Sunday, December 4, 2011
The comic Patrice O'Neal died this week. I didn't know him, but I knew some of his material, from the two specials, to seeing him at the Comedy Cellar, to once or twice hearing him on morning radio here in the city. I'm not overly sad about his death, no more than the other rare comics who were excellent and now can't be due to their early and extended absences. But I want to talk about a bit he does because it's funny and because he died -- well, it's an excuse wearing Tribute's mask. It’s something like this: "I can't type. But I didn’t realize that would be important till right now! I fucked up all my good typing years calling people gay. What you going to be a secretary? … We used leave class and, uh, steal bread. We would steal bread and sandwich meat and make sandwiches and sell them to people in typing class … And now I can't type." In the same special, Elephant in the Room, which came out earlier this year he talked about being old at 40, because 40 for a black guy is like 177 for white people. He talked about being unhealthy, insignificant and phasing out. Then he died. He also talked about football briefly in the special: he called out a few guys in the crowd for being dorks because they don’t watch it; he talked how men have been gradually taught, generation by generation, to self-police, from men barking at seriously injured players on opposing teams in his day, to men using the word “inappropriate” in this day.
I started thinking about appropriateness in football, in light of the Penn State rapings and all the injured starting quarterbacks not playing this week. I think it is a brutal and archaic way to express physical talents. Basketball will be returning on Christmas. That is an appropriate way to show off our athletic skills. Baseball is changing its playoff system to attract more viewers. Maybe the rule changes will give players the much-deserved attention to their physical prowess and mental agility. Hockey has done well to limit their injuries through rule changes, and as everyone knows, there has never been a Canadian rapist. Why would there be? But I grew up playing football, watching football and loving football. Violence was good; health and injuries, they were decisions. I didn’t know all this concussion/CT scans/rape/dog killing/molestation/seizures/kicks in the head/shooting your own thigh would be important until right now! I used to call people gay who played soccer. And now I don’t have health insurance. That’s inappropriate.
Hopefully something a bit nicer now: a brief rundown of the 58-second opera Aaron Rodgers conducted this afternoon. After Eli Manning drove down the field late in the 4th quarter -- eating clock yet progressing -- for a touchdown, followed by a game-tying two-point conversion, the Giants kicked off to Randall Cobb. Randall Cobb is one of (if not The) leading kick returners in the NFL this season. Him getting a chance to show his skills with time winding down in a tie game, on the road, seemed an opportune moment for the Packers. Cobb is, like DeSean Jackson and Devin Hester, fast, able to change directions at full speed preternaturally, and ambitious. So Cobb’s decision to down the kick-off, just one yard deep in his own end zone was strange. It was also beautiful. I have never seen anything like it! Cobb (or the coaches, same-same) decided that they would rather waste no clock time, and get Rodgers onto the field with under a minute to play, 80 yards from the Giants end zone, than let their best athlete potentially steal a long return. That is the sort of managerial consideration usually exclusive to baseball. Anyway Rodgers skipped over to his own 20-yard line, gave God a quick glance (even the very best are very stupid intellectually), and then he said something in the huddle. Three plays and 56 seconds later, he was skipping off the field on the Giants 14-yard line! The field goal kicker came in – the kick, it’s up, and it’s good – Packers win. It was the best kind of poem: short, considerate, affective. Teams with fluid and transcendent quarterbacks, like the Packers, are the reason I still watch, knowing all the awful truths we do about the game. A tribute masking an excuse.
Friday, November 25, 2011
There is plenty for me to give thanks for. There is plenty I want – and that is more interesting for now. I used to love rap. Now I like it fine I guess, I think I just really understand the fellas. I want the money, how I want it. I want the money for cars and for a boat. I want it for a loft with a moat. I want the money in order to finally get over a girl, just so I can give it all back to her. I want to spend recklessly. I want good seats to a thing, could be anything, just good seats for it.
