The VICE crew that went to North Korea with Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters is doing a Reddit AMA right now.
Neon Waters Run Deep
There’s nothing fundamentally offensive, really, about the new Odd Future Stone Wash Pajama Zubaz uniforms that adidas rolled out on Thursday in preparation for the NCAA tournament later this month. Aesthetically, maybe, there are some things to disagree with—the color-schemes apparently based on flavors Gatorade invented, like “Frost Cascade Crash”; the shorts that resemble something a Jacksonville-area steroid dealer might’ve worn in 1991; the Notre Dame uniform, which looks like a Shamrock Shake with a tall dude trapped inside it. These are reasonable things to notice and take issue with, although it’s useful to remember that these uniforms were made with that purpose in mind—ruffling people square enough to care about college basketball uniforms, and ruffling them into using the word “adidas” if at all possible. This has worked—I’ve now done it twice in this column, and did it elsewhere yesterday—although it would have worked less well if there was anything else to talk about in sports right now. So, mission accomplished. Remind me to tell you about adidas’s patented ClimaCool Zones, an exciting new fabric technology that might well solve forever whatever pseudo-problem it purports to address, for all I know.
There’s a certain baseline squickiness to non-stories like this, which are essentially and inescapably re-heated press releases served with a side salad of Hot Take. It helps (if that’s the word) that these uniforms are undeniably something-a-skateboarding-cartoon-dinosaur-would-wear gaudy and legitimately strange. But the conversation they generate is mostly crypto-promotional noise. It’s familiar, too—think of those popular videos that get posted to every traffic-seeking site on the web along with a couple paragraphs about how stupid this video-meme is; think of the branded factoids and drowsily re-reported press releases that are the stock in trade of the widely loathed ESPN Brand Enthusiast Darren Rovell. These things are forgettable spurts of spume generated by the internet’s relentless, affectless churn. It’s hard to know what percentage of the web consists of ostentatiously and unapologetically content-free content like this, but it’s a two-digit number that probably starts with a seven or an eight and ends with a LeAnn Rimes upskirt.
North Korea Has a Friend in Dennis Rodman and VICE
Earlier today former Chicago Bulls superstar Dennis Rodman presided over a mixed-match basketball game in Pyongyang alongside Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The teams consisted of VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy; Moose Weekes, Buckets Blakes, and Bull Bullard of the Harlem Globetrotters; and North Korea’s “Dream Team,” all of whom played their hearts out in what we have termed a “basketball diplomacy” mission. Following the game, Rodman gave a stirring speech after the game that extended an olive branch to the Hermit Kingdom. The VICE crew is currently having a reception at the Supreme Leader’s house, and Duffy has invited Kim Jung-un to America and to tour the VICE offices. There isn’t much more to say than that because our jaws are still on the floor. So while we pick them up and get more info from our team, enjoy these photos of the game. You can watch the highlights on VICE, our new HBO series that premieres April 5th.
Photos by Jason Mojica
That’s So Jordan
Normally, there’d be something odd about all of basketball spending NBA All-Star weekend getting all misty, awed, wistful, and click-bait-slideshow-y about the 50th birthday of the man who owns the league’s worst franchise, and who is known as one of the most capricious and nastiest narcissists in sports history. This was not quite one of those Dictator Birthday Spectaculars—150,000 terrified civilians performing choreographed praise semaphore in some totalitarian urinal of a soccer stadium while brainwashed children sing odes to a blank-faced hemorrhoidal birthday-tyrant and the military marches its missiles around for seven hours—but also not totally not that kind of thing. That the 50-year-old in question is Michael Jordan explains a good part of it, naturally: He is the greatest basketball player ever, and that being more or less beyond dispute does not make it something basketball fans are less excited to talk about. But in the decade since Jordan’s last NBA game, talking about His Airness has become a different and stranger thing than it was.
It’s not that Jordan lacked complexity back when he was great and vicious and dazzling as a player. Jordan was known both as an impossible-to-solve athlete who dominated the NBA and a businessman who first crafted and then actually personally became a vanquishment-oriented global luxury brand. He berated and belittled teammates, he gambled and philandered extravagantly and did all the other things that professional athletes do, he coupled his unreal physical grace with heavy anger and gnashing narcissism. Whatever illusions once existed about Michael Jordan not being a warped, rageful asshole—the Ayn Rand ideal of a prime mover come to implausibly elegant and predictably brutal life—were clearly illusions even at the height of his beauty.
