Monday, March 19, 2012

Cavalcade of Sports Fans

I'm not sure which of these celebrations of college Basketball is more repulsive. (Tom Crean is Indiana's coach; John Calipari is Kentucky's. Just in case you were wondering if "Crean" was a spelling error.) But when I passed them on my way downtown today, I had to record them for posterity.

I just finished reading quite a good book, A Carnival for Science: Essays on Science, Technology and Development (Delhi: Oxford UP, 1997) by the Indian sociologist Shiv Visvanathan. (I gather from his writing that he was originally trained as a botanist.) There's a lot of good stuff in the book, but this aside is relevant here:
Have you ever listened to [Indian journalists’] commentaries on cricket or hockey? There is hysteria in every sentence as if there is a deathblow in every ball. Most of India lived the war through newspapers. Between the evening video thirst and morning tea, the audience went war mad. The media was to blame. They drove the Hindu need for the killer instinct from the sports page to the front page headlines. They wanted the [Mizo National Front] eliminated immediately. These journalists saw a Pol Pot in every educated peasant but did not realize that Pol Pot was actually closer to them. They wanted to eliminate populations on behalf of all the right words -- the Nation, Security, Development, Progress [209].
Visvanathan is talking about the war for secession of the state of Mizoram, in Northeastern India, though I'm having trouble reconciling his account, especially its dates, with versions I find online. That's not why I quoted this passage, though. It was that bit about "hysteria in every sentence as if there is a deathblow in every ball." I've often said that sports are of no importance whatever, though fans (which include media commentators) think otherwise: not only that, they think the outcome of a game is of virtually cosmic significance. When you add the confusion of sports with war -- the use of war metaphors in sports commentary and of sports metaphors in war commentary -- it becomes wholly obnoxious. (To say nothing of the patriotic displays that go along with, say, pro football games and halftime shows.) Some apologists claim that sports are a safety valve for human aggression that might otherwise turn into war fever; I think sports keep the us/them mentality under steam, ready to be released when a suitable enemy is found.

Stuff like these sheets just increases my contempt for the whole business. Obviously the boys who live in that house have been watching too much gay porn, hence the bukkakke reference on the sheet on the left. (And remember the "teabagging" of a passed-out LSU fan by Alabama fans in a clean, well-lit sports bar two months ago? The symbolism is similar.) And connecting Kentucky to the notorious Ugandan guerilla Joseph Kony is beyond stupid in its irrelevance and viciousness. On the one hand, it trivializes real-life atrocities by connecting them to a sports rivalry of no importance; on the other hand, it inflates the importance of that sports rivalry-- don't believe any fan who tells you It's Just a Game, because fans don't think so. It's the kind of mentality that thought that the killing of Osama Bin Laden was as important as the Superbowl, and the killing of Muammar Gaddafy was as much fun as coming all over a porn star's face.