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Reel Talk: The Corbin Smith Review Of Online Sports Highlights, A Journey Within

A journey within, guided only by the stars and the whims of a potent spirit-tea, reveals some universal truths, and also some about Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague.
January 6, 2016, 5:46pm
Photo by Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The renewal and promise of The New Year! A person attuned to the Spirit of the World takes this wonderful opportunity to dip in the pure, cleansing, cold waters of 2016, leaving behind the oily residue of 2015. Not everyone joins in this revelry, naturally. There are cynics polluting the soil of the world, like a mercury leak or a pile of pig shit buried in hopes of hiding it from the local pig-shit-pile inspector:

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To all those who reckon time on the Gregorian Calendar - Happy New Year! (FYI: January 1 is astronomically insignificant.)

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson)January 1, 2016

Neil, you, sad, poor bastard. Look up in the sky, you dunce, and see the stars. We are a flea being moved forward by their providence, all of fate and human history determined by the whims of these fiery floating giants perched on thrones made only of gravity. If we are to lead happy, fulfilled lives, we must submit to the truth that we are truly powerless before their dictates. Happenings happen as they will happen, and there is very little we can do about it. [Editor's note: It reads as though deGrasse Tyson agrees with the writer on this point, but whatever].

Read More: Corbin Smith's 2015 Sports Highlights Year In Review

As a tribute to the dawning of this New Age, I drank a powerful rosehips brew, set my arms at my sides, fixed my eyes on the skies and let the energy of deepest space flow through my body and mind and determine what highlights I would review this week. Some weeks I just look at Twitter, but this week I decided to let the universe in.

I think you will find the universe has some fascinating ideas about the last week of good basketball things.

THE WOLF

I stood, feeling the roses seize the outer part of my mind. It turned to a pleasant numbness, and I crawled into it. I closed my inner eyes and took a nap in this space. In my self's mind, I dreamt richly. I heard a wolf howling. The howl became louder and louder, until I seemed to walk out of my mind and into the stars. I raised my eyes to the source of the universal sound.

The Star Wolf. Hero and sigil of the longer, the man alone. Basketball players who follow The Star Wolf's lead feel a deep responsibly to win, but also a tragic inability to trust their pack, whom they feel are not fully applied to "The Hunt." As a result, these Star Wolves tend to try to create their own shot where possible.

You can practically see The Star Wolf's visage burned into the back of Michael Jordan's head. I recalled, in my lower mind, that one of Jordan's Chicago Bulls records, for most points in a half, had been broken several days previous…

More than that, it was broken in a way that, on a certain level, served the vision of Jordan mightily. Butler spends nearly the entire mix working pick-and-rolls into unfashionable midrange shots and posting up in the mid-block and taking turnarounds. Outside of his four-point play and another, less remarkable three-pointer, it is as vintage a 40-Point half as we're going to get from a modern NBA guard. It's a very rare and novel achievement in these times, and we should respect it.

But then, why is it so chilly? Why does this not stir warm blood in the veins? Where is a window to the universe in Jimmy's body and mind? These turnarounds are too slow to conjure magic. The three-point shot feels like an act of labor. The finishes look crisp off the glass, but the drive doesn't feel like a hurricane, an act of inevitability.

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I would suggest that, while Butler is an excellent player, he is not transcendent or supernatural the way a driving Lebron, a turning-around Jordan, a pulling-up Curry, a crouching Tony Allen, or a jogging-back-on-offense-and-liable-to-do-whatever JR Smith. Butler's game was forged in the flames of effort and commitment, and it shows. It is the sort of game that produces wins, but will only warm the heart of a person who submits to life in a frozen hellscape as punishment for subtly felt past sins. Say, for instance, that you were the star at the center of a Solar System teeming with life, but you couldn't manage to keep yourself together long enough to not go Nova and preserve all those lives.

Also, this mix features small handful of assists to a mid-ranging Pau Gasol. Who wants that? Who wants anything the Bulls have to offer, really? They're a totally reasonable basketball team, but who is lining up for this gruel?

And so this highlight is the 21st century Bulls Revival in one moment. During their series against the Wizards in 2014 (which they lost, pretty badly, from dominant seeding position), the sad-seeming forward Tony Snell, dove for the ball, nearly killing himself to win the game and keep this train a-moving, only to be denied while he sat on the floor by Nene, who calmly picked the ball up with one hand from a slight crouching position.

It was an extraordinary effort, destroyed utterly by superior talent. The cruel stars approve of these events, time after time. Effort is a stain and a poison. It is human beings, or animals, or planets, or universes, or any sentient thing, believing that they can outrun their fates. We cannot. We should simply accept what the universe has for us.

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We can't. The Universe, stars and skies alike, is dominating us every waking second of every day. Jimmy Butler is not one of the chosen balls of fire. He is an exquisitely shaved block of ice, he is majestic, but he can melt.

Also, not to nitpick, but two points in the first half? No one would care if Butler scored all his points in the second and third quarters. Spread it out, dude. I gave the mix a little grade boost because DeMarre Caroll falls down at about 1:30, and I found that amusing. Stand up much, DeMarre?

RATING: C-

THE SCHNAUZER

My eyes closed once more. My encounter with the wolf showed me the path he was walking on, and I followed the path, deeper and deeper into my mind. I felt myself approach a row of houses, lovely houses, pink and yellow and a pastel purple that felt, spiritually, like a blue who was once proud, but submitted to humility and entered a fulfilling union with a red.

From this house, a faint barking. I approach. A small schnauzer. I open my eyes.

