Category Archives: Sports

Twenty-One 2014 Moments (10 Weeks Late)

I wanted to work up lists for television, film, music and books. But I also wanted to blog this year, and with coaching baseball and moving that didn’t happen, so completing those lists would’ve just cemented how disconnected I was for most of the year. Instead, here are the twenty-one most profound things I’ve seen, heard, or read this year, in no particular order:

1. Ida

2. “Heal” by Strand of Oaks

3. Madison Bumgarner in the MLB Playoffs and World Series

4. Lego Movie

5. “Lost in a Dream” by The War on Drugs

6. Olive Kitteridge on HBO

7. Station Eleven by Hilary St. John Mantel

8. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

9. “The Outsiders” by Eric Church

10. Broadchurch on Netflix

11. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

12. The first hour and forty-five minutes of Django Unchained

13. The Magic Flute by Mozart

14. Jason Isbell

15. Serial and Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcasts

16. Stories of Stefan Zweig

17. Doris Lessing (Specifically The Fifth Child)

18. The Prophet by Michael Koryda

19. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

20. Grandmaster Clash by Seth Stevenson from Slate Magazine

21. Frank Rich’s conversation with Chris Rock

One nice thing about putting this out so late, is I can look at all the award winners and feel unjustifiably pissed-off and maybe a little insecure in my choices. I did not like Foxcatcher, for example. I really, really did not like Birdman, and feel like it is an empty stunt (Mike Myers once said haggis was invented on a dare–Birdman is the haggis of movies). Not sure about the new D’Angelo album.

In 2014, there were a lot of naked emperors. Loads of naked people, as far as I can tell (Boyhood is, at best, Donald-Ducking it).

I have every intention of blogging again. Two or three a week, I hope. I am going to try and keep it focused on something I’ve read, seen, or heard. I might throw in something personal every now and again…

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Filed under Best of Lists, Books, Music, Sports, Television

Done: 8/6/13

So, CrossFit.

Some background: CrossFit is basically regimented, group High Intensity Interval Training with barbell lifts, kettlebells, medicine balls, box jumps, etc.  Every day is different, and you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you get there (or look online, which I tried but it was too early and they hadn’t updated the site). 

It stresses short, high impact workouts (according to Seneca, the guy at CrossFit 1809, as few as five minutes and as many as fifty), with a short warm-up.  

The place is set up like the kind of Russian lifting barn you see shirtless, bullet-headed muscle milling about whenever Stallone, Schwarzenegger, or Van Damme need to discuss something with a Croatian crime lord in the back office.  There were no hissing pipes, and the lighting was flourescent track rather than one single, yellow bulb hanging from an exposed wire (natch)  but because I’m me and always have to pee, I used the restroom before I started and the facilities looked like a kill room, all white tile with a drain in the middle of the floor.  I’m not sure what business occupied the building before CrossFit did, but I’m glad I didn’t work there.

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So far so good.  This is what I wanted.  No bullshit, no nautilus, no step machines, just a group of us and some mother-effing iron to throw around.  

Except, it turned out to just be me.  “Slow morning,” Seneca said.  I never caught his last name.  I think it’s on the site.  I wanted to ask if he was named after the famous Stoic essayist, but it didn’t seem to be the time or place.

We started right at eight with the warmup and some instruction.  Big surprise: I wasn’t doing squats correctly.  Another big surprise: I wasn’t doing kettlebell swings correctly either.  I was bending my back and using too much arm and shoulder.  Apparently, a true kettlebell swing relies on your hips and ass a lot more.  You hike it through your legs and then, rather than arcing the weight back up, you clench your ass and basically fuck it forward.  

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Shit.  

That’s three years and thousands of reps (in gym parlance) down the toilet.  It’s not like I was completely off base, like swinging the kettlebell with my wiener or something, but it did make me realize why my lower back was always sore.  He said the new form will “utilize my quad power train” which sounds badass except he really means my hips, ass, and hamstrings.

The warmup was four exercises: jumping jacks, body-weight squats, mountain climber stretch, and jump squats.  Fifteen seconds of each, four times, no breaks.  

No problem.

I entertained the idea, driving to CrossFit, that I was basically going to slam dunk the whole workout, throw it down like a pizza crust and ask for more.  The trainer would ask me to train him.  I would start my new career as a CrossFit ambassador, a fitness savant.  

