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Sports and fun

Sunday 5/12/24

I had so little confidence in the Bruins the other night that during the game I was actually watching a rebroadcast of a program about Cam Neely's Hall of Fame induction on NESN+.

Watching this program I found myself thinking about how much more fun sports used to be. Everything used to be more fun before everything became so homogenized. All of the arts are homogenized. Look how soulless music is. Taylor Swift's music, for instance, is plastic. There's no humanness in it. Pure disposability. Watching the Neely highlights you saw the player's individuality. He played a different way than other players. Who plays a different way now? Has their own style?

Limiting the discussion to Boston sports, think of the fun players. Luis Tiant, Larry Bird, Neely, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz. You wouldn't see someone fun now. Is Jayson Tatum fun? Not at all. Boring, personality-less on the court. He makes his shots and he scores 32, or he makes less of them and scores 24. There's nothing that leaps out, nothing transcendent. It's all lockstep and about systems and not people. Sports feel pretty Communistic in a way.

Then it's numbers. Analytics. Gambling odds. Because that's thrilling. The point spread. Mike Trout's WAR. People's lives are more empty than ever and sports is a guaranteed presence every day, so they often latch on because of that emptiness. Sports comes to you. It gets put in your face. You don't have to look for anything. To understand sports and their history you would, but people won't ever do that. People will be like, "I'm such a sports fan but I really know nothing about any sports!" Except that they happen. There they are. Day after day. People aren't even interested in the sport. The thing itself, the game. If they were, they'd look deeper. Well, they're so lazy that they're not going to do anything that takes any initiative and they're so devoid of individuality that they're not going to do anything that everyone else isn't doing. But if you loved hockey so much, you'd learn more about it, right? You wouldn't confine yourself to that day. Going to that game next week. Really, then, it's about seeing the result. Here was a game, here is who won, here is who lost, this was the score. It's like refreshing the screen. Not much changes, right? Here it's just the numbers changing. Another game, another score, refresh, refresh, refresh.

Sports is the one place in society where someone can be a lot better at the thing they do than someone else is at anything they can do and the latter isn't threatened by it because they're just a dumpy meatball and they aren't even thinking in terms of being out on the ice or lining up in the backfield but everyone thinks, for instance, in terms of how smart they are. It's one of the commonalities. We all have to think. We all have to use words or communicate somehow. Someone will hate someone smarter than they are in a way they will never feel anything negative towards someone who dunks a basketball because they're not threatened by that. They see it as not their thing, so it's not personal at all to them. Whereas with intelligence, it's like being out there on the same court with everyone else and we're all players.

Walk around Boston and you will see how plastic the city has become. There is very little in terms of neighborhood feel. Kenmore Square is as antiseptic a place you will find in the urban environment. Soulless. And it used to be quirky and vibrant, with all of these different aspects of life and culture and architecture coming together. The buildings are all the same now. You don't have that game day feeling when the Red Sox are in town, there isn't the funky little record store that has bootlegs buried within the stock. It's just blah and boring. The Taylor Swift. Nothing here. Assembly line life.


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