“He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol, Stockholm 
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelley, Comic Strip 
Hello all. I’m writing at length today to set up a new weekly thing I’ll be doing which is to provide a quote—some serious, some not so serious—for us to reflect on during the week. It’s just something we can re-read again and again to keep us on task while we work on our project, or while we’re in between projects, or not working on any project at all—whatever your creative endeavor may be. Mine is *deep over-dramatic sigh* screenwriting and/or film review/analysis and/or film business related ish. (I also write observations about what’s going on in America and the world at large hence the name of the blog.)
Currently I’m in the game-planning phase for a new project. For those of you who actually read this blog, you know that’s why there are long gaps of time in between my posts. So for now posts will come with a little more frequency. As for the quotes, I’ll be posting one every Tuesday—if I’m working on something or not—and hopefully before 10 a.m. (Sundays and Mondays don’t exist to me.)
The way it works is simple: you read it, feel some type of way about it, then see if it applies to what you’re working on, not working on, etc. If it applies, great! If not, well at least you have a new quote to go into your repertoire of random quotes to say to randomly to people. Easy enough, right? There shouldn’t be any pushback on this, I think. This is just the wheel all over again, only I’m putting my spin on it…
And away we go.
“A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.” – J.P. Morgan
Perhaps the idea for The Keeping Room came after screenwriter Julia Hart (making her feature film debut here) went on a B movie, woman-in-peril, slasher film bender. Perhaps there was something about the exploitative material of the 70’s and 80’s that needed more exploiting and a re-imagining. And I guess the backdrop of the Civil War was as good as any—perhaps?
After seeing the trailer I was all prepared to wax poetic about how if this movie were about three white men defending their turf while two armies of mostly white men bludgeoned one another over American turf at large, it would’ve been recognized as the start of Good Movie Season and Tom Hardy or someone of his caliber would’ve been mentioned as an Oscar hopeful, and this film would’ve easily played in 2,000 theaters having wiggled its way out of an R rating. But perhaps Hollywood did us a favor on this one…
I’m not sure exactly who to shine the spotlight of blame on. The obvious choice would be the director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown) who has a checkered past when it comes to this kind of dark material; or it could be the other way around maybe seeing as it was Julia Hart wrote this—the monologues, in all of their vagueness, are hers. As of this review, I’m still stumped as to what either of them was trying to tell us with this piece. Regardless, what it all boils down to is cinematic pointlessness—and I’m not even trying to be harsh.
Don’t get me wrong: I love period pieces. I just spent the last 3 years of my life writing one. But I pose the same question(s) to the filmmakers of The Keeping Room, the same any reputable critic would pose, the same I posed to myself when I sat down to write my story, the same any general audience would pose sitting down to watch theirs: What does this all really mean? How does this story tie in to today?
As far as the latter, there are flashes: the full liberation of women; women not needing to be defined by a man, they themselves should suffice; the constant sexual intrusion of men; (white) male aggression—if I’m reading the subtext correctly. But on the surface where movies need to make sense and entertain, nothing in this film strikes a chord.
Just so at least someone tells you: a keeping room is an area just off the kitchen of a home. Keeping rooms date back to Colonial times when families would sleep in that area when the rest of the house was cold. Since that area could be heated by the kitchen stove, it often provided the only heated place in the house. A fairly light Google search got me that definition. The title is named dropped twice but never fully explained. The “keeping room” also doesn’t factor much into the plot either.
The year is 1865 and if you’re an American, for your sake, I hope you know that this was the year the Civil War ended. (Bonus points if you know the day and the month.) Three women—two white sisters and their Negro slave—are living together in very close quarters on what I guess is a farm somewhere in the American south. I’m no historian but knowing what I know about Slavery—not the gray sanitized version being taught in American schools—none of what I saw here made a lick of sense.
And yes, most stories are contrived, I get that. But this story is contrived beyond forgiveness. The Keeping Room purports that a Negro slave woman, who the movie places at or around the age of 30, would stick around to help two oblivious, lily-white white women, who fall somewhere between the ages of 17 and 30, who know very little about farm work (especially the younger one), who stupidly go walking into the woods and get bitten—off screen!—by a raccoon and become a non-factor (solely the younger one), who have no white men in their vicinity to protect them, who themselves have yet to pack up and travel north to safety, who most likely have treated their Negro slave woman worst than the animals on their farm, who oddly have mentioned to this same Negro slave woman at some point long before the narrative began the whereabouts of extra guns hidden in the house (these guns don’t become a factor until late into the proceedings at which point there is forced exposition on the movie’s part to relay this information to the audience), who ignore danger when it is smack-dab in their face (solely the older one), who lastly, clearly don’t have the muscle mass or sheer will to live they same way their Negro slave woman does and should their Negro slave woman turn the aggressor, it’d be improbable that either of these two white women could defend themselves against her. Taking all of this in I thought to myself, “There is not nearly enough flesh removed from the Negro slave woman’s back to justify this kind of obedience.” Do I have to anecdote about the etymology of the word cracker?