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My wife calls this self-inflated egomania.  I call it a healthy growth-mindset.  

I can run eight miles, sprint up hills, bench 200 lbs, and do twenty pull-ups (not in a row, which soon became the problem).  The warm-up, while not grueling, left me short-of-breath and sweating, and the jump-squats–now that I was actually bending my knees like I was supposed to and dropping my ass as low as required–made my legs burn.  Not a good sign.

Next was planks.  No problem.  I began, settling onto my elbows but Seneca told me to get on my hands because it works on “shoulder stabilization.”  These are harder, and I had to really concentrate on the side planks lest I should roll over and lay on his feet like a shot dog.

OK.  Warmup over.  Bring on the meat.

The main workout consisted of three exercises, performed as a circuit, three times, with no breaks.  I was to run 400 meters, swing a 35 lb. kettle bell 50 times, then do something called “wall balls”.

Let’s talk about wall balls.  I hate when you read about or see someone do an exercise, either in a magazine or online, and it looks easy, and you think to yourself “I can do a hundred of those.”  Then you try it and it sucks.  Sucks with the strength of ten-thousand Dysons.  That is a wall ball.

It’s very simple.  You hold a large, twenty pound medicine ball in front of you, do a squat, then explode up and try to push/throw the ball up past a demarcated line (orange) on the wall in front of you.  You stand about a foot away from the wall.  No problem.  Except you don’t have to do it once.  You have to do it twenty times, and the ball comes back down and in one fluid motion you have to catch it, go into your squat, load up, and throw it again.  It’s basically a plyometric thruster, like I do with dumbbells, except I’m not throwing the dumbbells in the air because I work out in my basement and my wife would kill me if I dented the drywall.

I squatted and hurled the ball five times while he watched.  He nodded, told me good work and asked if I was ready.  

Yep.

The first 400 meter run was easy.  The fifty kettle bell swings kind of kicked my ass, and the wall balls sucked.

“One down,” Seneca said.  Good time so far.  And it was, only three minutes and fifty seconds for the first round.  

The second 400 meters was kind of hairy, as I usually rested a minute or two between hard runs.  Not today.  However, as I rounded the corner to come back into the gym, Seneca was there, cheering me on.  It was sweet.  I am a thirty-six year-old man, alone except for a giant named Seneca who I’ve met exactly zero times before roughly fifteen minutes ago, and at that point his praise suddenly meant more to me than anything my wife has ever said.  I remember his exact words: “Keep it up.  Doing good.”

Fucking nectar.

After the kettle bell, the second time, I set the weight down and watched the clock for fifteen seconds.  No way I was running over to that wall again before I got two or three good breaths in.  At this point, once I made it over and had four or five reps behind me, the orange line was a pipe dream.  Now it was just about getting through the twenty reps.

As I stepped out of the gym for the third  and last time, I looked behind me and realized I was looking to see if Seneca was following me.  Why?  Because I knew if he wasn’t, there was a good chance I was going to run to my car and drive home.  But, there he was, so I ran the 400 again, and if I managed it in 1:40 the first time, this time I was lucky to get there and back in three minutes.  

Kettle bells again.  My ass clenching and unclenching, humping it forward.

And, finally, wall balls.  I stopped at seven and fifteen to breathe, but got through it.  

14:40 total.  The whole thing took less than 15 minutes.  I was sweating like I’d run five miles.  

Seneca was complimentary, and I was the second best time of the day (it’s Tuesday, at 8AM, so I didn’t break my arm patting myself on the back).  I noticed that the guy in front of me had an “RX” by his name.  I asked what it meant.  

“It means he did all of it with good form, and managed to make the prescribed distance on the wall ball every time.”  I nodded, and waited for him to put the letters by my names two.  He capped the marker and put it back on the table.  

Oh well.

We talked for a few minutes afterwards.  He’s training for the CrossFit Games and hopes to make regionals.  He showed me his “WOD” (workout of the day), which was ungodly.  One exercise said “weighted sled.”  Another said “walk on hands.”

He mentioned that he’d been doing this for a few years and started at 260 lbs., completely out-of-shape, but the teamwork and regimented approach was really a great motivator.  I couldn’t tell if that was part of the pitch; a success story is always a nice personal touch, but he didn’t give me any reason to doubt him and he seemed to legitimately enjoy what he does.

