Mineral – The Power of Failing (1997)
It would be simple, maybe even appropriate, to say that the Celtics were the most classically “emo” team that have made the NBA Playoffs this season. But even to utter that term, rooted in recent times in the enclosure of a generic derision – a gentle but affective mock, loved from ages eight to ninety-eight – describes a team as profoundly complex as Boston as a collection of awkward, angst-ridden young adults, who are bound to their guitars and the inclination to fall over during performances in sob-drenched piles of melancholy.
But no, the Heat are the team more apt for infantile reactions to adversity, whereas the Celtics clearly have preferred to brood down this last stretch of the season, tormented by their losses of heart and stature in the East. They are no wilting youngsters, suffering from the kinds of stuff of wimpier teams or post-hardcore/emo bands.
What I would propose as an alternative is that the 2010-11 Celtics be viewed through what they once were a lens of what they once were, as well as what they are: a team whose personality hinged on strong defense, personal growth and team chemistry. Remember the squad that burst out of huddles with a mantra of “ubuntu” in their championship season three years ago? The remaining members recall that warm time, even their brotherhood at the beginning of the season, and treasure it, and that makes them underline their faults as they’ve erupted on paper during this gray New England spring. Simply put: their spiritual center is in ruins, thanks to the raw power of Troy Murphy's analytical worth overvaluing the ill chemistry “intangibles” of Nate Robinson.
The most vivacious song on Mineral’s debut LP was this tumbling ode to the band’s own creepy spirituality, entitled “Gloria.” In the peak of my teenage years when I first discovered The Power of Failing, on a superficial level I thought those songs were about the kind of stupid junk that singers of “old emo” bands dealt with: heartbreak and disaffection and selfish things of that ilk. Of course, I was wrong, as many of those mid-late 90s bands (like Mineral, as well as countless terrible bands on Tooth and Nail Records) exorcised their demons by writing about their cornball spirituality in their song lyrics.
Mineral’s principal songwriter, Chris Simpson, was at least kind enough to make his warbling fairly metaphorical in nature, referring obliquely to God as a person whose stuff he just had to deal with or whatever, and since the vocals were largely mumbled or moaned, I guess I didn’t figure out how bad it was at the time. I just figured he had a bad breakup with a terrifying person who he still loved.
In retrospect, the first verse in “Gloria” seems very appropriately tied to the sentiment that the Celtics had begun the season with: “A brave morning / Thoughts flap their wings and fly / and I can still taste / defeat on my lips.” Putting together a 41-15 record through the trade deadline, their memory of Game 7 of the 2010 Finals remained tied to the interior power of contenders in years past.
But at some point, somebody – possibly people who just looked at box scores – discovered that you could let Dwight Howard score 40 points and the Magic would still lose, or that the Heat’s centers were horrible (except when your centers somehow play worse), and they lay wrecked in mid-April as a result. After the trade of the increasingly missed Kendrick Perkins and four other role players, the team’s chemistry collapsed, and the mantra of the team seemingly became, as Simpson put it so movingly, “Tomorrow just won't be the same / without you here.”
So what to do now? Leading into the first round matchup against a surging New York team, these fellows – referring in particular to Rondo and Ray Allen, who has seen his shot attempts drop dramatically since the team began to struggle – seem helpless and frail, having decided to “rest” their starters after a thrashing in Miami over the weekend. Unfortunately, they need to recapture some of their own myth in order to win games; otherwise, this will be a very difficult summer and their championship hopes with the aging bodies of Allen and Garnett will likely be finished. I don’t see this kind of spiritual rejuvenation coming from anywhere besides the four benched starters, who (besides Glen Davis) are now the longest tenured members of the team. Boston has been feared for practically mystical reasons in the past, and it is up to the players who are suffering the most to rediscover their faith in themselves before all of their efforts during the season are lost.
Negative Dunkalectics editor Chris Sampson was not the principal songwriter of Mineral, but his name is pretty close. Follow him on Twitter here. For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment.