Hey, I went on a politics kick a little while back, so why wouldn’t I go off on some other tangent? Even better, a tangent that’s almost as divisive and vitriolic as politics itself: professional sports.
What’s funny about this (at least to me) is what it is that actually gets my nerd up and going when it comes to sports: the off-season.
Yeah, yeah, I know…that’s just crazy talk. No one gets excited about the off-season. And, sure as hell, no sane human actually likes the off-season.
I never claimed to be all that sane.
Anyway, the off-season.
Now, with the exception of the NHL, I don’t particularly follow any sport in detail. I don’t sit there on Sundays and watch NFL game after NFL game. I can’t spout stats like ERA and OBP off the top of my head. I barely know the difference between a striker and a midfielder. And God forbid we so much as touch on golf — what the fuck is the difference between a “brassie” and a “mid-mashie” anyway?!*
*For my part, the only way to play “golf” is with a couple of frisbees and a six-pack.
But the stuff that goes on behind the scenes…the stuff of deals and trades and negotiations…even more, the stuff of hope and dreams (in the form the draft)…
Yeah, for all that announcers and fans like to talk about the tension and drama and storylines of the season, the off-season just has so much more. Not even our own “beloved” Mordor-on-the-Potomac can match the level of back-stabbing, power-gaming ruthlessness that goes on in the off-season for the NFL…or the Premier League, or even the damned PGA. And — God forbid! — we get into the sheer, matchless corruption of FIFA or Formula One.
I study and follow and enjoy the off-season of the major sports in the same way I study and follow and enjoy the politics and conflict that led to the transition of Rome from Republic to Principate, and then to Empire. And, yes, you are right: I’m a politics junkie, even if I can’t stand the bullshit of the last 15(ish) years in the US.
Right now, I’m completely nerding out on the NFL…and especially on the storylines of free agency and draft. When a player can go, with a flick of his pen, from being “the greatest ever” to an evil son-of-a-bitch who obviously abuses old ladies and kids…well, hell, that there is the roots of a story! Cruella Deville and her dalmation coat ain’t got nothing (apparently) on Richard Sherman if you’re a Seahawks fan…
Or take a reasonably “normal” college kid — you know: naive, narcissistic, and completely ignorant of consequences and the wider world…just like all of us at that age — and make him a first round prospect. All of a sudden that very normal kid is either (a) the great hope of salvation for an entire state, or (b) a complete freak who should be sterilized and exiled to a speck of rock in the South Atlantic.
I once talked about how entertaining are the folks who get themselves worked up (on both sides) about the flat-Earth thing, but they’re nothing compared to the columnists and commenters who write about the NFL draft.
Look, I could go on for hours (and pages) about sports as a microcosm for politics, and for life itself. Could go on about the lessons and examples and warnings that come out of that concentration of wealth, privilege and complete OCD-ness, but that means I wouldn’t have time to get read one more column about a 21-year-old kid saving — or destroying — our entire society and the fabric of the universe…