So I’m still alive, and because the whole week is free, I’m taking my wife on Thursday.  Is this for me?  I like that it’s only an hour.  I like the intensity.  The price is a bit steep, and will be the deciding factor.  Truth is, I like working out in my basement.  My son plays Wii and my daughter makes fun of me while I exercise.  It’s not CrossFit, but it’s something.

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Risk is Just a Board Game

Virginia Woolf once said, and I’m paraphrasing because I’m not looking this shit up, that simply living life, living a single day, is a risk, a violent and dangerous act.  Judging from her end, it seems that, to her, the risk was too much.

This is a portentious and somber way of introducing an article about watching my eight-year-old at ice skating lessons.  She wanted to try them, she asked us to try them, and without knowing anyone or anything  ice-skating-related, she laces up every Wednesday and looks like a complete idiot and loves every minute of it.

I can’t even take her to the lessons without first casing the situation like Robert DeNiro in Heat.  Where do I park?  The garage? Do I have to pay?  Who else is there?  Do I have to talk to them?  Where do I sit?  Is it cold?  Really?  Fahrenheit or Celsius?  Should I wear a sweater?  Cardigan or pullover?  Can I bring a book?  A magazine?  How distracted will I be and how does that relate to the difficulty of said book and/or magazine?

Bitch, I asked Fahrenheit or Celsius!

My daughter doesn’t even wear gloves.  She has to be reminded to wear friggin’ socks.

I’ve gotten better about my reticence to try new things.  I used to pray for rain so I wouldn’t have to play baseball.  I’d ask my mom to give me an excuse so I wouldn’t have to go play at a friend’s house.  How did I get married?  How did I ever have sex?

If it was up to me, I would know, to the minute, what each day brought.

Not that I don’t do anything; I just don’t plan anything. What if it doesn’t work out?  What if I make plans and they’re shot to shit?  Isn’t better to just stay at home?  Nothing good happens from ambition.  Ambition leads to failure.

But I’ve gotten better.  I was in a musical.  I’m on a charity board for the local library.  I sing in a community choir.  Holy shit that sounds pathetic when I write it down.

Me. I even have that sweater.

Mostly, the “risks” I’ve taken have been foisted upon me by others.  I became a licensed minister because a couple I knew asked me to perform their wedding, and I was drunk and figured what the hell.  “What the hell” are the three scariest and most dangerous words in the English language.  I’ve since learned that when I think those three words that it’s time for a bath and a nap.

I have to be comfortable in a situation before I’ll consent.  I have to know I can do it.  I have to know that I’ll be good.  I have to know that I’ll win.  I don’t even play video games lest they are set to the easiest level and I’ve jacked my abilities to a Gandalfian plateau.

But my middle daughter just does it.  Looks silly.  She’s running for class officer as I write this, making the posters.

I sat away from the other parents at the rink, and if at first I was impressed that they let the kids practice on the Redhawks’ ice (you’d never see a college football program allow a soccer or lacrosse camp—even a bantam football camp—on the game field) I soon realized that it was probably the only space available for the mayhem I witnessed.

At the far left, toddlers in skates better suited to dolls waddled and scooted about on their diapered asses with no real instruction.  It was more like practice for being cold.  On the far right, accomplished grade school hockey players skated through and around pylons while a club player shouted things like “Get your stick up!” or “Guide it, don’t slap it!”

I only guide you ’cause I love you

Between the two extremes was my daughter and those at her skill level, a bunch of seven- and eight-year-olds wind-milling and sliding from board-to-board as per the instructor’s whistle.  My daughter skated like she did everything else, as if she were an architect’s lamp being dragged down a rutty path by a four-wheeler.  Every so often, she would look up and wave, almost fall, and in a flurry of elbows and knees, barely right herself before wiping out.

Several of her classmates did not so much as skate as tumble from one side of the ice to the other.  They’d go down like their was a sniper in the eaves of the arena, or a particularly cruel god kept cranking the gravity dial to “11” and then back to normal, watching them collapse like an unused thumb puppet.  They would almost reach the side, reaching for it, only three feet away, then ball up like an armadillo as the rest of the class, who’d already reached the boards, would turn and skate directly at them.

I realized that this would be the group I would be consigned to, if I signed up for skating lessons.  Then I noticed that one of the skaters, a tall blond in an Alex Ovechkin jersey, was clearly two feet taller and seven years older than all the rest in the group.  He’d stand with the rest like Chewbacca at the end of Star Wars, and when called upon to skate, would dutifully fishtail and spasm with the rest until completing his allotted lap.

