It was not remotely a viable career path, but the job I had writing the backs of baseball and basketball cards suited me better than just about any other job I had before my current one. After I was laid off by Topps, I went to work as a freelancer for a man named Bruce, who handled all the copy for all the card-backs in every Topps set. I thought Bruce was great, and while I don’t really know what Bruce thought of me—I would later learn that everyone I worked with around that time in my life was kind of worried about me in vague and retrospectively justified ways—but he trusted me to write the little scraps of text that went on the back of Topps basketball cards for a couple years. It was not a great way to pay the rent, really, but it was a good way to learn little tidbits about the various players that appeared in every set, and find new ways to write about them in a two or three colorful sentences. It wasn’t quite the same thing as writing, at least as I understood it then, but it worked like weight training, except that I just kind of continued to get worse looking.
It was during this period in my life that I developed an appreciation, more or less out of necessity, for Chris Bosh. He was a young star with the Toronto Raptors, and I was, as mentioned earlier, someone that everybody around me was kind of concerned about, but he gave me a lot to work with because he did a lot of stuff well, and said thoughtful things when asked, and because his elastic and well ahead-of-its-time game was a lot of fun to describe. This is still more or less what I look for in athletes, to a certain extent. I don’t know them any more than I know the people that produce the other stuff that I like to watch, really. It never occurred to me then, or even more recently, that I might wind up on a damn podcast with any of them. Anyway!
It turns out Chris Bosh, the Basketball Hall of Famer and two-time NBA Champion, is a damn delight to talk to. He’s written a sort of hybrid self-help book/memoir called Letters To A Young Athlete, and was as open and honest about the strange pleasures and myriad pains of playing sports for a living in talking to us as he is in the book. Bosh also talked about dad stuff, the challenges of trying to be a normal human being while living and training like an elite athlete, and the distinct discomfort of having Kevin Garnett weaponize a pleasant interaction into devastating shit-talk years down the line. Garnett was, in retrospect, the better casting decision for Uncut Gems, although Bosh noted that he was also considered for the role, but if I had to choose a first-ballot, no doubt Hall of Famer to have a beer with—or subject to a Dead Or Canceled question—Bosh would easily get the nod.
Because of the scheduling rigors of book promotion and thanks to the ministrations of an astute PR team, Bosh left us before venturing into the Funbag. This is always the right choice, but it is not one that Drew and I could or would make. It is our job, if not indeed our sacred duty, to wade out into the fetid bogs of our listeners’ questions. There we found questions on the different ways and meanings and gradations of comparing people to poop, a mindbending query on whether unlimited wealth could possibly make up for having disgusting greasy cast iron pan hands, and encountered a devastatingly accurate The Distraction Host Tic Drinking Game that will surely cost me hours of sleep in weeks to come. Important longstanding issues of great concern to the Defector commenting community were also addressed, unsatisfactorily; Drew and I encountered our own hideous reflections as podcasters and were forced to consider uncomfortable things. It probably should’ve been more upsetting than it was, honestly, but given that we’d just had a delightful time speaking to Chris Bosh it all felt too happily, bafflingly unreal to sting much.
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