“We all niggers now”, says Augusta (Brit Marling, I Origins) to her younger sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld, Barely Lethal) [She’s like the go to young lady for period pieces, isn’t she?] scolding her for talking down to Mad (Muna Otaru) their female Negro slave. But nothing about what she said was inauthentic. The filmmakers might want play fast and loose with the time period and its race relations but Louise is absolutely right: why does she have to do field work? Three people don’t need nearly that much food to survive on, especially if all Mad is going to prepare is vegetable soup night after night, and if the men have yet to return home from battle. And why does Augusta need to chop wood for that matter when it clearly looks like and is early spring time? The Civil War ended in the spring of the same year this story takes place. And nights get warmer in the spring. Summer’s approaching, right? I hope the movie isn’t suggesting that she’s getting an early start on the winter which is at best six months away. So again, why is she chopping wood? (Something tells me this story was initially set during the harsh of winter and the production team overlooked this fact figuring no one would notice—that and they couldn’t come up with another scene in which Brit Marling could appear independent in soooo… Well, I noticed not even trying.)
On the whole, this narrative was concocted in the mind of Hart—a white woman—who keeps Mad broken and docile. Of course if Mad were to slit the sisters’ throats while they were sleeping and then make a run for it there wouldn’t be much of a story, would there? With death so imminent for all the white women cropping up in this film any smart black woman—or any black woman who wants to keep her life—would take her chances out on the road *hint hint* Underground Railroad. Surely Mad’s heard of it; the early 1860’s was its peak time of usage for runaway slaves to Canada. (For one to know just how unruly Africans were, and for that matter, just how twisted and inhumane the white establishment was during Slavery or at anytime prior (or later), it would require personal enrichment beyond American textbooks and mainstream entertainment, I guess.) Later we learn via monologue—a breath of fresh air for these types of movies because speechifying is usually reserved for white principal actors—that Mad is deeply in love with Bill (Nicholas Pinnock, Monster: Dark Continent), a Negro slave man also residing on the sisters’ farm (and the movies way too contrived reason for why Mad is still on the premises possibly), who upon his arrival home is shot in the back while in an Union officer’s uniform. Elsewhere in the movie the other non-principal black characters also die—stylistically—and for no apparent reason: their skulls are burst open before slowly dropping dead, set ablaze while atop run away horse carriages and like Bill cowardly shot in the back while defenseless. Is this another metaphor for something? Is there some deeper meaning in how they die? As for the white characters, well, they die heroically of course, drinking family recipe moonshine and monologuing. But you knew that already…
And it’s because of these and many other gratuitous nihilistic deaths (of mostly white women) that I bring up slasher films. Only in those movies do killers (usually white men as is the case here) silently stalk their prey (young scantily dressed white women) through dark hallways and poorly-lit corridors, only in those movies is exposition doled out through a feeding tube or is just dismissed altogether, only in those movies are main characters silent when they should be yammering. In real life, Bill’s untimely demise could’ve been prevented just by simply saying, “Bill. Thank God you’re home!” out loud. I should be concussed at this point for the amount times I slapped my forehead at this movie’s silliness. I really felt like I was watching a slasher. Even the guy behind me kept huffing his breath and sucking his teeth. (It’s nice when it isn’t just me.)
The film also opens with a framing story that tells us that white men are who we thought they were: belligerent, rapist, sadistic, repugnant scum. And what do white men do to bring on so many bad adjectives, well, the aforementioned and then some. Look, I’m not here to pile up on white men. The movie does that all on its own. But what a movie like this does do is highlight a few cinematic privileges that the Movie Money People of Hollywood would never bestow upon a person of color. The closest filmmakers of color have ever gotten to romanticizing cinematic retribution for Slavery was Django Unchained and even that movie was written and directed by a white male who some think has an honorary hood pass. And that’s life in Hollywood boys & girls…
As for the rest of The Keeping Room, it’s par for the course. We get an obligatory scene of a black slave being called a nigger, a scene where the sisters do their hair and makeup (really tie their dresses) together and talk about “stuff” which is suppose to signify unity or family or something, copious amounts of extreme close-ups of nature, and scene after scene after scene of the two white female leads staring off into the distance feeling exiled, sensing fear, ignoring fear until eventually fear shows up on their front doorstep. Groundbreaking, amirite? A hair slightly above film school all of it—and it even has an obnoxious screechy violin score to boot. As for the dialogue, when characters do speak, it’s of the tin can variety. Which brings me to another thing: I will never understand for the life of me why in the 21st century, with all of the script gurus and screenwriting books, with all of the overpriced film schools populating the country, and with all of the screenwriting best-of lists (the script for this film was on one) and film-centered websites—I will never understand why screenwriters withhold key exposition from the audience, or their characters. I just won’t. Why can’t Augusta and Mad call out to one another so that way Augusta doesn’t have to turn blindly around a corner and shoot an innocent defenseless person in the back? Or make an attempt to call out at least? Why can’t the town hooker say to Augusta that if you continue to hang around town Sam Worthington is going to violently rape you and your sister and possibly your Negro slave? Why! Give me a reason, please do. The entire audience knows Sam Worthington is scum. The framing story explicitly implies it and the rest of the movie hits you over the head with it: white men are sadists and not to be trusted. So who are the filmmakers trying to keep in suspense? Fuck show, don’t tell…TELL! So that way you can find a more satisfying way to achieve actual tension and give us the audience the necessary info we need to buy into your story. Gawd!
