Sports!

8 Apr

Know what I hate? Sports.  I often argue with Davetavius over whether there’s something inherently wrong with sports, athletes, and sports fans. He takes the position that while sport culture might be one of the biggest detriments American society faces, it’s possible for sports to be a force for good, that there is some value in things like Premier League soccer (beyond the entertaining haircuts). I remain skeptical. There might be sports that aren’t completely disgusting, and there might be sport fans who are decent human beings, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree that, on balance, the world wouldn’t be a better place without sports.

The bullshit internationalist posturing surrounding the World Cup and the Olympics notwithstanding, sports — especially team sports — serve as a training ground for unthoughtful, jingoistic, aggressive idiots. It starts when you’re a kid and you see your parents screaming at a TV for no apparent reason, because they’ve for some reason decided to hitch their identity as human beings to an NFL team. And then you get old enough to actually play team sports (if you’re a boy, that is — if you’re a girl you may get to play “fag” sports like softball or soccer, but you’re more likely to end up taking dance lessons or wearing bloomers) and amass a menagerie of sporting idols. That’s when the real bullshit starts. Kids who are far too young to understand why they should be doing so can be seen screaming, painting their faces, and getting in fistfights over allegiances to sports teams that they’ve got no business giving a shit about. I mean, think about it, why would anyone be obsequiously loyal to a group of dumbasses they don’t even know just because they play with balls, even if they’re really good at it? Sports teams represent generic and basically valueless entities like cities, high schools, colleges, and meaningless “lifestyle” concepts created by corporate marketing teams, and I’m pretty worried about anyone who gets upset enough to scream while pointing at the ground (the number one way to express extreme anger among sports fans) over their allegiance to any of the above.

But that’s what team sports do, they teach people to develop obsessive loyalties to concepts and entities that any normal human being ought to not give a shit about, to become loyal to and personally invested in authoritarian entities that are actually detrimental to their own lives. American team sports teach young people that idolatry is all good, especially when directed at some violent, narcissistic asshole or team of assholes that represents our culture’s warped, misogynistic, and destructive idea of masculinity, and that unquestioning loyalty to vague and meaningless concepts and authority figures is where it’s at. And that’s how you get the kinds of jingoistic, unthoughtful assholes who, after September 11, talked about how “those terrorists don’t know who they’re fucking with” and how the US military was going to “go over there and kick some ass” as if they had assembled the weapons themselves out of their own empty Coors Light cans.

So, I’m not into sports. That does not mean, however, that I don’t think sports-related phenomena and sports fans are funny. Anyone who knows me knows I love nothing more than laughing at people who are sincerely involved in shit that sucks, and what better target than some idiot who is so invested in the fortunes of something that has no bearing on his life whatsoever that he’d kick someone’s ass over it? Those guys still abound, but when it comes to funny sports-related mega-trends, it’s slim pickings nowadays. The corporate homogenization of every element of American culture over the course of the last two decades or so has hit the world of sports harder than almost any other arena of our society. The NFL has always been completely embarrassing and loathsome, but it’s now also lost almost all of its capacity to entertain; in the quest to make sure that every adult male between 21 and 45 knows exactly what he needs to buy, the NFL has colluded with advertisers to make sure that nothing but aggressive marketing and boring, overly complicated simulated ass-kicking goes on during the average NFL game. Apparently, this has led even people who are foolish enough to be into the NFL to dub it the “No Fun League.” I don’t know shit about sports, but I’ll tell you what: you won’t see anything as awesome as this coming out of today’s NFL:

Nah, we don’t want to do anything cool or funny like that; let’s get another interview with Tom Brady about his boring-ass baby or his haircut or something. Plthhhh.

When I was a kid, the ONLY thing that made the many NFL games I had to sit through even remotely endurable was the touchdown celebrations, and apparently even those aren’t allowed now. I mean, who the fuck wants to sit through a football game without the chance of seeing someone try to moonwalk in cleats? The only moment I remember out of the countless hours of NFL I suffered through as a child is the Ickey Shuffle. Without that, it’s nothing but crunching sounds and commercials aimed at guys who get excited about sampling seasonal varieties of Samuel Adams. SNORE.

