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Gazing into a Bucks Twitter abyss

Suspicion, basketball, and “the inevitable embrace of death.”

Suspicion, basketball, and “the inevitable embrace of death.”

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

llustration uses “Head of a man with hair raised, expressing despair” via Wikimedia Commons.

There are two wolves inside the online-Milwaukee Bucks-verse. One is a nihilistic, self-deprecating poster who wants nothing more than to watch the Bucks win, but has no faith in Wisconsin sports. The other is a graceful angel who lives in fields of hope and prays for wins.

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Both are likely the same person. 

In an attempt to interview the owner of the Nihilist Bucks Twitter page, I ran into shadowy facts, misleading narratives, and cones of silence. As of this writing on June 23—game one of the NBA East Finals—the account has just over 6,000 followers. 

My infatuation with the account came from the usual late-night scrolling. I am, like presumably a lot of Wisconsinites, not a die-hard fan of certain teams or sports, but more than susceptible to the excitement that surrounds this ascendant Bucks team. Basketball has a warm place in my heart, as I played when I was very young, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is a very humble and kind human being. Also, the Bucks’ 2020 wildcat strike in response to police killings and their joint efforts with other Wisconsin sports teams to advance equity in the business world, have made me even more proud to be a fan.

Enter nihilism.

The Twitter bio for @nihilist_bucks reads: “Bucks Basketball only serves as a distraction as we fight to avoid the inevitable embrace of death.” The account drew my eye because nihilism and Wisconsin sports seem like a perfect pairing. I’ve been a casual observer for long enough to know not to put my hopes all in one basket, season, player, or team. Most years it is a cynical cycle of Bucks do bad, turn on the Brewers, Brewers do what Brewers do, cycle and turn on Green Bay Packers games and an inkling of 2011 Packers pandemonium. There is always a tinge of despair in the eyes of Wisconsin sports fans. This Twitter account seems to be a manifested incarnation of decades’ worth of dashed hopes.

Given the intertwined nature of nihilism as a philosophical and artistic movement and early 20th century Dadaism, a meme account devoted to cataloging years’ worth of despair watching the Bucks is essentially a modern-day Parisian canvas.

This year, however, has obviously been different. On Saturday, the Bucks put in a lot of hard work and stamina to advance against the Brooklyn Nets after a grueling seven games and nail-biting, bar-gripping overtime. In the wake of Saturday’s victory, I wondered how a self-proclaimed nihilist wrestles with good news.

The Nihilist Bucks Twitter page does not accept private messages. Its bio links to an outdated SoundCloud page and further searching revealed a more recent SoundCloud, neither of which provide contact information, personal details, or a name. An episode of the shadowy figure’s sporadic podcast features a real conversation with other humans. Guests Jack, Beef Chief, and the sought-after man of mystery “Nihilist” hash out a fantasy basketball draft in which the twister from Twister (1996), Dr. Manhattan, a sandworm from Dune, the three-headed King Ghidorah from Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, and other characters from all realms fantasy and reality don fictitious jerseys. This conversation produced some context and background for the world @nihilist_bucks inhabits.

On the Bucks Reddit page, @nihilist_bucks did an Ask Me Anything segment a few years ago, but the answers are vague and unhelpful in determining the actual identity of the user.

Along the way, I began to email and ask people via direct Twitter messages if they knew the owner of the account and, if so, whether the owner would be up for an interview. Unfortunately, the Nihilist Bucks Public Relations office is closed. The “PR department” follows only four other on Twitter, which some-what helped fuel my search: a non-official BMO Harris Bradley Center (the now-demolished former home of the Bucks, replaced by the taxpayer-funded Fiserv Forum) account, a parody account for the now-defunct Milwaukee sports radio show “The Fan,” Nihilist Bucks who lives in The Graveyard of Hope, WI, and Nihilist’s younger cousin @optimist_bucks who lives in The Garden of Hope, WI.

Most people I reached said they didn’t know, one person said they wouldn’t want to be associated with the account because of their behavior (I assume @nihilst_bucks’ flagrant amount of shit-posting has something to do with it), and eventually someone told me “they are aware of your interest and will reach out if they are into it.”

Another Twitter account began to message me, after I inquired, with spam-like messages and lines lifted from Dr. Evil’s speeches in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery. The same user accused me of attempting to dox the account owner and then proceeded to ramble. A journalist asking to speak with the person responsible for a public-facing online account and learn more about them, ask them about the creation of their online community, and gain insights into their world is not doxing.

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After sleuthing into photos the user has posted on their public Twitter page, I believe the person behind @nihilist_bucks is a 20- to 30-year-old white male from either Milwaukee or Texas, who has an absurdly expansive and expensive collection of collectible basketball cards and video games. That narrows the possibilities down to *calculating* a mere couple million people.

I have another theory that it’s more than one person, given the interconnectedness of people who told me they know I am snooping.

In my search and inability to dig out the truth ahead of Wednesday’s game (what in the world happened in those last 20 seconds?), I was dejected. The user behind Nihilist Bucks has every right to not want to speak with me, but the bees in my bonnet demanded answers. Frustrated, I remembered a quote from @nihilist_buck’s three-year-old Reddit AMA: “It is but my sole duty to convince Bucks fans’ (sic) despair is our only method of survival.” 

I’m playing the long game. I’ll keep slogging through the graveyard in search of a garden. Nihilist, if you’re out there, I just want to talk. 

Bucks in six. 

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