This is the final Works. For this special occasion, Tom Ziller has returned to the fold, however briefly. Also, fun with Oscars.
First, Eric Freeman ...
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin: The Works has always been a partnership between two strong personalities. For the past few months, Shoals and I have worked in something approaching harmony -- we both approach the NBA in the same borderline-intellectual way (in part because I ripped him off). The first incarnation of the column, though, matched seeming opposites in Shoals and Tom Ziller. If Shoals is the hip professor, then Ziller is the savant who knows so much about the sport that he's above a position in the academy. David Fincher occupies a similar role -- he's a technical master with a sneaky emotional pull -- but he initially seemed to be an odd fit for the talkative style of Aaron Sorkin. No matter: while "The Social Network" didn't come away with the top prize at the Oscars, the two teamed up for a fine film that become the most talked-about movie of the year. Ziller and Shoals had worked together before and will work together again, but this partnership was perhaps their most effective ever.
Natalie Portman: I've seen "Black Swan" and still can't tell if Portman acted well or Darren Aronofsky just put her in so many harrowing situations that the audience (and awards voters) just felt bad for her. Whatever the case, she played the most put-upon character in the most whackadoodle movie nominated this year, and that's at least worthy of notice. In my first Works, Shoals and I debated the white swan/black swan dichotomy as it applies to Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, so I associate this movie heavily with this column. Sadly, though, we have spent most of our time here firmly in the "black swan" camp, writing progressively weirder things about the NBA and our favorite cultural touchstones, so I don't know if it's a particularly accurate association. If only we were more technically precise. Grammar's a bitch, dudes.
Melissa Leo: I absolutely hated Leo in "The Fighter," viewing her as someone who thinks that acting really loudly constitutes acting well. She did herself no favors during last night's ceremony, either, apparently taking her cues from the Taylor Swift School of Acting Surprised at Awards Shows Even When You Were Obviously the Favorite. But while I talk smack about Leo, I must also admit that The Works has also occasionally taken the easy way out over doing the hard work of legitimate basketball analysis. That's particularly been the case over the last month or so. I bet you can't guess why!
Next, Ziller's return. These are so much like meta-Oscar speeches, aren't they?
Colin Firth: My first dip into writing for FreeDarko, the spiritual and obvious forebear of The Works, was a status update on Bonzi Wells after Jeff Van Gundy had banished him from the Rockets. In introducing the piece, Shoals said that it was "profoundly trivial/trivially profound." That's what I'd always hoped The Works to be: a meeting place for the trivial and the profound. Some of the criticism lobbed at the column has been that it never had anything to do with "last night," that it was so far removed from the game itself as to be irrelevant or, more politely, "beside the point." But every bit of effort poured into The Works has touched the games and the games in some way. Would you say the Futurists weren't artists because they wanted to destroy all museums? Of course not! There's earnestness behind every single point driven home in this column, and we -- Shoals, Eric and myself -- always sought to get past the first layer of the game to find revelation, even if we have to ride a clown car down the path. No matter what type of role Firth plays -- George VI or the straight man in those Bridget Jones films -- he's always completely and utterly earnest about what he does. There's value in that, even if it's hidden behind a sweater with the Christmas tree knitted into it.
Oh, and some other guy.
Bethlehem Shoals is a terrible, angry person: I really liked this conceit, and I've tried several times now to come up with good jokes about Inception, or reflect on how, like Kirk Douglas, The Works will never die. But I'm really not in the mood, unless you want to hear me complain about "The King's Speech" being judged as Oscar bait, when really it's just the kind of stuff British people make, very well, all the time.
I'm glad we got to do this column. I'm glad I got a steady paycheck for writing whatever I wanted with two of my best online buddies. At the end of the day, though, this isn't the end of our careers, and if anything, it's just a sad story about a wasted opportunity. Life goes on, for everything but The Works -- and indeed, for FanHouse itself, and maybe AOL as we know it. See, we're kind of like that secret "King's Speech" pedigree, or that pesky accent that Christian Bale has. Lowly blogger Tom Ziller was taken from us too soon when SB Nation, the company everybody wants to be, tapped him to be their prime NBA writer. I have plenty of irons in the fire, as does Eric. This company had made it clear what we were worth to it, so I decided to get on with my life and pursue other writing.
I could say that the marvel of The Works is that it happened at all; what I would really mean, though, is that it happened the way it did. We have a voice, and come from a land where trying to be smart, inventive, and funny is at a premium in writing -- online and otherwise. We'll be fine. Props to Randy Kim, Matt Watson, and Rob Peterson for believing in the cause, But as for whether this has any future at Sporting News, or Huffington Post, or whatever, well, it comes down to The Works being seen as just some bloggers' bloggin'. I always thought it was a daily column, didn't you?
But that's old business. The earth is scorched, and this column is collateral damage twice over now. It's been fun, and I'm glad the opportunity, but pardon me for just not feeling all that wistful or funny right now. In the immortal words of someone angry, headed out the door: Eff AOL. Whatever that even means anymore.