Thursday, November 3, 2011

The gregarious Shaq, the aloof Kobe

If you live in Los Angeles, and listen to any sports radio at all, during the past 24 hours you have heard nothing but re-visitations of the historical divorce between Shaq an Kobe that went down after three consecutive championships. There is plenty of this on ESPN also.

Why now?  Why are we revisiting this sad turn of events at this moment in history?  What has occasioned this? Shaq has published a volume of his memoirs in the immediate aftermath of his retirement.  These are his first reflections on his life and career at this pivotal life-moment.  The notorious scandal-site got hold of it, and published a fairly sensational clipping that asserted the thesis that Kobe's sexual assault charge destroyed the Lakers (for a time).

In Los Angeles, this is like spilling a gas truck and tossing a lit flair.

Shaq and his ghost writer have been quick to try to compensate for the spin, declaring that this is a fairly sensationalistic interpretation of the book.  Shaq really does have a fondness for Kobe, and it might be true coming back in the other direction also.

There are a bunch of other ancillary issues in this famous divorce, but we won't go there.  Rather than recount this litany of crimes, I only want to comment on the nature, character and flavor of this relationship between Kobe and Shaq.

Shaquille O'Neal was born March 6th, 1972, the exact same day as my buddy and co-worker Tabish. Kobe Bryant was born August 23, 1978.  Kobe is about 6.5 years younger than Shaq.

I hate to break this to you doubters, and it will sound just like The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh, but this is another chapter in the history of the Virgo-Pisces alliance.  Shaq is a Pisces, and Kobe is a Virgo.  It should be noted that Phil Jackson is also a September 17th Virgo.  This story resembles the one found in the second half of the 1970s in the story of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It was a rocky-road, at times, but you cannot deny the incredible success they had when working together.

I have listened to 4 or 5 hours of talk about this book now.  I have heard many interesting quotations.  Some of them were fairly long.  Every commentator on sports talk radio is reading this book on the air like radio preachers reading the Bible.  I have been repeatedly struck by how much this reminds me of the bad splits between me and few of my Pisces buddies in life.  It also reminds me of my relationship with my brother, who also happens to be a Pisces.

In short, it seems to me that Kobe and Shaq had a classic Virgo-Pisces relationship.  They had all of the success, complex contrasts, and bad moments that are typical in this relationship.  The phrase I keep hearing over and over again is "the gregarious Shaq, the aloof Kobe".  That is so Pisces-Virgo it ain't even funny.  The fact that the media has seized upon this description as the final summary almost fitting.

Why have they summarized things this way?  Shaq is out-going.  He loves to party and dance in public.  He is fond of drinking with his buddies.  He makes friends easily as he moves from one team to another.  He is a popular guy with his teammates.  People regard him as friendly, approachable, and fun loving.

Kobe is quite the opposite.  Kobe is known as an OCD worker.  He shoots hoops relentlessly in an effort to achieve perfection.  He has good health habits, isn't known for drinking, and sticks to a healthy diet.  He doesn't party much.  When invited to roll with hommies, he declines.  He keeps to himself.  He doesn't allow many people into his private world.  People regard Kobe as grim, serious, stand-offish , and aloof.

The descriptions people have given of these two look like they come straight out of the pages of an astrology book.  You could drop these descriptions into any chapter on Virgo and Pisces and they would not even be identified as a foreign teaching.  These descriptions would be acknowledged as orthodox descriptions of the contrasts between Pisces and Virgo.

You might as well be describing me and my brother.  You might as well be describing me and my former business partner Johnny Z.

My brother is a musician in a traveling band.  He spends a lot of time in bars for this reason.  He loves to drink and party.  In fact, he has a problem with that.  He makes friends easily.  He has had many girlfriends.  He does not have a problem opening up to people.  People regard him as friendly, approachable and fun loving.  He is a Pisces.

Many people have accused me of OCD on various subjects in my life.  When obsessed with a subject, I relentlessly strive to get it right.  I am regarded as grim and serious by some.  Others regard me as a clown, but only when I am fucking with people more powerful than myself, sticking a finger in their eye, so to speak.  when invited to roll with the hommies, even Pisces hommies, I often decline.  I keep to myself.  I don't allow many people into my private world.  I have been regarded as stand-offish and aloof.  As you know, I have pretty good health habits.  I don't drink, and I keep to a strict diet... which I occasionally break with popcorn and Crunchabunchas.  I just happen to be a Virgo.

Still, there is tremendous dynamism here.  You know the dynamism that the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s had.  You know the dynamism that Shaq and Kobe showed when they were together.  I know the dynamism that Johnny Z and I flashed on the L.A. software market for about 2 years.

You would never believe it possible when you see such contrasting styles and personalities, but there is enormous complementary qualities between these two types.  Further, there is a great deal of affection and closeness between these two types, although Virgo is not good at showing it.  There is a fine line between a Virgo and a Vulcan.  Just remember that.  It's all about calm, cool, collected, logical self-control.

I am sure Kobe takes exception to being called aloof, just as surely as I do.  I am sure he wonders why people are offended by simple desire for privacy and time to work at his craft.  Further, I know he is suspicious of the motives of people who approach him, just as I am.  We worry about what you want and what you are after.  We know that people don't always, or even usually, have the best intentions.  They usually want something when they approach you, and it might not be good for you.  We know there is no reason to worry, as long as we keep everybody at arms length.

I am sure Kobe has regrets about what happened, but he will never admit this in public.  I am sure he wished it might have continued, but circumstances arose that he considered intolerable, so he burned his bridges. Virgo is a little like Scorpio in one respect:  When we burn our bridges, we really burn 'em.  We never come back to revisit a past relationship we have discarded.  This doesn't mean we don't have regrets about it, or wonder if we--perhaps--made a mistake in burning that bridge.  Still, you never discuss such a thing in public.  You keep it private and internal.