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Bird is not famous for his looks, but he was nonetheless the pinup of my pre-pubescent years.And over time, he became that “mystic” Wallace refers to, a fabulously gifted player and a reserved man from a small town in Indiana, who because of his reticence achieved a godlike stature in the eyes of fans like me.
Though the players don’t want to talk about it, for at least a week, and most likely for two, this series will be as much about the past—the grainy video, the deranged crowds, the short shorts—as it is about the present. doesn’t dust off the terrifying split-screen ad they featured of the pair two years ago—with both men stuffed awkwardly in basketball uniforms despite being decades removed from their final games.) A better way to reflect on the two players, and their respective teams, might be “When the Game Was Ours,” written by Bird and Johnson with the sportswriter Jackie Mac Mullan. David Foster Wallace, in his great essay “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart,” collected in “Consider the Lobster,” provides the most astute take I’ve read on the genre, what he calls the “the sports-star-‘with’-somebody autobiography.” His essential observation is that “Great athletes usually turn out to be stunningly inarticulate about just those qualities and experiences that constitute their fascination.” In other words, these books never make for very compelling reading.
Magic, or any other iteration of this year’s conference finalists, would have been.
My belief is that Troupe thinks of basketball in rhythm and he wants that to translate into his poem.
I don’t know if he has a distinct love for Magic Johnson or if he just recognizes that “Magic” is the best player you could use to relate basketball and rhythm, but it’s the greatest example I can personally think of.
I remember when I stepped out onto that court my first time starting varsity in high school I felt like there was magic in the room.
All the shouts and cheers seemed to blend together but in the end all the noise was for me and my team just as he refers to it in the poem “sweating chants of your name”.I could do whatever I wanted on that hoop and it made the game feel magical being able to fly above the rim just how I imagine Magic Johnson feels when he’s playing on a regular 10 foot hoop.I can tell how much love Quincy has for the game of basketball just by how well he really describes how “Magic” played the game.I think his reason for choosing Magic Johnson has a deeper meaning than that he really likes him as a player.The use of the word “Magic” throughout the poem makes me feel like the actions Magic Johnson is performing in the poem are truly magic.All this is to say, I approached the book with great enthusiasm.Bird and Johnson are both referred to in the third person throughout, confirming the obvious—that Mac Mullan has done the heavy lifting.I especially like this poem because it makes me think of all my glory days of playing basketball and also watching basketball.I feel as if I can relate to everything Troupe is saying.Yet despite her best efforts to enliven the proceedings, the story of the two greatest basketball players of the nineteen-eighties and often heralded saviors of the N. A., fails to enthrall in just the ways Wallace has noted.Both men worked really hard, loved to win, and now have a grudging respect for each other. Yet that’s also the revelation of the book, that the two men, for all their manifest differences, are largely, perhaps even boringly, similar. Both teams wear the same colors they did in the eighties, but everything else has changed.