Is SpongeBob a sign of stunted development, a harmless cartoon pleasure for a guy who's barely out of his teens, or an indication that Beasley is smarter than us?
Michael Beasley's nationally televised, highly enthusiastic admission that alarm-yellow, Krabby Patty-loving Nickelodeon favorite SpongeBob SquarePants is "my man, that's my homie!" has long been fodder for analysts and critics citing his sponge-loving ways as proof of his nagging immaturity.
"If you see him behind the scenes," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said recently, "he is acting like a teenager, talking about SpongeBob; it doesn't necessarily evoke the memories of Alonzo Mourning."
But perhaps we've been underestimating our giant child-forward.
A recent article by The Atlantic's James Parker postulates that young master SquarePants is nothing less than the gleaming, avid face of economic confidence, the moral compass of society, a pointed barb tossed at Marxism, and the very enspongement of the American Dream -- whose "sheer moral voltage" short-circuits the cynicism and "tormented irony" offered by his marketing buoyancy.
All that, encased in tiny, square-doodled pants.
"He’s representing everything that Mickey Mouse should have represented but never did," brand consultant Greg Rowland told Parker. "There’s even something Jesus-like about him—a 9-year-old Jesus after 15 packets of Junior Mints.”
Not bad for a porous little fry cook from Bikini Bottom...or a first round draft pick from Frederick, Maryland, who has half of South Florida convinced he's the Heat's sugar-addled Jesus -- and just might be onto something deeper with his television habits. Diving below the surface of SpongeBob begs the question: is the joke on us, with our degrees and many fine leather-bound books and assumption that cartoons are neither intelligent nor for grown millionaires?
It makes sense that Beez is drawn to SpongeBob; after all, the description James gives of SpongeBob toiling at the Krusty Krab diner could just as easily apply to Beasley in motion at American Airlines Arena: "his industrial ardor, his outrageous spatula skills, the terrible, idiotic brightness of his eyes...a kind of innocence triumphs—over fear, over snobbery, and over skepticism." Most of the time, anyway -- sometimes he just has a bad night against Atlanta.
But perhaps Beasley doesn't love SpongeBob SquarePants because he himself is a cartoon teenager. Perhaps Beasley is just finely attuned to the postmodern architecture of the show and the cultural combines of the simultaneous Ages of Chaos and Information contained therein. Perhaps his behind-the-scenes chatter is the rookie's attempt to start an intellectual salon in the locker room focusing on philosophy, marketing, and modernity.
Perhaps we should stop poking fun at the poor rookie and begin referring to him as "Professor Beasley," or "SpongeBeez SmartPants."
(Or maybe it's just a goofy cartoon sponge.)
Janie Campbell takes her rookies big and child-like and her Krabby Patties with remoulade. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the Internet.