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Sports Authority. (updated)

Saturday, December 22, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

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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Uh Huh.

Thursday, December 20, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Yep. Chapel Hill. Where I live:

HILLSBOROUGH — Three UNC football players were the victims in a kidnapping, robbery and sexual assault incident involving two women, the university confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Chapel Hill police said the assault happened about 3:30 a.m. Sunday at an apartment complex in Chapel Hill where all three victims were bound with tape and then assaulted by the suspects.

At a bond hearing Thursday, Orange County Assistant District Attorney Morgan Whitney said police arrived at the scene and found two of the victims, tied up, in boxer shorts. The third victim was fully clothed with his hands tied.

At least two were sexually assaulted, Whitney said. He is still waiting on the final police report to see if the third man was also. None of the victims required medical attention.

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What Kind Of Fool Am I?

by Michael Reynolds

Only a fool would try to call this race two weeks out from Iowa, three weeks from New Hampshire. This is the craziest, most unsettled primary contest I can remember. And the craziness is bipartisan! The Republicans are even wobblier than the Democrats this year.


You can make an argument for just about any outcome. (Except a Kucinich victory.) But here's my own worth-the-virtual-paper-it's-printed-on prediction:

The Democrats:
Edwards wins Iowa by a hair. Obama and Hillary tied for second. Edwards gets no New Hampshire bounce and the lack of a win by Obama starts a slow leak in his balloon. Hillary squeaks by in New Hampshire. From there she's unstoppable.

The Republicans:
Huckabee takes Iowa, but Romney is much closer than he's polling. Moral victory to Romney, who then takes New Hampshire. McCain out. Thompson drops out after Huckabee grabs South Carolina. Giuliani's in free-fall and the Big State Bonanza is a mixed bag, some Romney, some Huckabee, some Giuliani. Giuliani drops out which hands the decision to Romney.

More Fun:
Ron Paul accepts the nomination of the Libertarian Party and launches a well-financed third party bid. Professional crazy person Alan Keyes launches his own 3rd party bid financed by the Tinfoil Hat Association.

Michael Bloomberg decides against his own 3rd party bid. Evangelical turnout in the general drops by 5% on the Mormon thing.

In the End:
Romney proves stronger than Democrats expect, but Ron Paul plays Nader to Romney's Gore. Hillary in a squeaker when women voters move decisively her way. 52-48, Clinton in the popular vote.

If you don't like that, I could write you equally plausible scenarios for Obama, McCain, Edwards, Giuliani, Thompson, a brokered convention resulting in Jeb Bush, two brokered conventions resulting in Jeb and Richardson, or Haley Barbour and Al Gore, or fill in the blanks. Or we could have a successful 3rd party bid by Bloomberg. Or Kang and Kodos.

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Car Shopping Again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

I have no moral fiber.

I'm in the market for a new car. My current car gets 16 mpg, give or take. This is clearly an environmental and national security crime. Plus the local dealership sucks and the warranty's expired. The car is almost 6 years old. Time to trade.

But I love my car. It's wife, kids, career then car. It's big and it's fast. When you stomp on the accelerator it punches you in the kidneys and hurls you down the autobahn. And the brakes! You can go from 70 miles an hour to inches from a Prius' bumper in, like, ten feet. (All the better to read the array of hectoring bumper stickers. Did you know war is never the answer?)

So, I tell myself that the old version of status has been replaced by eco-status. I tell myself it's not about speed, it's not about size (insert sleazy laugh line here,) it's not even about construction so indestructible that the car's grill is to Subarus as a drunken frat boy's forehead is to beer cans.

No, now it's all Woody Harrelson and Ed Begley Jr. Green, green, greenery.

A digression: I take a trip to L.A. I'm staying in Century City, across the street from CAA. I'm driving a rented Toyota convertible because the bastards at Hertz lied to me about a guaranteed Mustang convertible. And you know what I see on Santa Monica Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset and the 10 and the 101 and the 405? Not Subarus. Not Priuses. Not Civics. I see a hell of a lot of BMW's and Benzes. I see horsepower. German horses. You want to see squirrel-powered eco-mobiles, come to Chapel Hill. One out of three cars here is a Subaru plastered with no fewer than eight hectoring, scolding, nagging, sanctimonious Leftie bumper stickers.

Nevertheless, by God I was determined to do what's right. Repair the damage I've done by six years of stabbing Mother earth straight in the eyeball with a three-pointed star.

My candidates: The Lexus GS hybrid. The BMW 5 series. The Mercedes E320 Bluetec. The Infinit M45.

Two of these cars, the BMW and the Infiniti, have no serious claim to being eco-friendly. They were included only for comparison purposes.

The Lexus is a hybrid and gets low 20's mpg. Unfortunately, the word on the street is unanimous that it handles like a pig with a loose-fitting halter. The BMW has that ludicrous drive-by-mouse system, and it's not as fast as it ought to be. The Mercedes E-320 Bluetec, by contrast, gets an honest to God low 30's mpg. Crazy good mileage. Granted, it's diesel, and thus a pain in the ass, but still. 32, 33 mpg? Double what I get now?

Then I made the mistake of driving it. The word adequate comes to mind.

I also drove the 18 mpg Infiniti M45. The salesman says, "You can take this 45 mph off-ramp at 75." I do. And it's like the car is magnetically affixed to the road. Oh, my God. Fast. Agile. Beautiful. Like a woman. If women could take 90 degree turns at 40 mph with zero lean. (In my experience, they can't.)

I checked the EPA web site. The Infiniti will dump a ton more crap into the air than the Benz. The Infiniti will do nothing to win the war on terror. The Infiniti will drown polar bears in the melting arctic. It may club baby seals. The Infinit hates our troops.

But it's so cool. I don't even like its look. But the drive? Man, you drive the Infiniti and you come away sold.

We wants it, Precious. Yes, we wants it.

So, here's my rationale. See if you buy it. My current mileage is 16 mpg. The Infiniti should get 18 mpg. That's a good 12% improvement. Plus, I will turn down th thermostat.

12% Huh? Huh? Come on, making progress, right? Right, Precioussss?

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Romney On Race

Sunday, December 16, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Romney today on Meet The Press. He's responding to a question about the Mormon Church's rather belated acceptance of civil rights. He's still a lizard, but he seems just a bit less likely to be an actual rodent-eating alien lizard.

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