It is jarring when the man that is the center of attention so often carries himself like an outsider. Luminaries such as Stat Quo, Lil Wayne, Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd have struggled to understand why Greg Oden doesn't look or act like most of the rest of the rigorously comformative NBA.
One of my fears recently is that by following "every breath he takes, every move he makes," desperate for any help in unraveling the 7 foot mystery, we are guilty of misreading nebulous body language and/or the clothes Greg wears, projecting feelings or emotions into situations where they do not actually exist.
Sure, something might be wrong. But does hyperfandom lend itself to deciphering what is wrong? I say no. I think we do a much better job diagnosing the ills of a rotation than we do the mental development of millionaire teenagers.
It seems Greg's otherness is not lost on the Portland Monthly's Bart Blasengame or his "ladyfriend," who presumably have better things to do than spend 10 hours a day on this site.
Here's their joint take on Oden fitting in...
Oden is a study in naivety right now. He is unspoiled. He feels everything. Every mistake, every cheer, every tiny triumph and emphatic milestone...It's right there on his face between his ever-furrowed brow and wide eyes. He knows the nauseating heights of expectation and he's doing his best to impress us. And as fans, we appreciate it. We're like that weird pseudo-psychic connection Elliott shared with E.T. When he hurts, we hurt. When he hammers home a thundering two-handed slam over Kevin Love, we too feel like we're shoving our crotch intimidatingly into a player's face. A couple of nights ago after he got poked in the eye and had to leave the game, the camera panned to Oden on the bench. Next to him Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge were talking to each other. Oden was staring off into space. From the ladyfriend's vantage point it looked like they were excluding the big man from the conversation. "Talk to him," she said to the screen. "Do you think they include him? Do you think they LIKE him?"
Bart also conducted a pretty long 1 on 1 interview with Big GO in November's Portland Monthly. Here's a link to the interview and an excerpt to whet your appetite.
What do you geek out about?
I'm a big movie guy. I enjoy going to the theater. The key to not getting spotted is to go in late or get there early. The other trick is to not sit up, but really scrunch down in your seat. Sometimes people try and wait by the door for me to come out, but I just jam out the little side exit by the screen. One time I was there and I saw B-Roy [teammate Brandon Roy] in the far corner. I was like, "Who's that mummy?" He was all covered up and had his hood down over his face. I didn't think he could see the movie.
I really like that anecdote because it shows Greg is watching and learning, not just on the court but off the court as well. This time next year, will Greg's otherness -- both his genuine playfulness and his E.T. esque sensitivity-- get stashed away under a hoodie?
Part of me wants that to happen, for his sake. Part of me doesn't.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)