I’d go further and discuss this film from a feminist standpoint but what for. It’s all so damn fatalistic. And there’s not much else to it. When people do and act in stupid, senseless ways this film is what you get—a shamble of a production that tries hard to be the third act of Home Alone and the second act of Panic Room but achieves neither. In the end this’ll most likely wind up on Netflix under “Strong Female Lead” which for me is a bit of a head-scratcher. Because after all of the bloodshed, and all of the carnage, and all of the supposed female empowerment, the closing image this movie throws up on screen is three women dressed up like men walking off into the sunset.
The Keeping Room – 1 out of 5 stars
Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru, Amy Nuttall, Ned Dennehy
Director: Daniel Barber
Producer(s): David McFadzean, Dete Meserve, Jordan Horowitz, Judd Payne, Patrick Newall
Screenwriter: Julia Hart
Released: 09/25/2015; Runtime (in minutes): 95; MPAA Rating: R
The Guy behind the Guy behind the Camera Operator who’s sitting on the floor leaning against the wall charging His cell phone…Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags African-American People, Black People, Blog, Blogging, Common Sense, Film, Filmmaking, Gregory Netterville, Hollywood, Life, Los Angeles, Movies, New Orleans, Reading, Short Film, Writing, Young People on October 14, 2013 by gregnett
“… boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness . . . But nevertheless it doth fascinate…”
Francis Bacon, Of Boldness
Suggested background music:
Wale featuring Nipsey Hussle – “Chun-Li” & Outkast – “The Whole World” <PLAY. REPEAT if necessary.>
I’ve been away from my blog for quite some time. I did it so I could focus more on my screenwriting career. Well, career is such a strong word, but one needs to write in order to eventually have the career part come into play. (I would never abandon the one place I can be published.) I also did a little soul-searching. The kid’s weight even fluctuated up and down by about twenty-five pounds or so . . . lost a few friends, picked up a few new ones, you know—the usual. Yeah, this past year has definitely given me a hefty batch of lemons to make lemonade with.
But outside all of that, I’ve been on task rewriting and polishing my screenplay which took an incredible amount of focus and drive on my part to get done. The entire process kind of left me with the feeling that the whole world was conspiring against me—which is absurd; I know it isn’t. But I’ve never seen so much negative ish come my way. It was like growing up all over again. Now finishing my script wasn’t necessarily a page one endeavor, but it was as close to it as you could get. It’s hella tenuous combing through a one hundred and six page document, checking it for grammatical errors, syntax and overall plausibility—and that’s only the first part. Next you have to show it to someone, someone who isn’t going to feed your ego or steal it, and they also have to be able to give you constructive, sound, honest feedback. Then after that: you have to send query letters to industry professionals with the intention that the material you want them desperately to read is your best offering, and that you’ll be able to generate the same quality of work—or close to—time and time again as a paid, professional screenwriter. And after that: you have to get back in touch with loved ones and explain to them why you needed to be so distant for so damn long—some of whom who thought you were dead, or worse: moved back home. . . Nope! I’m still here fighting the good fight.
If anyone pays attention to this damn blog, you should know that had a meltdown a while back [Hopes & Dreams… CRUSHED!!! – 06/10/2011] and wrote a panicky, scattered blog post about the screenplay that I’ve just finished as of last week, Chalkboard. Back at that time Chalkboard was just a bunch of scenes and a loose treatment wasting space on my hard-drive and I would only look at it from time to time, and my intention for it wasn’t really to finish writing it. It was what some screenwriters (all writers maybe) call their “top-drawer script”, meaning that only my eyes would see it, I could take some liberties wherever, and it couldn’t possibly be sold or turned into a movie, so what’s the rush in finishing it. In today’s movie-making world, it’s sad but that still might definitely be the case. I looked at that old post just before I started writing this one and I still can’t make sense of what my angle was. If I had to sum it up now it would be insanity—and frustration, paranoia too. I guess I haven’t taken it down because I want other writers to know how crazy and over-dramatic we get about ish, and what being nonsensical looks like as far as me. No one wants to steal my script; I’m not that clever. In the future perhaps. . .
But distancing myself from people and things for close to a year, though gruesome, was a step I needed to take in order to become the professional screenwriter I think I could be. I always knew how good of a story Chalkboard was, but I didn’t want to buckle down and really write it. But that kind of mindset works against my goal and isn’t what I’m about. So, I guess I got tired of talking about it and thinking about it and decided to give it to some folks—the pages I wrote of course—and the feedback was positive, some wasn’t; but overall it felt good to be passionate and defensive about my work again. And ultimately, every bit of feedback I received went into the effort to make Chalkboard the best screenplay possible, my strongest to date. Again, having another set of eyes other than your own read your work pays huge dividends. I highly recommend it—free sets of eyes that is!