Last night on Thanksgiving when the Ravens beat the 49ers, the Harbaugh brothers faced off. I wish “faced-off” were a known phrase defined as so: “to surgically swap faces with another man (preferably a nemesis) and fuck the wife of that man wearing his face on, while he fucks your wife with your face that is connected with his body, now.”
Anyway, I watched some football last night, a great game truly, ate some food with the family, then my kid brother and I, we faced off – in a more classic definition of the term – in a basketball game. Also he isn’t married yet. What he is though is awesome now, not only because he is the starting point guard on the varsity team, but because he is referee for youth games here in town, so he has keys to various gyms. Last night, he opened a gym for us. We smacked on the lights, took out a leather ball, laced up and played. He is very, very good so there wasn’t much competition. The games ended and before we left he lowered the rims so that we could dunk. Us two bro’s we went nuts in there, all sorts of echoes, pretending to be taller than we are, dunking, hanging, laughing all on those poor orange rims. In the quiet that is a suburban Thanksgiving Thursday night, we insulated ourselves on the hardwood under the lights and had a blast.
Part of the reason writing about sports is so great for now, is because I remember playing (obviously at a much lower level, but inside me, the competition was grand stand nonetheless). I write something each week because it is a release from the nonsensically tight grip I maintain on that subway pole – it is a reminder of the purely physical narrative that constitutes much of my youth – a stark contrast from the sedentary life of an adult man in a city where money gets made on screens. I have plenty to give thanks for. My good brother who is all but my size now, my sweet mother who cooks up like a Churchill speech, and my friends who while scattered across the globe always come back home to give a hug and kiss. I’m thankful for my wants too, and that they don’t include still being good at basketball, because that is not my ticket to a moat boat.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
It costs more than is fiscally prudent to spend to watch a good HBO Pay Per View event. I watched the Pacquiao fight though, because I'm rich. And like my rich brother Floyd Mayweather, I am also financially irresponsible. He burns money on stages, I keep choosing those $3 candy bars in favor of the M&M's. "M&M's are pedestrian," my mother used to say, "thou shalt be rather without thy health insured than with a brown packet in thy paw." My mother was born in 1778, in Heventon, Birmanshire, Lilinhem, Grass Pasture, Mott, Italy, to five fathers, all of whom owned five companies. Needless to say when it comes to buying a Mexi-Fillipino fight on HBO, I put up. But in this one case, I didn't.
So I saw the fight ... and there seems to have been some controversy surrounding the Pacquiao majority decision. Two judges scored in favor of Pacquiao, one scored Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as equals. I don't know about all that, but why don't I say a little something about the event before the decision. It was a floppy haired, toned-trapezius, dancing, smiling, crowd rocking affair - then the fight started. And I was mesmerized! There was a moment in the sixth round (I believe), after a particularly violent previous round, where both boxers were so weary of the other's ability to end the fight with one combination, that neither punched. Pacquiao came in close and Marquez waited, then Pacquiao trickled and tippied, got close again, and relented at Marquez's seizing stare. The crowd was taught, the announcers were too engaged, too excited to speak. For a minute and a half of the three minute round, I felt like I was in a still gym, holding the speed bag in my left hand, right arm down at my side, watching, just watching two bad men feel each other out, work each other down. I leaned forward in my comfortable (b/c I'm rich) chair and listened for the patter of their feet... Turns out there's no way to hear that shit. I mean they're not Gods, they're closer to deer. Anyway Pacquiao got close again and hit Marquez, and literally at the same moment, Marquez while being hit, was hitting back. The silence broke instantly, the entropy in their facial structures decreased as the crowd roared and the announcers resuscitated their form. It was a fine metaphor of the night: mutually assured destruction lending to life, not death, for either. I think most who watched agree it was special.
