Friday, April 13, 2012

An Interview with Bethlehem Shoals.

Editor's Note: The Diss proudly presents an interview (well, an email exchange) with Nathaniel Friedman, aka Bethlehem Shoals.  Shoals was the founder of FreeDarko, the blog we have discussed in great detail this week.  After FD ended, he founded The Classical, an independent, collaborative sports website.  His work has also been featured in McSweeney's, AOL Fanhouse, GQ, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, SLAM, Sports Illustrated, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among others.  He's also got a nice Tumblr, and two books.  This interview touches on the Lockout, the Chosen People, the Artist Formerly Known As Agent Zero, and of course, FreeDarko.  Let's get to it.

Do you miss FreeDarko?

I don't miss the blog, no.  It had run its course, and I'm lucky enough to have other places to write the same sort of material.

Would you say that it's "dead", whatever that means?

Probably not, since a lot of what I do is still very much based on what started with that site.

Do you foresee a period of uncertainty on the horizon in this admittedly strange post-lockout season?

I think this season itself has been the uncertainty.  We're between eras, with teams not quite themselves, and injuries gumming up the mix.

While the 1999 lockout produced monoliths like the Spurs and the Pistons, this lockout (and deals leading up to the lockout) has produced teams like the Bulls, Thunder, and to an extent, the Heat.  Did the aesthetic not suffer as much this time around?

There's been good basketball this season.  It's more on a macro level that the season has suffered.

What is Darko's mood about the official death of the We Believe Warriors?  Pensive?  Enraged?  Relieved?  Nostalgic?

I am not a Warriors fan.  That team has been dead since that playoffs ended.  With the trading of Monta, though, I can safely say I won't be watching them much anytime soon.

What do you do to make sure you "explain" and not simply "roast"?

Complaining about the media is kind of a waste of time.  Thank god for Twitter.

What lessons do you try and remember (or what lessons have you learned)?

Saying critical things about people sometimes comes with a price.  You've got to be prepared to deal with that.

Why are Jewish males -- predominantly White Jewish males, though I am a proud exception -- so into professional basketball?

It's a combination of wanting to be black, or at least being fascinated with black culture, and knowing we have some ancestral claim to the game.  Jews are good at that deeply buried memory kind of thing.

Gilbert Arenas' return to Memphis seems to have been therapeutic.  He is playing an important role for a very good team.  Given this radical change in both his on-court and mental health, does Gil still fit in the FD mold?  Would he still be a FD guy?  Is he a Bethlehem Shoals guy?

I can't really separate Arenas from FreeDarko.  And remember, he didn't get fat or old or stupid -- he flamed out from injury and mental instability.  That is pretty fucking FD.  So whereas there are some players whose subsequent failure made them seem irrelevant or boring to me, Arenas, even in disaster, practically embodies FreeDarko.  Maybe that means his comeback with the Grizzlies says something about where I'm at?

How do you hope the site is read and used?  What lessons could people learn from FreeDarko as a source, or a narrative?

I kind of don't want people looking at it.  Many posts read like overreactions, or ideas looking for an excuse to come true.  It's an assessment of how things appeared to us in the moment.  You're right, a diary is a good way to think about it.  And if you still think it comes off as short-sighted and pretentious, well, read it as strategies for discussing basketball, whether or not the conclusions it comes to are right.

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