Imagine There’s No Jerseys… An idealists guide to understanding competitive sport

A world with no sports? No teams? No Sunday Ticket? No ESPN? No pleasure derived from downing the phallic processed swine innards from an animal you never even met? No more visits from the most interesting man in the world? Don’t worry kiddies, business is booming and the sports world isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rather than the typical post-modernist critique of the meaninglessness of sport a la “Keep entertaining and there won’t be complaining” this post seeks to find the meaning in its meaninglessness. Why and how sports sustain their existence despite the obvious fact that people know the reality of Ali vs. Frazier means nothing more than the bout between Mr.T and Rocky.

The spell that is cast lies hidden behind the subtexts and the massacre of logic. Minimal amounts of truth retained for the sake of its own integrity- to support the public belief in the importance of the competition. e.g. professional wrestling plays the comically stupid card by promoting dramatic myths with no competitive act whatsoever. Their manly ballet can be understood most accurately as the magical realism of competitive sports. Basketball and soccer are once removed from this level of unreality by way of its punishment for unsuccessful acting. Implicitly, fans recognize that acting plays a large role in either of these major sports and the extent to which the fiction is embellished, it’s entertainment value is negatively affected. The best actors win. Which begs the question, why is golf so boring to watch? Hmmm… must have something to do with its sterile gentleman quality and or lack of pats on the bottom. This is the moral of the Happy Gilmore story. Happy Gilmore fan-fiction coming soon to a blog near you (this one).

Here are a few popular ways of approaching the question of competition.
Nationalist: To believe in the necessity of war for the sake of power a la American-functionalist us vs. them’ers. In most cases, this is the target market of sports teams, religions and arms dealers (armed forces included). These blue-collar-red-herrings thereby condone illogical support of all powerful dictators who have decimated others in the name of greed and fear. This group includes evolutionary biologists and many people named Ted.
By thinking that money and competition and the games people play and the psychological impact these things have on the masses are not related because everyone knows that humans are naturally competitive so it is your responsibility to support the geographical location you were born into and especially the powerful government and its armed forces that protect you from the bad guys and you think these things as they monitor your every action during the singing of the national anthem, a number which is in promotion of freedom from tyranny, but that is just subjective opinion because for you, the true meaning of the song is about as vapid as the look on your face as you munch popcorn before the big strong men enter the battle but the battle is not really a battle cause they are not out there to hurt each other and so people are not really getting hurt when the game happens and the whole us vs. them mentality means nothing concerning the impact of these two teams that are working really hard to get the points to get the money for themselves and their people… so it cycles on and on, in solipsism and bad-faith, Amen.

Existentialist: Peace-seeking within to the detriment of other people living in the world. The road to hell is paved by recognizing the reality of competition as others truth generally accompanied by an impotence or lack of willingness to change anything about it. Attendance or interest in sport a product of curiosity towards the human experiment, popular culture, anthropology or Laker girls.

Transcendentalist: In the transcendental mind, there is a universe without a beginning or end, and they live somewhere outside of those parameters. The transcendental sports fan can be completely committed to denying the reality of competition while simultaneously jeering referees for their mistakes. Masters of their own deception, one day the transcendentalist strives to not strive to achieve self-immolation as triumph over the toughest albeit imaginary competition while the real competition pisses on the ashes.

Idealist: Must be interpreted as the most correct and by that I mean, all Others will eventually understand the fallacies of their thinking due to the eloquence and inherent truth to these coachings. The idealist is represented perfectly by Ellen Cherry from Tom Robbins’Skinny Legs and All
“What would happen if God snatched your balls away? You know the balls I’m referring to. Suppose a space ship flew into our atmosphere and beamed up every ball on the planet. Every last football,baseball, tennis ball, basketball, volleyball, golf ball, shot-put, softball, squash ball, soccer ball, pool ball, bowling ball, even croquet and polo balls. All of them.
What would happen? would the male population go slowly berzerk? Would blood flow in the streets? Would you boys just curl up and die?
Or would it expedite the evolution of a higher species of mammal?”

But what about the charities?

If the vaccination of society is to happen, it will not occur via NBA cared campaigns and other such obligatory labor. These are part of the slave show and athletes are required by their organization to contribute a certain amount of time and energy to a charity. The United Way slogan rewrite- doing just enough good to lower billionaires’ tax bill. These exhibitions of “good will” are merely a front for the gross socioeconomic injustice professional sports embed into a culture that sorely misunderstands the political function these entertainments play. The proof is in the pudding and by pudding I mean shit for those willing to smell it; the amount of money that owners and their cattle make from the poorer individuals that support them is the cleverest tactic to turn the caste system into a hobby or vice versa. Now if this massive amount of physical and financial energy were redirected towards something slightly more utilitarian than watching, describing, replaying and devoting ones life to a ball going up and down and up and down and up and down… I dare say we might actually make some progress towards advancing humanity? What else do you do with your time on Sunday? That is where the ball is in your court, not theirs.

