To The Extremes

Last night, we welcomed back two ghosts from our collective past to the Target Center. One was a lanky teen from the South who rose to national prominence in the ‘90s, made millions and gained glory for one fleeting moment, but whose career more recently has been dogged by accusations of fake toughness and declining talent. The other is Vanilla Ice.

For all its sad pageantry—the smoke machine, the tiny stage, the pandering of wearing a Kevin Love jersey—there was something sort of comforting in Vanilla Ice’s performance at halftime. It’s hard to believe, after all, that all the people who packed in at the stairwells to gawk at Mr. Ice had been down with him since day one. If you were anywhere in teenage range when “Ice Ice Baby” was destroying the charts, you probably hated it publicly and yet knew all the words. It’s an undeniable slice of guilty pop pleasure on so many levels. For example, it rips off a far better song (Queen’s “Under Pressure”) in a totally simpleminded yet manically genius way. I mean, listen to him try to defend the sample as original work back in 1990 (starts at 1:40):

“The only part that sounds like ‘Under Pressure’ is the hook.” That’s all you have! That song is only hook! And furthermore, it’s not even the bassline that’s most bothersome: the essential quality of both “Under Pressure” and “Ice Ice Baby” is generated by the interaction between that bassline and those two piano chords. The insistence and steadiness of that two-note bassline stands in tension with the fragility of the chords and that’s pretty much the whole ballgame. But whatever: I still know all the words.

Part of your brain reviles Ice for his crass commercialism, his continuing scrabbling attempts to stay relevant, whether that means going all Cypress Hill, or going all kind of Marilyn Manson/Limp Bizkit, or going all Juggalo wrestler, or going all let’s-renovate-a-house-on-the-DIY-network, or even going back and embracing the pop image he once notoriously destroyed on MTV.

But another part of you just wants to stop, collaborate and listen. Last night, there was an acceptance of Vanilla Ice and all the rich contradictions he engenders. The reception was more mixed for the other ghost of popular conscious past (at least in Minnesota) from last night, Kevin Garnett. The matchup between Garnett and Love—the battle of the Kevins—was something people feasted on in the days leading up to the game. But it was never really a contest, with Love looking gassed and playing out of position at the 5, a position that Garnett has had a chance to embrace in Boston. The Wolves’ Kevin was held to something like half the numbers we’ve come to expect (22 and 11) while every Celtic starter not named Rajon Rondo had double digits in scoring. Oh and Rondo had 17 assists (more than the entire Timberwolves team) in the Celtics’ 100-79 win.

It wasn’t Garnett’s first return to the Target Center, but the lingering questions about Garnett’s exit from Minnesota, his distaste for the franchise, and his upcoming free agency all gave this particular reunion a certain piquancy. This wasn’t the first time seeing your ex after the breakup, nor even the second or third, but maybe that chance meeting at a class reunion—the one that’s sort of sneakily the most important, where you maybe get over the whole thing.

I mean, sure, he’s kind of crazy.

And yes, he’s kind of an asshole.

But he was our crazy asshole, and while he was on the Timberwolves, we were good together. His trademark intensity made him play like anything less than his best was a felony and this hand-wringing about how much he got paid and who he wanted to have signed and how he left is futile. But every time he comes to town, it gets dredged up again. Will it ever stop? I don’t know.

For now, we have Kevin Love, who in spite of historic numbers (he’s currently leading the league in points, rebounds, and 3-pointers made in March—something no one’s ever done over a month), still feels underappreciated. Maybe Wolves fans still feel a little burned by Garnett, by giving him that big contract. Maybe there are other reasons. But Love is ours now and he’s one of the top ten players in the league. Can’t we give ourselves one more chance? Why can’t we give Love one more chance?

Steve McPherson

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