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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interview:Chuck Klosterman

Posted by AR

Some people call him the next Hunter S.Thompson,some people call him the definitive voice of Generation X.Well we just call him the guy who shockingly agreed to answer a few questions for us.Although mainly a music and pop culture critic by trade(you can find his work in the pages of Esquire and GQ,among others),you'd be hard pressed to find a writer with better Hoops knowledge than Chuck.In his books he has devoted whole chapters to Steve Nash before he was a two time MVP and NBA Officiating.His latest book and debut novel Downtown Owl is available from September 16th.

In the NBA,there's a commonly held view,that almost paradoxically,the general talent pool of the NBA has been diluted but there has never been so many transcendant stars.Do you buy this and if so,why do you think that is?

CK:This is true. And while it does seem paradoxical, it actually makes sense. The reason is expansion. Look at it like this: Let's say the NBA had only 20 franchises. This would mean that the league would only have 240 players, so every team would be much better. The worst player on the worst team would be the equivalent of a role player on an average team today. More importantly, the 21st best player in the entire league would (quite possibly) only be the 2nd best player on his own team, assuming the talent was distributed equally across those 20 franchises. In other words, a guy like Elton Brand would be a very good team's second option. A guy like Joe Johnson would be a second or third option. A guy like Drew Gooden might be coming off the bench. So all the teams would be more complete and more dangerous. Practices would be more competitive, so young teams would improve at a faster rate. The league would be better overall.

The reason the NBA seems to have so many transcendent players right now is a product of necessity -- because they league is watered down, the best players have to do more. In 1985, James Worthy was the third-best player for the Lakers. He averaged something like 17 points a game, but he still deferred to Magic and Kareem. That would never happen in this era. Now, Worthy would become a free agent, jump to Memphis or Minnesota, and score 30 a night. We would all classify him as a transcendent superstar. But the consequence is that there are no transcendent role players anymore, and those are the guys who make a league great.

SKO:Which impending event transpires first: A- An expansion NBA team pops up in Chisinau, Moldova; Or B- An NBA team relocates to Vermont and renames itself the "Vermont Verizon Wireless"?

CK:I would say "B." I wouldn't even mind if that happened. The one thing I like about Europeon soccer is that all the teams are whored out to every advertiser, which allows the networks to broadcast games without commercial interruptions. For TV audiences, corporate sponsorship can actually be a benefit.

SKO:What,in your opinion,would be more beneficial to the NBA,the NBA abolishing the Age Limit,more players cutting their teeth for a few years in Europe or the immediate resignation of David Stern?

CK:This is a good question. I think it is finally time for people to admit that Stern has been a bad commissioner for the NBA. There was a point (early in his tenure) when everyone in the media was saying stuff like, "Stern is a genius. He's the basketball equivalent of Pete Rozelle." So many people said this that Stern actually came to believe them. He now seems to think all his decisions are right, simply because he is the man who makes them. The NBA has some authentic problems right now, and most can be traced back to Stern. Expansion has hurt the league substanically. His unwillingness to overrule a bad league regulation during the Suns-Spurs playoff series in 2007 was terrible management. The fact that Stern has been so adamant about making basketball a global sport is going to become a real quagmire -- it's only a matter of time before some team in Italy DOES offer Kobe Bryant $50 million to jump to Europe, and that would be a disaster. And this gambling situation is *so much worse* than anything happening in the NFL or MLB ... the idea of refs fixing games is much more disturbing that SpyGate or steroids, because nothing destroys the integrity of any league as much as gambling. It's time we just admit that David Stern has become a bad commissioner. His singular skill is public relations. He has hurt basketball in this country.

Pitch a geographically appropriate name for the new Oklahoma City NBA team that also fits the teams status in the NBA.

The Oklahoma City Citizens

SKO:How deflating is it to realize that the difference between McCain and Obama, especially in terms of foreign policy, is like the difference between a Double Whopper with Cheese and a Double Whopper with Cheese (extra pickles)?

CK:Well, this is complicated. In every political race, there is a "perceived difference" and an "actual difference" between any two candidates. In 2000, the perceived difference between Gore and Bush was virtually nonexistent -- however, time has shown that the actual difference was substantial. Right now, the perceived difference between Obama and McCain is unspeakably vast, but the actual difference is relatively small. But that still matters. Because America is a country with an inordinately high percentage of uninformed people, perception generally matters more than reality. In other words, the fact that people *think* Obama represents a new kind of political culture is probably more important than whatever policies he would (or wouldn't) enact. Culture beats strategy every time.


ASPOV said...

Klosterman's comments about politics in this country is probably quite accurate with US basketball as well. The perception in this country that USA should come home with the gold because we have the most talented athletes and this is "our" sport fails to connect with the reality that basketball really is a team sport and athletic ability may be only secondary to srategy fundamental skill. The team is understanding this, but the perception of the public is far behind.