Admittedly, I didn’t know if I would be up for it. I had my doubts early on, up until the end really. Why do we do that to ourselves, writers? Seeing so much red ink and having to take so much criticism—it kind of made me want to scrap the whole idea altogether. But then that started to feel like 2008 the year I stopped writing and put a two year freeze on my growth. . . I came back to and remembered: that’s screenwriting, or any other writing for that matter—it’s rewriting. Man, I’ve done so much rewriting! I’ve gotten up and went to bed with this damn script for over a year. Even now after I’ve written The End, I’m still going back into Chalkboard and making changes to it. It’s embarrassing. But seriously, I’m done; I’m not going to touch it anymore!
But I do want to “touch” on something—talent! Only because no one can say to me anymore that I’m not a good writer. It’s unbelievable how much better I’ve gotten. It’s like when Denzel was released from prison in He Got Game and he returns home to see his family, and his daughter tells him that Jesus Shuttlesworth, his basketball prodigy son, her older brother, can now use his left hand with the same skill and precision as his right. This script is money, and it sucks that it may never get the attention it deserves—which is ironic, because that’s why I wrote a story like Chalkboard in the first place: a story the deals with a character moving on from something the character saw as the end-all be-all to his existence. Now I definitely know what the stakes are as far as screenwriting goes, and with spec screenplays too: only a fraction of those pursuing end up doing. But it doesn’t erase from my mind the fact that I belong and that I’m just as qualified as those working in Hollywood. I’m not begging or whining or prophesying, I’m just stating the obvious: I’m that confident in my craft. So, there’s no reason to hang my head either way. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be taking meetings going into the fall and the coming year. But as far as Chalkboard goes, it just marks my return, my return to writing and feeling good about who I am and what it is that I aspire (still hate that word) to do for a living… I’m back!
Suggested background music:
Frank Ocean – “Forrest Gump” & Theophilus London – “Wine & Chocolates” <Play. REPEAT if necessary.>
“It was the Saturday of the football game . . . It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something . . . and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place.”
J.D. Salinger, Catcher In The Rye
“Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become,” Mary McGrory once said at some point long before she ceased all life functions. And knowing what I have experienced playing the sport of football—and many other sports—in my youth, watching the games on television; and living, breathing & sleeping football everyday of my life it seems like for the past 13 years or so now that becoming football can’t be a good thing for us as a nation . . .
I too get most of my references—which can be glimpses into the not too distant future or blasts from the past—from pop culture (movies, music, magazines, social media) and am a bit concerned and turned off by the sounds as well as the looks on the faces in the crowds at sporting events in movies like Gladiator and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace—one being thousands of years before my time, the other being a thousands of years after. Both movies however mirror what I see when the cameras are turned on the crowds today at American sporting events, especially the crowds at professional football games.
It seems like all Empires, or those with a good run at least—Federation for Episode I‘s sake (not a Fan Boy)—all have a centralized live-action sporting event posing as “entertainment”. But in looking closely we should see that really what’s being pushed is the ideology of the controlling oligarchy. (Love our country [U.S.A.] and no one else’s, Love our God [Jesus Christ and the other two-thirds of the Holy Trinity] and no one else’s, Love our Armed Forces [Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Seals, etc.] and no one else’s, and be mindful, but not for too long, of whatever happened during the week—usually a death or an empirical holiday like Thanksgiving—prior to the Big Game we want you to pay attention to, but never politics: ‘Good God, No!’ or our oppressive ways in the name of “World Peace“/”Enduring Freedom.“) [It’s always so controversial nowadays when professional athletes talk about voting when not made to do so in sponsored P.S.A.s of their respective leagues. I guess when you have people right where you want them—asleep—the last thing you want is for them to get a wake up call.]
It’s no secret that football is now the United States’ biggest sports cash cow. Baseball used to be, though it is still very lucrative, but is way too slow of a sport (4-hour Yankees-Red Sox games which end 1-0 for whichever), family oriented (family fabric currently being ripped a part each day seems like) and has been crippled the past 15 years by performance enhancing drug controversies. (Ain’t it funny watching a bunch of old, white, out of shape, washed-up baseball players mill about courtroom telling on each other?) My faithful Red, White and Blues our new pastime is FOOTBALL. But something tells me you knew this already.