Coaching a youth sports team is a tough task as it is, but it gets much, much harder when the families of the players are dying in a civil war. Tane Spasev, coordinator of the Syrian Basketball Federation’s Youth Basketball Program, learned as much last year. The Macedonian came to Syria just as the protests erupted in March 2011. Tane carried on coaching through the fighting and brought a team of teenage boys to a tournament in Amman, Jordan, in September. I contacted him (he’s back in Macedonia) to ask about what his guys went through.
VICE: Did you worry about the political situation before violence spread throughout the country?
Tane Spasev: When I arrived in June of 2011, the situation in Damascus was no less safe and normal than any other big city in the world. The restaurants were full, shops were working, people were enjoying their everyday lives. The “situation” in Homs, Hama, Daraa, and places like that was distant from us and only on TV. All that changed in December and January when two suicide bombs went off in Damascus. Things were never the same after that.
THE LESS CRAPPY REFERREES ARE BACK
On a beautiful fall weekend where the multicolored leaves were fluttering off the trees and it was just cold enough that everyone in the neighborhood kept their smelly babies indoors, I got a phone call. “Snakes!”—that’s my nickname—“We have to go to that place with all the babes and cheap cool food and then to the store with the secret deposit of deadstock 1940s sweatshirts, the ones with the four-inch cuffs that you’ve been faxing me about.” I really wanted to go and experience all those things, but I couldn’t because sports. A few hours later I got a call about the art zine fair in Long Island City, which I had to skip for sports, too. I really wanted to see those zines, but part of being an adult is not going to zine fairs. If you didn’t skip anything, that’s fine. I didn’t need to eat that pizza made by a 95-year-old guy who’s retiring tomorrow anyways, I really was happy watching that Alabama game and telling you about it.
- The real refs are back, duh, and kind of blew it Sunday, so things are back to normal. Since you know the refs are back, you know it’s because the replacement guys made a fuck-up for the ages on Monday and gave Seattle the win. I won’t mention that the president got involved and the Reagan-boner guy from Wisconsin sided with the unions because he loves his team so much. It was one of those insane sports items that crosses over into regular news, so, like I said, I won’t discuss it. But on the off-chance you didn’t read this column, by the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik, on the subject, you should, because it’s pretty much all there.
- The Saints, who won the Super Bowl last year, are 0-4 after missing a last-minute field goal in Green Bay, and I’m told they’re not going to play the rest of the season out of pride. Of course, they didn’t actually win the Super Bowl last year, but it feels like they did, doesn’t it?
- It’s only September (as I write this), so it’s a little premature to say that the season is over for the Jets, who have an injury-depleted defense and not one competent player on offense. Wait, no, it’s midnight……. Now. The Jets’ season is over. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Vick just shut the press conference game down.
- I had this whole thing written about how going into Sunday night, no AL team has clinched a playoff spot, but then the Rangers beat the Angels and somehow clinched spots for themselves, the Orioles, and the Yankees. Still, not knowing what the playoffs will look like until the fourth-to-last day of the regular season feels like some sort of record. I’d look it up, but you probably don’t care. There are postseason implications in pretty much every series these next few days, which is awesome, but it’s also the last week with 15 games a night, which is a bummer.
Every team has a mascot. In high school, our mascot was a wolverine, and every Friday one unlucky cheerleader would hop in a costume that resembled a giant furry wolf and sweat for four hours. I remember my friend Abby ended up wearing it a fair bit. Abby has more in common with Jay-Z than she ever thought she would. Jay-Z is also a mascot, in a way, but his team is basically one really scary Russian dude, and instead of wearing an uncomfortable furry outfit he has to go in front of the New York sports media, which is much, much worse.
In August, The New York Times reported that Jay-Z owned approximately one 50th of 1 percent of the newly-relocated Brooklyn Nets. That’s more of an NBA team than you or I own, but it just barely qualifies him as an “owner.” To put it into perspective, Jay invested a million dollars in the team in 2003, which is a little more than what the Nets will be paying CJ Watson—who is good at Twitter but not that great at basketball—to sit on their bench this season. Owning a sports franchise puts you firmly in the oligarch club, but Jay’s gotten a seat at the club with only a token investment.