I feel the stars on my hands and feel their warmth against my body. I loved the stars, as I do all good dogs. They/she spoke, in English. Or was it me, understanding the language of the Canine? Whichever, I embraced the dog.

"I am enjoying this hug, Corbin. Isn't it good, to be united in mutual warmth? To feel the affection of another? It is good to surrender yourself to another, leave pride behind, and accept a good feeling from someone, or thing, or somedog, or someanything aside from yourself."

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For a while, I had no idea what the stars were telling me. A hug? Was there a play that ended in a hug I didn't know about? There's a big group hug at the end of that Butler video. But why would the stars tell me to review the same clip twice? No one wants to read that, and anyway my original review was widely recognized as definitive. But then, while scrolling on Twitter, the answer came to me:

Jeff Teague is a wonderful player. But he is not of nature. Russell Westbrook haunts the nightmares of children; they feel a shadow that feels like his presence stalking them around the court, stripping the ball, crossing their asses, driving down the lane and putting them on a Dream Poster. He is elemental.

Teague is just a man. A man may fell a tree, even a noble and mighty future-old-growth like Kristaps Porzingis from time to time. But unless he is possessed by some extra power, he will not often achieve it without an axe.

He is not possessed by the spirit of Earthquakes as Russell is.

To be merely human in a world ruled by natural powers made manifest in a human body. It must be upsetting, on some level. You may, one day, get a bee in your brain about it. Decide that you have a superhuman power locked away in you, and you have only your cowardice to blame. Decide to rush at that tree, Nature's Power made wood and sap and bark and roots, and just try to tear it down yourself and drag it home to your family, where it will warm your Hearth for many years.

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It doesn't work out, though. You slap, you push, you jump, you kick, but the tree just stares are you. Soon, you are left sitting on the ground. Your hands are bleeding. The tree lords above you, the master of this natural domain. Someone was videotaping it. It's on the internet, now. Everyone laughs at you. What were you even trying to do to that tree?

Would that Jeff Teague put his pride aside and seek comfort in the paws of a friendly dog, or a friend. Achievement will never make him happy, at least not for long. Michael Jordan's ghost, who stalks all people on Earth, proves it. He must realize that the fence is not a prison. It is a limitation, built into his heart, mind, and body, by the stars and planets who command the universe. Learn to live with it, work with it, work on the edges of it, certainly. But do not defy the will of the universe. You will be blocked. The gentle spheres of time and space demand it.

RATING: A

CRAWLER

I set down my friend, the stardog, and walked inside the pastel house. "HELLO!" I shouted "IS ANYONE HOME!?" They weren't. I wandered from room to room, looking for a sign of a life, a person sent to tell me what I needed to review next. I went up stairs, into the basement, the kitchen, the bathroom. No one. I was befuddled. So I sat down in the living room and turned on the television.

I saw a desert. I sat and watched for ten minutes, staring at this desert, trying to find something, anything that could give me a hint. Then I felt, from the television (or was it a symbol in my mind?) a sense of infinite depth from the screen. I stood up, as if compelled. It was as if I would just step through the screen and arrive in the desert. And so I did.

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It was hot. There were two suns here. I look all around myself. A thirst. I walked towards the suns, hoping that walking in a single direction would eventually lead me to a town or an ocean. I walked for many hours, past cliffsides and dunes, but I met with no inspiration. I felt the effects of the rosehip infusion dwindle. I would be yanked out of the stars soon. Was I missing something? Was my perception dwindling?

I heard an engine. I turned towards the sound. I started from my state and saw it, in the stars, staring right at me.

A Sandcrawler? The big tanks the Jawas operate out of in Star Wars? What could this POSSIBLY mean! I couldn't go back into the depth of my own mind to find out (I was out of tea) so I tried to break it down with logic:

  • A large thing (A big human being, I suspected)
  • From another world (I would have to look outside basketball)
  • That I was still intimately familiar with (A sport I still enjoy. This ruled out football, a sport I don't particularly enjoy because its ideological aims are too determinist.)

I couldn't narrow it down. I exhausted myself, burrowing through clips of cricket, figure skating, darts—this seemed likely, as many prominent darts players are very girthy men—soccer, sports-leaning performance art. I couldn't find my calling anywhere. It was three in the morning. I had put my mind through so much. I began to fall into sleep, right there at my desk. But in the last six seconds of my waking day, I saw it. I saw what I was being called towards:

All night, I dreamt of Bartolo. He was ten feet tall and dressed in a blue and orange onesie with METS written across the chest. He was traveling the Earth, lifting giant boulders and breaking them over his knees, whipping eagles out of the sky with power lines, picking things up for old ladies, punching giant red diamonds with PHILLIES spray painted on them so hard they broke in half. It was amazing, and I almost cried.

I wrote down what I saw and tried to put it in place. I have always thought of Bartolo as an older, rotund control pitcher who was, like, extremely hilarious when the National League forced him to bat. But seeing our man whipping two big ass ropes like it was nothing at all taught me that there was, to this person, a deeper internal strength.

One suspects that, in his spirit, Bartolo has a molten core, like a planet. Feeding this core drives his legendary appetites: for love, for friendship, for victory. His legendary humility keeps this power under wraps, only visible in normal circumstance for the split second when a baseball leaves his hand. To get a look at this power in an extended way, the way this Vine provides? It is a blessing, an honor, a joyous occasion, to see the power of a star this close to our faces.

That caption the Mets social person wrote is pretty bad, though.

RATING: A (Down from A+. That caption really is an enormous pander.)

Thank you for reading! Please contact me with suggestions and complaints and have a wonderful week! KEEP HIGHLIGHTING!