Football is white men (usually overweight) with hard-ons for black athletes; it’s men of all races spitting and yelling over women who somehow got a ticket to a game—and more often that not the men spitting and yelling are doing so at each other and it’s over a touchdown (6 points); it’s alcohol and meat-on-a-stick; it’s lusting over Barbie Doll-esque cheerleaders; it’s throwing beer (the much storied Browns game and the following Monday night Saints game in the Louisiana Superdome and probably many others left unreported); it’s parking lot brawls and dunking the opposing team’s fans in the toilets of bathroom stalls (rhyme intended); it’s threatening the lives of game officials—regular people like you and I—who wear black and white vertical stripes one day a week to pay their bills who are trying to do their best—we must allow for some human error—to “regulate” the violence of the game. Oddly enough: going forward: a football stadium could potentially be the only place a man can feel like a man—or any sports venue for that matter. (Please, I hope you’re laughing at that last line.)
[Much of what I’ve said in the paragraph(s) above can be applied to all American sports, but American football—the big, nasty juggernaut it is—has the strongest grip on the American psyche and reflexively that’s where most of my decision to shake free of all sports came from.]
Rome, Hollywood’s (America’s) interpretation of it, tells us that the Romans were the most civilized people of their time even though their army was out raping and pillaging the known world. (Didn’t some of our high ranking officers get busted earlier this year underpaying some prostitutes down in South America? Oh yeah, and the American Troops who took photos of P.O.W.s giving them fake BJs like it was standard op?) Again not a Fan Boy, but when you title a trilogy—twice—Star Wars it couldn’t be more obvious what the Federation’s method for implementing its ideology on the galaxy might entail. (It’s no coincidence Disney is launching another trilogy—the third—of their own. Lucas polluted our minds for a while and now’s he’s passing the baton. And we all should know what Disney has done to the minds of children . . . I know what they did to me. I know I like blondes for some reason and I don’t know why.) What ensued? Games! Games went on while epic (thanks Sheen) battles ensued, but eventually the good guys won right? I think they did? Anyway, having humans slaughter animals, or the other way around, animals killing humans in the case of Gladiator or people cheering the death of a driver whose vehicle speeds at high velocity over desert terrain into a mountain side and burst into flames in the case of Episode I aren’t the forms of live-action “entertainment”, at least I don’t think so, and how these societies saw themselves, of civilized people.
These live-action sporting events masked what was really going on: wars. Wars to wipeout buildings and structures not like our own. Wars to have people assimilate against their will—people that were in opposition to the agenda of furthering an empire and so on. Yes, wars were going on in these movies yet the general population were focused on the games. War, wars are going on right now and the biggest topic this late into fall—now winter—and quite possibly the largest trending topic on Twitter this year—and continuing into 2013 most likely—was the referee’s final decision of whether or not a wide receiver caught a football pass (everyone and their grandma knew/knows Golden Tate didn’t catch that football) in the back of the end zone not the re-election campaign for Obama or the wars America is fighting all over the world. I can’t front: I got caught up in it, but that’s why I had to back out and for good. Hopefully, you can see how they relate. . .
As posted on my Twitter page (@GNetterville) on 12/10/2012: I’m done with professional sports FOREVER! (At the time of this post I’m up to 77 followers on Twitter and 2 followers, I think, on WordPress—Yay! So that means at least 79—some are pornbots now that I think about it—of you who have me on record as saying I’m no longer paying attention to sports, and I really do want you to hold me to this.) Again, it’s scary to think how much America has in common with the above mentioned two movies (empires).
Still not convinced a singular sport hallmarks an empire . . .
Here’s a quote from former NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue. During his tenure he added a lot of cash to the pockets of the 32 NFL owners (31 for profit – The Green Bay Packers are city owned):
“I’m a firm believer that all sports will eventually be global. Someday, we may have a quarterback from China named Yao Fling.”
All Sports? (A racist, candid comment like that—wow! And spoken out loud, and so freely—yikes!)
One, Paul means all American sports. Fuck what everybody else plays. Soccer is about as popular as Leap Year is inside these borders. And two, Mr. Tagliabue meant American football. A game a year is already being played in London, and he was so ahead of his time when he spoke of China; so we can bet more jobs, even football related ones, are going to be on their way to the Orient.
Football has that kind of reach—it will at least because the owners of 32 NFL teams (31 for profit) who already share a king’s fortune in earnings still want to grow their product. Don’t get me wrong basketball is popular (China loves it, just ask Kobe), and so is baseball (Latin America is where we harvest most our major league talent), but consider the fact that there are currently two stadiums (FedEx Field and Cowboys Stadium) in the NFL that can seat 80,000 raging football fans eight Sundays a season, respectively, not including the playoffs and a bid for the Super Bowl. If the Redskins and Cowboys organizations could ever win on consistent bases each venue could see their attendances balloon over that number. And just for good measure, there are also a ton of 70K seat stadiums operating right now. And if your favorite football club is still playing in a 60K seat stadium, why the hell is your state taking so long to give its (its being yours in this case) tax dollars to a for-profit entity so that it can have a bigger building to put its product in? (Awkwardly funny, right?)