There is crispy soundtrack to the benevolent violence of welterweight boxing. Pacquiao and Marquez are both around 140 pounds, together just a few pounds less than Vitali Klitschko, the present heavyweight champ. If you grew up when I did, last May, then you probably think about boxing in terms of heavyweights: Holyfield, Tyson, Bowe, Lewis. Those guys were all cut, don't get me wrong, but they had muscles built over clay foundations, thick skin, muscle on meat. They could all, and did all, get fat. These welterweights aren't like that. They are the cooled granite just above the surface of their volcanic cores, and when they strike, sparks fly, rocks crumble. I mean there is bone showing on Pacquiao and Marquez. When they start to beat each other up, it looks rough. Given the way the fight went, I'll guess it feels rough too. When a champion like Pacquiao is faced with a counter puncher (a guy who earns his wage, as I said above, landing blows in tandem with blows being landed on him), even a champion knows he can't Win. Pacquiao suffered a victory, and as far as individual sports go, there is nothing more dramatic than that.
[Gosh I write a little thing on football every week, it might have been more fair to talk about Penn State, but I think boxing was the only abuse I could stomach thinking about] Cuyler Ballenger is a staff writer here at Cable Sports.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Current humans please make sure and watch the movie The Robber. It's about a German bank robber who is also a marathon runner. It is based on actual events, as is Football. Apparently you can do things by just running. I said in early weeks that running is nothing, a quarterback, on the other hand, defines success. Being wrong is like being right, just before... Which is swell because then one has the advantage of being two things. Rightness is one way, monotonous, abstract, simple. Being wrong is enlivening and risky, sexy. I had the privilege of thinking about football incorrectly, a lens offering a game that did not actually exist but was no less captivating (for me). Now after today, a day in which running affirmed itself as a tool for success, I am offered the game anew. Thank you 49ers, Jets, Dolphins and Texans. The man who won the New York Marathon today, Geoffrey Mutai a Kenyan, ran it in just over two hours. Twenty six miles over five boroughs: no bank robberies.
In the NFL, a competent defense is a requisite but unlike basketball, it does not win games. -- I've got to mention about basketball briefly here. The ultimatum the players' union faces that will make or break this 2011 season is shocking. Not shocking because any one party is wrong about what they want, in a way neither are right, but two sides agreeing to sacrifice plenty of money in a depressed economy, coming off the most popular season ever, with nothing else to do is just damn shocking. I will miss Lebron and Kobe and Dirk and Monta, the punks. Good luck, fellas. -- Anyway defense is an ingredient used at choice moments during big games when a team needs to get its offense back out there to score. Defense isn't the meat. Don't listen to your Pop Warner coaches young men, not only because they are part time history teachers and plumbers, but because they're also molesters. Today an example: the Patriots Giants game stuck 0-0 at the half. Seemingly a good defensive battle until four straight 4th quarter scoring drives that gave the Giants a win as much determined by clock management as anything else. Clearer - the defenses shutout Thomas Brady and E. Manning in the first half but ultimately those two quarterbacks drove down the field at will until time ran out on Brady, when the Patriots just happened to be losing - it may as well just have a been 30 minute game.
The teams mentioned above do have good defenses, specifically the Jets and 49ers, but the reason a meal is successful is good meat. And the meat is the ground game by some of the better teams in the NFL. Last week I suspected this to be true but today confirmed it. Some facts: Tim Tebow (you flaming, big nippled, bloody lipped, piece of candy, you) rushed for over 100 yards and barely threw for that. His fellow Bronco, running back Willis McGahee, rushed for 163. The Broncos are a poor team but are getting better since dropping the passing game in favor of the run. The Falcons are supposed to be a good team. They hit a rough patch in the beginning of the season relying on Matt Ryan, then turned to their caboose of a running back, Michael Turner, and are since 3-0 with wins over the Panthers and the Lions (two passing oriented big scoring teams). More, the winless Dolphins came close to victory last week and today achieved it. The reinvigorated Reggie Bush, fresh off his divorce from Kim Kardashian, was the reason for the near win last week and the win today. He is running hard and cutting precisely, as he did at USC. The Texans, a very good team, with a strictly average quarterback rely on Arian Foster. Today he rushed for 124 yards on just 19 carries. Lastly the 49ers, a top three team in the NFL with maybe a bottom three quarterback in Schmalex Smith. Frank Gore chips away at defenses, stiffening the pace, tightening the drag and finally snapping the line with a large run or two in the second half. This has been the pattern of the steaming 49ers, now 7-1, best in the West, great on the ground.
