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Sports Authority. (updated)

One of the many (many) things about which I am cynical is sports. I am one of three straight guys living in North Carolina who doesn't care who has the ball. The ball is of no interest to me. Kick the ball, throw the ball, use the ball as a suppository: I don't care.

But I have kids. As is so often the case with kids, they force you to look at things from a different perspective. They force you into the, "But what about the children?" zone. My son's interest in sports is identical to mine. His teachers push him to be more social. He points out that the boys at school talk about nothing but UNC and Duke.

So I consider homeschooling.

But my daughter is a bit of a jock -- eight year-old division. She likes to play soccer. She guilts me into playing basketball. (Let's pause for a moment and picture the overweight 53 year-old man who decides, for the first time in his life, to attempt to dribble a basketball. Yes, it does sort of define the line between comedy and tragedy, doesn't it?) So I have had to prepare myself for the possibility that sports will be a part of my future.

It's not just that I find sports boring. It's that I find the sports culture -- the professional sports culture, not Rainbow Soccer League -- creepy, depraved and fascistic. Here's a guy who obviously only recently discovered what I have long known:

I went to my last professional football game this month. My son and I braved frigid, remote FedEx Field to see our beloved Chicago Bears, the fallen Super Bowl champions, humiliated 24-16 by the struggling Washington Redskins. It wasn't the depth of our despair that will keep us away from football stadiums for good but the depravity of the fans.

I suppose depravity is a strong word. But what better describes drunken adult men, egged on by other grown beer-swillers, belly-shouting the most spectacular obscenities imaginable as they stand next to a 13-year-old boy? Every play was a competition to produce a more vile insult or a different suggestion about which Bear body part might be stuffed up which orifice. When the Redskins scored their first touchdown, four young women -- I'm guessing they were in high school -- turned around and did a little stripper's dance that made my son blush as I cringed. Even putting aside their ages, it was too cold to bare flesh.
Dude. You're only now realizing that professional sports (including the so-called amateur programs at most major colleges) panders to drunken louts?

Professional sports consists of steroid abusers and criminals performing before drunks for the benefit of tax-subsidized billionaires. That's the business. It's got nothing to do with teamwork or sportsmanship. It is as virtue-free as the casino business. It's ruthless, egomaniac millionaires pandering to the fantasies of frustrated, 21st century men too long-removed from anything genuinely masculine.

Okay, okay, I take that back. Partly. Only partly. Not all professional athletes are juice freaks, wife-beaters, dog-fighters, or double murderers. Just a lot of them. More, as a percentage, than you'd find among, say, accountants. Or divorce attorneys. Or bail bondsmen. Or even congressmen. Still, many athletes aren't any of those terrible things. Instead they're prancing, pinheaded, endzone-dancing egomaniacs.

And not all sports fans are desperately seeking hormone-replacement substitutes for the hunting, plundering and killing that are a man's normal pastimes. Some just really enjoy statistics.

Now, I don't do a lot of wildebeest-hunting or coup-counting myself. I've accepted the fact that I live in a feminized, testicle-shriveling civilization that has virtually no use for my masculine talent for spotting the weapons potential of household objects. (Pizza cutter? Plastic wrap? Framed picture of one of the kids' art projects?*) And because I've swallowed my second-class status in this civilization that imprisons mighty hunters in carpeted cubicles, encourages bloodthirsty warriors to wrinkle their little noses in dismay at the sight of a great slab of barely-cooked meat and ask for a green salad with low-fat dressing, and reduces the berserker sons of Thor to carrying babies in womb-simulating pouches, I have not found it necessary to adopt the psychic comb-over of sports fandom as a sad camouflage of my reduced circumstances.

