Eighties nostalgia is all the rage these days. I told Alan the other night that “Hot Tub Time Machine” was probably sold on the basis of the title alone, but now that I know it’s about the ’80s, maybe not. Everyone wants to wear their hair in those cantilevered bang-poufs again, don’t they? Skinny ties, anyone?
For something a little different, I suggest you watch “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” on HBO instead. I caught a few minutes the other day, and was interested enough to watch the whole thing on demand a few days later. (For someone who pays zero attention to sports, that’s something.) You want ’80s hair, ’80s glasses, ’80s TV graphics? You got ’em. In the bargain, you get some ’80s Midwest, especially Indiana. You can wallow in it.
The title is the story — a look at the love/hate relationship between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird that stretched from college rivalries to NBA head-knocking, and like all great head-to-head matchups, transcends it all and ends up being about Something More. That part, the something-more part, feels a little tacked on, if only because you get the idea the main players didn’t give a crap about race relations, ginned-up-for-TV conflicts and clips from Spike Lee films, but just when you feel the rivets popping, the narrative skips back to clips of behind-the-back passes and arcing jump shots, and who can’t get with that?
My attention was taken more by Bird, who was at the apex of his career when I arrived in Indiana, a source of great state pride, the embodiment of all of Indiana’s beliefs about itself — not handsome, but approachable; not flashy, but hard-working; not a showboat, but a team player; not Showtime, but Grindstone. And so on. I was probably the last person in America to learn that Larry Bird mowed his own lawn in Boston, frequently with an audience of fans watching from the curb. How quintessentially Indiana, the poor boy’s reluctance to pay good money for something he can do himself in less than an hour. What else was he going to do? Read a book?
Johnson, on the other hand, was a Michigan kid, one who learned his work ethic from his father, who worked at General Motors, back when that was the dream of every blue-collar man in Michigan. Magic was another homebody who stayed close to home for college, and ended up on the other coast, goggle-eyed that in Los Angeles, you could have your own orange tree.
You could have a lot of things in L.A., it turned out, including six women in your bed at once, and we all know how that turned out for him. Bird hurt his back building his mother’s driveway back in French Lick — why pay good money for something you can do yourself? — and that was his turning point. All sports careers have to end sometime, and you could hardly pick two more fitting endings for those players.
But this was my favorite part: When the two were persuaded to shoot a sneaker commercial together, and did it in French Lick, at Bird’s mother’s house, where Larry had built a full-size basketball court to practice on when he was back home again in Indiana. The script made much of how testy their relations were, but when the crew broke for lunch, Bird invited Magic up to the house, where his mother had made lunch for them. Beautiful. There was no mention of the menu, but I bet they had fried chicken and baked beans. Just a hunch.
And now it is spring. Bright sun, etc. I didn’t think I’d live to see it. But here it is, and here’s the bloggage:
One of our GrossePointeToday.com contributors caught a lovely pheasant photo this week. Look at those colors. Pretty, pretty bird.
Wow. This is remarkable. Russell King’s open letter to conservatives. I’m probably the last person to recommend this, but there you are.
Best Twitter joke in a while: #SarahPalinonDiscovery
Off to get my oil changed.