Sadly, Jerry Jones (egotistical football titan) and Mark Cuban (obnoxiously cool hipster braggadocio owner) had to give away free tickets just to get the 2010 NBA All-Star Game which was hosted at Jerry’s World (Cowboy Stadium) to their ambitious 100,000 [108,713] mark which made it the most attended basketball game in history. There are college football stadiums that clear that number easily for cupcake squads (Miami of Ohio football wise and Duke Univ. also), and also sell out months in advance.
And everything else: NASCAR most likely if the technology improves it can hang around in the outer regions of the [American] empire, and I can’t help but think it will considering Star Wars; NHL: on strike last I heard; PGA: for retirees and people who won’t let the knit crew shirt and khaki pants look die; and the rest . . . not going to bother. Nothing comes close to fucking with football! Let me just roll some more numbers your way:
The estimated size of the entire United States sports industry is $435 Billion dollars which I’m guessing is quietly being tucked away offshore somewhere. All are white owned sans Usher (? – I forget which team he has a stake in), Jay-Z (the Nets and he won’t shut up about it) and Magic Johnson (Lakers, I think? and Dodgers out of nowhere). And these minority owners, no pun intended, own decimal point percentages of their respective sports teams. They would probably fair better franchising a few Subways and a few El Pollo Locos. . .
Take a look see at where football measures up.
NASCAR — 629.7 Million
NCAA — $777 Million (Players or Employees rather don’t even get paid)
NHL — $3 Billion
PGA — 3.2 Billion
NBA — $4.3 Billion
MLB — $7.7 Billion
NFL — $9.5 Billion
Other Spectator Sports — 33.9 Million
Equipment Sales Wholesale (All Sports) — $77.3 Billion
Equipment Sales Retail (All Sports) — $41.5 Billion
Nike is synonymous with sports—and space exploration too for some reason—and an estimated 24.12 billion will be collected in revenue by big money-bags himself, Phil Knight, before the world ends at the end of 2012 . . . LOL (I always joke to myself that if all Foot Locker is going to sell is Nike products—it’s has to be at least 85% of their store merchandise—why not just call the store Nike? But, then again, Foot Locker used to go by another name, Woolworth’s, and ole Woolies got bullied out of the market by Wal-Mart, so I guess holding on to a name the second time around must mean more to them.) [Anyone younger than me probably didn’t have the opportunity to shop at Woolworth’s. They were pretty much gone by the time I reached my teens. Bummer.]
In knowing all of this, we can safely say that America—that’s us—spends a shitload of money avoiding the reality of what our government and the other the industrialized powers of the world (Europe) are doing to the planet. And not to be too serious, we just plain ignore life for that matter. Hate to give it to you in downer form, but that’s what it is. And the preferred drug of choice is football and we’ve upped our dosage to three days a week (Sunday, Monday and Thursday), four (Saturday) if you’re in need of the college version, five (Friday) if you’re type of person still trolling the bleachers at a high school varsity game.
We’re doing our best to ignore something. Is life that hard to bear? Are there some truths out there we’re not sure how to deal with? (As much as I love film, I couldn’t devote all of my time to it.)
Why is it that after I’ve gone through the trouble of writing a lengthy blog someone will declare me insane for not liking sports? (Really it’s no trouble all, cathartic if anything; especially after reading the last batch of literary representation rejection e-mails I got in my inbox.)
How are we to become better human beings when we subscribe to things that are so savage, cliquish and time consuming?
Have we become so desensitized and jaded to the world around us that we no longer care about the carnage we glorify?
Before reading on: Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said?
I’m fine either way. Don’t fret . . .
Here are a few examples of how sports have affected my life:
I once ended a date early because the girl with whom I was having dinner with was a Steelers fan (Pittsburgh, PA’s football club). The conversation gravitated towards the subject of kids, a big no-no on the first date anyway. But what began as light banter turned into a heated subject on whether she or he, the hypothetical unborn child her and I would hypothetically have together, would it either be a Saints fan or Steelers fan—both not being an option. Then gender became our proverbial coin toss: If our hypothetical unborn child is a girl, fine she can be a Steelers fan, but if it’s a boy—for damn sure he’s a part of the Who Dat Nation—point blank! She rolled her eyes. I flagged down the waitress. Check please.
Well, I’m still single. A connection lost over sports ties . . . and a chance for me to see how sexist I am. (I’m working on that also.)
I tell stories to my friends all the time and if I were to stop unexpectedly at any point during my tale—I usually stop at certain intervals to let the laughter dissipate or to allow the absurdity to set in or to reestablish old information—I would make the “Time Out”, arms-coming-together-to-make-an-uppercase-T motion like coaches and players do, and then say “Let me finish first.”, or “You better believe it!”, or “No, that happened afterwards.” Or worse, the dialogue I’d use to tell a story: It would be laden with sportspeak, sort of like newspeak, borrowing my reference here from 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel. “Yeah, bro. I didn’t read the coverage on that one. I thought I was looking at man, but I didn’t see the safety creep down into the flat. She was in a soft Cover 3 and intercepted my advances as I was trying to throw a quick 5-and-out. No first down. She took it to the house!” — Just to serve up an example.
