Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sports?

Slate has another interesting sports article up today. I'm beginning to enjoy their sports coverage more than any other segment of the site. Is it because I don't take sports as seriously and go easy on them? I don't think so. The sports writers on the whole seem less pretentious and have a more accurate view of their relative importance in the world. The paragraphs about Darfur in the Lebron James article are interesting and insightful because they do not overreach. Discussing 9/11 and it's effects on Don Delillo's paranoia is not so insightful, for the opposite reason.

There is an interesting distinction between Slate's coverage of high and pop culture, and its coverage of sports, economics, and science. The backlash against exclusionary high art has led some critics to apply the hollow, faux-meaningful jargon of 'high art' criticism to pop culture, rather than to take a more practical and informative approach to the entire critical endeavor. They often add a bit of populist humor and sophomoric backslapping to their work to reinforce the faux-meaningfulness of the piece. What crap.

8 comments:

Little Earl said...

What crap, I tell you! Crap crap crap!

Little Earl said...

The two main problems I guess I have with Slate's pop culture columnists are:

1) As you said, the writers lack a sense of perspective, and

2) They reveal very little about themselves in their writing, or at least not anything that's really interesting. On the occasions when they do try to reveal something about themselves, they mostly just manage to convince me that they're dull people. I've been dipping into the Lester Bangs book again and he would wipe the floor with any of these Slate dudes. The sports writers are better because at least they talk about how their favorite teams/players make them feel. They're not trying to "redefine" anything.

As for LeBron James, he really seems to be all the fuss these days (here's an amusing article on Fox Sports that I liked: http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/6886500) I wouldn't really blame the guy for not signing some petition about Darfur, though, because I wonder if it would really do anything. Honestly, does the Chinese government give a shit what LeBron James of the Cleveland Calaviers thinks?

I fear the worst fate has truly befallen us, Yoggoth. We are...finally...sports fans! Oh God!

yoggoth said...

No I don't think China cares about what Lebron thinks, but it was interesting to link him to MJ that way.

ninquelote said...

Don't you think it's a little pretentious to look down on sports and not think that criticism and blog writing is in fact a sport? You are competing, even in this entry here, for who is more right; who can create the most well structured sentence; who can reference the best articles. Just because it isn't physical, doesn't make it not a sport (chess, crossword puzzles, golf).
With that said, I believe you two are not only sports fans - you are sports participants.

Little Earl said...

Well I must be batting .406 then.

(And you're right, golf really isn't a physical sport, is it?)

I think the whole LeBron/Darfur issue once again raises the question of what we REALLY want our athletic heroes to be. Sure, sometimes we say that we just want them to be great athletes, but that's bullshit. We also want them to be great people. But to be a great athlete, you also have to be a super-competitive bastard, so how is that supposed to work? We sort of hold them up to a double standard: "Achieve, achieve, achieve, but also be the Good All-American Boy on the side."

Our favorite sports legends aren't just the ones who broke the most records or whatever; they're also the guys that were likeable, or the guys that the public could relate to. Think Muhammad Ali or Joe Montana. Truly great athletes must understand that they don't achieve solely for the sake of themselves, but for the joy of sharing their talent with others. The athletes who don't get that will be admired less as their stars fade (I'm looking at you, Kobe and Barry).

ninquelote said...

I know this might sound a little weird, but I find myself actually agreeing with what LE is saying. Pro athletes should be good people off the field. The most challenging thing in sports, what really makes the best players, is being talented in your particular sport and not being an asshole at the same time. It's kind of a bonus if they do good things for America (in some way), but it seems difficult enough to just not be an asshole.
I'm all for people getting paid to entertain the masses (what else would we all write about). However, I also have to say I just don't think we should hold them up in any sort of esteem beyond the fact that they are good at what they do. Very few entertainers are even remotely good, or even decent people. They are the same losers and slobs that their fans are.

Herr Zrbo said...

I tried reading the article, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph. It doesn't matter if the Slate is writing it or not, I just can't get myself into sports, or more specifically, sports coverage. It just bores me to tears.

