The NBA Fucking Sucks: A Playlist

nbalogo.jpgFuck you too, NBA logo guy

Honestly, I don't know why I still bother to care. Other than a few isolated bright spots (The Warriors/Mavs series, that one Nuggets victory, the frustratingly infrequent flashes of greatness from LeBron), this year's NBA playoffs were the most boring and mechanical I can remember. Now that the San Antonio Spurs have trudged their way to a fourth championship with all the passion and urgency of a pack of Office Space drones, at least this abortion of a season has come to an end. The Spurs made it quick, dropping the Cavaliers in four straight games. And I blame myself for even watching that ass-ugly series; this year's ending was determined the moment that NBA commissioner David Stern decided to suspend Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw for basically nothing, effectively squashing any chance that his league might generate a few more interesting stories this spring. And still, like an idiot, I held out hope even through last night's game that LeBron games would start gargling blood and spitting fire, finding his inner demon-god and laying waste to the most boringly dominant dynasty in recent sports history. The really infuriating thing was that he always could've done it; I lost count of the moments where he should've just banged on defensive dipshit Bruce Bowen. But he usually passed to the open scrubs on his team instead, knowing full-well that they'd probably miss their uncontested three-pointers. So last night marked a disappointing end to a disappointing season, and there's really no redemption in sight for my favorite sport. I'm in a really bad mood about this shit, so I decided to make a playlist about it, since I'm a music writer and all.

1. M.O.P.: "Ante Up" Preview/buy from iTunes

I've probably put this song in half the playlists I've written for Status, so this is probably inexcusably lazy, but seriously, you try to find a better song to kick this thing off. More to the point, what might've happened if LeBron had kept this song playing on a loop whenever he wasn't on the court? If Jay-Z is really LeBron's best friend or whatever, he should've made sure this happened. My big problem with this year's playoffs and with this year's season in general were how mechanistic and uncompetitive they were; even the winners seemed to barely give a shit about anything that was happening around them. And so "Ante Up," for me, sort of represents all the passion and ferocity that were missing from this year, the sort of scrappy underdog rage that really only made itself known when the Golden State Warriors were on the floor.

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2. Nas: "Ether" Preview/buy from iTunes

I'm writing a big long thing about the Jay-Z/Nas rivalry for a book anthology right now, so I've been spending a lot of time with this song and with "Takeover," and the difference in tone between the two songs have really become glaring over the past couple of weeks. On "Takeover," Jay is haughty and unconcerned, laying out his problems with Nas and following a sort of logical progression, like he's writing an outline for an expository essay about why he's better than Nas, not really putting all that much emotion into it because he's already totally confident in his thesis. Nas, by contrast, sounds like he just got slapped in the face; he's all volatile and almost inarticulate bile. He lashes back at Jay with every single point he can come up with, careening haphazardly from one point to the next and never bothering to tie all of them together: "Well I'm great and I'll kill you and nobody realizes how great I am and you wish you were me and you're gay and you stole your album title from KRS-One and you quote Biggie too much and and and..." I think "Takeover" is a better song in general, but "Ether" better encapsulates how I feel about David Stern's dumbshit wool-over-eyes decision to suspend Amare Stoudamire. If you didn't see it, what happened was this: the Suns were up against the Spurs in the closing seconds of a close game in a close series, so Robert Horry came out of nowhere and slammed Suns leader Steve Nash into the scorer's table out of sheer frustration. Stoudamire and Diaw jumped up, but they didn't do anything, and they still get suspended, dashing Phoenix's hopes for the next game and killing their momentum in the series, basically ensuring another yawnsome Spurs title in the process. Fuck that. This was the exact moment where I would've lost all hope for the NBA if I wasn't such an idiot. David Stern's soul should burn slow. 3. Earth Crisis: "Firestorm/Forged in the Flames" Preview/buy from iTunes

Just a great song for everyone who feels like lashing out indiscriminately at a ton of mostly-unconnected but generally oppressive stressors. The Amare suspension, the Wizards injuries, the dumbfounding incompetence of Cleveland head coach Mike Brown, another humiliating first-round Houston Rockets loss, some of the worst and most inconsistent refereeing I've ever seen: these things almost certainly have nothing to do with each other, but they all add up into a maddening tapestry of bullshit, and it needs to be torched and rebuilt completely. "No mercy, no exceptions, a declaration of total waaaaar..."

