There are only two steps to creating new slang, but neither is easy. After identifying theme and tone and choosing a word that’s recognizable, you then have to make the word happen, which is basically just repeating it until it either sticks or you get publicly, excruciatingly sonned. The theme and tone of Kobe Bryant’s now somewhat-recognizable “musecage” is dark — like, weirdly dark — so now he only needs to build credibility for it, which is the hardest part. Lord knows he’s trying.
He’s used the term on your preferred ESPN show, explaining it as something almost synonymous with “the zone,” but it’s not quite that. There are “light musings,” which are positive reinforcements like “good game” and “nice shot,” and then there are “dark musings,” basically just hate, or the usual phrases you use to berate yourself when you screw up, like “I’m worthless.” “Dark musings,” Kobe reasons, are much stronger than light musings, which is exactly what Darth Sidious told Anakin Skywalker minus the pipe dream that Skywalker could bring dead loved ones back to life, if he but help topple one tiny, little, democratically elected galactic government.
“Musecage” is an umbrella term that can be construed as both a storytelling venture — Canvas City: Musecage, making basketball analysis digestible and family-friendly using sock puppets — and a motivational tool. A super-weird motivational tool.
Until now, the concept Bryant has been pushing seemed like some sort of Tony Robbins self-help abstraction. On Tuesday, we gained a little clarity on exactly what the hell a musecage does.
“Obsession Is Natural,” the latest offering from The Players’ Tribune editorial director, published Tuesday, centers on Bryant’s head-to-head battles with Allen Iverson in his heyday, specifically March 1999, when Iverson put up 41 and 10 on the Lakers in Philadelphia (Bryant’s emphasis, as it’s his hometown). The rest is about Bryant’s hero’s journey to never let that happen again, the plot points of which make perfect sense once you abandon reason. An excerpt:
Bryant goes on to talk about how he held Iverson to 16 points in their February 2000 meeting, and how Iverson, who’d kept him up nights, informed Bryant’s future choices over which players he did and did not obsess over. And then he sold us a sports drink. Friend, did you think Kobe was just giving away game for free? He lacks the capacity for shame, and I love him for that.
Kobe bids us all to build our own musecages in order to find our own inner beasts. What’s in my musecage, you ask? Clippings from Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, slow-mo footage of cheetahs chasing down antelopes set to string music, and a burned CD that’s just Lil Wayne’s “Knuck If You Buck” freestyle 17 times.
Peering into my musecage, my inner beast is a griffin, quite different from whatever that purple snake-eel-tube-worm thing is that Mamba is supposed to be. Or maybe, like, Trico from The Last Guardian, which is technically a different animal, but the same beast.