I enjoy sports when I'm there live (say at a Giants game) but anything that's televised or anything that comes across as 'sports news' just doesn't hold my interest. When you're live at a game you can really feel the energy of the crowd, there's the heckling of the guy behind you, the guy throwing hot peanuts, the thrill of your team scoring. When you're watching it televised it's just so flat and sterile, like watching someone else's wedding video of which you were not there. There's nothing else to focus on but the action of the game, which you quickly find to be mechanical and boring. Take basketball, when you're THERE it's this amazing game, you're right on the court and there's this amazing energy. On TV? Well it's the old 'watch the final five minutes' to see who wins.

I always find it particularly fascinating that on sports news shows that the newsmen always wear fancy suits. Somehow this seems to go against the very nature of sports. Here you've got 350lb. guys running around a field tackling each other in the mud, and you have these guys in Armani suits reporting on it. It just doesn't make sense to me. It's like guys in Slayer t-shirts commenting on a game of chess. Somehow it goes against the nature of what 'sport' is.

Little Earl said...

To zrbo:

I understand your apathy towards televised sports because until recently I was there myself. To find televised sports interesting you have to really give yourself over to the concept of the "team." Ultimately the idea of the team is intrinsically meaningless; these guys all make a boatload of money and would just as easily play for some other team if they could make more. Besides, every ten years the team is made up of completely different people anyway, so how is it the same, right? Therefore I completely understand why someone would choose not to care at all. It's just a choice that someone can make if he or she wants to get into it and has nothing better to do. It helps if you know other people who are already into it. I had a roommate in college who was really into baseball, and it was fun watching the games with him, so that's how I became interested. Before that I really didn't give a shit. Since then I've discovered that it's one more thing that ties me ever-so-thinly to rest of society, so it's probably a good thing.

I consider professional sports as basically a more wholesome form of gambling: I don't spend money on it, and the athletes (or half of them at any rate) get to exercise their bodies and have fun while they're at it. So like gambling, you have to pick your "number" and really care about what happens to it. But unlike gambling, you don't actually "lose" anything if your number loses. In a sense, rooting for a team is good practice for life: it helps you deal with failure and disappointment. Here's what I say: expect your team to lose, but hope your team wins. That way, if they lose, no big deal, but if they win, you have a reason to be happy just for the hell of it.

Because I like my arbitrary victories to come close to meaning something, I always try to root for the underdog. For example, this year I've decided to root for the Milwaukee Brewers, because they haven't been good for years (they're barely even good this year but they've got a chance) and damn it, the fans in Milwaukee deserve something to get excited about. By the same token, I hope the Yankees lose in the most disgusting, embarrassing manner possible. Ultimately it's all pretty stupid. But possibly, just possibly, a victory for the Brewers and a defeat for the Yankees might provide me with a small sliver of hope for the human race.

Thus, if you actually convince yourself that certain teams "represent something," then you can develop an active interest in whether these teams win or lose a game, and thus you can find the televised games interesting rather than boring. Another factor is the constant threat that something amazing might happen and you could have missed it because you didn't bother to watch! Wouldn't you hate it if something legendary happened and people were going to talk about it for years and years and you didn't even fucking see it?! Possibly not. But that's the hook that keeps pulling me (occasionally) back to televised games.

Also I am just very, very bored.

To nimquempoop:

I agree. What athletes do is impressive, but it is not THAT impressive. OK, so you can hit a bunch of home runs. Is that grounds to worship you completely out-of-proportion? Hell, half of the time it just seems like luck. So you hit a walk-off home run and won the pennant, and now we're supposed to hold you up on some amazing pedestal for life? The whole thing happened in like five seconds. It's only a small fraction of the guy's total existence. Big fuckin' deal. In that sense, the problem that plagues professional athletes is the same problem that plagues Slate writers: trying to keep a sense of perspective. The athletes that can keep a sense of perspective are the ones that earn my respect. Talk about bringing it full circle, biotch!