4. Fugazi: "Repeater" Preview/buy from iTunes

Ha, I was going to use "Waiting Room," but that would imply that things might actually get better in the NBA if we wait long enough. "Waiting Room" sounds like it's an indictment of complacency, but it's really actually about how we're better able to make things better if we wait for our openings and pick our spots, a sentiment that just doesn't work here, since nobody, it seems, can tell the NBA's refs to stop calling bullshit flagrant fouls or the league's coaches to stop being such overmatched idiots. "Repeater" is really about callousness and indifference to problems that don't affect you, and that doesn't really work here either, but I picked the track because of its chorus and because of the way that chorus implies the fatigue of constant repetition (and because it's awesome). The Spurs just won their fourth championship, and it almost certainly won't be their last. And yes, they're very good at what they do, but I certainly can't think of another dominant team this boring.

5. The Business: "Do They Owe Us a Living?" Preview/buy from iTunes

Do they owe us a competitive and satisfying NBA finals? Of course they do of course they do! Do they owe us a competitive and satisfying NBA finals? Of course they fucking do! For whatever reason, the original Crass version of this song isn't available on iTunes, but this cover does the trick a lot more nicely than the Conflict and Soft Pink Truth versions.

6. L7: "Shitlist" Preview/buy from iTunes

Ha, remember L7? L7 was awesome! This song is on the list because I had to call Bridget and ask her if she could think of any good angry songs, and she came up with this one without missing a beat. My shitlist right now includes David Stern, Mike Brown, Eva Longoria, Greg Popovich's mottled and acne-scarred face, and Anderson Varejao's out-of-control ball-fumbling crunch-time layup miss from finals game 3. My shitlist does not include ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons, whose ideas and observations I'm pretty much ripping off wholesale in this entry, as if you didn't already know that.

7. Ugly Kid Joe: "Everything About You" Preview/buy from iTunes

Rob Harvilla thought of this one, and I don't really have a whole lot to add here, except this: The great thing about this song is that Ugly Kid Joe frontman Whitfield Crane (pulled that name off the dome, no Wikipedia) is totally enjoying talking about how much he hates whoever, and I'm starting to enjoy hating the NBA.

8. Kelis: "Caught Out There" Preview/buy from iTunes

Sensing a pattern here? Rob thought of this one, too, though I wish I could take credit. It's sort of too obvious for me to even say anything about it. I hate the NBA so much right now. There, I said it. This entry is getting pretty repetitive, huh?

9. Cutty Ranks: "Limb By Limb" Preview/buy from iTunes

This song is for when your annoyance turns into wordless, unspeakable fury, which might've happened to you if you had a couple too many drinks while watching last night's game.

10. Journey: "Don't Stop Believin'" Preview/buy from iTunes

The Daily Show already made this joke a couple of days ago, but it's pretty funny how in the past five days this song has become a sort of cultural shorthand for anticlimax. I sort of liked the last scene of The Sopranos, and it definitely gave us a lot to chew on, but it was unquestionably the sort of ending that actively resisted any sort of viewer satisfaction. So I actually laughed out loud last night when the geniuses at ABC used this song to soundtrack one of their mid-game montages. I can't tell whether some control-booth editor was making a pointed inside joke or whether they just had no clue, but it was pretty appropriate either way. And the song also works as a beacon of hope, like maybe a couple of general managers will make a couple of smart off-season decisions or Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony will have time to gel in the off-season and come into the year looking unstoppable and all of a sudden we'll have a competitive league again. See? These fuckers are already roping me in again.

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