McGradyism: How I learned to stop worrying and love Edward Said

(Note: I wrote this a few hours ago, and I'm not really sure I should post it. I'm afraid that it probably misstates what many people are really saying about this topic, but on the other hand it's something that I really do feel is going on, in a way)

Since virtually nothing else is being written about the Rockets today, I might as well go ahead and just concentrate on this crap (not that we haven't done this enough already) in lieu of a real links post.

T-Mac practiced with the team yesterday, and Rockets.com's Jason Friedman continues to provide one of the few non-bullshit voices out there:

"Obviously, being out for so long, it takes awhile to get in NBA playing shape and gain the rhythm and moving with consistency in this game. I could play right now but who knows where my rhythm would be? That takes time, I don’t care how great of a player you are. If you’ve been out for a long time, it takes time. You have to play in games to gain your rhythm."

Rick Adelman was busy dealing with weirder things (h/t Clutchfans), so Elston Turner ran practice:

"He’s a competitor," said Rockets’ Assistant Coach Elston Turner. "What athlete, what former All-Star, wouldn’t want to play? He’s gone through a major surgery and he is coming back and it’s a process to get him back on the court full time. But when you’re building a team, there’s chemistry that develops so when he does come back we would like him to be back - instead of in a week, out a week. He went though through the workout today, he started and he finished but it’s still a process and we have to bring him back slowly.

"I do know that our regular guys have been going at it since the end of September. So if you look at in terms of a timetable, this is basically Tracy’s training camp as far as catching up and being ready. It’s good to see him. Everybody would like him back, he’s an All-Star but we want him back like the All-Star Tracy McGrady."

Okay, so McGrady says he wants to play but understands why he'll probably have to wait, and the coaches say he'll probably have to wait but understand why he wants to play. Easy, right? Whew, I'm glad all that's over. Seriously, this whole saga has been so filled with stupid crap and interpre- oh wait, I forgot, nobody can take anything at face value, because we're all a bunch of 14-year-old girls.

Clutch, of ClutchFans fame, believes that the Rockets' disavowal of any acrimony between Adelman and McGrady is merely a lie, stating:

Source tells ClutchFans that Adelman has no interest in playing T-Mac. Zero. Says: "This isn't going to end well"

Of course, those same sources also have, in the course of a year, informed all of us that the Rockets were trading for Amar'e Stoudemire, or that Vince Carter and Baron Davis were on the table. This is no knock on Clutch, it's just that I've long felt that the "rumor mill" is exactly that: it's an industry. Someone makes an offhand comment, "sources" inform reporters of that comment (now stated as fact), and reporters craft articles treating their sources' comments as organizational objectives. It's the same thing Danny Ainge talked about recently:

"In the media, there are people that are more concerned with breaking news than writing truth and writing real history," Ainge said Wednesday on WEEI when he was asked about the trade rumor. "It’s a competition of who breaks the story first and I have a feeling that there are people with motives trying to get their player traded from another team. That’s how this story got out."

At the same time, all we've heard from Morey and Les Alexander has been that the Rockets' focus is getting McGrady healthy and ready to contribute, because an "all-star" caliber player is "obviously" going to help them on the court.

And yet I watch the Basketball Jones this morning, and what do I hear? Tas and Skeets talking about how the Rockets are worried about McGrady ruining the team "chemistry," and that the team's pronouncements on their reasons for wanting McGrady to sit out are "obviously" just words. Where do these ideas come from? The answer is simple: McGradyism.

"What's McGradyism?" you may ask. Put simply, McGradyism is the attempt to foist our own preconceived narratives and categories on reality (a related concept would be "Scrappyism"). These discourses are created from a position of power - that of the professional sports journalist or high-profile blogger - and inform and create the way sports fans view their favorite teams and players.

McGrady - because he is McGrady and the McGradyist understands who and what McGrady is - is evil, coniving, and lazy. He is the serpent in the garden by which we define and create the separate category of the "Yao" or "Battier" - the "team player" versus the "Me-Mac." This is the discourse of power utilized by the McGradyist. Meanwhile, an allied discourse - the McGrady versus the "team" - is created to further define McGrady as "chemistry-destroying." The "team" and "McGrady" have diametrically opposed desires and interests as a necessary part of their mutually antagonistic existence. This division is sharp, and McGrady cannot possibly cross over into the category of "team."

What a McGradyist does is look at the information provided - whether by another journalist or by direct observation - and reinterpret it in the context of these discourses. Any information that falls outside of the self-confirming nature of the discourse is disregarded. If McGrady and the team appear to be allied, then this is merely a mask for their "obvious" antagonistic relationship.

The problem with McGradyism is its essentialist nature. McGrady is - by nature - opposed to the team. The team - again, by nature - is opposed to McGrady. These are, in the McGradyist view, obvious, "common sense" divisions: just as McGrady is opposed to the team, so black is opposed to white, or a dog is opposed to a cat.

This means that even the most innocuous statements by McGrady will be reinterpreted in the context of the discourse as a team-opposed act, and vice-versa.

To counteract McGradyism, the fan must take a more historicist view of the information. Instead of buying into the discourse, stop reinterpreting what is said simply because the team "obviously" wants McGrady to stay away or because McGrady "obviously" hates the Rockets. Take texts at their word unless there is good reason to do otherwise, and avoid throwing them into the discourse.

A perfectly consistent history can be constructed without relying upon the discourse. McGrady was injured. He now feels like he can play, but the team disagrees. There is a great deal of tension between the two sides for a variety of reasons. The Rockets want McGrady back, but only if he is able to contribute at a level that will help the team win more games. If a trade is presented, the Rockets will consider it (that's pretty much what Morey said all summer), but nothing has been presented as of yet that would be better than simply letting McGrady's contract expire. There, clean, simple, and not full of needless crap about how both sides hate one another because of some essential nature.

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