In light of Dan’s perspicacious post about the societal burdens of big-time sports, here is some reading to help you intellectualize your version of the general human love of watching young men chase rounded objects and/or injure one another. This afternoon mine entailed watching the Miami Dolphins on the ole flatscreen, as my beloved rotating cast of gladiators, employed by a billionaire from Detroit (postindustrial-dystopia Detroit), did televised battle with the Cleveland (postindustrial-dystopia Cleveland) Browns, who are also owned by a billionaire (one facing federal charges because his company stole money from its customers). Like Dan said: FOOTBALL!
- “The Legend of Jadeveon Clowney,” from the New York Times. Jadeveon Clowney is going to make a Scrooge-McDuck pile of money playing pro football because he is almost unfathomably talented at aspects of that sport. That’s awesome for him and his family; it’s the opposite of what happens when Meghan McCain or Chelsea Clinton or some other potentate’s child graduates from Stanford then takes a job at the UN. I’m happy that his grandchildren are set for life, provided he obtains sound financial advice. His game is beautiful, an otherworldly blend of spatial intuition, bison strength, ballet-dancer grace, and vicious concentration. Kid is a football genius who makes football aesthetes’ eyes pop out of their heads. But still you wonder what would have happened to Clowney if he weren’t an athletic marvel, if he had a gift for math or writing or painting; or if he were “merely” a reasonably intelligent, average human being; or if he wasn’t all that talented or ambitious and just wanted to manage a hardware store or something. He grew up poor and black in North Carolina. What happens if he isn’t a brilliant entertainment provider? What happens to that kid? The US (especially the South) has developed a superb system for producing football and basketball players. Imagine if they (we) put that much effort into the academic side of the schools that students like Clowney have to attend whether or not they’re rare athletes.
- “Roger Federer as Religious Experience,” also from the NY Times. Somewhere in his published Letters, Kingsley Amis remarks that anyone who denies that Shakespeare is the greatest of all English poets can be ignored because they have a second-rate mind. I feel the same way about anybody who claims that David Foster Wallace, who wrote this essay, wasn’t all that good, especially if they dredge up the stupid gripe about how it’s a corny stereotype for young people, especially young (or not-so-young) males, to love his work. DFW isn’t Shakespeare, but nonetheless, fuck you if you aren’t amazed by his nonfiction. You probably don’t like Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Didion, Sontag, Edmund Wilson, Lester Bangs, or James Baldwin either. Yeah, I said it: amazed.
- Baseball Card Vandals is a website you shouldn’t look at if you dislike laughing for extended periods of time.
- I rode hard for Wright Thompson’s “When the Beautiful Game Turns Ugly” earlier this summer. I ride for it again here. Fantastic pop-ethnography for sports dorks who appreciate history, politics, and the utility of long clauses.
So stop watching sports!
Just kidding. Don’t ever do that.