Thursday, July 2, 2020

The NBA Announces Plans to Do a Fitzcarraldo

There is a scene in the documentary Burden of Dreams where Werner Herzog is discussing with a safety expert his plan to physically drag a boat over a mountain using a series of cables in a stunt meant for the climax of his film Fitzcarraldo.  "If there are sixty people, how many could die," Herzog asks. "They could go off flying like a rocket. Psshew psshew," the safety expert replies, his eyes darting upwards and to the sides as if following the trajectory of people being flung to their doom.

Fitzcarraldo is a classic Herzog film on one of his favorite themes, the hubris of man futilely fighting against a wild and untameable nature.  The titular Fitzcarraldo engages in an impossible task that is almost heroic in its stubborn refusal to bend to the laws of nature and physics (dragging a large ship over a mountain), ludicrous in its end goal (to build an opera house in the Amazon and somehow lure Enrico Caruso to perform), and insane in his complete indifference to human death and suffering to achieve his ends.  In Burden of Dreams, Herzog literally recreates the entirety of the endeavor as he tries to drag a ship up the mountain with the same admirable determination and mad indifference to human suffering in the service of a movie about doing the exact same things except he also introduces Klaus Kinski into the mix to unleash the maximum amount of chaos possible.  The entire film becomes an unfathomable quagmire that involves negotiations with numerous governments and tribal organizations.  Someone gets shot with an arrow.  Somehow it is a documentary about Werner Herzog proving his own point.

ESPN has announced that, in addition to its insane and dangerous Orlando "bubble" where NBA teams will compete in a postseason tournament to determine which team has the fewest number of key players with permanent lung damage, they are prepared to activate a Loser's Bubble based in Chicago.  This is for the eight teams that did not qualify for Orlando and whose fans probably do not want to see play another game.  The Orlando Bubble already represents the Association's Fitzcarraldo, a grandiose and clearly insane attempt by man to defy nature by pretending a virus cannot penetrate the perimeter of Disney World in an attempt to crown an NBA champion; the Chicago bubble, if it happens, would be like trying to haul a ship over a mountain in order to convince Chicago mobster Frank "Skids" Caruso to come to the opera house and violently extort the audience.

Incidentally while I was looking up some opera stuff about Caruso, I stumbled upon this astonishing google groups thread from 2008 of opera fans that, like all internet discussions, degenerates into a barrage of ludicrous insults including "You're a piece of filth - hence, not a man. Tell me, who indulges in phone contacts with psycho-dreck like yourself, Swill?  Not I!"

This is probably the part of the post when I would bemoan the pointlessness of the Chicago bubble and the obvious greed compelling teams to wring the last droplets of TV money out of the NBA sponge to offset revenue losses that will have no impact on the lifestyles of any of the people or entities wealthy enough to own NBA teams, but I can't imagine anyone reading this who is going to think oh the blogspot guy has a good point I'm now reconsidering wanting to watch whatever Rump Pistons show up flail around listlessly for a few games and also maybe get violently ill.

One of the central questions is if players are allowed to opt out, as they are in Orlando, why would any of them come here?  Chicago does not even offer the remote possibility of an NBA championship.  Why would they upend their families to go to Chicago and play several terrible preseason-style basketball games against the Atlanta Hawks to an eerie, silent arena so that the person who owns their team can fulfill contractual obligations to a regional cable network that wants to air commercials with Trae Young telling a car dealer named like Bob "Mack" Whitmanty that his deals are a "slam dunk" in a jersey designed to look as much like a Hawks jersey without infringing on trademarks.

But for Bulls fans, the bubble has an even more catastrophic feeling, not only because a potentially superspreading event may be activated in their city, but because of the possibility that the Bulls will unleash another several weeks of Jim Boylen on an already exhausted populace.

Ever since Arturas Karnisovas and new GM Mark Eversley have come in, everyone has assumed that Jim Boylen will not coach another game for the Bulls because he is an oaf.  Every single thing that Boylen has done has been embarrassing-- it is not just losing a bunch of games, which a number of normal people could have done with the inept Bulls teams assembled by the previous front office, but it is the strident, bug-eyed, arm-flailing boobshiness with which he has comported himself that has been admittedly extremely funny and enjoyable to blog about.

For several months, I have been wondering what Jim Boylen has been doing day-to-day, away from the team.  Is he calling players and exhorting them to train harder? Is he trying to break into the practice facility to polish the fucking time clock that he was making players punch into?  Writing a Treatise on the Usage of Late Game Time-Outs With Reference To My Critics Who Have Invidiously Attacked My Own Strategems?  Has he been sending e-mails to players who hear an alert on their phone and immediately roll their eyes because it is from Boylen and the subject line is "re: your spirit"?  Presumably he hasn't been doing that because he has been sitting around waiting to be fired.
Excerpt from the Boylen Treatise

No one wants to see another second of Bulls basketball this season, but the idea of Bulls basketball with Jim Boylen gallumphing around the sidelines sweatily exhorting people like a vengeful spirit of all dads returning a defective lawncare item cannot possibly be real.  The only way it could be tolerable would be if the new front office promised that Boylen would be gone after the bubble and they were only keeping him around for us to laugh at him or if he were restrained in some sort of Hannibal Lecter apparatus. 

The Chicago NBA Loser Bubble represents the nadir of all American sports restarts.  The other leagues have some pretense of chasing a championship or playing some sort of semblance of a season that disguises the lunacy and recklessness of devoting so many resources to something so superfluous and frivolous.  But an attempt to impose a "bubble" with a testing regime and entire armies of people to support whatever ramshackle versions of the NBA's shittiest teams deign to show up presents the most desperate and despicable sports gamble yet-- until the NFL decides to do anything.

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