Call “Ball” and Drive

Remember the great basketball movies of previous generations?  OK - so it’s not like there is a ton worth mentioning.  We’re certainly due for another one, and I’m hoping David Lynch takes an interest.  The Toronto Raptors couldn’t be better as his main subject matter.  Just looking at the real team today, and how they are perceived by their fans, provides for the perfect Lynchian fodder.  

The few games I’ve attended this season have all seemed to blur into the kind of dream sequences that Lynch loves to capture.  I would like to bring him along to a few of the games up in the nosebleed seats (cue nosebleed in the film version) and allow him to take in some of the bizarreness surrounding this team, and then to expand upon it in his own inimitable way.  Is this team more like the innocent and lustrous Betty, or the compromised and gritty Diane?  Like in the Lynch film, they two are in fact one in the same. They’ve tried to reach glamorous new heights, but have been grounded by some ugly realities, and where hopes intertwine with shortcomings lie all kinds of mysteries of the subconscious variety.

I was at the home opener on Halloween night.  The entire Smurf family sat three rows in front of me.  Every game I’ve been to since featured teams which themselves looked like Smurfs as they took their shots in their warm-up gear. The Hornets, Denver, and then the Grizzlies with lighter-colored warmups than the darker blue uniforms underneath.  Light blue from head to foot is not something that any human should be adorned by.  But there is something beautiful in how it is able to offset the conscious mind. Now give Mr. Lynch a few cups of strong coffee half full of sugar and let him absorb some of this kind of atmosphere, and we’re talking about some potential for a basketball epic that will make us all forget about Gabe Kaplan in Fast Break.

I only wish he could have set up some cameras inside my eyes for that Memphis game panning across a half-filled arena with idle chatter bouncing around as phones are pulled out and glanced at every few seconds.  There are a few awkward and sometimes irrational crowd responses within an overall din reflecting a complete lack of any sense of importance.  Two young women sit down next to me and proceed to shriek like four-year-olds, with no apparent pattern, but with the loosely-defined purpose of matching up their decibel output for maximum ear-piercing effect.  The game is incredibly dull, slow and filled with foul calls.  Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh carry the action.  Every other Raptor on the floor could be out of the league within two years for one reason or another, which makes their small contributions a little bit heroic for the time being.  Bargnani heats up and scores on consecutive drives.  On the second play he is fouled and makes the basket as well.  A guy in the very last row in the corner of the building says “trade him”.  He doesn’t yell it, or emote at all, but projects the words enough for them to be heard clearly within the drone of the chatter.  Bargnani converts on his free throw and again, in the same deadpan tone - “trade him”.

[cut to Maurizio Gheradini standing next to Bryan Colangelo in the runway approaching courtside...a dwarf in a red silk shirt pulls on Maurizio's pant leg...Maurizio bends over as the dwarf whispers into his ear...the dwarf walks down the runway and exits the arena...Maurizio relays his message]

Maurizio: We need to trade aerdnA - er - I mean Andrea.

Bryan: It’s time?

Maurizio: It is time.

[cut to my seats up in the nosebleeds...yes - there is a drop of blood that has fallen from my nose as expected]

I reach for an old napkin in my coat pocket, find it rumpled up and quickly bring it to my nose.  Two minutes remain before the first half comes to a close. The shrieking woman nearest to me turns and asks, “is this Memphis?”.

[cut to Matt Devlin off-mike during the half-time break]

Devlin: No way!  No fucking way!  Bargnani has to stay!  What have I got without him?  He’s everything to me.  I’m sunk without him.  I gotta be able to roll that “Arrrrgh” like a pirate when he dials up a three.  Barrrrrgh-nani hits another trey! That’s just beautiful.  I gotta have that.  And then my whole “Do You Like Me Now” thing when he heats up like he has been lately.  I can milk that for a full year.  I mean I can tell that people are already sick of the Rockin’ Roko schtick.  I gotta fuckin’ have the Bargnani!

[Jack sits next to him, his eyebrows shaved, smiling excitedly]

Jack: HELLO!

[cut to Lara, microphone in hand, standing next to a half-time contestant]

Lara: Hey Fans!  It’s time to play A Raptor Erred!  I’m here with Jasmine and she’s going to say “a Raptor Erred” as fast as she can five times in a row.

Jasmine: A-Raptor-erred-aRaptor-erred-araptorerrd-arapterrd-arapterd

Lara:Hahaha!  You just said “a wrapped turd” Jasmine!  That’s funny.  But you know what!  Speaking of a wrapped turd - you have a chance to win a year’s supply of Snicker’s bars.  To win you just need a Raptor player to make a mistake.  Today’s challenge is for Jose Calderon to miss a free throw shot.  Now he hasn’t missed all season, but who knows Jasmine - this could be your lucky day!

[cut to Jose at the line, standing with the ball, eyeing the basket and shooting.  The ball goes through the hoop.  The fans boo and the soundsystem blasts sounds of crazed laughter followed by an elongated buzzer sound.]

The team comes out for the second half wearing brown and red colors and with “Snickers” emblazoned across the front of their jerseys.  In hushed tones, coach Triano reminds his team to be sure to run plays and to be aggressive even if they don’t like being aggressive.

The Raptors take a fourteen point lead, but Will Solomon coughs up the ball a couple of times and the crowd grows restless. Solomon decides to take a log-range jump shot the next time down and the crowd boos him relentlessly.  A rotund, elderly Gavin McLeod walks onto the court in a cameo appearance, wearing a white suite.   He pulls a small handgun from inside his lapel pocket, and while grinning madly, holds it up against Solomon’s head and pulls the trigger. 

[At the exact moment that the shot is heard, cut to the two young women next to me shrieking for a full thirty seconds, gradually fading out the screams and fading in spooky string music composed by Angelo Badalamenti.]

[cut to close-up of blood splatter pattern on McLeod's suit jacket]

[cut to Centre Court, where the spotlight beaming down from the scoreboard grows in intensity until it completely whites out the Raptor claw logo on the floor.  The light becomes almost liquid-like in its intensity - a milky lava of a beam.  Chris Bosh walks into the hot spotlight, dressed in his cowboy outfit and with a long blond wig beneath his cowboy hat.  He swivels his hips and the french version of the Blondie song "The Tide is High" plays through the sound system.  Bosh lip-syncs along with Deborah Harry's singing, perfectly mouthing the french words.  The dancepack, dressed as unwrapped Snickers bars, dance in the glow behind him. The Raptor mascot circles around the scene, removes his head and reveals a bunny head underneath it.  Holding the Raptor head, he reaches inside it's opening and pulls out a large purple key.  He hands the key to Bosh who stops lip-syncing as the music carries on. His blond wig grows in length until it covers him entirely.]

[cut to Devlin looking manic]

Devlin: And we’re not even half way through this season yet!

[Cut to a shot of an aging Fanny Flag leaning out of a private box.] 

Fanny Flag: Silencio!

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The AltRaps Blog » Blog Archive » Toronto Raptors Linkage for January 13th through January 14th  on January 14th, 2009

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