Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm still not over October

As spring training approaches and opening day is a mere seven weeks away, everyone is talking about the upcoming baseball season. All over there is talk about Santana and the Tigers, The Red Sox and the Yankees - Two Toris have invaded LA - one will play center down in Anaheim, one will be managing up the street for the Dodgers. In Cleveland all anyone wants to talk about is a guy that isn't a free agent for a year - the same guy who 11 months ago was hearing noise about not being an ace - and now 18 mil a year isn't enough.

There's a lot to talk about after the Super Bowl and before opening day. That's what this time is - a lot of talk. We're still months away from baseball's first pitch, Tiger teeing on on Thursday at Augusta or the NFL draft.

We're still months away from the Final Four, The NBA stretch run or anything that has to do with sports mattering. Which means that the talk, which has been growing on a level that would make Roger Clemens forehead blush gets a 2 month spotlight. No games or important things to interrupt hours of talk about everything from LSU's Glenn Dorsey to LSU's Glen Davis.

But here's the thing. I'm not listening.

In fact, I haven't paid attention to a single morsel of MLB news since October 28th. I'm sure there was a World Series played, and judging by the incessant shots of Jonathan Paplebon celebrating like he's have an enema, I gathered that Boston won. I'm sure the Rockies put up a great fight, but it appears now that Beckett, Papi and Dusting Fucking Pedroia were too much for the outclassed champs of the other league.

I gathered Santana was traded to the Mets, but for whom I couldn't tell you.
I know about the Miggy Cabrera/Dontrelle trade only for fantasy purposes (the biggest loser here is Andrew Miller owners).
I'm sure a lot of stuff (Joe Torre, Torri Hunter, A-Rod, whoever is managing the Yankees now, talk about the Red Sox repeating (or as far as most of their fan base is concerned: going for their 5th in a row), has been topics of conversation between the Wilbons, Kornheisers, Patricks, and Rodas of the world.
I'm sure this whole CC scenario is mighty interesting, and I'm sure the pressure is on Wedge to progress past his 96 win season, MOY award and almost reaching the World Series (but they said we'd be contending by now!!!) - but i'm not over October yet.

I'm not over Pedroia, Youklis, Beckett, Dice-K, whoever the hell started game 6 (that blonde guy?).
I'm not over Westbrook, CC, Fausto, and Lofton.
I am not over thinking that we were going to win the World Series.
I'm not over the "December 27th 1964" texts I got on October 28th.
I'm not over that Saturday, after I LEFT, because I couldn't watch anymore, seeing the 8th inning playing out through the window at a bar in Korea Town thinking, it's ok, we've got tomorrow.
I'm not over my favorite team of the last 20 years, the team I followed every day, KNOWING that if they can catch some breaks, steal a game, and get hot at the right time, that they were the best team in the league.
I'm not over rooting against The Yankees, the Red Sox, the Umpires, TBS, Fox, and Red Sox nation all in the same month. I couldn't tell you who I end up despising most, but lets just say Tim McCarver.
I'm not over the 3-1 lead, or Kenny's home run.
I'm not over the bug game, the Byrd game, the 11th inning game, or the 7 run inning off of Wakefield.
I want next year to start, not because it could be our year, but because I want to have a new memory to replace the ones that are already stored and filed under "the year the Tribe won the world series" in my brain.

And while I'm sure there are a lot of great story lines to discuss for 2008, I can't join yet - I'm still not over 2007.


Monday, February 4, 2008

What a moment!

Ok, so I haven't read the blogosphere or the news wire today that much. So this article may have been written 20 times already, but here is my share of opinion.

In my lifetime, the closest I have ever come to a Cleveland championship is the 1997 Indians (though I believe the 2007 Indians were almost as close) - and I have never really experienced the absolute joy of a championship. My favorite moments are a sports fan include regular season games (Metcalf's punt returns, the 02 Falcons game) as well as important playoff games (Lebron's 48 pointer, The Bug Game, Alomar and Rivera) but never a championship clinching game.

Because of this lack, because of this inferiority I am forced to speak of the 48's and 64's with nostalgic memoriam. Those dates have become caricatures not unlike September 11th 2001 or November 22 1963. A simple championship would undeify these dates for me and change the outlook of how I view championship games in general.

But last night I kind of felt it. I know how different it would be if the Browns were involved. I know that the degree of my joy and catharsis were exponentially smaller than a potential Cleveland championship. But it was a different kind of joy.

Sandy Alomar tying game 4 of the 1997 division series was amazing. It was one of my favorite moments as a sports fan. The joy was greater than many of the most memorable moments of my life. But that joy is specific. It is organizable. It was a joy that the game was tied, we have momentum and a chance to win THIS game, which gives us momentum for tomorrow night.

