' ' Cinema Romantico: Institutionalized Defeat: our diametrically opposed Winning Time miniseries

Friday, March 18, 2022

Institutionalized Defeat: our diametrically opposed Winning Time miniseries

HBO’s miniseries “Winning Time”, chronicling the rise of the famed era of Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball colloquially known as Showtime, recently premiered. I have not watched it and as such, can offer no critical commentary. But the miniseries’ quality interests me less, honestly, than a much more pointless, much more pressing question – that is, what if Cinema Romantico were enlisted to fashion its own “Winning Time”-esque miniseries? What NBA team would we choose to document? Ah, now that’s a thought exercise.

The choices are plentiful, that goes without saying, and many of them are obvious. We could dramatize “The Last Dance”, the recent ESPN documentary examining the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1980s, or the ESPN documentary about the Detroit Pistons back-to-back champion Bad Boys squads, or the title-winning 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, a colorful cast of characters spearheaded by the gregarious free spirit Bill Walton. We could simply mount a miniseries of the 80s Boston Celtics, the Showtime Lakers’ chief rival, except than Boston’s preeminent native son, who works for HBO, would no doubt want to get involved and make it hagiography and that’s no good. And anyway, this is a Cinema Romantico project, savvy? This pointedly is not Winning Time. We very much do not want winners. Even the losers, baby, should get miniseries too. If your team won a title, you’re out.

That still provides myriad options. We could employ Chris Herring’s recently published “Blood in the Garden”, which I’m desperate to read, about the delightful, mean New York Knicks 1990s zoo crews as source material, or we could get the rights to Sam Anderson’s magnificent “Boom Town” and bring the Oklahoma City Thunder up in the mix just a little bit more. We could shower love on the transplendently nicknamed Run TMC Golden State teams of the late 80s, early 90s; we could soar high above the Rocky Mountains with the 1980s run-and-gun 100-points-game Denver Nuggets (I’m already envisioning a poster utilizing their dazzling skyline uniforms). We could make a movie about the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers and their mesmerizing MVP protagonist Allen Iverson, the ultimate Win the Season Even If You Don’t Win the Title team.

They can’t call be winners, can they?

Still, there’s way too much success there for this blog’s taste. We need a more anguished tone. Maybe that means we eschew the 1992 Dream Team (tired) and make a movie about the 2004 ill-conceived quasi-Dream Team that got crushed by Puerto Rico and crashed out to Bronze (wired). Perhaps we make a miniseries more in the tone of Lifetime about the so-called Jail Blazers teams of the late 90s, early 00s or the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards teams of the aughts that despite some success proved as comically disastrous as their teal uniforms. Conceivably the misadventures of the early 80s Cleveland Cavaliers under the nominal stewardship of woebegone of owner Ted Stepien (Will Ferrell?) would make for an entertaining series as could the doomed 2010-2011 post-LeBron Cavs.

That’s more infamous, though, and I’m not quite sure we’re looking for infamy. The woeful Charlotte Bobcat franchise is to our taste, but the literal worst team of all-time is just too on the nose. We are tempted by the Sacramento Kings, sort of Bizarro Winning Time, and would strongly consider making a miniseries in the space of their legendarily disreputable 4-point quarter against the Lakers in 1987 that encapsulates their whole rolling trainwreck of franchise. But again, that’s just pitched at too operatic a level of terrible. 

We’re looking for something else here, something in the space of a piece Colin McGowan wrote for RealGM back in December, how “coaches labor under the necessary delusion that progress is always being made, that they are close to cracking it. Nevermind if the meteor is screaming earthward and they’ve got, let’s see, a whistle, a clipboard, and a degree in communications from San Diego State.” That is what I’m looking for, a kind of kitchen sink non-“Winning Time”, maybe more IFC Channel in the 90s than HBO, not “A Season on the Brink” but a season that’s just a slog. 

How about, say, the 1994-1995 Minnesota Timberwolves (record 21-61) coached by Bill Blair (who?) with a glorious roster of Some Guys and two surly actors at the top. “Imagine,” Sports Illustrated’s Kelli Anderson wrote in a season preview, “how it has been for Doug West, the one player who has been with Minnesota for every one of its six miserable seasons.” We will! Anderson characterized it as “institutionalized defeat” and that is our answer to “Winning Time.” LNFG

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