Monday, January 20, 2014

Terrible People Doing Stupid Things

If you've spent even five minutes around me, you are aware that I love American football with a passion I reserve for nothing else in this life. I watched all of both conference championships yesterday and became incredibly animated when Seattle won. Now, I despise Pete Carroll with a special vitriol, but the reason I hate Seattle is because their fanbase is one of the most obnoxious in all of professional sports. I mean, seriously, look at this fucking guy. Then I got to thinking: is there such a thing as a good fanbase?

Lots of people (many of them Cardinals fans and therefore terrible, terrible people) will tout their team's supporters as the best fans of whatever sport you happen to be talking about. I will leave aside the major logical problem with this kind of dunderhead assertion (that you're arguing about something that is subjective and difficult to pin down) to make the following claim: fandom is an inherently annoying quality. I believe, with 100% certainty, that the fact that I am a Dawgs/'Dores/Falcons/Braves fan makes me a worse person. I know this because I have wished death on total strangers in the course of watching/screaming at various sporting events. I realize the problems with my argument here (my personal reactions are anecdotal, not evidential, and I, as an empirically lousy human being, am naturally disposed to rage and overreaction), but I think sports, without fail, brings out the worst in most people. Just read this egregiously fuckheaded tripe from Erik Loomis, an academic whose work and politics I have great respect for. I'm sure he's being tongue-in-cheek here to some extent, but the amount of smugness and self-congratulation here is beyond infuriating. Also, Oregon football is like non-alcoholic beer.

This is a pervasive trend. Sports journalism is, with very little exception (more on that later) among the worst writing on the entire planet. Noted herpetic fucktwat Bill Simmons is probably, by traditional metrics, the smartest person writing about sports today. And that's sad, because Bill Simmons is an intellectual like Taco Bell is food. His columns are little more than an exercise in showboatery (Oh wow he likes pop culture AND sports?!?!? What a Renaissance man!) that contain countless strained, pointless metaphorical connections. He's also a Pats fan, so he can go to hell. Haughty dipshit Gregggggggggggggggggg Easterbrook is another writer that some (incredibly stupid) people might advance as a keen intellect because he holds a graduate degree from Northwestern. Reading Greggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg is slow torture, though, because 1) he uses the passive voice more than a freshman comp student committing plagiarism as a rhetorical strategy to make his (subjective and idiotic) beliefs seem like universal truths and 2) he tries to draw moral lessons from everything in sports. Like fans trying to make objective arguments about their team and their fans being better, morons like Simmons and Easterbrook miss the point of sports entirely: sports are chaos. (This is why, as I alluded to earlier Deadspin and KSK are the only quality sportswriting around: the fine folks there intrinsically understand that trying to narrativize sporting events is pointless at best). Yes, we all want to root for the good guys. The problem is, everybody thinks they ARE the good guys, when in fact no one is.

I also think that the pervasiveness of sports culture promulgates all manner of societal ills. Go read this thing about Tom Brady. Now, imagine the Dallas Cowboys had made the NFC championship (I'll wait for you to stop laughing) and Dez Bryant had said the same thing. How much hand-wringing, dog-whistling nonsense would we have to slog through in the days that followed about Dez "not appreciating the game" or "not being grateful" because he won't do some Al Jolson song-and-dance about how happy he is to be in the league. It actually makes total sense that an NFL player wouldn't watch the Super Bowl. You're bummed that you didn't make it, and you don't really want to watch people doing your JOB on TV. That's why I never watched Dead Poet's Society when I got home from teaching high school (also, because that movie is ass). You need look no further than the insane-o reactions to a hyped up Richard Sherman's postgame interview last night to see how sports recapitulates the institutional racism of society writ large (Jesus, I sound like Simmons. Fuck me). Now, I hate Richard Sherman because he's really good and he plays for a team I despise. But let's not forget that Michael Crabtree is also a total shitbag. In fact, I often feel guilty about watching football because of the cavalcade of shitheads in the league, past and present. Think about it: Aaron Hernandez, murderer. Darren Sharper, rapist. Donte Stallworth, DUI manslaughterer. Ben Roethlisberger, rapist. Brett Farve, who is the go-to example of a "competitor" if you're a lazy sportswriter, is a sexual harasser. No matter what team you root for, you're going to be supporting a certain amount of general turpitude. (I concede that writing a long, boring "thinkpiece" about the need for existentialism in sports and casting aspersions is 1) not particularly heroic and 2) the same kind of shit that I'm complaining about. To that I say, nobody made you read it and I'm pretty up front about being a dick).

I'm not sure what the answer to this dilemma is. I've just spent four paragraphs worrying about football and fandom's effects on us but I've never been in a more joyous, electric environment than the night Georgia beat LSU. I mean, I'm not going to stop watching the game. If the fact that it's ruining lives won't get me to stop, then I'm certainly not going to give it up just because football makes me a bigger jackass. (I made my peace with being an asshole a long time ago). I guess what I'm saying is: embrace the chaos. Sports are enjoyable because we don't know who's good and who's bad. Fandom is, at its base, arbitrary. I know people who grew up in Georgia who are Vikings fans, and people who went to Maryland who are Georgia fans. There are some regional and/or institutional ties, but ultimately your being a fan is an arbitrary decision. There's the old Seinfeld joke about how being a sports fan is basically rooting for laundry. St. Drew Magary debunked that in his Deadspin NFL column: sports are fun because they change and develop. Teams are dynamic. I have a totally different, more positive feeling for Denver Peyton than I did for Indy Peyton (because I am very stupid, but still). Sanctimonious platitudes about the quality of a team's supporters (*coughNEWORLEANScough*) is just another way of trying to make peace with the fact that life and sports are both inherently chaotic and contingent. I understand the impulse, but it's one hypocrisy too far for me. Lean into the anarchy. We're all, as sports fans, already complicit in so much horrible shit that churching ourselves up as "good fans" is like trying to fix a severed limb with scotch tape. Existentialism is the only freedom: if we're going to choose to fill up our time on this dumb rock with sports, we need to be honest about the problems and realities of that choice. I love sports because they're messy and difficult and thrilling like life (and also because I'm lazy and dumb and shallow and cowardly and they let me project all that negativity outward). Join me in this Brave New Sporting World.

But seriously, fuck Pete Carroll. I hope the Broncos win by 1000 points.

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