My first instinct, as always, was to laugh and mock.  What bet had he lost?  He did not seem very happy to be there.  Had his parents signed him up, embarrassed at his lack of grace?  Was he a son of transplanted Canadian academics who were embarrassed that their progeny could not do what everyone believes Canadians should?  Is that a thing?  Like being from Long Beach but being afraid of the ocean?  Was he in love with a figure skater?

But as I watched, the more I grew to admire the kid.  Here was a boy who, forced or not, was not going to let the fear of embarrassment stop him from trying something new.  I imagine he wagered that there would be kids his age.  If so, good for him for keeping up with the lessons.  If he knew what he was getting into, then all the more propers, because I sure as hell wouldn’t’ve been out there if I was his age.

The only time I ever took a lesson in something similar was when my mother made me take swimming classes at the local Y.  She told me that if I went to every lesson for six weeks—I was terrified of water and still don’t like it much—then she would go to the Audobon Reserve and pet a snake, of which she was deathly afraid.  I cried to, during, and from every lesson.  I never took my feet off the pool floor.  I never learned a stroke.  But I went.  And when we went to the Reserve, my mom took one look at the snake, dug into her purse, came out with a crisp twenty which she handed to me, and hustled me back to the car.

So maybe it runs in the family, and maybe it’s all too common.  It’s been said that public speaking is a more profound fear for people than death, which I see as an outlandish assertion, even if true.  I think the truth is that we fear uncertainty; we fear embarrassment.  I want to know what will happen before it happens.  I’d rather have done something than do something.  It’s never as bad as it seems it will be.

But it could be.  It damn well could be.

So as I watched little Ovechkin and my daughter skitter up and down the ice, I made it a point to try and embrace uncertainty.  After all, people who are certain all the time are either buffoons or inherently dangerous, and the quest to be certain is the quest to catch your own shadow.  The only guy to do that was Peter Pan, the most unquestionably certain of all fictional characters, and he was a sociopath.

You know you’re scared.

So I will take risks.  I will learn something from my kid rather than try to teach her something, for once.  I will say “What the hell.”

But first I need a bath and a nap.

 

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Filed under My Issues, Sports

For What it’s Worth 9/18/12

Wow—I must’ve had either the busiest or laziest week of my life last week because I can’t think of too many recommendations to share.  Let’s call it the busiest and leave it at that.

Movies:

We rented Snow White and Huntsman on Friday but I fell asleep (passed out, which is not the same thing, I’m told) about fifteen minutes in.  We got the BluRay, and it took me a half-hour to figure out how to update the software on the Playstation 3 so it would play.  After that I was exhausted.   I never had to update my VCR.  New tech sucks it.

Way too many easy jokes…

The Cabin in the Woods: Cute premise, fun movie that believes itself to be a little smarter than it actually is.  Richard Jenkins steals the show as one of the office drones/puppet masters.  As a comment on horror and violence in cinema, the film had my attention until the last ten minutes or so.

Carnage: Cute premise, fun movie that believes itself to be a little smarter than it…actually…is.  Oh.  Same diff.  Jodie Foster is histrionic.  John C. Reilly is overmatched.  The timing is stilted and it’s stagy and claustrophobic, and not in the awesome, Roman Polanski’s-early-films-like-Rosemary’s-Baby-or-Repulsion.  That said–and reviewing the previous lines it looks like I hated this film—it has it’s moments.  Christoph Waltz is fine, though he has a bit of trouble with the accent.  Kate Winslet is given a whole lot to do, but not enough of substance with which to flex her muscles.  The ending’s a bit pat. Maybe I did hate this movie…

Also Carnage, but not in the movie

Music:

No new music.  The only chance I had to listen to any thing was when I went shopping with my kids and had my iPod on shuffle.  Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” came on and my kids asked why the Muppet singing the song was so sad.

After that, a new cut by Bob Dylan started playing and they made fun of me for having pirate music on my iPod.  I felt like firing up Tom Waits and Nick Cave for the remainder of the trip, but thought better of it.  Philistines.