If my example isn’t suffice, I recommend that you download or rent (notice I wrote download first) the movie Ted and take notice to the dialogue in the breakfast scene. And just so you know, Wahlberg’s & McFarlane’s characters are just as analytical.
A friend of mine spent two months of his life in a coma earlier this year from a gunshot to the abdomen because of what transpired in a NFL playoff football game. He doesn’t even watch football, or any other “real” sport—he’s into wrestling, of the WWE/F? variety—and his only crime was walking into a chain restaurant to pick up his to-go order. I’m not going to go in detail here because bringing it up again sickens me.
And I can go on and on about sports continuing in an empirical fashion; paternally, communally. . . I can examine the overt misogyny towards women, the revenue numbers, and its impact on pop culture—completely smother you.
Ultimately with any decision I make, no matter how drastic—and in this case some will see this as excessive and too dramatic/drastic… whatever. My decision is always a mixed bag. The larger elements of my decision are based in race, humanity and existing in society. Here’s why:
It seems like we all want to be in a gang from the biggest of the biggest (nation) to the smallest of the smallest (PTA) with our own logo, chant and color pattern. For twenty-eight years—definitely twenty consecutive ones—my logo, chant and color pattern was the fleur de lis, “Who dat say they gon’ beat dem Saints?”, and black & gold. (I supported a few others but my allegiance had always been to the New Orleans Saints.) And now that I’ve left sports behind, perhaps I’m asking to be allowed to do so safely and without bodily harm, my punishment now is to forever be an outcast, a pariah, a raised eyebrow to everything I do and say, to be second guessed, made fun of, to assume I must be lost or misguided, un-American—straight trippin’. It’s no wonder that the football and religion analogy in this country is so popular (accepted). Because removing sports from my life, on some level, is like breaking free of Christianity:
I mean if something doesn’t feel right, can’t I step away from it for a while? Forever if I want to?
But society, ours at least, holds on to these stereotypes. Like even though I aspire (I fucking hate this word) to be a filmmaker (writer-director), every time I’m seen at a Starbucks writing/sketching, no one comes up to me asks me if I’m a writer; they sit down next to me and say to me I must be a rapper or what I’ve been getting as of late, a spoken word artist because that’s what young black males do, right. And I can’t help but think, what the fuck kind of rapper am I to be hanging out with a bunch of house moms and their noisy-ass kids at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and at a Starbucks in the Valley for that matter? And if I’m approached while I’m standing, because of my stature (6’2″)—well, you must definitely be a ball player, USC or UCLA? Which one?—because that’s what young black males do, right.
Nope. No baller here, no rapper here either. (Although I was talked into making a rap song—shamefully misogynistic—a few months back with a friend of mine. The song was meh, and I hated hearing my voice rapping back to me. For laughs I’m thinking about putting the song on YouTube. See, I too can get caught up in the Fame Monster.)
At this point a confused look will cover their faces. What else could he possibly do for a living?, is what the looks on their faces say to me. But they never ask me what I do. (Why in L.A. do people need to know what you do for a living? — I live for a living.) They just grab their New York Times, turn around, an order a bagel or something . . . Woe is me I guess.
None of this alienates me by the way, but the media has marginalized black males to a certain extent. I guess you can say I have a fear of being caged in. Moreover, it bothers me when I hear that black athletes who were able to “overcome” adverse conditions go back to their hometowns (the place with said adverse conditions) and build and/or upgrade sports facilities for the kids in the very neighborhoods they grew up in. Why? Make the NCAA do it. I read somewhere recently that the University of Texas’ football coach is expected to make $5.7 million next season (2013).
What’s the English teacher getting?
Or make the NBA do it. They’re getting the largest cut and exploiting black athletes altogether—already a win-win situation. For realz, the NFL’s and the NBA‘s profits are in the billions (see figures above) and they can’t spend a couple hundred grand painting lines through the grass or getting rid of the milk crates for shape appropriate iron rims?
My heart goes out to the parents—especially the minority parents—who let their kids (usually the sons) play contact sports, especially football. The game is violent, too too violent. We ooh & ahh when we see the collisions, when we see a race cars go up in flames, when we see the human bodies bend in a way they’re not supposed to on the instant replays . . .
Dear SportsCenter, stop showing us (not me anymore) instant replays of nasty violent hits. How do you expect the NFL to “clean up its act” (won’t happen) when you undermine NFL‘s efforts by showing, over and over on the hour through the early parts of the day, the violent hits they’re trying to rid the game of? Then again, that too, isn’t my issue anymore either . . .
Let me stop for a moment and say that this isn’t an attack on the players. They have paid, and are paying the ultimate price—a heroic sacrifice to say the least—in putting forth their bodies for your entertainment. This blog, if it were in attack mode, trust me it isn’t, but if it were, it would be on the American sports industry and the global, predatory, corporate complex it has.
Again, I’m not attacking the sports industry, I’m just letting you (my 2 followers and whoever else) know I’m not down with sports anymore, and here are a few things to consider in and around life (mine and yours) that helped me make the decision in doing so . . .