Getting shit-faced and shouting "boo-yeah" every time some illiterate with a thyroid condition relocates a ball from the ten-yard line to the fifteen-yard line does make you Conan the Barbarian. Nothing will make you Conan the Barbarian. It's 2007. Conan sells shoes at Nordstrom. Unless you are an active member of the Marine Corps your upper body strength, your intuitive grasp of all things rigidly hierarchical, and your charming willingness to stab people in the throat, are useless. Your balls won't grow larger because you watch 'roid junkies who've shriveled their own to the size of bee bees. It's over. Give up. We're not men, anymore, we're women in wingtips.

And my point was . . . Oh, yeah: sports is not good for your kids. It's terrible for your kids. It teaches your kids to value cheating over honesty, raging egomania over teamwork, and stupid, pointless, manufactured rage over the pure and authentic rage that comes from having some idiot come off a freeway on-ramp doing 20 miles an hour under the goddamned speed limit.

Back to Captain Obvious:
Within 10 minutes of kickoff, I knew I had made a terrible mistake taking my son to the game.
...
There simply was no code of conduct, no social superego, that discouraged this behavior, even around children. Worse, some people were there precisely to get drunk, angry, loud and vile. The idea that fans would have manners or courtesy in any form seems archaic and silly.
Guess what, pal, that ship sailed decades ago.

I will, of course, do anything I can to support my daughter if she's interested in pursuing sports. But all things considered I'd rather see her develop an interest in telemarketing.

update: I almost forgot to explain.
* Slam the framed picture down over the head and shove back and forth so that the broken glass cuts the jugular.

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“Sports Authority. (updated)”

  1. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    As a rabid, beer-swilling Dallas Cowboys fan, I have a few thoughts.

    1) The fans in DC are hideous. I go to a Dallas game at least once a year and it's a generally civil experience.

    2) Don't you think that sports is also an outlet for all those tribal urges that turns other places into such violent shitholes? I mean, professional sports is hardly civilized but it gives us all a way to be tribal without having to actually fight.

    3) I don't think football makes me feel more like a man. I like the competition. To feel like a man I go into the woods with a knife, kill a small animal and then bathe in the blood. What? You don't do the same? I mean, after the imasculating basketball playing.

  2. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    A good rodent-bleeding might work if it was just that I need to compensate for sucking at basketball. But in a game where my daughter, (not quite 4 feet) hits about 50% on a lowered 7-foot basket, and I, (6'2"), hit maybe 20%, it's going to take more than stabbing a raccoon.

  3. Blogger fabius.maximus.cunctator Says:

    michael reaynolds

    Obviously you like sports as much as I do. In my neck of the woods that wd be soccer though.

    Maybe you`ll like this (Pierre Desproges, Comedian) in his sorely missed weekly radio comment in the 80s:

    "C'est aussi l'obligation, pour ceux qui n'aiment pas ça, de subir à longueur d'antenne le football et les embrassades poilues de ces cro-magnons décérébrés"

    "The obligation for those who do not like that sort of thing to suffer for the length of a whole broadcast soccer and (watch) the hairy embrace of those lobotomized cro-magnos (the players)."

    Sorry about the rough translation but as both French nor English are still a bit Greek to me it was the best I could do.

    One of his sketches / programs had the title: À mort le foot (Death to soccer).

    On the off-chance that you read the lingo, there`s a site with lots of dergatory comments on sports: "http://www.desproges.fr/"

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Fabius:
    It happens that I do speak/read French. I spent 3 years, from age 7 to age 10, attending Ecole Emile Zola, in Rochefort (Charente Maritime) France. I've forgotten quite a bit, but my accent is sound, and when I visit France I start to pick it up again.

  5. Blogger fabius.maximus.cunctator Says:

    michael:

    I saw an indication that you may speak french on yr blog only after writing the post above.

    No offence in using "off-chance".

    Anyhow, if you have time I hope you have a look at the Desproges site. Poor D. died of cancer at an idiotically early age, joking to the last. One of his last comments was: "Plus cancereux que moi tu meurs". I find that idiomatic pun impossible to translate.

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