ASPOV said...

Thanks, Chuck!

TADOne said...

This was completely unexpected and i'm sure I speak for the whole group that it also is greatly appreciated. I loved all of the answers and want to thank Chuck for taking the time to answer them.

Ryan Jones said...

I trust you told him I said hello. He still in Germany? We ain't talked in a minute...

AR said...

Ryan-we didn't exchange small talk but I did name drop you in there somewhere,though I think it was an insult.

Eboy said...

Chuck, thanks for giving our little blog a big hand into having some validity. I think you have gained some new fans who may have been missing out on you words for some time now. Thanks almost seems hollow. Greatly appreciated is more like it.

AR, fabulous work, my friend. You are the hero of the day, if not 2008 for SKO.

I also co-sign the suddenly tangent ASPOV. Perception is a bitch and we are just now as a country feeling the effects of what others have thought of us for s, so long.

And Mr. Jones, if you ever feel like giving us an exclusive, all you have to do is ask. Mannatech!

Tariq al Hayder said...

Great work, Alan!

Chuck Klosterman is the man. I've been saving "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" for the plane back home. I'll probably spend the 14-hour flight reading that and listening to the new GZA.

Ryne Nelson said...

I'm certainly going to have to check out more of Klosterman's work. If he's remotely similar to Hunter S., I'll be more than pleased! :-)

Hursty said...

wtf is mannatech? btw, that dude is smart.

B. Long said...

Wow, I didn't know you guys had it like that. Great Interview and I love his assesment of Stern's body of work. I still have sympathy for Suns fan over that call and I'm a gawd damn Lakers fan. Interesting p.o.v. on the political front as well. I kind of understand where he is coming from because I'm more familiar with McCain's body of work pre-election but I still believe there are some very extreme diffrences on their foreign policies at the least. There is a great article in Rolling Stone that seems to echo some of the things he's touching on. Great Job, AR.

Tariq al Hayder said...

B. Long:
What are those extreme differences in foreign policy? Not only are there no extreme differences, there aren't even any slight differences, no matter what they may be saying now.

In fact, I'd like anyone to point out ANY difference between ANY two presidents in terms of foreign policy since the start of the 20th Century. Any 2 presidents: Roosevelt and Clinton? Truman and Kennedy? Reagan and Carter? All of them follow the same general pattern.

B. Long said...

Well Tariq, the only clue that I have on what their actual policy is going to be once they are elected into office is from what they are saying now. Which we both know could be total bullshit. I'm no political scientist but from what I gather Obama wants to actually have open sit downs with leaders of our rival countries like Iran and try to actually work out a resoultion instead of label anyone who holds any resentment towards America and happens to have a weapons program a terrorist and demand that they be sanctioned by the U.N. This of course was a plan that was labeled a slap in the face to our soldiers by McCain's campaign because sitting down with our enemies and trying to find a soultion to our problems is obviously unpatriotic. McCain would much rather just invade and conquer the ol'fashion way. You'd think a P.O.W would have a better understanding of what the troops are dealing with over there but I guess not. Obama also wants to have a scheduled date to bring home our soldiers in Iraq unlike McCain who said he'd keep our soldiers there for 100 years if thats what it takes to get the job done.

As far as a diffrence's between presidents goes just look at Clinton and Dubya. Clinton took no real action and considered Al Queda no real threat during his administration even though they were performing terrorist acts on U.S. embassy's and Navy aircraft carriers. This eventual led to the attacks on 9/11 which Dubya acted on swiftly by targeting Afganhastan. He then used the fear generated by the attacks to force the U.S. into a constitutionally illegal war in Iraq so Cheaney's Halliburton cronies could rake in the dough. Perfect example of one president doing to little and one abusing the power that was given to him. But like I said I'm no political scientist so I may be completely wrong but this is my p.o.v.

Tariq al Hayder said...

B. Long:

I know that Obama and McCain have SUPPOSEDLY different views on foreign policy, but American Foreign Policy is not something the President can change. The president is just a single cog in a machine with a fixed agenda. The American government has in the past and will continue to do whatever is in its own interests, regardless of any moral obligations.

Of course, the American people, in theory, should affect government policy, but they really don't. Because the American people are controlled not by force, but through media manipulation and marginalization. The average American is supposed to stay entertained and remain outside the sphere of real influence.

It may SEEM that there's a huge difference between Dubya and Clinton, and there ARE some differences in policy, but not in foreign policy. Not really.