If you can truly consider what I’ve written only then will you begin to understand that the more you tune in, the more THEY justify their being in existence hence more 3rd degree fuel burns, plastic face guards, broken fingers, missing teeth, ACLs, MCLs, ripped Achilles tendons, concussions and suicides. I wouldn’t wish any those things on another human being, not even my worst enemy.
That’s the mark of a nation that is civilized!—A nation looking to do no harm to its people . . .
Hopefully, we—players both current & past and myself—can work together on ways to give insight to future families about how the American sports industry robs their kids of their youth by making them way too competitive at a young age, how it makes them chase a “dream” (I prefer the term hustle) with odds that are 1-in-50,000—football’s odds but I’m sure the other sports’ odds are just as long. Personally, I’m open to giving these jobs to the machines—this being a rare time you’ll get me to okay putting a machine to work over a human. Hell, FOX Network’s back-from-commercials promo features a football player robot; and is the reason why a movie like Real Steel gets made. (We get tested for future products and we don’t even realize it.)
Closing remarks. . .
I’d like to acknowledge a few people who I’m going to miss: Charles Barkley, Cris Carter and Arian Foster. Currently, they’re being paid to only talk about/play sports (No complaint; just a reality). Not to say that there aren’t others athletes I’ll miss, but how much do we really care about athletes? (Some of you have prayed to your God that an opposing team’s star athlete gets hurt so that your team can win or put matters into your own hands, re: The Kobe food-poisoning game.) [So don’t bring that over here! *Brooklyn voice*] Anyway, I caught the tail end of Jordan’s career. I’m still new to the reign of Lebron and the ascension of Kevin Durant. And I’m not sure why I should be impressed with Carmelo Anthony’s scoring efforts.
And let’s be honest, most of you (me too) have never met the people we’ve spent our afternoons in awe of, and the sound bytes of your favorite athletes you love are always of the after-the-game variety, after they’ve been knocked around by other grown men for a couple of hours (damn commercial breaks). They’re usually mumbling—probably because they’re exhausted or concussed—or speaking vaguely about what they did in the game, or skating around any question that’s actually serious. So it’s safe to say we don’t fully know any of them. If it weren’t for Twitter most of the bench players wouldn’t have a voice, a face even—for damn sure a fan base that actually cares about them being on the team. (True! **2 Chainz voice**)
But athletes like Charles Barkley, Cris Carter and Arian Foster just happen to be three people who bring more to the table:
Cris Carter – I can hear in his voice how much he loves the game of football—definitely a been-through-it-all Gladiator type. He did his business in an era where getting off of the line of scrimmage was an every down occurrence. Modern day NFL receivers aren’t really sure what that means. They spend the entire game flinging their arms up in the air, crying for pass interference calls, with a defender playing seven yards off of them. Cris never complained. He just got open. I value his mentorship ability. He speaks to rookies at the NFL combine about how to handle life in the NFL. I’m no athlete but I’ve been apply some of what he has spoken them about to my life.
Charles Barkley – Sir Charles, I have to get it out of the way one last time. He taught me that I can say whatever I want and people will have to just deal with it. He actually tells you who’s a good athlete and who isn’t. There’s no sense in lying about it. And he wasn’t caught up in being a role model, just rebounds.
Arian Foster – I won’t know how far your prolific “flowing like water” running style will take you in the NFL, but I’ll continue to read your tweets. Arian sees himself as more than an athlete—I believe he says “an aspiring (his word not mine) human being”—which is exactly what I aspiring towards. He has charisma and once he moves on from football, I hope he considers acting. I’d cast him. I’m eager to see how his approach to working out a scene would be. I could easily have a five hour conversation with him.
Please don’t say to me that I’m taking the fun out of life. Because fun isn’t staring at woman’s chest while chugging beers with the boys from the office in stadium bleachers and saying to her, “shake them tits like the ladies down there on the sidelines.” That’s sexual harassment. Or cheering when a player (usually a quarterback) for the team you’re rooting for gets hurt—that’s malice and foolish! He’s supposed to be your guy. Or beating up a father wearing the opposing team’s colors in the stadium parking lot on his way home from an away game with his wife and young kids within inches of losing his life—that’s assault?, or attempted man slaughter?. . . savagery!
There isn’t much good left in the games to continue watching it or defending it. I choose to be human. And I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a better human by staying away from sports for good.
And it isn’t like I’m not going to know what’s going on. I can walk up to any random group of men—and women too now for some reason (The NFL‘s Breast Cancer Awareness Scam worked. Scam because they were looking to open up to new a demographic and going for women and their jubblies was an easy move.) and the conversation eventually lands on sports if it already wasn’t. I’ll probably have to use the bathroom at that point. Because there’s nothing like having to hear the same opinion—which means they all have watched SportsCenter on repeat since last night and couldn’t wait to yelp at one another like a pack of wild hyenas eager to say the same damn thing—that makes me suddenly want to take a shit.