked to particular moments of my life; the song that softly played during my first kiss, a tune that evokes memories of my first college trip to Vegas, that R&B joint that still to this day serves as a painful reminder of how I let that one girl get away … I can go on for hours with this.
And my longing for fonder times applies to all aspects of my life, especially to the realm of sports. I’m old school through and through. With boxing—the most ancient of all athletic contests—I’m an ardent advocate of 15 rounds, one champ per division, same day weigh-ins, and the abolition of the junior/super weight classes. Call me a sadist, but that is how boxing should be, like it was in the golden age of the sport.
When it comes to football, I’m all for horse-collar tackles and (slightly) late hits on quarterbacks. I say enough of this protection by referees; it’s a contact sport, and the quarterback should be as much a viable target as any other position. And if it’s legal to drag down a ball carrier by his dreadlocks, then horse-collar tackles should be kosher as well.
For basketball, I’m an avid supporter of dunks (no thanks to the player formerly known as Lew Alcindor), hand-checking, and of course, the good, old fashioned playoff foul.
That’s why, after one-and-a-quarter rounds of playoff basketball, you see nothing on my face but an ear-to-ear smile. Like Ahmad, these first few games have me thinking of “Back in the Day,” when flagrant two’s were run-of-the-mill whistle calls, almost brushed off as a natural consequence of a physical game played by gigantic, brooding men.
Not since the early 90s have I seen such deliberately physical play. We got a small taste of it in the ’07 playoffs when Robert Horry sent Steve Nash crashing into the announcers table like a rag doll. But not much else — until this year.
Here’s a list of the action so far:
- Dwight Howard sideswipes Samuel Dalembert’s head with an elbow. Howard is known as a player with a child-like demeanor, but lacking the requisite killer instinct to be great, and that’s what makes this one so surprising. It was a pretty vicious blow—and don’t let Dalembert’s relatively nondescript reaction fool you into thinking otherwise—that occurred after the play was done. The suspension was well deserved, but I wouldn’t mind see more ‘bows from Dwight in the future. Imagine how dominant he’d be if players actually feared him. He’d be like Mike Tyson before Robin Givens and Buster Douglas stole his dignity.
- Rajon Rondo clotheslines Brad Miller. This one, I thought, was special, coming straight from the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons’ playbook. How this was not a flagrant two is beyond me; how Rondo wasn’t penalized post-game is even more perplexing. The fact that Rondo didn’t follow through with the arm swing shouldn’t matter. His aim was nowhere near the ball, plus it was pretty much a fishhook (which is illegal even in mixed martial arts), and he proceeds to drag Miller down … by the chin. Bravo, Rajon. Bravo.
- Oh, an encore? Rondo pulls Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table. Not only is Rondo maturing into a top-five point guard, he’s developing into one helluva filthy player who isn’t afraid to show his claws. Though not particularly heinous, the move was blatant and unnecessary—yet Rondo goes undisciplined once again. Geez, just because he’s small doesn’t mean he should be able to get away with murder. It’s like when a kid punches and kicks you with all his might, thinking it’s okay because he’s little. [Sic] that. Kids like this need to an ass whooping.
- Sasha Vujacic spikes Shane Battier’s face like a volleyball. My man crush on Battier aside, this one isn’t too bad, despite the horrendous result. The blow left Battier looking like a maxi pad, bloodied worse than Ricky Hatton after being blasted by Manny Pacquiao. However, Vujacic was merely trying to tap the ball out into the backcourt, and the hit was clearly incidental. Still, it at least warranted a foul call.
- Kenyon Martin throws Dirk Nowitzki to the ground. Eh, whatever. I’ve grown to expect such things to happen to Dirk, the softest player in the league, who seems to suffer at least five similar embarrassments a year.
- Rafer Alston slaps Eddie House on the back of the head. This is by far my favorite incident of the playoffs. It was utterly stupid of Alston and he’ll justifiably be suspended, but it was too silly not to be hilarious. It was the type of back-of-the-head slap that a father does to admonish his son’s idiocy.
- Kobe Bryant elbows Ron Artest, possibly in the throat. It’s cliche to label a physical, borderline dirty play as “playoff basketball,” but it applies here. This was just playoff basketball. There’s no better description for what transpired. It was two hard nosed players fighting for a rebound. Case closed. Elbows like this occur in every game, even in the regular season. The retroactive flagrant one is not deserved. Wow. I can’t believe I’m defending Kobe.
- Derek Fisher lays out Luis Scola with a shoulder brush. Call it sending a message or a dirty play, I say it’s both. And it definitely brings back memories of better day.