Click here for Today's Sign of the Apocalypse, Game to Watch, Leading Off gallery and much more!
My stars, such psychedelic pandemonium, what with that little contretemps in Detroit, the Clemson-South Carolina set-to, the Drooling Housewives/Monday Night Football flap, the Frankie Francisco fiasco, the Janet Jackson Super Bowl imbroglio etc., etc. A blizzard of finger pointing and hand wringing is upon us.
"This is a manifestation of everything that is wrong with this world," Michael Kay declared on his ESPN radio show after the Pistons-Pacers pier sixer. "It runs deeper than sports. It's a societal problem and I don't know if it can be solved."
Probably not. People have attached grossly undue importance to the outcome of games since long before those gentle medieval days when human skulls were used as soccer balls. More recent enthusiasts in England, Europe, and South America have made those louts in Detroit look like rank amateurs. But there's no doubt that American pop culture and sports have become intertwined in an unsavory brew of huge money, metal-headed machismo, media hype, and the demented quest for 15 minutes of fame (or infamy).
We can demand that athletes, fans, and entertainers behave themselves until we're turquoise in the face, but as long as bad attitudes and lucrative incentives are in the mix, nasty things will happen. If you need something to be thankful for as you lift your turkey leg, it's that mayhem doesn't happen far more often.
Much of the nonsense is fueled by long green. Marketers know that sex, violence and in-your-face attitude sells to the substantial number of loose cannons who have ample indiscretionary income to unload on tickets, beer, and whatever else is trumpeted in commercials. The accelerant is the ample rewards for miscreant behavior. (I see Motor City meathead John Green is making the rounds of the talk shows, book deal to follow, no doubt.) Take a gander at highlight and pregame shows where brawls, put-downs, and rowdy fans are served up with relish and you see why a handful of hotheaded athletes and pie-eyed spectators so easily ignite a fire that will be eagerly fanned by the media. It will remain this way as long as enough people are willing to embrace it or at least fork over ever-increasing amounts of danero to follow sports.
Media critic Phil Mushnick of the New York Post has been chronicling this sad state of affairs for more than 20 years. His thrice-weekly Equal Time column is a voice of reason crying in the wilderness of baleful times. And he's less popular than the proverbial rabid skunk at a Roman orgy, particularly on sports call-in shows where he is pilloried as a Pollyanna, a party-pooper, and a self-righteous old fool.
While many media pundits, league sultans and corporate poobahs tut-tut at the ugliness and return to peddling it, Mushnick sticks to his guns. To this reader, he is a modern-day Lao Tzu, the Chinese government official who became so disgusted with what he saw going on more than 2,000 years ago that he went into self-imposed exile and wrote a book of poems called Tao Te Ching. I now present excerpts from Poem 20, translated by Brian Donohue, interspersed with bits of Mushnick to demonstrate that the more times change, the more they stay basically the same.
Why must I give my inner consent To the values of the collective?
"That drunks buying -- armed with -- bottles of beer for $7.50 are now far more welcomed at ballgames than children is no longer news. OK, so we've grown accustomed to our fate. But is it acceptable? And if so, why? Because that's the way it goes? Is that the way it goes?" (10/29/04)
Oh! How the desolation around me Has reached its utmost sunken limit!
"For pure and disgraceful graphic violence, MLB (and the MLBPA) can't hope to compete with its latest video game, MLB Slugfest." (7/16/04)
The lusty mob is buried in busyness, As if gathered for a sacrificial feast (Yet who or what is being sacrificed?)
Have a question or opinion for John? He might answer or address it in his next blog.
"All dads should know that there's now a fail-proof way to instill sportsmanship in their kids: Just keep them away from sports. A commercial for ESPN's new NFL video game stars Terrell Owens. From hundreds of NFLers, ESPN chose Owens, an inveterate me-firster, taunt-artist, and show-boater. It's a relentless pity." (8/2/04)
Others are absorbed in getting and spending While I appear broken and bare of influence.
"We're supposed to get used to everything that once, as a matter of common sense and common decency, would have been unacceptable, out of the question, preposterous." (10/29/04))
With what fathomless depth, Like a sea-born whirlpool of sound and storm, Do they ponder and debate -- Ceaseless, directionless, and adamant -- But I alone am obtuse, disturbed, thickheaded, Like some coarse cloth, unrefinable And therefore worthless.
A pro wrestling Web site called Mushnick "the world's biggest tool" and he received 1,021 votes (70 percent) in a poll on AmIannoying.com that inquired if he was, indeed, annoying. "He is completely out of touch with modern times, as his values are stuck in a time that has long since passed," sayeth that site.
Yes, I am different, as are my values: For I drink from the breast of the Sublime Mother.
"You can't sell bad and expect good in return. About 20 years ago, we began to sell 'attitude,' with the commissioners' tacit approvals. Boiled attitude is now served daily. Are we happy now?" (11/22/04)
Enough people are, at least enough to keep this hideous skull, er, ball rolling.