It’s the event of the spring and summer. A colorful backdrop burnishes the primal battle for survival on our television sets. Bodies move with a grace so commanding as to appear intrinsic, god-given. It’s stirring, it’s inspiring, it’s competition at its best. I’m talking about Discovery Channel’s Frozen Planet, of course. It’s running concurrent with these NBA playoffs, and I suggest you check it out between games. The Planet Earth sequel is narrated by Jack Donaghy, if that sweetens the deal for ya.
The nature series has captured my brain, everything in life seems analogous to wonderfully shot life in extremis. And I’m obsessed enough to find parallels to the 2012 NBA playoffs, my other TV preoccupation.
Just know the athlete-to-creature analogies aren’t demeaning to players because I’m anthropomorphizing these Frozen Planet animals to the fullest. It’s not that I’m so delusional as to think that complex human beings are on the base, instinctual level of animals; it’s that I’m so delusional as to indulge myself in the fantasy that a surly penguin just needs a good shrink. So here are the following FP-Playoffs parallels:
Criminal Penguins: Memphis Grizzlies
Oh, how I love the awful penguin in this clip. He waits till his neighbor leaves to find nest-building rocks, then calmly steals rocks from that neighbor’s nest.
Such an enterprising, amoral little bugger. The little sneak reminds me of the Grizzlies, they of the turnover-forcing defense. While it is easy to conceive of their approach as simple aggressive, pressure D, there is a sly deftness to this thievery. Way back when Monta Ellis was playing for the Warriors, I noticed how Memphis would jump passing lanes the second Monta left his feet. They were willing to cede a layup, just to capitalize on Ellis’ frequent blind passes. The strategy paid off handsomely in a huge fourth quarter comeback. Much as the Grizzlies are defined by Tony Allen’s heart and grit, credit is owed to Lionel Hollins for coaching wise con-artistry.
Killer Whales Wave Wash Seal: Stan Van Gundy
A seal sits atop an ice floe. He is circled by orcas. The whales collaborate to foment waves that crash on the seal, in an attempt to knock him into the water, where he’ll be a meal. Death is inevitable.
At first, I assumed the orcas were the San Antonio Spurs. Black and white uniforms, a refined pack mentality, the callous whimsy of an experienced killer. Now, the whales matter less to me than the sympathetic seal, who is obviously Stan Van Gundy according to mathematical science-ish principles. Seal Van Gundy is isolated, doomed by those conspiring to kill him. He enters the playoffs lacking the tools for survival, but perhaps immense effort can afford him just a little more time. Poor seal, poor Stan.
Awkward Sea Lion Penguin Chase: Bulls-Sixers
A hungry sea lion runs a penguin onto the beach, where both are incompetent. It all recalls the low-speed, high-tension chase scenes from “Children of Men.”
This hilarious land pursuit also evokes the (probable) Bulls-Sixers matchup. Both teams play fantastic defense, to the point where offense will be as graceful as a sea lion belly flopping, or a penguin slipping. Though Chicago has improved (relative to other teams) in its offensive attack, I expect the Rose re-integration to be an imperfect endeavor. Expect both teams to get sand on their bellies.
Wooly Bear Caterpillar: Andre Miller
There is no Youtube clip of this, so just believe the description. Come summer, the Antarctic wooly bear caterpillar eats like he just arrived at a buffet from an ultra marathon. When the colder months arrive, he goes into a hibernation that would kill anything else on earth. This is no soap opera coma, the caterpillar is frozen solid, ensconced in an ice block. Then, the summer comes back, the ice thaws, and the little guy leaps to life. This is obviously Andre Miller’s process. Gorge in the summer, emerge from the spring looking svelte as a ferret. After year 14 years of this cycle, the caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, then promptly dies. Miller just completed his 14th season last year. Brace yourselves for an incredible playoff run, followed by his career’s steep decline.
Icy Finger of Death: Miami Heat
The Antarctic creates a sea salt so cold, it burrows a solid column to the ocean floor, killing everything in its path. Pity the starfish.
When Miami’s on, it’s like this. If LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are at their most searingly briny, they’ll sweep over teams with the cold touch of death.