super monta bros.

25 03 2008

Last night, the Golden State Warriors fell to the Los Angeles Lakers as at least the partial result of a blown call with four seconds left in the game. Monta Ellis was hooked on the shoulder by Lakers guard Derek Fisher and pulled to the ground. Referee Bob Delaney whistled Ellis for an offensive foul that gave the Lakers the ball up two points, essentially awarding them the game. While it was visibly a bad call, and at a time in the game when refs historically become tight with their whistles for fear of handing one team a win, it was perhaps not as flagrant as Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald made it out to be, who called it a “pathetic” end, and railed for a solid three to four minutes of airtime that Fisher had “tackled” Ellis to the floor.


His frustration was probably more inspired by the journey than the fizzle at the end. The Warriors have had terrible problems with the Lakers over the last several years, and were poised to win both ends of a back-to-back with a three pointer in overtime, or at least force a second overtime. It was a long and very taxing game to watch, and the Warriors had played hard minutes. Baron Davis played fifty-three (the whole game plus overtime) only never to get a shot at the hoop to end it. The highlight show that followed didn’t even bother to make note of the late foul that sent the Lakers home happy, and maybe in some respects that was why Fitzgerald was so passionate in his condemnation; it sometimes seems that the media will revise history a bit to enhance the Laker good vibrations.


It’s not unlike the Super Mario Bros. Sure, we’ve all played the game, or at least seen others play it, the diminutive plumber leaping and soaring above Koopa Troopas, Bullet Bills, and indeed, the stoic and tragically flawed Goomba. Children and adults alike have had great fun attempting to thwart the evil despot Bowser (although I still prefer to call him his classic name, King Koopa), so of course, they all loved the movie, right?


The movie, for those who don’t remember, was a bit of a disaster. Released in 1993, it starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, respectively. The film was rife with bizarre choices, perhaps not glaring flaws in an original screenplay, but irrefutably strange in the context of the bright, fun video game. The world Mario and Luigi find themselves in is not vibrant, pretty, or even kitsch. Instead, the duo found themselves in an industrial, post-apocalyptic slum smack in the middle of an endless desert. Gross looking fungus hangs from every conceivable surface, the simple and tiny Goombas are hulking dinosaurs stuffed into bulky overcoats, lovable sidekick Yoshi gets stabbed in the throat, and King Koopa clumsily attempts to seduce/force/pester Princess Daisy into a sexual foray.


It’s dirty and unpleasant, and it’s completely unlike it’s own source material. One notable aspect is that the famous jumping power the brothers have at their disposal in the games is absent in the film. Instead, they equip themselves with mechanized boots called Stompers, and use them to blast themselves into the air. This bothered me, because it struck me that the movie, already a film about two guys who trip through a dimension to fight a super-evolved dinosaur, was not willing to indulge in anything that might be considered silly or illogical.


There’s a similar childlike instinct regarding basketball that makes me want to remember certain games and moments in exaggeratedly epic terms, and whether you agree with Delaney’s call on Monta Ellis or not (I don’t), there’s nothing epic or fulfilling about watching a referee, essentially the bureaucrat of the hardwood, decide a game. It shakes and shatters in some way the nostalgia and love for the sport that has built up in me slowly over time. Not unlike a plumber wearing hydraulic shoes, Bob Delaney has killed my spirit.




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