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LEAFING THROUGH the Daily Snooze while flying out of Washington Dullest en route to Bora Bora, it occurred to me—rhymes with ennui—that life, by at least one measure, has never been more boring.
Never before have so many champions in so many sports for so many consecutive months been so... so-so. If you're snoring at home, you know the Devils won the Stanley Cup, then the Spurs won the NBA title, then the Marlins won the World Series, then the Patriots won the Super Bowl, proving what science has long suspected: that yawns really are contagious.
Never before have golf's majors been so...minor. In die past 12 months, Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel combined to win a Bland Slam. The Tour's leading money winner, Vijay Singh, remains a watered-down cocktail of anti-charisma: one part misogyny, two parts monotony.
"Every hero becomes a bore," wrote Emerson. But lately, it seems, every bore becomes a hero. Picasso had his Blue Period, and sports is now enduring its Mauve Moment.
The tennis stage has long belonged to the Tennisy Williamses. But when Serena dropped out of the Australian Open and Venus lost in the third round, we were left with Justine Henin-Hardenne, who could stand to be a little more caffeinated and a little less hyphenated.
Men's tennis, already a coldbed of inactivity, became positively frigid when Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick lost in Oz. Agassi's fellow semifinalists showed incipient signs of male-pattern blandness. World No. 1 Roger Federer, alas, couldn't be dullerer.
There's nothing wrong with that. It's scarcely an insult to say that NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth has had a restrictor plate put on his personality. Still: "Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?" asked Nietzsche, which explains why NASCAR changed its rules for this year, adding a season-ending drive-off—and why, come to that, no one reads Nietzsche.
Do you even know who the heavyweight champion of the world is? (Answer: The IBF beltholder is Chris Byrd, and the WBO title is vacant. Vacant, too, is the expression forever fixed on the face of Lennox Lewis, who remains the WBC champ.)
Contrast our current annus monotonous with, say, 1986, when our champions (from the Latin campio) or gladiators actually lived up to their Roman roots.
In 1986, a not-yet-nuts Mike Tyson became, at 20, the youngest, most terrifying heavyweight champion in history, as cool and sockless as Crockett and Tubbs. The Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl while bending over forward to entertain: Jim McMahon mooned a helicopter. The villainous New York Mets won a World Series that was, depending on your allegiance, mostly fluky or mostly Mookie. Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at age 46, a Prometheus in plaid slacks.