Thomas Sowell, who every conservative assures me is really, really smart, writes an article so crusty you could name a geological era after it. The problem with society today, you see, is all those flashy, blingy stars with the weird names and the hair and the disrespect for our old, restrained, quietly fucked up stars of yesteryear.
If our era could have its own coat of arms, it would be a yak against a background of mush. This must be the golden age of endless and pointless talk.
Every sports events seems to be preceded by all kinds of talk — whether by athletes repeating cliches that we have heard a thousand times, announcers making pseudo-profound sociological observations, or fans rambling on incoherently.
Almost as if the market has learned to cater to the desires of rabid sports fans by providing them hours of useless coverage. Man, fuck capitalism!
Then after the contest come the childish celebrations, the second-guessing and still more cliches.
Even when the action is going on at grand-slam tennis matches, there are interviews with celebrities who happen to be in the stands, while the play on the court is ignored by both, even though it is shown on the screen.
Theatrical hype on the part of both the interviewer and the celebrity are common.
Tennis matches routinely last four hours. Four hours! Even people who paid to be there do things besides watch the action, because to sit in a chair and watch the same thing for that long beggars madness. And ass burn.
Does it ever occur to media chatterboxes that people watch tennis because they want to see tennis, not hear about some celebrity’s latest movie or TV series?
Man, somebody pissed on his French Open coverage. Does it ever occur to economic genius Thomas Sowell that networks have bills to pay, and the easiest way to do that is to work in thirty-second promos for other things into the coverage? You’ll get your precious little tennis, Tommy. Just wait, and let Christian Slater talk about his soon-to-be-canceled TV show. It’s okay.
If those who lived during World War II were “the greatest generation,” this must be the gratingest generation.
It’s not just the constant meaningless chatter that grates. There is the incessant self-dramatization.
Everybody knows about Manny Ramirez’s hair styling. But there have been many other sluggers over the years, whose haircuts were never noticed. Does anyone remember Ted Williams’ haircut or the haircuts of Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron?
All those people are remembered for what they did, not how they looked.
No, I don’t remember those people’s haircuts. And Manny Ramirez may be remembered for his hair, but he’ll also probably be remembered for his lifetime .313 batting average, 500+ home runs and his World Series rings. I’m sorry that his wacky, weird hair distracts you from his great play, but maybe you need to stop clutching your handkerchief over that time that a Good Morning, Miami promo led you to miss vital hand-wiping action on the part of Rafael Nadal.
And Ramirez could be like Joe DiMaggio, and date the most famous woman in the world.
Or he could be like Ted Williams and throw racist tantrums that ensure one of the greatest players in history don’t join his team. Mickey Mantle was a heartthrob. And Aaron had the audacity to be black and challenge the most revered record in sports. But, yes, you’re right. They didn’t have funny hair. And that’s what’s important.
Boxers and wrestlers must be the worst. Outlandish get-ups and behaving like badly raised brats have become the norm.
When you see old films of Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano, you see adults acting like adults— indeed, like gentlemen.
Boxing is also a dying sport, rotting from its own corruption – corruption that helped promote champs like Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano when they were big, and helped Sonny Liston and George Foreman and Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and now Joe Whatsisname that’s the Heavyweight Champ now get where they got. But it was a polite corruption.
There was none of this making faces at an opponent before the fight or loudly boasting afterwards, much less taunting during the contest. In other words, you didn’t have to act like a lout in order to be a boxer.
When Joe DiMaggio hit a ball that was caught up against the 415-foot sign in Yankee Stadium by a Dodger outfielder, at a crucial point during the 1947 World Series, DiMaggio briefly kicked the dirt in frustration while running the bases.
That was as close to an emotional outburst that DiMaggio ever came. That picture has been shown innumerable times, precisely because it was so exceptional for DiMaggio to go even that far.
Like so much that went wrong in American society, the new style of loutish self-dramatization began in the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali became heavyweight champion in 1964, it marked the end of the era when boxers simply did their job, collected their money and went home, usually after a few brief words.
The fact that Thomas Sowell, a black man, doesn’t understand why Muhammad Ali did what he did in the era that he did it…it makes me sad. Like really, just sad. I mean, he lived through the 1950s and 1960s.
While this trend of self-dramatization is most visible in sports, it extends well beyond athletes.
Parents give their children off-the-wall names. “Mary” has long since lost its place as the perennially most popular name for girls.
There is a high turnover in what names are hot and which ones are not. Apparently everybody has to try to outdo everybody else, even when it comes to naming children.
The last time Mary was the most popular name in America was 1961. Things change. And contrary to Sowell’s belief (and my wishes), the most popular girls’ name in America is not Slatternly Whoreface. It’s the exotic “Emily”. We live in a culture with greater mass communication than ever, and the ability for new names to enter into the zeitgeist quicker than ever. People like different things at different times. It’s how shit works.
Sowell, incidentally, is an allegedly trained economist lamenting the role of evolving consumer choice and differing marketing strategies. Sowell is also a moron.
Here, as in sports, superficial attention-getters have replaced achievements that speak for themselves. Indeed, the whole notion of achievement is downplayed, if not swept under the rug.
Wait a minute…being named “Mary” was an achievement? Or is it that getting such a plain name made you succeed on your own, whereas getting named Nevaeh gets you an automatic scholarship to Brown? Because that part’s true – the 2008 class valedictorian, Fragilebox Nikon Miller, can attest to that.
People who have achieved success are often referred to as “privileged,” especially by the intelligentsia. Achievements used to be a source of inspiration for others but have been turned into a source of grievance for those without comparable achievements.
There have always been superficial dandies but they have not always been admired or regarded as models. Our society is worse off because they are.
So, from what I can tell – people who do things to stand out apart from their achievements, particularly in areas where achievement is very strictly graded and highly valued, get “rewarded” by being noticed briefly until they flame out and go away. Dennis Rodman didn’t win five championships because he had funny hair. He won five championships because he was the best rebounder on the planet. And the labret piercing.
UPDATE: I was completely confused as to Ted Williams. My apologies to him and his family.