Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Coach Bill Self: What are we not seeing?

The most fascinating aspect of a serial killer is their familiarity. Assumedly, they wake up, they pick an outfit for the day, they eat meals, and they probably have a hobby, like reading Garth Ennis comic books or perfecting their homemade salsa recipe. People who argue that serial killing is the most fascinating aspect of a serial killer are either ignoring the narcissistic nature of man or underrate the importance of familiarity in earning attention, probably both. Green ketchup wasn’t interesting because it was green, but rather because it was ketchup, America’s 3rd favorite condiment (behind Mayo, and—cue twilight zone music—salsa). Ketchup isn’t supposed to be green. Ketchup is red. If Heinz had produced green jeotgal, no one notices. No one cares.

Society’s aggregated comfort with expectations often hides the differences that make people extraordinary. With a suit, a debatably fake haircut and a paunch that could belong to your grandpa’s neighbor from Okmulgee, society could not be more comfortable with Bill Self. He’s totally the kind of guy that you could find yourself sitting next to at an Applebee’s bar discussing which Riblet’s sauce is the best. What he totally isn’t is the kind of guy that would point out the difference between Applebee’s Riblets and real riblets because he’s not a weirdo. He’s so ordinary. See the stammering interviews, hear the plugs for the Salty Iguana and speak about his conceivable opinions on Riblets. Given his situation, isn’t this how an ordinary person is expected to be?

But then there’s this. He’s a total weirdo. His normalcies somehow obscure the obvious fact that no one else is in his same situation. No one else is the highest paid state employee in Kansas. No one else is going to win a 10th straight conference title. No one else landed the most hyped high school prospect of the last 10 years. This is the most frustrating thing about Bill Self. He must be extraordinary, but try to hash out the reason and it will inevitably become a recitation of “The Nine Things Successful People Do,” an article written by smart people to help normal people be better than average people. That’s not a recipe for creating an extraordinary person, it’s a diagnosis of a their symptoms. And despite the cliché, every division I basketball coach is giving that “little extra”, so there must be something else to Bill Self. He’s not a normal coach, so what’s abnormal about him? Frustrating.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A fox in the hen house. A serial killer living amongst us is a common (and fun) trope of television. The juxtaposition of being completely normal and completely different pleases our narrative palette like the best salty sweets. Comparing Bill Self to a serial killer will only make a tiny bit of sense if his career takes a Bob Knight-like turn into maniacal competitiveness. There’s an infuriated smirk Self puts on his face when his team is playing at its worst that suggests it’s possible, but the analogy is extreme and grotesque and ignores number 7 on the successful people symptoms list, “build your willpower muscle.” Mob Boss then. Coaches are kind of like that already. Nick Saban could be Michael Corleone and Tom Thibodeau is definitely Tony Soprano. John Calipari and Rick Pitino are factually (probably) frontmen for the Dixie Mafia. So maybe Bill Self is just a more refined spin on the underground CEO. Maybe he’s Vito Corleone, a man who built his empire on a foundation of favors and kindness so renowned that all inquiries of his methods uncovered was gratitude. And Maybe he’s not. He’s probably not. I’m just trying to please that silly narrative palette I just mentioned.

Bill Self is extraordinary. You’re familiar with this fact. It’s the most frustrating thing about him because you can’t figure out why he’s so extraordinary. And maybe we’ve discarded the importance of what we already know. Bill Self is extraordinary, and whether its mob bosses or serial killers, the best are never caught.

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Freshman Andrew Wiggins

He plays like the original Iron Man. Conceptually invincible in the imaginations of the uninformed, he is a marvel of engineering, a perfect avatar for his purpose with rocket blasters in his shoes. The only possible weakness could be the pilot. And then the internet dissects everything, and high school homicide spin moves are as outdated as roller-skate tech. Take away the elite athleticism and who is Andrew Wiggins? Not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. He’s overrated and overhyped, a mental drifter with a weak handle and a jumpshot as reliable as Hammer tech. Andrew Wiggins was the future, but that was three months ago.

The internet makes everything look outdated quickly, even its own declarations.

It’s so easy to scoff at the non innovative application of a resource, and then the resource itself goes unappreciated. The arc reactor is a publicity stunt until it’s Iron Man. Iron Man is just armor until it’s Extremis. That original message that “I am Iron Man” was inaccurate and “I am becoming Iron Man” is perfect. No story is ever Tony Stark versus the villain. The villains are merely impetus for evolution. And now the resource is appreciated. It’s always been a story of evolution, embryogenesis of the cybernetic organism’s singularity. Tony Stark was a human, but that was years ago.

Maybe cyborgs would be more patient with an embryonic narrative. Is he the leading scorer and top perimeter defender of a national title contender? Is he an underachiever? Pundits thrust prematurely for an ultimately unsatisfying climax. The scrutiny of the masses would make Ayn Rand shutter. Because the real question that every critical member of these scrutinizing masses is really daring you to ask is simple and cold and straight from Iron Man 2. Does the pilot deserve to have Andrew Wiggins’ body?