Flashback - 7/27/04 - The Rasheed Wallace Edition
Bear with me here for a moment....
In 2004, the L.A. Lakers were an unstoppable basketball powerhouse. There was very little doubt in anybody's mind that they would win their 4th title in 5 years. It was a lock, a sure thing. But then the Detroit Pistons, a decent squad at the time, made a trade for Rasheed Wallace. Overnight, any conversation of contenders had to include Detroit. Wallace was a total game-changer, he changed match-ups, shook up the whole field. He was tall enough to bang down low with Shaq, but could also bury the three ball. His size and versatility freed up all of his teammates to play their game, while at the same time causing havoc for opposing coaches. And sure enough, by June, the Pistons were champions, defeating the heavily favored Lakers in 5 games.
A month later in Boston, a tall, skinny kid with a funny name took to the stage at the Fleet Center for the Democratic National Convention. Not nearly as well-known as Rasheed Wallace, Barack Obama crushed the keynote address and overnight became a household name. Like Rasheed Wallace, Obama appeared to be a game-changer.
The Democrats of 2004 looked very old, very white, and not at all very different from their Republican opponents. They all smacked of status quo. Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, and Co. lost something with their own base that year, because they came off as Republican-lite. They hated the Iraq war, but they all voted for it. They were against gay marriage, but thought a Constitutional amendment was too harsh. They were fence-riders, the lot of them. And they inspired nobody.
But then came along this new guy.... the one with the funny name. And before his speech in Boston was over, it was almost as though you could hear liberal wheels spinning from Sausalito to Hyannisport. "This guy could make some noise. This guy could provide some interesting match-ups. Young and handsome with a clean voting record on the war. This guy - some day - could be a viable candidate."
I was in San Francisco the night of that speech, living on an air mattress in an over sized closet in my sister's apartment. I went out the next morning to get my dry-cleaning, and remember seeing an "Obama in '08" sticker. That'd be something, I thought. But there's just no way.