Books:

Finished a book of poetry by Forrest Gander called Deeds of Utmost Kindness.  I read ten or twelve books of poems a year.  I can’t remember any of it.  They go through me like lentils.  I’m surprised I remember the title and author.  Sorry, Mr. Gander.  You’re very talented, I suspect.  I am just a moron.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz: I have it on good authority (a colleague who spoke with Diaz for all of three minutes) that Junot Diaz is a Class-A asshole.  If his stories are in any way autobiographical, it must be true.  I don’t put much stock in reading an author’s life into her stories, though, if only because I’d hate to piss anyone off with my own.  Stories have to be autobiographical, to a degree, right?  If only emotionally or intellectually or thematically autobiographical?  That said, there’s no need to get all “Dwayne-is-actually-Wayne-and-Stick-Cornhole-is-actually-Dick-Pornpole.” Anyway, the point is, that Diaz writes with electricity.  He manages to combine a Dominican street patois with an earnest, over-intellectual and even geeky joy, all the while telling tales of desperation and violence and sex and especially love in all of it’s spine-curving, head-exploding power.  Definitely the pop culture highlight of my week.

Television:

Wow.  Literally nothing.  Cincinnati Reds games, mostly.  Thirty games over five-hundred.  Keep rolling, Redlegs!

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Filed under Best of Lists, Books, Film, Kids, Music, Sports, Television, The Muppets

Exceptional

Yesterday I took my daughter and two of her friends to a Reds game.  We sat and watched the Reds get their asses handed to them by the last place Astros, a team so devoid of talent or reputation that I can name at least three personal friends who have an outside shot of playing for them.

At one point in the fifth, the Reds’ catcher, Ryan Hanigan, gave an “excuse me” swing and dropped a nubber between the pitcher’s mound and first base.  The second basemen swooped down on it and, though Hanigan busted tail to first, nailed him in a bang-bang play.

My daughter turned to me and said, “He almost made it to first.  He must be really fast.”

I nodded.  He’s a catcher, I thought.

“Is he the fastest player on the team?” she asked.

“No.”

“But is he fast?”

I’ve mentioned my daughter and questions, that it is worthless to ignore them, because she will not be denied the inane and ultimately forgettable information she collects when the spirit moves her.  “Put it this way,” I say, “He’s not very fast compared to the rest of his teammates.  He’s very fast for a normal thirty-one year-old man who doesn’t play baseball and say, works with me at a high school teaching social studies.”

“So he’s slow?”

“Yes and no.”

I had confused her into silence, which was good enough for the moment, but the truth is, how can one explain that Ryan Hanigan is, quite possibly, one of the top 50,000 fastest Americans, but really not that fast for his line of work.  For arguments sake, or just to be safe, we’ll say he’s in the top 100,000.  Hell let’s go 1,000,000.  That doesn’t sound special at all, until you realize that that makes him faster than 97% of the people in this country.

And yet he might be one of the slowest players on his own team.

Ryan Hanigan is a world-class athlete who is also a mediocre athlete.

How do you explain to a eleven-year-old that a person can be great, top one-percent, in a given field, but within one’s rarified peer group, no great shakes?  That it’s kind of like physics: skill and talent, like force, mass, etc., are relatively easy to understand on a basic level, but once objects get really small, really big, or really fast, we cease to truly understand them.  It becomes completely theoretic.

It’s easy to dimiss the 346th best tennis player in the world as not as good as 345 other tennis players, but that also means she’s better than  everyone else on earth except 345 people.  You could fit 345 people, shoulder to shoulder, on one floor of my house.  It’d be tight, but still, that’s not a lot of people, and that means that whoever number 346 is, she’s really fucking good at tennis, except in relation to her rarified peer group, and therefore not all that good.

Does it register with Roger Federer, or Usain Bolt, or Manny Pacquiao, or Kerri Walsh/Misty May-Treanor, or Drew Brees, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin or whomever just how good they are, that they are as rare as a black hole and as hard to truly understand as General Relativity?

I can’t imagine that registers, because as good as they are, they have to think what all of us think when we’re told that the job we’re doing or have done is of superior quality, i.e., “I hope they don’t look too closely, because it could have been better.”  They have to feel, on a certain level, that their performance is a little bit of a fake, right?  A fluke?  Maybe they ask themselves, “Why can’t everyone else do this?  This thing that everyone tells me I do so well?”

Right?

Is it possible to understand, to truly understand, that you are the greatest ever at something without literally exploding into a shower of gold confetti and Cracker Jack prizes?

