Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The influence of Stephon Marbury...

Since I use the term frequently, and since people always ask me why, let me formally address the origin of the use of "marbury" as a pejorative verb or adjective...as in "who marbury'd the last cookie?" or "I'm going to order the marbury fries."

First, a definition: In context, to "marbury" something is to look out for yourself, and yourself alone.  It stems from the perception that one-time NBA star Stephon Marbury, known for his selfishness as a teammate and player, is the consumate "me-first" athlete.  In other words, to behave "marbury-like" is to be "out for yours," and to not concern yourself with the assist, in any sense of the word.  If you "marbury" the last cookie, you selfishly took it for yourself and left none for others.  To order the "marbury" fries is to order your own, with no plans to let others nibble or share.

The origin:  Circa 1999, when Marbury was traded from Minnesota to New Jersey after he "had a falling out with management over his role with the team and demanded a trade," local New York papers began to pick up on his selfish play and his tremendous quotability... In short, he became more visible to New Yorkers than he had been during his time in the hinterlands of Minnesota.  At the time, I was the assistant Varsity Basketball coach at the Dalton School.  The Head Coach was - and still is - Teddy Frischling, who starred at Dalton himself (and later Connecticut College).  Early on, I learned from Teddy that coaching was - in part - also about drinking.  Thus, after most games we'd go to the local watering hole (The Victory Cafe) at 92nd and 3rd (I think...it has sinced moved though) for beers and appetizers.  [Incidentally, to help prove the point that the "after-game bar" is ubiquitous among coaches, consider that the Collegiate School staff had its very own Upper West Side bar of choice - Blondie's at 79th and Broadway - when I began coaching there.  And after Canisius High School games, we'd post up at local pub Eddie Brady's.]  Anyway, one particular night, Teddy and I were at a table full of people at the Victory Cafe ordering rounds of beer and food.  I'm pretty sure Teddy's two brothers - Jimmy and Billy - were involved.  I was craving nachos with my beer, but there was a snag in my plan:  Victory Cafe's nachos typically came with that "sloppy joe" gound beef on them.  Tasty, but not especially healthy and a real mess.  So right after food had been ordered by the entire table (family style sharing) and the chaos passed, I quietly asked the waitress if I could please have my very own nachos with sliced chicken breast instead of ground beef.  I wasn't sure if anyone else would prefer this change so I never pushed it on the group, and I also had a deal with myself whereby I would eat only the nachos in front of me and thus avoid the wings, the rib tips, the jalapeno poppers, the mozzarella sticks, etc, etc. ad naseum, at the other end of the table.  However, amidst the toasting and the victory celebration and the general bar noise, Teddy Frischling somehow heard me order the nachos and did two things critical to the story.  First, he "threw a flag," i.e. a napkin, to announce that I had committed a violation - a "bar ettiquette" infraction of some kind.  Second, he told the table what I did.  What followed was the typical abuse any guy gets at a bar or in a locker room when he does something that attracts the pack:  ...ohhh, ordering your own food - too good for us?...oh, chicken instead of meat - is that a new skirt you are wearing? it's real nice...do you order your own chinese food too instead of sharing family style?...hey, do you want us to order you some cucumber and a pita on the side too?...how about a Luna Bar? etc.  You get the idea.  And somewhere in there - somewhere amidst the banter - sprouted a gem.  All the Frischlings are hilarious, but I'm pretty sure it was Jimmy Frischling - who has a damn sharp wit - who said at some stage, in a dramatic and mocking tone, "Hi I'm Ben...I want those nachos just for myself...Put them here...none of you guys touch them...they are not for sharing...I'm looking out for me, and me alone...No assists here...I'm having the MAR-bu-ry NAH-chos, thank you very much..."  You had to laugh - it just made comedic sense, and it was brilliant.  That was that, and - going on ten years later - it has stuck with me ever since.  And I have to admit...few things have made me prouder than recently hearing my wife say "Hey Marbury, thanks for leaving me some coffee this morning!"  A true moment of pride.  It was as if she had said something like "gee, it's third down with a short one to go...do you think they'll go play-action and look deep after the safeties are drawn in?" during a football game.  I was beaming.  Using "marbury" still makes me chuckle every time...and his recent streaming live blog only adds to its potential usage.  If he keeps it up, one day it may even reach "google" status.  After all, the commonly used term "maverick" is based on a real family name (The Mavericks..it's true, look it up) and their refusal to brand their cattle like everyone else. Why can't "marbury" achieve the same linguistic heights?

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