Why The Avengers And the Miami Heat Are Alike in Their Conventionality
Since the Miami Heat are a “Big Three” and The Avengers are a “Big, like, Seven or something” finding direct parallels between the two can be tricky. And yet, I believe they’re linked. Lebron is Thor insofar as it’s kind of strange that they both can do about everything that their counterparts do, but are still surrounded by a supporting cast. Pat Riley is both Iron Man and Nick Fury — the charisma and style of the former, the command and poise of the latter. Chris Bosh is the Hulk because I find it funny that he spends most of his time on the court as Bruce Banner. I suppose Dwayne Wade is Captain America—consider the shield as Wade’s ability to get fouled in traffic and Captain America’s standing as a patriotic cultural object that’s not as important as Superman (Jordan*).
We’re expected to think that the Miami Heat will win the NBA championship and that The Avengers will be a worthwhile film. If you’ve followed basketball after Lebron made “The Decision” or if you’ve kept up with any of the films from Marvel Studios, you have at least something invested in seeing either of these things come to fruition. I’ve experienced some trepidation in my excitement, that the best player in the league switched teams to play with his friends, who also happen to be some of the best players in the world, feels new. Watching six movies whose goal is to serve a single movie is also new.
Though my excitement for either depends on remembering events, not as they happened, but with rose colored glasses. If I look at last years’ Finals as a rematch of the Heat vs. Mavericks in the 2006 finals, then I’d care more. If I remember Thor as something impressive, his turn in The Avengers would be cause for excitement. Still, the 2006 Heat team that won the championship is a different team and Thor is an unremarkable, passable film. I remember thinking that Dwayne Wade setting the record for most free throws shot in a Finals was peculiar and the number of dutch angle shots in Thor was jarring.
Foils and Tricksters
The Heat ran through the East Conference playoffs last year, with nary a rival. There were some great games in the Celtics series, but the Conference Championship fell flat. With Derrick Rose out for the rest of the playoffs, it seems that we’ll be denied a proper rematch, but the Bulls and Heat have combined for a string of boring games—relative to the two teams’ considerable talent—even with Rose. The teams spend three quarters sparing; then Chicago—a pick and roll machine—stops running their sets and leave Derrick Rose out on an island to create offense. Miami gets anxious on offense, which may be attributed to the Bulls stifling defense but I can’t quite tell.
Unlike my fantasy basketball team, the Bulls have done amazing without Rose, so it’ll be interesting to see if they challenge the Heat with a more balanced offense. As it stands, I think the Pacers have the best shot at upsetting the Heat but that conjecture is the problem. In the Heat, we have a great team without a rival. And if you’ve been watching the Thunder vs. Mavs or the Clippers vs. Grizzles, you know the joy of watching two very good teams battle. The Heat have yet to produce a classic basketball game and the shame of that is compounded when one thinks of Wade and Lebron playing against each other.
Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde is a great read. In it, Hyde argues for the importance of tricksters and how they change the world by finding the establishment ridiculous. He alludes to trickster and Norse god, Loki, and notes that “the gods’ binding of Loki is always followed by the prophecy of Ragnarök, the doom of gods.” A so-so comparison would be the Joker’s role in The Dark Knight, but that comparison rings a bit tinny because there would be no Joker without Loki. The Avengers turns the mythos of Loki and renders the character indistinguishable from most tentpole action movie baddies. The Avengers is not about how essential Loki is, or even how interesting he is because Loki does not have his own movie, or his own brand, or his own halloween costume. The drama is drawn instead from the characters we’ve seen from others movies attempting to form a cohesive unit.
There’s nothing wrong or unessential about watching Wade and Lebron attempt to share, or Iron Man and Thor get along, but it is not game-changing. Christoper Nolan is interested in presenting Batman with a vision of his personal demons (what the Scarecrow did in Batman Begins), taking away his sense of order (the Joker), (spoiler alert) murdering his unrequited love, and doing a combination of three while punching him in the face (c.f. Bane in The Dark Knight Rises). A great team can only have so much discord and trickster energy, but we saw it with Shaq-Kobe and I believe we’re seeing it again in Oklahoma City. That Kevin Durant understands that his team plays better when Russel Westbrook creates for himself and that we don’t how well Westbrook will play from night-to-night, or what the peak of his talents are, strikes me as so much more compelling. The Miami Heat is very good team that seem poised for a kind of greatness and, it appears, The Avengers is a good movie, that will sprout an even better sequel, but these entities are not aberrations: they’re the status quo.
—Photo: JD Hancock/flickr