Friday, February 11th, 2011
3

The Porn Star of the NBA


Bethlehem Shoals: About an hour ago, you told me that "I feel like Blake Griffin is ruining my enjoyment of the NBA the same way pornography ruins sex.” Care to elaborate on that?

Pasha Malla: Well, I don’t think that’s entirely true about pornography, and I was mostly kidding, and I'm wary of sports/porn allegories… But, okay. I mostly keep up with the NBA through highlights online. And all I want to see anymore are the money-shots of Blake Griffin dunks. As pure spectacle, he's come to supersede everything else in the league.

BS: I agree that using sex as a way to, well "sex up" or dude-ify the fan experience is dumb, if inevitable. As a cultural reference, I don't think porn can ever be trotted out as anything other than camp. But on the web, highlights and porn are consumed in similar ways: as an aggregate of quick-hit, pleasure-center clips, with the goal of finding that one, superlative moment. Griffin is the next step: because he’s always “on”, the excerpt becomes incomplete. I will go ahead here and compare him to the rise of free, forty-minute streaming web porn.

PM: I used to be invested in the completeness of players, but with Griffin I don't care. I just want to watch him throw down. There's a thrilling sort of violence to the way he attacks the rim: he's a "monster," he "crushes," he's "nasty," etc. I mean, though I trotted out the comparison as a half-joke, the way he's talked about does feel pornographic—and, sometimes, as was the case with Timofey Mozgov, it isn't much of a stretch to think about Blake's opponents as his "facialized" co-stars.

BS: You’re really missing out. Watching Blake Griffin, you can spend two hours in the presence of non-stop basketball porn. Just like, if you felt like it, you could spend your entire day streaming endless hardcore. Previously, that took effort, curation, even a little imagination. Now we can just watch the porn float by like it's scenery. There’s still preference involved, but instead of searching frantically for exactly what (or who) you want, there's this deadening tendency toward "down for whatever, by whoever".

Even the star is defined as much by actions—or in the case of Griffin and porn, great feats—as swagger or aura. Existence precedes essence. Fuck yeah. Also, the barrier separating reality from between discontinuous, or specialized, fantasy, falls away. Porn is the new real; Blake Griffin is … wait, were we talking about basketball, right? It did just occur to me that LeBron James is a lot like the Kinsey Report.

PM: This sort of conversation always starts to descend into self-parody at some point. It's like going through Jekyll & Hyde giggling at all the surreptitious back-door entrances—it quickly becomes juvenile and more or less misses the point. I mean, sure, there’s something sexual and porny and sorta gay about watching video of a guy dunking on another guy, nevermind celebrating the emasculation and humiliation of it. But pointing out the homoeroticism of sports isn’t exactly a revelation.

That said, when people (i.e. a certain contingent among fans) do talk about this sort of thing, it's usually in mocking, ironic terms that distance ourselves as participants. Like: "these hyper-macho-men don't know how gay they are!" (There's obviously something homophobic in that, too—using "gayness" as a term of ridicule.) I’m more interested in how fans, as audience, engage with sports’ homoeroticism. And I don't mean that as some strategy for straight men to confront something gay and somehow sinister about ourselves, but more that it’s worth thinking about as an element of spectatorship—straight or queer, men or women, whoever. Is watching Blake Griffin the same as watching gay porn? No. Is it in some way bearing witness to a sexualized performance—of course.

BS: I don't think straight men necessarily identify with the victim of the dunk. Also, despite being told the opposite by someone who works in the industry, I don’t think that the holy grail of porn is something approaching violated (interestingly, “violated” is part of basketball slang). Everybody knows that if you're pitching, not catching, it's not gay—it's practical necessity or out-manning someone. It's more like men who can only get off on porn if there's a dick they can relate to (or suppose to relate to) in it. I know you don't want to get too Freudian or whatever, but I do think it's worth discussing gender and spectacle, and what this does to out notions of passive and active participants.

There's a reason why the women are paid so much more than the men in porn: they're the performers. No one ever said to Timofey Mozgov, "Hey, I'm a big fan of the way you took that flying crotch in your face". So, by that logic, the breakaway dunk is totally a woman masturbating, and the two-man break is girl-on-girl porn. I am on fire! SEX FIRE. Actually, it really might be more like atrocity porn than anything else. That or a guy running around with a hard-on and a cell phone yelling about his sex life.

PM: Coaches are the directors. Trainers are the fluffers. Earl Boykins is a midget. Cheerleaders are cheerleaders—you're right, it's just simple math. The NBA: Where Interracial Happens.

BS: My wife just left. I think we may have to break for a second so I can go jerk myself raw.

PM: I’ve been balls-deep in a Fleshlight this entire time.

BS: Is this the part where we talk about how America likes to endow black men with hyper-masculinity while feminizing them in ways that keep them from being truly threatening? Isn't that why the internet likes to argue endlessly over whether or not the game's best players are, in fact, clutch? What is Wages of Win, if not a way of explaining that he likes porn but still likes his wife better?

PM: I think I get you: in order to become truly legendary NBA players have to be not just showmen, but winners. Maybe. That certainly used to be true, but I think YouTube is changing how sports are documented and remembered. Legacy is becoming less a product of championship narratives (an official history written by/about the victors) than it is decided by fans, in terms of spectacle—history written by fetishists? A people’s history of whoever swung their sword the awesomest, anyway.

BS: The NBA has supposedly been dying for years, even before the highlight rose to prominence. Now, players who perform "like a video game", like Griffin or Derrick Rose, are celebrated. They’re certainly not subversive, in terms of the league’s image. We can talk about porn as more objectifying than ever. But, at the same time, porn stars are all over social media. They make YouTube of themselves hanging out, fully clothed. The acts themselves dehumanize like never before, but externally, personality has become a commodity. Porn has succeeded in making itself less real than ever, but at the same time, the mundane is being infected with porn. Maybe Blake Griffin is proof that, like quadruple penetration of someone whose kitchen we know all about, fighting a war on two fronts is the best way to unite a people.

PM: Totally. The internet has brought something private into public conversations, though oftentimes writers seem to be trying to define an evolving meme and end up grasping at specious conclusions. In that spirit: porn is ruining straight couples' sex lives but making men cuddle their wives more, as Blake Griffin’s dunks are making me love basketball again.


Bethlehem Shoals is a founding member of FreeDarko.com, whose Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History was published by Bloomsbury, USA in November.

Pasha Malla is the author of two books and a contributor to FreeDarko's Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History.

3 Comments / Post A Comment

Mork el Pork (#8,293)

Brava.

Further illustration of BGriffz's war on two fronts is the included video of the facial on that Russian gal coupled with the one later that night when BGriffz met that Italian beefcake. The NBA truly is our country's most progressive thinking sport.

soco (#8,225)

Griffin's definitely fun to watch, but he's going to have to develop more aspects of his game.

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