But enough about that. Let’s get to the point here: I hate sports, but the absurd social trends that sports begat in the 80s might be one of my favorite sources of entertainment. Chief among those trends was the wave of sport-themed polo-shirt-and-sunglass-rope rock singles released in the mid-80s. In case you need a refresher, here are two killer examples (sorry, but I couldn’t find the original video for the first one because whoever owns the rights is a weenie):

And let us not forget that Huey Lewis and the News put out an entire album in 1983 that was called Sports (by far their best work, my son).

albumcovers-hueylewisandthenews-sports1983

But without a doubt, the best jock-rock song of the era was Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” because the video not only featured the band wearing sporty terry-cloth headband/wristband sets and sneakers with their Sinbad-approved sports coats and permed thinning hair, but it also celebrated the greatest sports-related social trend of the 80s: sports bloopers! Check it out:

Ack!!! I can’t even handle how awesome that video is. There are seriously about 75 people on stage, and they’re all doing something incredibly cool. The drummer looks like he’s in a drum-kit contest with Neil Peart, they have a dude who’s there to do nothing but play the tambo and do the Molly Ringwald, the guy with the acoustic guitar is wearing one of Stephen Tyler’s microphone scarves on his head and is barefoot, and there are two keyboard players, one playing it cool in a Johnny Cash shirt and the other making sure everyone knows from his stage moves and his bolo tie that he drives a convertible and wears red underwear. And check out how stoked the band is to be playing the song! They even get together several times in the center of the stage and look at each other as if to say, “Goddamn, man, touchdown! Rock and fuckin’ roll!”

In addition to the absolutely stellar dancing exhibited by the band, I love this video because sports bloopers are just so funny! Seriously, what’s more hilarious than watching a guy drop a football? Fucking nothing, dude. Expect a post dedicated the 80s sports blooper craze real soon (but not here).

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27 Responses to “Sports!”

  1. masagoroll April 8, 2009 at 9:06 PM #

    The sad part is… my dad still wears a sweatband exactly like that on his head when he does yardwork!

    Serious comment– one annoying thing about sports is how many resources colleges devote to them compared to academic programs. I’m probably biased as an unathletic English major, but that really annoys me!

    • Rusty April 9, 2009 at 12:24 AM #

      It’s the most infuriating aspect of attending a University. Especially when Sasquatch stumbles into class 40 minutes late every day and still gets after class assistance, extra credit, and leniency because, “Well, I have basketball practice”.

      Absolute garbage.

      Apparently, it’s better for the University to offer scholarships based on how well the student plays a game rather than their academic achievements. Fuck.

  2. Renee April 9, 2009 at 1:19 AM #

    I still suffer every Saturday get dressed up in their hockey jerseys to watch hockey. It is the most ridiculous tradition and like you I cannot for the life of me understand the fascination. I refer to it as their male bonding ritual but I would not be disappointed if the NHL disappeared completely from our lives. I see it as nothing but violence on skates.

  3. RenegadeEvolution April 9, 2009 at 3:38 AM #

    Sports allowed me to go to college, gave me some of my best friends in life, and probably kept me out of prison.

  4. isme April 9, 2009 at 7:08 AM #

    Personally, though, I’m more annoyed by cheerleaders. You can’t watch an ad for sports on TV without cheerleaders being on. I suppose I wouldn’t object so much if female sports had male cheerleaders mucking about in tiny skirts, but in general I’m with Russell Crowe on this one…keep the cheerleaders away from sport.

  5. Aileen Wuornos April 9, 2009 at 12:36 PM #

    AFL over here is similarly just as fucked. I too am a member of the “sports is ridonkulous” school of thought, well not so much sport itself – just the (often) fucked up culture that’s associated with it. Over here footballers and rugby players seem to pretty much get away with addictions and rape.
    Ergh.

    • isme April 9, 2009 at 3:26 PM #

      And you’ll remember how…was it Mundine?,,,got into loads of trouble for saying the US brought 911 on themselves and wasn’t allowed to box, but they didn’t mind Tyson.

  6. Argive April 9, 2009 at 3:40 PM #

    My university experience regarding sports was a bit different. I went to Cornell, which does not provide athletic scholarships (none of the Ivies do). The Ivy League is still bullshit, but that’s a whole other ball of wax. At my school, you didn’t get a pass for being on [insert team here]. That’s how it should be. Interestingly enough, I frequently got extensions for stage managing student-produced plays. Perhaps, in the eyes of the Sig Nu dudes (football frat) in my classes, this made me a [insert epithet here].

