Yesterday my son Tristan had his sixth grade trip. We went to the Natural History Museum and to the Bronx Zoo. Looking at the Lowland Gorillas exhibit the four boys that I was in charge of (with two other adults) began to exult and to say something about Carmelo Anthony. I was daydreaming. I came out of it hoping they weren't comparing the gorillas to Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's top small forward with 28.7 points per game this last season. To my amazement they were shaking hands with Carmelo Anthony, who had on a white t-shirt and sweat pants, and was visiting the zoo with his grandparents, his son Kiyan, and a bodyguard. I asked Carmelo, "Could I take a photo with you and these kids?"
He looked at me and said, "We're runnin'. We're runnin'."
This meant he didn't have time to stop and ham it up with the kids and preferred to spend his time with his own family. He was polite. I was polite. The kids were pint-sized paparazzi flashing their Ipods as they attempted to preserve the moment. Anthony was amused.
There's a shot from my son's Ipad and other cameras in the posse. The boys got shots of him from the front side and back but they are on Facebook and I had to ask my wife how to reproduce them. He looked just like he does above, except he is wearing a white t-shirt and loose sweat pants and a cap. He's 6'8" tall and weighs 230 pounds:
Here's a photograph of the boys looking at a black panther. I'm not saying that Carmelo Anthony is a black panther because he's not (I don't know if he's politically radical or not, but I just want to compare them physically), and I think the comparison would be gauche if it were done on any kind of political basis, as I don't know if Carmelo is even a leftist. He might be part of the 1% of African-Americans who voted for Romney, but what I want to emphasize is Carmelo's powerful physique:
Just before visiting the Bronx Zoo we had visited the Museum of Natural History over on 79th Street. We saw the tiny tarsier:
This creature lives in Madagascar and was only six inches high. Some live as far north as the Philippines. Notice it already has the thumb. It has gigantic eyes that allow it to see in the dark. Each creature is adapted to its environment by virtue of the invisible hand. Whatever force drives the Invisible Hand? Schopenhauer thought it was a mysterious demon that just wanted more of everything. But what causes it to select certain creatures as fitting their environment? Carmelo Anthony is taller than almost everyone. He has a mysteriously powerful body. You could see it as he walked. In two steps he could cover twenty paces. He had a lithe ingeniousness to his step and he was observant. He took me in. He took in the boys. He could see all around him, which is part of what allows him to penetrate into the paint.
They say that LeBron James is an athletic genius. In the June 17, 2013 Time Magazine, there is a two-page foldout with a quote from Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, talking about LeBron. "It's a little like A Beautiful Mind. He has a quasi-photographic memory that allows him to process data very quickly." One does notice that LeBron can read a court and make unusual passes and take strange shots. Carmelo is something like that but he's on a less talented team or perhaps it's just that the team hasn't melded. Players form into a cone of power on a great team. They mind-meld as Michael Jordan did with Scotty Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Carmelo doesn't do that as well as LeBron James does perhaps. Carmelo strikes me as a bit of a loner. As a bit more like the panther above. He doesn't quite trust people. He had a bodyguard with him yesterday. He grew up in the ghetto of Baltimore. He has been arrested for drunken driving and smoking dope. But he's still remarkably intelligent. The Time article says, "Athletes must process multiple streams of information in real time under extreme pressure. While a mathematician puzzles out a groundbreaking proof, 300-lb. linemen aren't chasing him around his office, trying to crush his chalkboard" (no pagination). Carmelo has that odd ability to assess a situation and move through it, scoring time after time. In our brief encounter he had the ability to put me off without being offputting. That's an art. As he went away on some big trolley the zoo had lent him, he waved and gave us a true smile. The kids went berserk.
Pattern recognition is a part of any form of intelligence whether it's mathematics, sports, or writing a poem. You have to be able to create a significant pattern and read it creatively. While driving into NYC on the bus yesterday I found odd patterns everywhere. I'm usually driving when I enter NYC, but yesterday was on a school bus. So I sat up high and took photographs:
When we reached the Natural History Museum Tristan posed against a glass containing a paleolithic turtle:
The free market of nature creates winners and losers. As humans we try to minimize the cost to losers. We try to carry all kinds of disabled creatures with us, enabling them to procreate, and creating special stairs for them, and elevators, and making sure they have enough food to eat and a roof over their head. No other species does this. Thank God no one asks us to do this in the NBA so that a bunch of drooling Alzheimer patients have to play on each team, or each time has to have at least two warlock dwarves in wheelchairs. I like plain competition.
Carmelo Anthony is like a one-man industry of point production in the NBA. He's a fiery furnace of fabulosity. Leave him unguarded and he can score over fifty points in a single game. It's an odd niche to inhabit. The game itself is odd. Two baskets on either side of a wooden floor. It seems to favor black men who for generations in jungle fighting in darkest Africa battled it out with sticks and stones and spears running at one another and taking off each others' heads. Anyone without an instantaneous ability to read the incoming maelstrom correctly and strike before being struck was mercilessly edited. Only the warriors remained. The only group that can sometimes compete with African-American men is Eastern European players who presumably had similar conditions to compete in over centuries. But players from that area are better at outside shots. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the very few who can stay in the paint and reliably produce points. He took the Mavs to the Finals and won in 2011. But let's say he's an anomaly in an arena that seems to generally favor black men.
Much of the need for this battle ability has been taken away and replaced instead on today's battlefields by the ability to shoot a sniper shot from half a mile away and nail a terrorist in the head with a fifty caliber bullet, exploding his head like a grapefruit with a bazooka shell. In business other abilities may be required -- the odd genius to capture a niche market as Bill Gates has done, or the ability to come up with a good quality tissue paper as Scott tissues have done. All are to be commended insofar as they make a profit. The market is a kind of warfare in which the strongest survive. Our economy needs these men and women, and the profits they make. Some are envious of them and want them to not make any profits. But they are playing for our team. If they make a profit, we get a portion of it through taxes. To make the government try to do what they do is hopeless. The government cannot compete with individuals in a free market. Because government is a bunch of losers who've won by lying to everybody about anything. Their only product is lies and giveaways and corruption. It's like the referees insist they can play the game, and if someone else plays better than them, they start calling fouls.
The economy is a test tube to see what works, and inside the economy sports is a very speeded up version of the economy. Those who can survive in that court are very special. I could not have done it. My knees would have caved, and I have size seven feet. Although I was a soccer star in high school, I could not have made it to the NBA. As we look forward to the class of 2019's graduation, I hope each kid can find his or her niche. I feel lucky that we have good teachers and a good school for all the kids. This year we had an especially good teacher in Ro Avila who taught my son to read complicated literature and love it. I also liked Mr. Lange and Mrs. Thompson. I have also gotten to know many of the parents and their kids. I've gotten to know them through soccer, basketball, plays (the school honors artists equally with athletes), and through church and other events. I hope they can all find their niche and contribute to America. None of us will ever be as famous as Carmelo Anthony, but we can all do a job that we like and for which we are fitted.