Essays by Post Consumer Man
I was recently watching a baseball game when, upon completion of an inning, the usual assault on civility and rational behavior known as the commercials made their not just predictable, but, according to the Wall Street Mafia, essential appearance on the scene. To think that animals with the reasoning powers, intelligence and creative-physical talents necessary to develop such a beautiful sporting spectacle as baseball, might also arrive to the conclusion that the commercials are an unavoidable part of this games dissemination, could, in this writers mind (anyone else?), be seen as an embryonic seed of collective mental illness.
In any event, as my mind slid into the semi-conscious mode with which I ride out these mendacious persuasionary attacks on my dignity, it became dimly apparent that Old Milwaukee Beer had just been voted, according to the commercial, the best tasting beer in America. This is somewhat surprising when one considers that a wading pool full of this stuff can be bought for something like $2.69. Such economy makes it very popular in the nether-world culture embarrassingly percolating on the fringes of our society known as the homeless people. Perhaps, I thought, the vote was taken amongst this constituency.
Drink Old Milwaukee, the champagne of the homeless people.
It might be said that the most successful marriage western culture has ever consummated are the vows of devotion so passionately adhered to by Big Beer and the commercial sporting industry (see essay, Beer). In the long history of this Holy Union, there has never been the hint of a squabble or misunderstanding. As a result, instead of my TV showing the first baseman lazily throwing grounders to his infield mates while the pitcher rhythmically threw his limbering warm up tosses, I was once again asked by Big Beer to consider the consumption of its product. I saw no reason to attend to these pleas until, like a dog with his ears up in response to a suspicious noise in the neighborhood, my semi-conscious stupor was disrupted once again. Just 30 seconds after being informed of Old Milwaukees triumph in the realm of taste-test competition, I was now being told, almost verbatim, of Coors triumph in the exact same venue. Might we not agree that this defies of the laws of science?
These conflicting claims to superior beer taste, as I shall soon explain, provided me with the debut of a new theory as to why sports are so popular.
It is hard to imagine a culture that has been more desensitized to lies and perversions of the truth than the modern occidental one. As alluded to in a previous essay (see The Demoralized Zone), the words truth and lie are beginning to become irrelevant concepts lacking in meaning. The information age is providing us with an avalanche of data everyday, and yet, a true picture of reality seems to be getting more and more elusive. Who really won the beer taste-test? Which car is the best value? How does that mirage-like imposter known as the economy really work? Can I get a better deal for this vacuum cleaner somewhere else? AT&T, Sprint, MCI am I paying too much for this call? Can somebody please explain to me what an Alan Greenspan does?
Is there nothing more than these constantly shifting sands of spin, marketing, public relations, hype and fine print?
Yes, there is sports!
One might not be far off in saying that athletic competition is the last refuge of demonstrable truth in our culture. When someone bloops a single to left scoring that winning run in the bottom of the ninth, there is no ambiguity. The lines have been drawn on the field, the rules have been set forth, the officiating provides for as level a playing field as humans are capable of, and the numbers talk: 3 to 2, 2 under par, 3 sets to 2 its over. This team won, that guy lost, wait til next year.
Certainly, the spectacle and drama of sport are the primary raw materials that attract millions of religious pilgrims to the cathedrals of competition all across the land. But one should not underestimate the subliminal lure of athletic competitions solid foundation of irreversible, undeniable truth in a society adrift in a vast ocean of commercial-political hype. Sport is a remote island of tierra firme, a safe haven, a temporary refuge in a typhoon of twisted commercial combat more given to creating the truth than presenting it. With sport, we can drag ourselves out of the storm onto the firm beach of runs, strokes and world records, and know exactly what happened and who was responsible for it. We might never know if our taxes are being used properly, or if the reasons given by a politician are the real ones, or if the reality created by Fox-Disney-Time-Warner, et al, is anything remotely related to what us mere mortals are living in, but there can be no doubt about Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras or Ken Griffey.
In a society whose participants increasingly compete with more nebulous claims, there is a need for some pristine reality to hold onto. The deeper we immerse ourselves in the murky deceptions of an ever more commercial world, with its self serving hustles to make money, the more we will need the neat, baggage-free reality of an acrobatic Air Jordan slammer.
The idea of competition in our world has been so exaggerated, it has even managed to pervert the world of sport. We have turned certain endeavors, which should more properly be considered as show business, into competitive angst. I am referring to a whole host of sports like gymnastics, figure skating, rhythmic swimming, diving, etc., which lack the unambiguous finality of a field goal in the last second to win the game. Although these sports, like baseball or golf, premise victory or defeat on numerical values, the numbers are only the subjective, debatable opinion of each judge. These wonderfully talented artist-athletes should be judged, as a bullfighter is, by the public and not the judges. A matador does not compete against anything. His success and fame is simply a function of how well he pleases the aficionados. He does not have to do anything in a particular way, with a mandated style or technique. All he has to do is turn you on.
This is how a gymnast or figure skater should be seen. By turning such performers into neurosis-ridden, competitive athletes, we restrict the creativity of their talent. Turn them loose, let them perform! These people are athletic artists, not athletic competitors. Let the public decide who triumphs the most, as they have with Frank Sinatra, or Elvis, or the greatest trapeze act in the circus.
It is a perverse concoction of the western mind to turn these people into competitors.