    I am a sports fan today. The funny thing is that when I was a kid, I couldn’t be bothered to give a shit about sports at all. I became interested in sports while I was in college. I think that doing so worked out, because by that point I was old enough to realize that one should not idolize people simply because they can throw or hit balls really far.

    So why do I like sports? Primarily because of the strategy involved, and the talent on display. For instance, I consider a well-played baseball game to be tremendously entertaining. Watching batters and pitchers try and outduel each other is wonderful. Watching an outfielder go over the wall to catch a home run is amazing. And it is truly special to watch a pitcher go out there and dominate the opposing lineup (especially if he plays for your team). Now, there are all sorts of problems that go along with fan culture of American sports. Hell, I live in Philadelphia, I’ve seen many such problems my own self (Philly fans really can be assholes). But I don’t think the issues lie within sport itself; it’s the culture we’ve built around sport. Of course, the best thing to do is to get your ass of the couch and go play sports. Personally, I love me a good game of tennis.

    PS: If you want to see some truly hilarious sports bloopers, go to http://www.lookoutlanding.com, scroll down and look for the sidebar on the left that reads “Raul Ibanez takes pride in his defense.” The clips contained therein will not disappoint.

    • Nine Deuce April 9, 2009 at 4:55 PM #

      I don’t disagree that the problem lies in the culture rather than the sports. I think it’s a wider problem, really. The conflation of our tendency toward idolatry and our obsession with fame and wealth mean that athletes are almost encouraged to behave reprehensibly, and that they’ll almost always get away with it. I’ll be writing another post later about the misogyny of sport culture.

      As to the bloopers, I was kidding about finding them funny. I can’t imagine what goes on in someone’s mind that footage of a guy fumbling a ball to the tune of “wacky” music and stupid sound effects is funny. But that’s also another post.

  7. Argive April 9, 2009 at 5:47 PM #

    Re sport culture: I think that there are basically two things that can happen when an athlete behaves badly. One: nothing. An athlete assaults somebody or is accused of rape or beats his wife and he gets off for no good reason. Two: the judge makes an example of the athlete. The latter happens when the athlete is either facing non-controversial charges or is unpopular already. Everybody agrees that animal cruelty is bad, so off Michael Vick went to jail. Lots of people thought Mike Tyson was a total asshole before he committed rape, so off he went to jail. But OJ Simpson? Naw, he couldn’t have committed double murder. Ray Lewis? Naw, he totally didn’t witness a murder and then lie about it. Kobe Bryant? Why, he couldn’t have raped that woman! There are many more.

    In the end, we have to recognize sports for what they are: entertainment. That’s what athletes get paid millions of dollars to do: put on a show for a few hours. It is when we lose sight of that that bad things can happen.

    Apologies for the length, but this has been on my mind a lot lately.

    Also, re sports bloopers: Yes, I can be completely unable to recognize sarcasm. I tend to take things literally when I should not. It has led me into some embarrassing situations in the past.

    • Nine Deuce April 9, 2009 at 6:05 PM #

      There’s a study in one of my posts on rape that says athletes get away with rape much more often than regular citizens, and I find the Michael Vick thing interesting for that reason — apparently, athletes mistreating dogs is more alarming than their abusing women.

      The problem is, when we live in a misogynistic culture, it tends to manifest in exaggerated ways with the people we give the most power to, and to determine who we’ll idolize. That means we idolize athletes as examples of our completely stupid idea of masculinity, and that they reap the rewards of a culture in which one measure of one’s power/prestige is to what extent one can use/get away with abusing women. The fact that these guys will end up with a sense of entitlement when it comes to women and how they will treat them is no surprise, nor is the fact that juries who idolize these guys will tend to dismiss the claims of their victims.

      • Argive April 10, 2009 at 1:53 AM #

        Way before Vick had to face those dogfighting charges, a woman sued him for giving her genital herpes. Apparently Vick had been seeking treatment for herpes simplex 2 under the pseudonym “Ron Mexico,” a little fact which he had kept secret from her when they had sex. Vick settled the case out of court and the whole matter got swept under the rug. See, at the time, Vick was the highest-paid player in the NFL, and there was no way NFL PR was about to let their golden boy get tarnished because of a little thing like giving some woman an incurable STD. So ESPN and Sports Illustrated buried the story. Misplaced priorities indeed. Also, “Ron Mexico” is maybe the dumbest fucking name ever invented.

