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Sports Schtick


There's been a debate in my circle of friends about exuberance in sport. More precisely, what's my problem with Stephen Curry (nice guy and best, most prepared basketball player on the planet) performing a celebratory shuffle after difficult 3-point shots?

Is exuberance following a shot appropriate? I see it happen in the youth league I coach. A kid makes a shot. The basket is treated like a soccer goal. But baskets are not rare. Kareem gave Magic advice about settling down after an early win. Be cool. There are to be a lot of them. Shots even more so.

A player like Tim Duncan appears to assume he knew all along that a shot was going in, as if it happens all the time and is the expected outcome. Jordan celebrated a few playoff game winning shots, but otherwise reacted with purposeful nonchalance. And he's evil, right?

So why am I bothered by a gentleman like Curry dancing?

It's not race. I could point at dozens of white baseball players (many of them curiously closers) that antagonize me with their ritual celebrations.

It's not the real emotion Curry (or a closer) surely feels. The shots Steph keeps draining? Unreal. They create real joy. I can point to plenty of absurdly happy Curry reactions I find charming and justified.

So it's not Curry. It's me. What's the issue?

Schtick. I react negatively to choreography, even in the smallest of doses. Whenever joy or any other emotion becomes canned and practiced, it's poison to me. It's Gene Simmons flicking his gargoyle tongue during a glam metal guitar solo. While Kiss might reside on the highest plane of Schtick existence, there are plenty of more subtle examples. I recall watching a Rolling Stones documentary featuring scenes of Jaggar rehearsing for a huge stadium show. The stage was littered with tape markings indicating his foot positions for various songs.

I was aghast. Et tu Mick Jagger? Rock isn't supposed to be choreographed. It's not theater. I still love Exile on Main Street, Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed... but there's a reason I turned to punks like Ian Mackaye or Mark Arm. I want to believe the antics on stage are not staged.

I guess I feel the same about sport.

Addendum: Bryce Harper's recent rant about baseball's grandfatherly ways nicely buttresses my contention that celebratory, individualized schtick ought to remain in the dugout or locker-room. I feel secure handing this late inning argument over to Sergio Romo.

Suggested listening for this post: Mudhoney, "Into Yer Shtik"


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