Here we are, entertain us!

The most entertaining quality in sport is observing the physical spectacle, this cannot be denied. The athletes work very hard towards their conditioning and they are by all means, eugenically engineered miracles. Parents and community also devoted great amounts of refining fire to mechanically reduce the athlete’s personality into polite, ferocious, docile, competitive mental disorders; experts of flushing any professionally detrimental thoughts or understanding from the public eye. The specimen turned public-relational ego that basks in the glow of their fans desires, thereby motivated to gratify those further with their performance. Dance, monkey dance! Good monkeys. For further understanding of this sentiment, Tarantino’s “Django” wrestling scene is the appropriately sickening display of this unflinching commitment to self-indulgent behavior.

Love

Now I know the sensitive, family-oriented fan would argue: “but, I like to watch the ball going up and down and up and down and up cause my Daddy and I used to play the game when I was little and it is really fun to watch the ball go up and down and up and down and up and down.”
As a former Mormon, I am well acquainted with institutions that take advantage of familial love (especially during those spongy formative years) in order to forward their financial causes. In complete honesty, the next time my Mom invites me to watch a Phoenix Suns game on her ticket, I won’t say no.
To this, I have but one coaching: do as I say, not as I do.

Thus spoke coach

MEANING-NEUTRAL TEAM NAMES

The issue of offensive team names is being discussed… again.  Before spouting some unfounded nonsense (as many sports analysts do professionally), I prefer to take a step back from the issue and ask- what impact do team names have (if any)?  That is, do any teams identify themselves or their collective ethos as the object they represent?  E.G. The Atlanta Braves war-cry as the fans encourage their players with a collective yell in the key of American Indian.  Not unique to the Braves however, this chant has been used by nearly every Indian epithet in televised sport.  Or consider the Celtics or Lakers who maintain a corporate tradition of success in the name of their holy nomen… once again, there is no connection to the strengths of being Irish in relation to the Celtic pride just as the ambiguous Laker is an empty noun.  My childhood favorite- the gold-hunting, westward settlers (49ers) representing the greater San Francisco area are whose football squad now represent the wealthiest major city in America.  The Silicon Valley boom celebrates a rich analogous coincidence while another lucky break begs the question, “why do the Nuggets play in the mile-high city?” Insert stoner punchline here. Obversely, the Washington Bullets became Wizards by sadly reaching the top spot in the ranks of violent, gun related crime.   

All these examples are happenstance or complete non-sequiturs in relation to a fan, player or organizational belief in their mascot. Texas Nationals (formerly Oilers) was a clever post 9-11 move to capitalize on the pre-established patriotism its Texan fans likely held while avoiding negative associations with the Iraq war and its too close to home means and ends (Bush & oil).  Nationals, Patriots… which team is a true, blue American to choose?  Point is: they represent the same thing and mean nothing.

“I’m a Yankee fan.”  In American English: “I support the departure from England by early settlers to form the union of the Northern United States.”  Nowadays, this translates roughly to, “I’m right and you are wrong, unless you like the professional baseball guys that are from all over but play most of the games in the South Bronx.  Also, it should be mentioned that I spent some time living in the upper east side, had season tickets for two years in the 80’s when I was out of work, so you know… its a lock that I’m a bigger Yankee fan than you.”

TRIBALISM FOR SALE

It would be nice to see fans align their beliefs with existing team names,  Lil’ Wayne would show up to Utah Jazz games thanks to the music that grandmothered hip-hop.  What would happen if fans discussed their squads like a quasi-religion?  Taking the SNL “da bears” pep-talks to formal definitions and behaviors.  The study of bears- the carnivora-caniformia-ursidae, visits to the local zoo, supporting endangered species, coming to understand the genetic similarities with humans…etc.  Too much science?  Perhaps Washington Wizard Basketball fans could learn to flex their meta-physical muscles.  Attending dork-conferences and casting spells on opposing players might improve their moral?  In all seriousness Roger Goodell and company could satisfy the offended Native Americans by financing TB vaccines.  If this hits too close to home, perhaps they could quietly donate some of the leagues billions to restoring and returning their property.