        • Nine Deuce April 10, 2009 at 1:57 AM #

          I dunno, it might be the most unintentionally funny thing I’ve heard of this week. Ron Mexico? Priceless. I was in a subway station a few weeks after the Vick case came to light with my best friend. We say a guy with his jersey on, which sort of blew me away. I turned to my friend and said, “Dude, can you believe that guy’s out here telling people he’s into Michael Vick?” And he said, “How do you know? Maybe he just hates dogs.” I’m not recounting that for any particular reason but that I can’t think about Michael Vick without remembering that. Now I’m also going to think about Ron Mexico.

  8. Nanella April 10, 2009 at 7:18 PM #

    Superb. Excellent corollary between competitive sports and militaristic thinking. Interestingly, the most peaceful, non-violent cultures don’t encourage competition in any form. I definitely see a connection between My Team vs. Your Team and imperialism, not to mention ruthlessly ambitious corporate ladder-climbing and the pick-up artist mentality. Men who are persuasive charmers “have game” who “score” with women. In fact, the most popular dating manual for men is called just that, “The Game”.

    I think it’s hideous what we do to little boys. When you’ve absorbed the lesson that people who have something you want are your adversaries and winning is everything, how can you *not* turn into a selfish, manipulative jerk?

    • isme April 11, 2009 at 8:47 AM #

      “Interestingly, the most peaceful, non-violent cultures don’t encourage competition in any form”

      Um…what are these cultures in which there are no forms of competition?

  9. C April 11, 2009 at 12:08 AM #

    I’ve never liked sports, I don’t think they are inherently misogynistic but our culture has most definitely made them that way and I don’t think there’s any turning back now. It’s probably best to just stay away.

  10. C April 11, 2009 at 12:10 AM #

    Oh, and great post I liked all the videos.

  11. schmutzie April 11, 2009 at 4:26 AM #

    You are being featured on Five Star Friday!

    http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/04/five-star-friday-edition-49.html

  12. sonia April 13, 2009 at 4:05 AM #

    “And check out how stoked the band is to be playing the song! They even get together several times in the center of the stage and look at each other as if to say, “Goddamn, man, touchdown! Rock and fuckin’ roll!”

    In addition to the absolutely stellar dancing exhibited by the band, I love this video because sports bloopers are just so funny! Seriously, what’s more hilarious than watching a guy drop a football? Fucking nothing, dude”

    ah. hah hah. hah hah hah.

    yeah, totally. I grew up on baseball and i still love it, but undeniably it breeds woman-abuse. also, potential bukkake behavior.

    and awesome headbands.

  13. BrianDS April 13, 2009 at 5:35 AM #

    I feel you are ignoring the positive effects organized sports can have on kids growing up. In my case, my 6th-8th grade basketball coach was more of a father figure to me than my father ever was. Before I established a relationship with him, my teachers were worried that I would never keep up with my class. This was mostly because I hated school and everything about it. Coach truthfully taught me the value in working hard at school and really motivated me. Besides that, the friends I made on the team were some of the first friends I made in school, which also made the daily grind a lot more bearable.

    I admit my example is probably more extreme than most kids’ experiences, but I don’t think it’s that rare.

  14. Claire June 4, 2009 at 10:03 PM #

    I’ve played competitive volleyball since I was 8. I’m with RenegadeEvolution here…the presence of organized sports in my life was an absolute life-saver for me. It made living in Dysfunctional-Abusive-Family-From-Hell World a lot more bearable. It literally kept me sane and gave me something to live for…in addition to keeping me off drugs and un-pregnant as a teenager.

    That said, sports culture is woman-hating in the absolute extreme, second only to the military, and the part of sports I’ve always kept my distance from. I play volleyball because I enjoy it. I don’t worship anybody and I don’t live to win (anymore…I was fairly cutthroat in my twenties at the top of my game). I just like to play.

    The NFL and NBA can kiss my entire pimpled ass, along with any other nationally-recognized sport. Fuck the overpaid, rapist, egotistical dickwarts.

    Haven’t read here in a while, very glad to see you still up and blogging (and doing a fantastic job)!

  15. R1HZ June 5, 2009 at 1:59 PM #

    Some of you posting will one day grow older and appreciate the link between a highly active, sports imbued lifestyle and your ongoing good health in mid-age and beyond. But not while you are young and seeking explanations for all the real or perceived ‘bad things’ in the world. At that time you may also have special connections to the people you are active in sports with, spanning many years. It’s good to be part of a true team…it can feel a lot like a family.

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