There was a day when the Orlando Magic faithful received word that our wayward draft pick from Europe (no, not that one) had finally come to terms with the Magic and would be joining us for the upcoming season. That day was August 9th, 2007 and it was on that day that our story, and thus, the legendary legend, begins.
The legendary legend didn’t start out so legendary. In fact, it wasn’t even a legend, or even a story. Instead it was a search on the interwebs for information on Marcin Gortat of Poland. The “word*” was Gortat had signed a contract that would permit him to participate in the Orlando Magic’s Summer League and remain with the team if he made the training camp roster. However, information containing even an ounce of veracity was unavailable, despite protests to the contrary from the Orlando Sentinel.
An enterprising little trooper from the official Orlando Magic.com message boards with the screen name “Jareth Cutestory” decided to see what he could find out from the Polish online sources, down South America way (just go with it). So, he searched and found a link to a Polish news source which had posted an article announcing the official signing of Marcin Gortat. Since no message board members available at that given moment could read something written in Polish, Mr. Cutestory did the next best thing, he ran the article through the Tranexp 2000 online translator from the wonderful folks at Translation Experts.com. Apparently these folks are not fans of Spider-Man and therefore fail to realize that with great power comes great responsibility. You see, the cog in their Polish-To-English translator was missing a few spokes, and as it turned out, this was a good thing!
It could be argued that the resulting translation resembled English. But the person making this argument would be someone who learned English from a guy who learned English from Borat. First and foremost, the moniker “Magic” was translated as “Warlock.” The term “warlock” is used to describe a male practitioner of witchcraft, magic, or the dark arts. So, the translation sort of makes sense in a Dr. Suess kind of way. In hindsight, a term with such inherent menace definitely applies to the appearance and play of Marcin Gortat, making it easy for the imagination to play on the romantic connotations of the association. To be sure, MS Paint and Photoshop got quite the workout that day, as any available photo of Gortat was embellished with warlock-related imagery.
Things were kicked up a notch when Magic Message Board member “Marc Acres 3:16” made his now-immortal observation about this line in the translation:
“Martin Gortat to stem with trainees bears.”
Marc Acres 3:16 then proceeded to release the hounds of interweb hell by proclaiming:
“He’s training with freakin BEARS!!!”
So began the arms race that even Reagan and Gorbachev would have been proud of. There was a shot of Gortat riding the “furry tractor” from “Anchorman.” There was the shot of Gortat joining his grizzly training partner, along with Pat Garrity, Otis Smith, and apparently, a cat, in the hair metal band “Warlock.” There was the shot of Gortat “Grizzly” Adams, with his best furry buddy. Then, there was my personal favorite, the shot of a young Gortat in the stands watching a bear playing basketball, realizing what he needed to do to be successful (train with freakin bears, of course!).
An interesting sidebar to this day full of frolic and platonic web hugs was that the members of the Grizzly Adams Fan Club, both of them, couldn’t for the life of them identify the root cause of the sudden spike in Internet traffic related to their beloved and follically prolific hero.
And so it was that for the first time in the history of the NBA, a third-string center with no college or NBA experience, arrived to this country from a foreign land having already achieved cult figure status with his new team’s fan base. In his first two seasons with the Magic, every dunk or block by Gortat was treated with reverence and vigor seldom seen outside a JJ Redick 3-pointer. During the games in which he has subbed for Dwight Howard, the fans have been rewarded with performances that are proof of Gortat’s potential. This is a player that doesn’t just have a unique appearance and a badass nickname. The guy can play!
But the real story here, the legend in fact, is that the fans of the Orlando Magic created something special by latching on to this player like they have. It has led to shouts of “Warlock!” during the Magic games when he is in the game. Most of the casual, non-Interwebified fans in attendance wonder what its about, but those fans who make a visit to the official Orlando Magic Message boards part of their daily procrastination exercise hear it and love it and give a shout of their own. So, in this sense, the nickname, and the legend of the nickname, has become almost like a special password for entry into a secret club where only us cool people hang out (and Jareth Cutestory).
But the secret will not remain hidden for long. On the contrary, us “Puns” contributors have been very proactive in trying to get the “Warlock” name out there. In March, a large group of us attended the Magic vs. Knicks game wearing a “Warlock” t-shirt that we designed and printed ourselves. We were a large and loud enough group that plenty of other fans in attendance saw us and saw the shirts. In addition, Magic Message Board member “Live or Die Magic,” a friend of the Puns contributors, even interviewed Gortat and told him about the nickname and explained the origin to him. The nickname received validation, at least locally, when it was included in a list of Marcin Gortat nicknames during a Sun Sports broadcast of a Magic game.
Still, the nickname has yet to take off nationally, and frankly, that is just fine with us. You see, the biggest attraction to this whole legend business for us fans is the sense of ownership that we have. This nickname wasn’t something contrived by a member of the media, a fellow teammate or coach, or even the player himself. It was a ridiculously beautiful accident that we collectively latched onto and made it our own. Marcin Gortat may or may not stay with the Orlando Magic beyond this year. If he does stay, then he may just have to embrace this nickname even above his favorite, the “Polish Machine.” If he leaves, well, the “Warlock” nickname is something that he will be unable to take with him to his new team, it just wouldn’t be as appropriate or even make sense. But nomatter what happens with Marcin Gortat, us Magic fans will always be under the spell of the “Warlock.” And that is one pun that will never bore me.
*“Word” in Interwebs terms refers to any of several potential sources of information, with the preeminent source being the imagination of the person providing the information. Considering that a person’s imagination can be fueled from a number of outlets – TAB cola, Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos, or MTV’s The Hills – as well as the age, background, and IQ (this last part cannot be understated) of the person providing the information, then it stands to very little reason that the “word,” while possibly, but not necessarily, consisting of actual dictionary-worthy “words,” seldom contains any actual truth.