First off, you have to realize that Dubya was president at the time of 9-11, so he had the biggest pretext ever. Clinton COULDN'T just go invading countries left and right like Bush. He had no pretext comparable to 9-11. However, to say that Clinton "took no real action" is just not true. He bombed the sh*t out of Iraq. He expanded the "no-fly zone". He increased sanctions on Iraq to the point that Iraqi citizens were dying and fleeing the country as refugees. And this was BEFORE al Qaeda. This was in 1996. You know what Clinton used as a pretext for his military strike? The oppression of the Kurdish people. the American Government was so overwhelmed with compassion for the oppressed Kurds that it felt it had to bomb the sh*t out of Iraq....Of course, Washington has ALWAYS opposed Kurdish independence, but that's beside the point. The point is that it could use the Kurds as a pretext.

And when Clinton bombed Iraq? the Republicans supported him. Of course they did. Bob Dole gave Clinton his full support, even though he was running against him. And who was Dole's senior advisor? John McCain.

See, McCain, Clinton, Obama, whoever's in the Oval Office... they can only control so much. the American Government is MUCH more complex than just one man. You have Congress, the Supreme Court.... American Foreign Policy is FIXED. No one administration can alter it. It will ALWAYS be based on expansion, control, hegemony, dominance and accumulation of wealth. Any moral concerns are just pretext.

If Obama wins, I bet you a dollar he continues the same policies that have been in place for more than a century. I realy don't think Obama will all of a sudden make peace and sh*t a priority. That would be great, but unrealistic.

Tariq al Hayder said...

And you know what? I bet a lot of people don't even REMEMBER that Clinton bombed Iraq. Because I doubt you guys over here see the same images I see back home. Images of schools and hospitals burned to the ground and kids with their limbs blown off and the like. No, you won't see that on CNN. CNN will show you images of scary dudes with beards.

I find it humorous in a very sad way that a large percentage of the American people thought that Iraq was helping al Qaeda. Do you know that Osama bin Laden considered Saddam Hussein to be a non-believer who was outside the fold of Islam? He considered Saddam an enemy of Islam. Yet, in 2003, the media would CONSTANTLY form associations between the two. So that informed American public opinion, which is crucial for any war.

Tariq al Hayder said...

One more thing: If Obama REALLY is serious about adopting a less imperialistic approach to foreign policy, he won't become president. Count on it.

Hursty said...

Tariq is smart. Can I get your book?

TADOne said...

I hate politics. Tariq has made me feel like my vote won't count.

F*ck it, i'm moving to Canada!

Eboy said...

You guys need to pay attention more often. Tariq, good points all, and yes, they are widely known if you can dig past CNN, MSNBC and the rest of the controlled media.

TADOne said...

I'm not uninformed Eboy, but I just don't care for most of what goes on in politics.

Eboy said...

I didn't call you uninformed, fucker, just said pay more attention. :) Yes politics, especially American politics, are hard to digest in any form.

TADOne said...

I pay attention. My comment was purely sarcasm.

Besides, I would probably jump off a building if I lived in a country that worships hockey.

B. Long said...

Like I said Obama and McCain both could be full of shit. The way I understood it was that Clinton bombed Iraq to take attention away from Monicagate for a week. I remember it vaguely. You do make some great points that I agree with but I do think that who is President can make a diffrence. Even if it's just in perception from other nations I think that their perceptions of us obviously effects our reality. Clinton still did nothing about Al Queda. Bush was Chaney's power whore. I may just be niave. If Obama wins and shit doesn't get better then I'll join your revolution.

Eboy said...

Where can we send a revolution contract, B?

B. Long said...

Eboy said...

Be looking for that around the beginning of December.

Tariq al Hayder said...


I REALLY hope I'm wrong. I hope Obama wins and says "You know what, I'm going to change America's approach to foreign policy, even though it's been like this since we attacked the Philippines in the beginning of the last century." I really hope he does that.

But he won't. He may spin it a certain way, but in the end he's going to be a good boy and do the following:

a- Support Israel. I don't care if the entire world comes together to pass a resolution against Israel (like they have on numerous occasions), the President of the US will still veto that ass (like he has on numerous occasions).

b- Continue to put military bases everywhere.

c- Continue to use preventive strikes. Now, there's a difference between PREEMPTIVE strikes and PREVENTIVE strikes. If you know that a country is going to attack you, and you attack it first, then that's a PREEMPTIVE strike, and that's fine. The US, however, practices PREVENTIVE strikes, meaning that if a nation gets close to the point where it would be ABLE to attack the US, the US attacks first. According to the UN, this is AGGRESSION, which is a war crime.

But I've noticed something: If someone ELSE commits aggression, people call it that: aggression. If the US government commits aggression, it's given a cute little euphemism like "protecting our freedoms" or "spreading democracy" or "tea-bagging the butler" or some shit.

TADOne said...

"Tea-bagging the Butler" is, I think, a game rich kids with trust funds play. I could be wrong though.

BETCATS said...

intresting Tariq. Intresting Intresting Intresting. In other news, i cant post on SLAM. Man i am so pissed off. Well i really am not but, at the same time it would be nice to talk to you guys their. Oh and i updated my site:

support me, support me!