This is boring post, and apparently style = content today. What I find interesting from all this running though is when in a few weeks some of these passing cyclopes will face the running infantries, who will prevail. A 49ers Packers game next week would be excellent. Not happening, but the Patriots are coming down to NYC to mess around with the Jets. That could be something. If not something, it will be two gorgeous quarterbacks in the same place. Tebow will be watching... Next week I will be damn funny. Today I wanted to join the marathon, rob banks and be a German. Everyone says they can write jokes: thank god being cool will never be hip.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The suggestiveness of New York teenagers dressed as zombified versions of their favorite superheroes is enlivening, provocative. America is a homily on the egoism of muscle and capes; a Halloween costume well executed, but late now, is fraying at the edges and dripping from the nose, due to the belligerent donning it. Last night, on the train, I was asked if I knew where I was going. I said that I did, but sort of. Wonder Woman's bloodied forehead lowered, there were her boots. A clear moment on a chaotic ride west: her chin lifts from her chest revealing the fear that electrifies her milky eyes, she says, "I don't."
Football shows up fashionably late and sensibly suited for every holiday event of the autumn season. (Even the scheduling of a Bye for the perpetually costumed Oakland Coliseum was a fine display of tact on the part of the NFL: don't overdo it sister, no one likes a braggart). The fans are excited and the cameras frame the Frankenstein's, Dorothy's, Wicked Witch's and TinTin's like this is the first Halloween. (On Thanksgiving, the NFL's endless stream of steaming turkey images are so nostalgic, I'm made to reach for my small pox blankie. On Christmas the sleigh bells chime in and out of commercial breaks with the ardent charm of hope in sport and natural man). It is a season of cold, focused energy, thundering consumption and uncanny results. The World Series was shocking, yes, but it is baseball, where shocking isn't defined by upsets or comebacks so much as by nuance-as-norm: the persistence of details explain away the big play. Game 6 did not clinch the World Series, only further punished its stamina.
There were, in a more accepted definition of the word in sports, shocking upsets around the league today. The Saints wore their Losers mask as their defeaters wore one of a Winner, though I argue it was just Halloween. Baltimore was nearly defeated (not an upset unless you're a gambling woman), Minnesota beat Cam Newton and the Panthers at Carolina, and the Dolphins lost by only three to the Giants in New York. I realize a win is a win and therefore not an upset, but a near-upset and upset do both function in a similar way in a greater context. They force an examination of what good is and why anomaly is generally accepted under the umbrella of good. For example, The Saints loss to St Louis will be disregarded over the course of the season. St. Louis was without a win and the Saints were coming off a sixty point victory. Rarely do teams go without a win over an entire season and it is easy to have your guard down after beating a similarly terrible team by sixty just a week ago. The game was an anomaly, an asterisk. The Saints are good still. On the other hand, even though the Baltimore Ravens won, they may not be good anymore. Last week they lost to the Jaguars, a poor team, and then today, came back to barely beat an awful Arizona Cardinals squad. The near-upset is cause for concern for the Ravens because it exposes flaws in their design. Flacco is not playing well enough that if a team can manage to score on that defense (which is good), the Ravens offense will have difficulty manufacturing a victory. A win, even a poor one, (or an anomalous loss), will preserve the veneer of a good team, allowing for scrutiny only with the disclaimer that they are Winners still. As the season bends into its half time stretch, reshaping its muscles and strengthening its core, the good teams are beginning to separate as those without upset: The Patriots, The Packers, The Steelers, The 49ers. Re-evaluating the status of the league and the teams that are good melts away the nonsensical talk about teams like the Lions, Bills and (earlier in season) the Eagles. It allows for Tim Tebow to slip into the sort of Hades occupied by the Carson Palmers before him. (I will give Tim Tebow some sort of hell every week on out). The upsets this week are a nice lens in which to start viewing the remainder of the season. The costumes may be stripped off and discarded into the street; they may be something you always wanted to wear but couldn't until this weekend [you sluts].