The key here was that there was a tomorrow night.
When the Cavs vanquished the Pistons, as great as it was, there was a tomorrow.
When Metcalf avoided 546 black and gold cock suckers to score and take a lead in 93, it was amazing. It was "Pandemonium Palace". But that game was one of 16. It meant 1/16th of the season.

That's the difference with this joy that we have not yet experienced. NO TOMORROW. ITS OVER.

Then last night: Giants ball, 17-14, 1 second remaining and walking off the field was Bill Belichick. The most evil villain I have ever known as a sports fan. Not just a loser. Not just a failure. But a shamed and beaten loser. A loser without the courtesy to show his rival the satisfaction of winning. He couldn't lose. Not because he's a sore loser. Not because he's a bad sport. But because he's a bad person.

Losing is one thing. Trust me, we as Clevelanders know a lot about it. Losing happens. In every game, one coach loses. But this man was shamed.

This evil and hated man who now will be remembered more for scandal and unsportsmanlike behavior more than his historic 18 game winning streak, walked off of that field with no air of tragedy or drama. He had no one to run to. His "genius" was proved to not only be a house of cards, but a house of cards waiting to crumble. And he knew it. He knew that the only thing worse than losing is acknowledging failure. Accepting it.

And he couldn't. And he never will. That is why you shake hands after the game. A concession hand shake implies "I lost, and I will now have to accept that." He can't. And he never will. And that is the closest I have ever come to feeling that specific type of joy. Because with my joy, and Belichick's failure: There is no tomorrow.

Go Browns

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bowl as Disney Land

In less than an hour, more than half the country will be watching the same thing. They will be watching a football game in which one team is favored by more than 11 points. This means that the true handicapping experts believe that if the game was played 10 times, The Patriots would win nine of those times - this does not make for gripping suspense or a thrilling prediction. Granted the role of the underdog being enhanced can raise the interest, so can the fact that the two teams hail from New York and Boston, and obviously the Patriots quest for 19-0 is a fine story line - but boiled down to it's most pure form - This shouldn't be a good game.

But everyone and their parents will be watching. There will be fans of the teams' rivals rooting against them - there will be casual NFL fans tuning in for the story lines - there will be people who haven't watched a football game all year - people tuning in for the commercials, the half time show, the spectacle. There will be renegades boycotting and hanging out with friends for the specific reason of NOT watching.

What other event bands people together and forms a community by NOT participating. And all for a game that Vegas odds say shouldn't even be close.

This angle has been analyzed, torn apart, pieced back together, seen from every angle, for every facet, and every argument to be had on the spectacle of the Super Bowl, and for good reason.

My stance though is not one of investigation, however, but one of admiration.

The overproduction of the Super Bowl is America's 4 hour family trip to Disney Land. Once a year, during the cold, damp and dark days of winter - on a Sunday night, the time that corresponds to the single most depressing part of the week - more than 60 million Americans hop into the family station wagon and go to Disney Land.

Why does Disneyland exist? or more importantly, why is Disneyland relevant. Jean Baudrillard says that "Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America that IS Disneyland...Disneyland is presented as imaginary to make us believe that the rest is real...It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real..." (Baudrillard 1981, 11-12)

Americans go to Disneyland to remember reassure them their lives are indeed real. People go to a park in the biggest city in the country to remember that that city they live in is reality, and the fantasy world within the confines are a departure from reality. If Disneyland WASN'T a fantasy representation of the real America, (frontier land, tomorrow land, main street USA) then what would the draw be. We can goto a REAL Main street, we don't need to go to fantasy frontier land, because a REAL frontier exists. We go for the fantasy.

And so goes the Super Bowl. Tonight we will all watch an event in which the content is irrelevant. Whether it is a football game, or a cooking show, tonight we will all tune in NOT to find out who wins, but to go to that fantasy world for four hours. We will drink beer, we will commiserate with friends and we will all willingly subject our self to the man and the machine - all for a 4 hour annual vacation away from reality.

Baudrillard also says "What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to over-produce, is to restore the real that escapes it. That is why today this 'material' [in this case the Super Bowl] production is that of the hyperreal itself." (Baudriallard, 23)

This event is presented as real. It will be produced like every other football game. The same announcers, the same graphics, and the same players that played 18 times already. Like Disneyland, we are told that this is real, we are told that this is tangible. But in reality, this is not a football game. The Pirates of the Carribean are not presented as true pirates, but as fantasy pirates. Tonight, when Tom Brady and Eli Manning are presented as fantasy (excuse the expression) football players, we will willingly buy into that claim.

Enjoy the game, and enjoy the ride. Just remember where you parked.