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Form vs. Function, or Shaquille O'Neal vs. An Old Country Tune

Last weekend I happened to catch musician John Prine on the radio show American Routes.

I had two reactions. First, Prine's voice is eerily similar to Larry Brown's. He's the country version of LB. Seriously.

I was also reminded of one of his songs, "Big Old Goofy World." This is the refrain:

There's a big old goofy man

Dancing with a big old goofy girl

Ooh baby

It's a big old goofy world

(Read all the lyrics. Great line about knocking his old balls round the round the old golf course.)

It may not seem all that profound, but even though I'm not much of a country music guy, the refrain of that song is a life lesson I live by all the same. What I take from that is much as we might like things to be all neat and tidy and perfect, generally they're not, so don't be shocked, don't give up, and find a way to make it work anyway. (Parents of little children, incidentally, all know this. Things spill.)

You're not always going to look great and together. But you can still do what needs to be done.

I was thinking about that very point the other morning as I shot free throws. Then I started thinking about Shaquille O'Neal shooting free throws. And I thought to myself: how many more games... no... how many more championships * would O'Neal have won if he had hit 80% of his free throws throughout his career?

And he is serious that he hasn't tried shooting them underhanded because it would make him look stupid? Really? (O'Neal says as much in his book.)

Think about all the little kids who look up to O'Neal. How great would it be for him to be able to look into the TV camera and say you know what? Shooting like this humiliates me. Never in my wildest dream did I think I'd be doing this on international TV. But it works. It helps my team, we're winning games because of it, so I'm putting my ego aside and letting it rip Rick Barry style.

Then, as long as I'm dreaming, he could lapse into singing that country tune I quoted above.

Kids who get that message would be learning something powerful, something that's way more useful in the real world than one more spin of the important but unimaginative "stay in school" broken record.

Anyway, David Friedman has assembled some excellent and relevant articles about our modern day NBA mini-tragedy: Shaquille O'Neal and his free throw shooting.

*It's unknowable, because teams would have played him and his teammates completely differently. But he would have been superman in a world without kryptonite. And his career would last longer--fewer hacks, and a way to keep scoring when he's no longer stronger than everyone.