Because if I was the 346th best at something, I’d be an insufferable asshole (I am currently ranked 353 in Biggest Insufferable Assholes in the United States—876th in the world).

The only thing that may possibly humble me is to be SO CLOSE to the best, and see how pathetically I measure up to them.  Like Salieri in Amadeus—I would, more than most people, understand how truly incredible the top three or four humans in a particular field are.

Maybe that’s how Ryan Hanigan feels.

Chin up, Ryan.  You’re number one in my book (and by number one I mean 346th).

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Tim Tebow

I’m asked, more often than expected, if I am comfortable with how much money professional athletes make.  Do I, as a teacher, harbor ill will towards other humans blessed with hyperactive pituitary glands and a surplus of fast-twitch muscle fibers?  Do I not feel it’s absolutely ridiculous that they should live in multimillion dollar homes and suffer the daily or weekly adulation of millions of fans?

“You’re a teacher,” they say (“they” are normally students, but this is a common question from colleagues and family as well), “Isn’t what you do so much more important?”

I suppose what I do is more important.  But until 35,000 people choose to pay anywhere from twenty to a thousand dollars to watch me teach, I can’t necessarily begrudge athletes their spoils.  I could throw my hands in the air and rail against the culture as a whole, but the truth is that this is not a new phenomenon.  All cultures have tests of physical skill, stretching back to the Greeks and before, and whether it’s naked wrestling, Gladiatorial combat, jousting, martial arts, jai alai, or the NFL, people have spent time and money to watch, cheer, and disparage other human beings capable of doing things with their bodies that normal mortals can only dream about.  It’s weird and unfair, but their you are.

My wife doesn’t understand this.  It’s a game.  Children play it, and yet grown men hold it dear.  A recent article in Sports Illustrated investigated the lasting physical toll wrought by playing in the NFL by taking the 1986 Cincinnati Bengals and interviewing each member about their various chronic injuries, mental and physical.  Most of the players were beat to shit.  Eighty percent of them said they didn’t regret one goddamn minute.

But what of the fans?  What possesses men and women to paint themselves, wear cheese wedges on their heads, waste entire weekends away from their children and loved ones to scream and caper about for athletes who could give two good shits for them?

I have no clue.  That’s not really what I’m writing about.

What I want to write about is hate.  Specifically the hate fans have for particular athletes.  One athlete, to be precise.  Because I tend to believe it’s the hate, the jealousy, the Schadenfreude that keeps people coming back.  Sure, when your team wins, and your piling out of the stadium giving hugs to strangers and high fives to little kids, that feels great (I remember one time in particular when Adam Dunn hit a grand slam to beat the Indians with two strikes and two out in the ninth.  Magical, especially since I was a Reds fan sandwiched between Indians fans.  See?  Hate.).  But what we really love is watching these overpaid, over-entitled thyroid cases fall on their large, well-padded asses.

Everyone has an athlete they hate and reasons why.  But NFL quarterbacks seem to suffer the most scrutiny and savagery (with the exception, perhaps, of Baseball closers and athletes who take extraordinary amounts of money from Miami and buy airtime on ESPN to celebrate it.  Another post for another time. And ancient history, Cleveland fans…).

Tom Brady?  Soulless automaton.  Ben Roethlisberger?  Put your dick back in your pants, you perv.  Peyton Manning?  Over-the-hill corporate shill.  Michael Vick?  Woof.

But I am surprised at the backlash Tim Tebow has received.  It’s not even backlash.  Nobody really liked him before, or at least they don’t admit it.  Last night he threw for more yards against the Steelers–the number one defense in the country–than anyone has this year.  But if you were listening to the game, specifically Phil Simms, you would’ve thought that the Broncos has started a one-armed glue-huffer at QB.  This is consistent with his entire college and pro career.  College too, come to think of it.  e was lauded as the greatest college football player of all time, as well as one of the worst quarterbacks to play for a major program.  The questions about his accuracy, arm strength, arm angle, ability to run a pro-style offense, instincts, and decision-making made it sound like he had a buffalo wing attached to his throwing shoulder rather than an arm.

And then there was the other thing. You know.  That thing.  The religion.  The goody two shoes.  Writers harrumph about the criminals we let into our living room every Sunday afternoon and how much we pay to watch them frolic about, poisoning our children’s minds and souls, the second chances we give to car thieves, rapists, dog fighters, and wife abusers, but when confronted with a man who–let it be said–kneels a bit too much, deflects praise to his God, and takes trips to third world countries to administer religious and medical aid and we wish for the good old days of Michael Irvin and Terrell Owens.

