wally, ben, and the implicit contract
my t-wolves t-waded wally szczerbiak this week, sparking heated debate among hoopologists and immediate layoffs in the greater minneapolis eyebrow waxing industry. mr. szczerbiak is a marginal defender and often too slow to get his picture-perfect jumpers off against non-marginal defenders. nevertheless, i'm always impressed with his effort -- even when he's shut out of the offense by certain talent-rich but eyebrow-poor point guards.
i'm only a casual basketball fan and a laughable player, but i'll miss wally world for three reasons. first, he's got skills: year in and year out, he hits exactly half his field goals, 40 percent of his three-pointers, and 90 percent of his free throws. this makes him a very efficient and reliable offensive performer, who scores well without wasting shots.
second, my daughter will miss him. we shared a thanksgiving flight to nyc with wally, who was gracious and patient with the legions of teen and tween girls seeking his autograph. wolves uberstar KG is the team's best scorer and only passer and rebounder. now the big ticket must carry the wolves' sole heartthrob responsibilities atop his broad shoulders (i'm thinking maybe rashad mccants can work into wally's derek zoolander role, but he's gotta get some minutes first).
third, and most important to me, szczerbiak seems to abide by the implicit contract between audience and performer: like kevin garnett, he tries hard (or at least feigns interest) in every game. the wolves are likely a better team after the trade, but my personal interest generally rests more on the implicit contract than it does on the performer's esoteric skills.
i haven't bought an nba ticket since i took the family to a lakers-wolves game to share with them the spectacle of amazing athletes with prodigous skills (KG! SHAQ! KOBE!). unfortunately, the lakers were clearly uninterested in this midseason tilt. kobe half-heartedly jacked up shots in the general direction of the backboard, nobody got back on defense, and only wally and mr. garnett had even low-grade nba fever. my daughter had just started playing basketball at the time and i wanted to somehow shield her eyes. i was also hoping to spark some hoops interest in my barkleyesque (in oh so many ways) son. but if the players didn't seem to care, how could they?
that's why i'm a little nervous about the trade. the wolves get ricky davis, who is better than wally at everything but shooting. unfortunately, this will be mr. davis' fifth team since 1999. the team-oriented davis once tried to pad his rebound stats by clanging a shot off his own team's backboard. like mark blount, also acquired in the deal, his "passion for the game has sometimes been questioned" as has his "a questionable effort and attitude." in addition to davis and the center who doesn't like to rebound, we get another undersized point guard who doesn't like to distribute the ball. uh-oh. i'll be happy if they win, but i don't think i can bear to watch it.
it isn't just sports, of course. i abide by the implicit contract in any performing art. i'll walk out of concerts when i think a band is phoning it in. i've seen teachers break the contract too, though i've never walked out on them. what is nice about sports and music, however, is that amateurs play with wonderful zeal. my daughter's basketball team has a painfully low shooting percentage, for example, but those girls play hard. i saw an epic football battle this fall, in a championship game between a couple evenly matched ninth-grade teams. the level of play in high schools, colleges, and even "town ball" is often absurdly good, at least relative to the weekend athlete.
of course, i'd like the hometown pro teams to prosper too. but if we had to trade wally, why couldn't we get back a gutty ben wallace-type? he can't shoot free throws, but he is the living embodiment of the implicit contract.