The lockout is here, and really, who among us didn’t know it was gonna happen? For the record, I’m as broken up about it as anyone, but I’ve got to be practical here. The one thing I’m not gonna do is spill a bunch of words about the in’s and out’s of the labor negotiations and who wants what and who is to blame if we don’t have a season. Kill that noise. What I will do is find ways to occupy myself and satisfy me perpetual Basketball Jones.
So yeah, what to write about then?
Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched The White Shadow from start to finish, and now would be as good a time as any. Of course, the trick is going to be to not burn through them too fast, since there’s no telling how long it’s gonna take to get this mess resolved. Good thing it managed to last 54 episodes, which was quite the feat for a show that featured mostly black faces in the late seventies.
What can I say, this show and 11 year old me were destined for each other. It was about Basketball, set in my hometown (well, sort of. Show takes place in South LA), and featured a bunch of dudes named Salami, Go-go and Coolidge. That shit had me running home from school to catch the re-runs on KHJ 9 (or KCAL, as it’s now known) in my junior high years.
The White Shadow was as real as TV got back in those days, and still is in alot of ways. Sure, some of it looks dated, but the subject matter holds up just fine.The show lasted three seasons and had a pretty dark tone to it, especially considering it was made 30 years ago. Every type of adult dilemma known to man was thrown at the kids from Carver High, most of them at Star Forward Curtis Jackson and his floppy hat. Not sure why they chose to saddle him with gambling, drinking and a prostitute ex-girlfriend, but Curtis always seemed to rise above, bad dude that he was.
His story was fleshed out in great detail, as were the stories of all the Carver ballers and wise-ass head Coach Ken Reeves, the ex-Chicago Bull whose career was derailed by a creaky knees. Faced with little in the way of career prospects, Reeves takes the job hoping to learn as he goes.
And that’s more or less where the show starts, with coach Reeves arriving at Carver and attempting to establish some kind of rapport with his team. trust me, it isn’t half as Disney as it sounds, especially for 1978. Reeves is a likeable guy in that slightly cocky New York wiseacre way, and the kids fall in line sooner than later. I’m probably not the first person to say this, but young me thought coach Reeves was the just about the coolest motherfucker I’d ever seen, especially for a middle-aged coach type. How he talked, what he wore, he’s game with the ladies. The guy had it worked out.
Still, it’s about as heavy as anything you could find on Network TV in those days, even if it’s somewhat offset by the humorous moments. All these years later it still feels pretty real, even if alot of the ground it paved has been well-worn since then.
As far as the basketball goes well, don’t get your hopes up. I mean the playing pretty much sucks, to put it mildly, and only a few of the Carver guys could even remotely pass as real players. Don’t let it throw you off though, as the Basketball is just the vessel through which the show speaks about the bigger lessons of life in the inner city and whatnot. Sure, the orange uniforms can be distracting, but don’t let them throw off your focus.
OK, so before I pass the point of no return spoiler-wise, let me just say that if you havent seen the White shadow, you should, for alot of reasons. The baller theme, for starters.
That ought to be enough to convince you to give it a shot, and if it isn’t, have a look at the CARVER HIGH SCOUTING REPORT I put together for the Carver players. From there, it’s as easy as ordering the DVD’s on Amazon or checking out Hulu, where they have almost all of the episodes.
Listen, it might be a long time before we see real basketball again. This ought to keep me busy for awhile.
The plan is to for Wes to get on board with this as well, so we can spend the next few weeks posting about subjects ranging from favorite cameo (mine is Michael Winslow from the “Police Academy” series, playing a kid who ain’t all there) to Salami’s offensive usage rate and beyond.
Until then, keeps your heads up. They can’t lock ’em out forever.