When I moved to New York, not long before Halloween last year, my brother asked me how I like it. I says presumptuously, "it's good you know, I mean it is New York." He says, "more like New Dork." I quietly took offense, thinking he meant 'who cares, bro'. Now... I think what he really meant, is that here is a new kind of dork where the losers are winning, the cool is damned yesterdays. Smart kid, he knows the best Halloween costume is Santa Claus.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Football is the comics' comic. I don’t mean football is a sport that only other sports could see the value in, or that professional athletes in other sports feel that professional football players are influential and talented in ways only they can really appreciate, I just mean that no matter what they say, women don’t actually like it. And they shouldn’t have to, because it is way too homoerotic. They definitely shouldn’t have to in bars. Men don’t even like watching football in bars. Trust me, I am so close to being a man, and I am so far from liking watching football in a bar. Yet every Sunday, I walk past bar after bar (literally, just one bar followed by one more, on my way to the store. Two bars total.) and they are filled with women. Some are wearing jerseys, I can’t believe it. Football games are damn long; a big block of a Sunday can be devoted to one game alone. Most of that block of time is not football action. Most of that block of time is occupied by silly, powdered-up former players and coaches ejaculating the remaining bits of their teeny brains through their mini mouths. In addition, the commercials that run on loop throughout the day cater to our little dicks’ grand ambitions of getting bigger through the acquisition of material things, and by things, I really mean trucks. During actual football action, most plays are less graceful than graceful: bodies recklessly colliding and the ball carrier advancing barely 5 yards, the whole play barely visible to a Cable audience. Multiply these things together and you get a product that is rather masturbatory (I don’t need to gender qualify that statement as we all know the female orgasm is a myth). The way a Sunday looks on Cable: God in the morning, pre-game pre-cum in the noontime, a game full of players wearing pants that allow a visible outline of their penises, more awful talk by more bald men wearing wigs later, followed by more football that contains mostly ads for trucks.
If the situation was reversed and the basic cable programming every Sunday of the autumn was dominated by women playing football, women talking heads bobbing up and down, and commercials offering material things women value considerably more than men, men would not spend 3.75hrs, twice in a day at a bar. Occupy Wall Street is happening. Activism is sheik. So this is what I’m asking: Women, get out there are and stop supporting football if you don’t love it. Why? Because then games and game programming could start being more honest, more gay. Football is still posturing itself as a wholesome heterosexual event on a Sunday because many types (genders) of people watch it, many “moral” people. Tim Tebow took up plenty of air-time yesterday. This is the guy who did an abstinence ad with his mother during one of his games when he was in college...because he what? believes in the right to life? I doubt it. Tim Tebow is a god-fearing man. Two more things about Tebow: yesterday he threw for just 165 yards and he is on the second worst team in the NFL. Yet he was all over the tube, tell me that was for his performance? God is boring and he already exerts plenty of control over Sundays. With the help of women’s movement, we can turn boring god-filled football Sundays into a more honest football Sunday experience. Not just something masturbatory, actual wholesale masturbation. Instead of having to mask a Tebow appearance as statistical, Cable can just show him changing after the game. “Tim Tebow, in his first start, played mildly well, but if you look now, you can see his penis, if you want.” The Broncos are terrible, they have no chance of making the post season. And the way they will win will be ceramically boring as Tim Tebow is an awful passer. So let’s show him naked!
Right now the world of Cable football is one that requires patience and persistence, grueling knowledge and many, many beers. But I believe it can be just as exiting as DVR Football, with all its pausing and fast forwarding and rewinding. I think if in your middle class homes and middle class bars, you women watching Cable football can man up and turn away, stay home and do something better, then Cable sports can be the best it can be: gayer than Tim Tebow.