Wednesday, April 27, 2011

kicking the opiate of the masses

I guess I'm looking for a set of reasons to give a shit. We live in a country that's rapidly descending to the level of a second-tier Onion headline. If I'd read "Sitting President Forced to Show Proof of Citizenship Two Years into Term", I would've rolled my eyes and turned the page. And yet here we are. Personally, I'm waiting for the aforementioned president's memoir to make sense of these troubled times. Somehow, this is a black man of sufficient will to attain the highest elected office in a racist country whose public affect continues to suggest his memoir will be titled "All You Haters Make Some Really Good Points, Actually, and My Management Team Is Working Hard to Incorporate Your Insights".

Until that page-turner and barn-burner comes out, I'm left to my own resources to muddle through. And yet, I find myself burning countless mental calories on grown-ass men playing a rich rural man's game.

Cody McLeod—D
Daniel Winnick—B
David Jones—B
John-Michael Liles—B+
Brandon Yip—D
Petr Budaj—D
Ryan O'Reilly—C+
Matt Duchene—A-
Paul Stastny—C-
(Don't expect a grade for Brian Elliott, I'd guess: since the end of the season, Dater has spent more words on Soundgarden & Humble Pie than on Elliott's prospects of returning...)

My malaise is a combination of watching teams in the playoffs and judging "my" team against them and a thicker-than-usual onslaught of the media inexplicably kowtowing to asinine horseshit from these beefy dunces.

But when ESPN, as literally everybody has noted, fails to do even the mildest, well, journalism, I'm left with little. From Scocca's fairly muted excoriation:

negative reaction cascaded, too, with some bloggers saying that evidence Obama was born in Hawaii is overwhelming
Yes: some bloggers say that the evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii is overwhelming. Other people have other views. People disagree! It sure is confusing.

Scocca's piece is, as always, worth reading entirely. He makes a pretty tepid case for continuing to give time energy attention to this breadless circus:

I have rooted for arrogant and surly players, mean drunks, bullies, phony Bible-thumpers, steroids abusers—that's who shows up, sometimes, in your team's uniform, trying to win games. Sometimes there are decent, funny, humble ones, too. But you don't get to choose. Even if you think you're cheering for a good guy, you might be wrong.

What we're left with, as always, is a familiar uniform girding the loins of men we're believing are trying to win games. (Sometimes we're believing this by dint of main force.)

But what do we do when the men who crouch behind those men, running El Show, are dolts?

We "get" it.

The theory — one the Kroenke Sports Enterprises ownership has both endorsed and subsequently, ahem, encouraged because the savings are so significant — is that the Avalanche's hugging of the NHL's salary-cap floor is a byproduct of rebuilding. The theory is that when the young talent blossoms and is due new contracts, the payroll figure will rise. The theory is that the Avalanche then would move up from the lower echelon of the league's total payroll figures, the wins would mount, the arena again would sell out (and at full price), and everyone would live happily ever after.

Yet here's the most alarming sign of the offseason so far: The Colorado front office and ownership have given no indication that they realize this very important point: At least on the competitive level, the theory as enacted in Plan A isn't working.


As the rock-bottom payroll figures continue to be so appealing, all signs are that the organization is continuing to be carried away with: a) overrating its ability to spot and nurture young talent, and then, b) overrating that young talent itself,

I don't know what to do then. If all this shit is just "media", if the games are just skeletons for narratives, then I'd rather read books.

If there's something else there, something about politics, maybe, or life, or meaning, then I'd like some help in digging it out from more than Scocca, David Roth, and whoever. —I don't want to diminish their contribution: I just want ESPN and the rest to pull their fucking weight and stop shilling for thieves and liars. Here's non-journalist and run-bike-riders-down activist Toni Tone Tony Kornheiser shedding light onto what he will and will not attack cover:

There are two companies that provide me with the economic opportunity that I've had in recent years, which has been very beneficial to me. And in the words of my colleague Bomani Jones, I'm not gonna mess around with where the money comes from, OK?

One of the places the money comes from is Red Zebra, which is owned by Dan Snyder, this radio station, ok? And the other is ESPN. And I've been told in no uncertain terms by a variety of people, do not say stuff about the places where you work, so you need to understand that, that I am reluctant to be enormously expansive on certain things that jeopardize my well being.

Okay. So it's clearly just media for some of these people. So why don't I just go back to the movies, where at least the narratives are "curated" by professionals?

I'll leave you with some absolutely keyboard-on-fire material I discovered today. When I'm not 4k in the hole, I'll be picking up both of these books. Whether or not I'll be following sports by that time I cannot say.

—Collision, thinking about packing it up, packing it in, and moving on

Taken together, SportsWorld (1975) and An Accidental Sportswriter are a sustained attack on the mythos encrusted on sports and the journalists who helped to maintain it.

SportsWorld, Lipsyte wrote, is a "dangerous and grotesque web of ethics and attitudes, an amorphous infrastructure that acts to contain our energies, divert our passions, and socialize us for work or war or depression." Moreover, it's a "pacifier, safety valve...a concentration camp for adolescents and an emotional Disneyland for their parents...a buffer, a DMZ, between people and the economic and political systems that direct their lives."

The sound you hear is Ken Burns' head exploding. And Lipsyte was just getting started. Baseball: "an incredibly complex contrivance that seems to have been created by a chauvinistic mathematician." College football: "America's grandest monument to national hypocrisy." Vince Lombardi was "football's frontman while it was promoting itself as a sadomasochistic weekly adventure show," and hallowed Halls of Fame were "eerie crypts." About the Mets: "It would take at least a grand jury to get at the origins of the New York Mets"—truer than ever in the Madoff Era.

The sportswriters—the older guys, especially—were co-conspirators, pumping up athletes even though they knew the truth. Their attitude, Lipsyte says, was, "We're all of the carnival, and the rubes"—aka, the readers—"are out there."

Lipsyte dug in the box and took his swings. On Grantland "Granny" Rice, the first celebrity sportswriter: "The writer who likens a ballplayer to Hercules or Grendel's mother is displaying the ultimate contempt—the ballplayer no longer exists as a person or a performer, but as an object, a piece of matter to be used, in this case, for the furtherance of the sportswriter's career... Rice populated the press boxes with lesser talents who insisted, like the old master, that they were just sunny fellows who loved kids' games and the jolly apes who played them."

More: "A sportswriter learns early that his readers are primarily interested in the affirmation of their faiths and prejudices, which are invariably based on previous erroneous reports."

Still more: "We were complicit in keeping women out of press boxes, much less locker rooms. ... Women diminished the prestige of our tree house, the men-only access we gloated over to friends and neighbors."

Red Smith wrote the "the purest, most crystalline, most delightful fresh running prose in sports," but until late in his career Smith was "polishing the SportsWorld silver." Bob Costas, he of the perpetually unlined forehead, is "one of the Jock Culture's most treasured cheerleaders. ... Just look how happy he seems bantering with those ex-athletes on pregame shows, a terrier playing with mastiffs and Great Danes."

"The infectious values and myths transmitted by bad sportswriters," Lipsyte wrote in SportsWorld, now rising to a crescendo, "may be the deadliest words in the paper."

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