The Sleepy, Soul-Killing Sports of Summer. Somebody Kill Me [California Seething]
The rantings of a non-driving theatre professional living in altogether the wrong city
I think we all know there are plenty of things I hate. At this point, I have a repetitive motion injury from shaking my fist at God (“Rage Elbow”).
But, to be fair, there are many things I have nothing bad at all to say about. Like…puppies — I love puppies! They’re adorable! I mean, it’s kind of annoying how they chew up everything and poop all over the place and slobber on you like mental patients with beady little eyes when you walk in the house but still, super-cute. And theatre — I love seeing theatre. I mean, sometimes it’s unbearably bad and hellishly boring, but even then I can amuse myself in the second act by thinking of nice things to say to the people I know in the show like “the choice of shoes was absolutely brilliant. Very Brechtian.” and “I had a simply magnificent Twix bar at intermission. Very Brechtian” or, if I’m really stuck, “I thought you made some really brave choices out there. Congratulations, man.” If I say that to you, well, just remember, it’s never too late to give up on your dreams.
Anyhow, yeah, more stuff I like: Combos — not all Combos though — the cracker Combos are worthless and Pizza Flavor frankly makes no sense to me. I mean, how do you distill the flavor of gooey delicious pizza into a tube of yellow cheese. Preposterous. The Cheddar/Pretzel Combos, though — snack-fucking-tastic. Oh yeah, and Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. I mean, if you eat enough of it, it will totally tear up the roof of your mouth but, ASIDE FROM THAT, it’s absolutely perfect. Except if you’re lactose intolerant or gluten-free, but in that case fuck you, it’s your problem, not the Cap’n’s — he’s an American Hero.
Right, so everybody got that, there’s plenty of stuff I like. I’ve got poetry in my goddamn soul and Zipididoodah in my fucking heart. And, as you all know, there are many sports I adore, particularly Basketball and Football. That being said, this blogumn is not about things I like, but, instead a furious, spittle foaming rant about the soul-killing, butt-numbing, snore-worthy, suck-ass sports of summer — specifically golf and baseball.
Last Monday morning, SportsCenter was filled with highlights from a weekend of nail-biting NCAA basketball games and wild speculation re the championship. Tuesday morning, SportsCenter featured a spectacular montage of the best of the best highlights from the entire tournament: the crazy out-of-nowhere shot-block at the end of the Morehead State/Louisville game, UConn’s ferocious battle-to-the-finish with Kentucky, Butler & VCU’s twin Cinderella runs to the Final Four.
On Wednesday morning, I watched a 7 minute segment comparing the impact of Bermuda Grass vs. Bent Grass at the 9th hole of Augusta National Par 3 Course. I sobbed in my Trader Joe’s oatmeal. I mean, what am I supposed to do in the mornings, watch the news? Have you seen that show lately? Even the weather report is depressing (30% chance of fallout this week, btw.)
Golf’s most prestigious tournament, the Masters, which took place last week in Augusta, Georgia, is a big, starchy baked potato loaded with Tradition, Heritage and History. If, for some reason, you’ve forgotten that this Tournament was loaded with Tradition, Heritage and History, ESPN lined up a parade of bloated windbags in natty blue blazers and Republican Red ties to cram it down your throat (HELPFUL NOTE FOR JEWS AND BLACK PEOPLE: If you hear the words “Tradition, Heritage and History” in Georgia – RUN!). It’s the most egregious example of Needless Sports Puffery. Every minute detail right down to the grains of sand in the Crystal White Sand Traps receives its own sepia-toned fatuous five minute segment with soft focus, Chariots-of-Fire-soundtrack-style inspirational piano music, and a somber voice-over providing historical context in the same hushed, awe-struck, reverential tone typically used for occasions like receiving the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai or seeing the Virgin Mary in a potato chip.
On CBS, there was live Master’s coverage from some horrible place called Amen Corner, where golfers gather to thank God for Tiger Woods’ wandering cock (You’ve got to respect Tiger Woods. The man got laid with Golf. That gives hope to tournament Scrabble players everywhere.) In addition to the traditional coverage, this year’s Master’s was shown for the first time on ESPN 3D – which added a new level of drama and excitement to the experience (OH MY GOD! THE GOLFERS! THE’RE…VERY…. SLOWLY…COMING… RIGHT… AT..ME! AND LOOK, PHIL MICKELSON IS PICKING HIS NOSE! IT’S SO IMMERSIVE!) This bold move practically guarantees ESPN the Emmy for Most Pointless Use of the Third Dimension, unless C-SPAN3D steals it away (“It’s like being a Congressman — except you’re actually there!”) The highlight of the Master’s was the presentation of the Green Blazer to the tournament winner – a tradition that’s been in place ever since the maitre d’ uniform ordering debacle of ’49 (“Just give the dang green ones to the golfers, Chad, the Jew says he’ll have black by Monday”). It’s a wonderful marriage of championship sports and formal-wear, like wrapping up the Superbowl with a trip to the Men’s Warehouse
My biggest problem with golf is the level of quiet required of the fans. I’m not, by nature, a quiet person. I realize this may come as a shock to those of you who have never met me, or watched a play with me or seen me cook breakfast or been in the building when I unjam a copier or slept in the apartment next to me or heard me breathe or ever been anywhere remotely near me ever at all. I am particularly loud when I watch sports: I scream, I cheer, I stomp, I beg, I cry. I chant De-Fense at the top of my lungs and hug total strangers. It’s primal and magnificent and liberating, all the fun of the Nuremberg Rallies and none of that nasty Fascism. I want Sturm und Drang, Terror and Pity, Catharsis and Ecstasy in my sports not respectful muttering and quiet clapping. I have no idea how they get their hands to touch so quietly. I’ve heard mummies that clap louder while they’re sucking out brains (do mummies eat brains or just Zombies? Discuss.) . If I want tense whispering, stifled emotion and quiet heartbreak, I’ll visit the Ronald McDonald House, thank you very much. If I don’t leave a sporting event ready to flip over parked cars, I want my money back.