The genuine brand always sells more, even more than light blue (the highest selling team color).  If the leagues want to earn any true fan appeal, they need to let their players decide on the name.  Which team would be hip-hop enough to steal the top spot as the “niggas?”  Jersey sales through the roof, guaranteed.  This is all a sport and by sport I mean business so why not go hog wild?  Does the current emptiness of belief help the fans relate to their own meaningless lives?  Or to paraphrase the general sports fan argument, “Oh, I mean… uh… the other ambiguous other guys that we hate for some unrelated reason to ourselves as Chiefs fans, and I work as a manager at KFC cause I’m a really big Chiefs fan and cause we wear red and we are strong and carnivorous and there’s a bunch of the same letters in my employer and my favorite team so, you know, fuck the Niners!”

It would be endlessly entertaining to see teams work the other way by letting their behavior guide the front-office decisions.  The Oakland Raiders branding appeal as they become the Oakland Felons and enter history books as all time bad boys of sport.  They could collect every dangerous individual in the league and let the carnage unravel.  Forget winning (par excellence for a Raider) this marketing thing is all about entertainment… sign the deal for the reality show and make Al proud!

The absurdist should appreciate how team names are abstract a purpose as their fans devotion.  In the realm of sincerity the Scottsdale Community College’s “fightin’ Artichokes” are oddly ahead of the curve.  Go fightin’ Artichokes, grow.

Thus spoke coach

Mark of the Jeff van Gundy

Watching the NBA allows fans to feel a sense of cultural connection.  On occasion, the collective unconscious asks a very important question:  “Why is Jeff van Gundy employed by a major network as a broadcaster?”

Many fans are right in their distaste for the cultural phenomena that is sweeping the nation in a slow building crescendo of rage… the Jeff van Gundy is more than a man.  It (the Jeff van Gundy) represents an insult to the masses intelligence and collective taste.  ESPN’s long middle finger extended to its viewers every moment the Jeff van Gundy is transmitted into the sinking hearts and minds of the NBA faithful.

99 PROBLEMS

The grating tone and utter lack of aesthetic appeal pertain to the mystery of his employment but are not the focus of this critique.  Nor is this article about to point out his embarrassing inability to effectively communicate with other people.  This is not a public call for Jeff van Gundys’ shrink to perform the miracle of resolving the Jeff van Gundy personality disorder (under consideration for the upcoming DSM).  For all the abject synonyms that could be used to describe the Jeff van Gundy, there is one that trumps the rest: broadcasted.

The sad thing about this travesty is Jeff van Gundy’s lack of choice in the matter.  He was hired to do something that his skill set is not designed for.  The role of an entertainer is primarily to entertain or inform.  However, this is not to suggest that Jeff van Gundy should feel like all is lost and that the world would be better off without him.  The world relies on people like him to sell used cars, act as an attorney of law in fraud or injury cases, other such professions that utilize the obnoxious element to their advantage.  The entertaining quality of professional basketball does not need the Jeff van Gundy to torment the people’s relaxation time any further.

THE JEFF VAN GUNDY EFFECT

Perhaps the Jeff van Gundy does perform one important function for his network and its sport.  Consider the average male or female viewer that is watching the game in an effort to disengage from reality.  Does the Jeff van Gundy aide in luring their active minds to a hypnotized blank slate?  Thereby filling the void of their thoughts with opinions, grunts and faux pas?  The Jeff van Gundy does for sport what canned laughter does for comedy.

It is also wrong to think that the Jeff van Gundy has a monopoly on the market.  Consider the other Jeff van Gundies in sport: Terry Bradshaw, Johnny Miller, hockey asshole, baseball douche.  In every sport you find the hyper-bollic twat there to ruin your afternoon.  In the sport of politics, Bill O’Reilly has out Jeff van Gundied Rush Limbaugh for the top spot.

What do all of the Jeff van Gundies have in common (other than being televised white, unattractive males)?  These individuals maintain the public’s emotional charge.  Without this waste of emotional energy, the public might become irritated with less trivial matters than Jeff van Gundy’s concern with Jeff van Gundy.  What would happen if the public began logically evaluating their lives beyond that of the Jeff van Gundy?  Would a critique of the inherent meaninglessness of the game effect viewership?  For the intellects that appreciate the cultural meaning (or ascribe it), may there always be Sir Charles, Madden, Olbermann, Rome etc. to brighten our days with a hope that their wit and honesty will drown out the vulgar stupidity of the Jeff van Gundy forever.

Thus spoke coach