Sunday, July 31, 2005

Having A Ball 

This post may take things off topic a bit, but one thing that strikes me whenever I try to articulate my thoughts on sports is how bound up in my own experiences my thinking inevitably becomes. Having moved from a school where I was part of the sports establishment (soccer) to a high school with a very rigid football-based jockocracy, I spent a few years noting the ways in which the football players (and the cheerleaders, of course) were privileged – several of my teachers, for example, only knew the names of these students, not even considering the basketball players, say, worthy of any personal interaction. Throughout this time, I struggled to discuss any of this with my family, which is heavily immersed in sports, especially football – once when I got in a fight with a football player, my dad’s immediate response was, “What did you do to make him mad?” So I’ve never gotten back that common language of sports talk I had in childhood, which has made conversation with family and (male) strangers difficult at times - at this point, I have no real hostility toward the sport (or its fans), but I have no interest, either.

When I teach, I’ve learned that I can’t generalize about student athletes more than anyone else. But I do think that their experience with athletics in high school shapes how they approach athletics in college – if they learned discipline and the importance of balancing sports with a rigorous approach to academics, they’re a much different student to teach than someone who slid through high schools like mine because they were treated as extraordinary simply because they could play ball. At this point, I actually feel compassion toward those folks because I think the transition to college is really tough for them – I’ve had a couple of freshman athletes seem literally bewildered that work was expected of them!

And I wonder, too, if aggression isn’t so much linked to the sport itself as the culture built around it. I mean, if chess players were exalted, given money and sex and drugs to woo them, how would they behave? Would a public that worships chess players be better off in terms of its relationship to violence, for that matter? I’m tempted to think that it’s more the power – and lack of restraint placed upon them – that leads to bad behavior among some athletes, whereas I suspect chess players (or poets) rarely get to experience that sense of being part of a really powerful hierarchy. I’ve seen similar, though much less physically violent and much more passive aggressive, behavior among “famous” poets, haven’t you? Give some folks an inch, and they’ll use it swing their di… sorry, “phallus.” Imagine if those folks wielded power beyond small press publishing or the sort of fame where a couple of dozen people in a major city might actually recognize them on the street.

Another note completely: I’m loving the new Bob Mould album, “Body of Song.” Songwriting, production, pand musicianship are all top notch, and he’s further integrated what was becoming the two distinct sides of his career: the classic alt-guitar rock vs. queer club music. It’s a nice companion to “Modulate,” his previous one, and it’s got me thinking about the long-term careers of musicians, writers, etc. – I respect the man a great deal for trying out the electronica angle 20 years into the game, recreating his whole approach to songwriting in the process. How many people have the guts for that? It’s been interesting, too, to see the album take shape on his blog, evolving from an acoustic album to the very layered collection it became. (And how odd, too, that this once ultra-private, kinda slovenly depressed-seeming substance abuser now lives such a public life as a sober, fitness obsessed openly gay man. A pleasure to see, I gotta say, even if it's hard to believe at times it's the same guy. Luckily we get that second act if we want it!) If you were ever a fan of his previous incarnations, check this album out…

Chris McC

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?