I certainly realize that golf is not easy. I understand how hard the players work to sharpen their skills and that the game teaches young people patience, dedication, determination and perseverance. Thanks to technology, though, these aren’t skills we need anymore, so kids are better off playing Angry Birds to sharpen their iPad skills. And if they really want to play golf, they can always buy a Nintendo Wii. The Japanese need all the help they can get.
About five years ago I attended a performance of Robert Wilson’s production of Madama Butterfly at LA Opera (high culture, bitchez!) The production was beautiful — spare, perfectly arranged scenic elements bathed in ravishing color reflected off a backdrop that seemingly rose to the heavens. The performers moved into place with a slow, deliberate elegance. One would stand center stage and sing for a while. Then the music would change, lights would shift, everyone would change positions and someone else would raise their voice in beautiful song. It was, undoubtedly, the worst night of my life. About an hour into this hideous torture, I was stricken with terror when I realized that I had absolutely no idea how long the performance was going to go on for and there was no way whatsoever of knowing whether they were making any progress at all. For all I knew, they could be singing the same song over and over again under differently colored lights for the rest of my life. The worst part is that no one around me seemed to mind. They were enraptured by the experience, they would have loved to have stayed there for the rest of their lives (about 3 – 6 months, on average.) Only I was writhing in agonized boredom, screaming on the inside, desperate to bolt out my seat and leave an Eric-shaped hole in the side of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.
That is what going to baseball games is like for me. The field is beautiful to look at, the lights at night bring out all the rich colors: green grass, brown dirt, white chalk lines, the players arrange themselves harmoniously around the diamond and move elegantly from one position to another. Everyone around me is having the time of their lives and I am writhing in my seat like a 6 year old at Yom Kippur services who skipped his Ritalin, paralyzed with fear since I have absolutely no idea how long the game is going to last. After each inning I think- “there is no fucking way they are going to go through this NINE WHOLE TIMES” – but they do, they just keep going and going and going and all I can do is cram hot-dogs down my throat, hoping I’ll choke to death and praying that some friendly Dodger fan will put me in a coma so I have an excuse to get the hell out of there. And nine isn’t always enough! The scariest two words for me, right behind Mein Kampf are Extra Innings. It’s like purgatory with nachos (Camacho’s Nachos, though- those are the good ones.)
So, at this point you might ask, Eric, why do you keep going if you hate it so much? The answer is simple: I get free tickets, and I am genetically incapable of turning down free shit. I’d take tickets to a public hanging, if they came with a Preferred Parking tag. Of course, this doesn’t apply to theatre tickets — I turn down free theatre tickets all the time. I may be masochistic and cheap, but I’m not stupid. Not that I don’t love theatre, I mean, most LA Theatre is great, it’s just that, well, sometimes, uhm — did I mention how much I liked the choice of shoes? And that Twix bar- brilliant! Really brave stuff, congratulations, man.
The Summer Sports Snooze Fest isn’t limited to golf and baseball. On Saturday morning, I tried to find some kind of sporting event to watch on TV, only to be confronted with the following options:
ESPN: College Lacrosse
ESPN2: Women’s Tennis
ESPNNews: Highlights of Women’s Tennis
ESPNU: Cheerleading (PERV NOTE: Not hot.)
Thank god I TiVo had a PSYCH marathon last weekend, so I didn’t have to go outside, enjoy the sunshine and get some exercise (shudder). I can only hope I’ve got enough TOP GEAR reruns to sustain me until the NBA Playoffs start next weekend. I was also able to amuse myself by paying taxes. Always fun to see just how much money I’ll be sending the Afghanis each year. Funny, it’s been 8 years now, and I still haven’t gotten a thank-you note. I guess somebody’s waging a Jihad on manners. Also, I got to see God of Carnage at the Ahmanson and that I can say without reservations was something I absolutely enjoyed. I’m sure if you were at the theatre, you heard me.
featured baseball image credit: marcus.mccurdy
featured golf ball image credit: kevindooley