When commentators and columnists slag Tebow, it’s one of two things that drives them: one, they simply don’t like the way he plays, and let’s be honest: it’s ugly.  Chuck Klosterman once asked in an essay if the scientific world could genetically modify a silverback gorilla so that said gorilla could understand and operate intelligently on offense and defense, and despite his overwhelming physical advantage promise to not purposefully kill or maim the opposing side, would the reader deem it appropriate to let that gorilla play in the National Football League.  Well, we have our answer.  The gorilla now plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

There is no elegance, no savoir fare in Tim Tebow.  He is brute will, flying arms and legs, and lots of yelling.  YELLING!  ABOUT EVERYTHING!  WHERE ARE MY SOCKS! AHHH!  LOUD NOISES!

OK.  Let’s cool it down a minute.  Nobody looks particularly elegant running the option.  True story.  We ran it when I played in high school.  Most of the time it looks like the quarterback is making shit up as he goes.  Hand-off!  Nope!  Fooled Ya!  Run around for a bit!  Where’m I goin’?  Where’m I goin’!  Shovel pass!  Our quarterback in high school, Collin, spent a good portion of our season running sideline to sideline behind the line of scrimmage for no discernible reason except the motherfuckers haven’t tackled me yet.

Tim Tebow takes this to a level unseen in professional football since, perhaps, 1923.  It’s like he learned out to play quarterback in prison.  And it kills–KILLS–traditional drop-back passers like Simms and Marino that it works.  It’s like playing a technically perfect portion of the Goldberg Variations with your face.  You should not succeed in this league with a game like that.  But he does, so far (cue foreboding music…).  Everyone watches Tebow to see when this circus act will fall in tatters and flames, and we thought it had.  Four interception in week seventeen. We wanted him to start crying.  We wanted him to blame God on Twitter.

Instead, he went out and kicked Pittsburgh’s ass in the playoffs.

And that’s the second thing.  Why people hate him, I think.  Like I said, commentators and columnists are forever pining for the return of the professional athlete.  Where, oh where are the Frank Giffords, the Johnny U’s, the Joe Montana’s?  Where’s the calm, cool, collected leader, the elan and deep quiet pride?  Why doesn’t Roger Federer play football?

Shhh.  Here’s what the really mean: where’s the white guy who can show all these wildly gesticulating jungle-dwellers what it’s like to be a professional?  Where’s our Larry Bird, our Joe Dimaggio, our Pete Maravich?

Truth is, he’s probably playing quarterback for the Patriots, but such an example runs counter to my argument so I’m going to ignore it.

When sports writers bemoan the lack of integrity in professional sports, I always hear the unspoken, the subtext: athletes should act white, or at least the stereotypical white manner of conducting one’s self.  Credit goes to the team.  Be confident but not cocky.  Pretend you aren’t doing it for the money.  Family is important.  Nightclubs lead invariably to gunfire.  Play hurt.  Emotional demonstrations of any kind will not be tolerated.  DO NOT FUCKING DANCE.

Athletes are entertainers, pure and simple.  That’s why they exist.  They are no different than movie stars or pop singers.  Derek Jeter does the exact same job as Lady Gaga.  And yet we hold athletes to a certain standard of decorum.  They should thrill us, but be cool about it.  Rather than entertainers, we like to think of them as soldiers, warriors.  Hopping around and expressing joy, disgust, or rage is anathema to importance of the game.  A game in which grown men throw and catch balls, toss balls through hoops, swing at balls with sticks, and/or forcefully hug each other to the ground.  If you can’t take hugging another grown man to the ground seriously, then there’s no place for you in the NFL.

Of course, if you do act like that–serious, focused, confident, proud-but-quietly-so–you’re boring (Tom Brady).

Maybe people just need things to bitch about.  I just can’t shake the idea that Tim Tebow is hated because he comes so close to the media’s ideal of the great white hope, but falls hopelessly short due to his personal proclivities.  He’s good-looking!  He seems truly decent (though even I tend to find such a lily-white past suspect–we’ve all seen that before, and it often seems to end in a rest stop men’s stall…)!  He’s a winner!

But…he’s a Bible-Banging bonobo.

Sigh.

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