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Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3: Continued | The Nether

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #3: Continued…

As someone who came from a family of mostly low-income, blue-collar (and “no-collar”) workers, started out in Music (guitar and piano) in grade school, detoured into Art (cartooning) and organized Sports (Basketball, Football, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer) with flights of fancy into Interior Design and Graphic Design during middle school and junior high, then back into Music (songwriting) after my short-lived attempt at going to college, and finally into Film (producer/writer-director; more so screenwriting) at the start of adulthood—not only did my “career” choices steadily creep away from what mommy dearest had envisioned for her baby boy, but I too was left with a bit of a moral dilemma: does my current (and now mainstay) passion—writing; whatever the medium—make any significant contribution to the world in this day and age, or any of my past “creative” endeavors I left behind? This quandary has been the pebble underneath my heel for quite some time, and as recently as this past fall when I made the decision to go forward with this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) confessional, combining bits of my life with unscientific observations of modern day society as a way to discuss the medium of Theatre (stage plays), I had to sit in deep thought for a half day or so and reflect on why was I even bothering to write any of this—anything at all—down in the first place… Cleansing my brain of all the toxic negativity American culture is currently steeped in as well as my own self-doubting and self-deprecating ways, I regained the confidence needed to see this endeavor to the end. I’m never one to re-invent the wheel, and I’m sure, dear reader, that you may have heard many of these reasons before, but here are a few reasons on why the Theatre should matter. To you, dear reader, I would like to point out a few of the positives:

(1) The Cost. Both tangible and intangible. First-world problems about sums it up—if I were looking for the proper expression. While over a $7-dollar slice of cherry pie at a “roadside” diner, I expressed one of my many observations (grievances) about contemporary life in good ol’ Oosa (U.S.A.) to a group of my closest of friends: which is that “diner prices”, “fast-casual prices”, and “restaurant prices” are all now within $4- to $5-dollars of one another; the idea of a “cheap meal” is a thing of the past. The mere fact of eating out is expensive, certainly a lot more than enjoying meals at home. I also find that the costs for Entertainment are just as relative… Music festival tickets, professional sports tickets, Vacations (air travel plus room & board), movie tickets, comedy shows, nightclub venues (definitely for men) are within $15- to $20-dollars of one another, more in fact for the popular draws (MSG shows, Lakers tickets, Coachella, Broadway musicals, Travel to a locale during a special event, say Mardi Gras) — so there’s definitely enough griping to go around when it comes to spending what’s in your wallet. Those of us here in the “First World” with mad time to fill should definitely reconsider our stance on not attending the Theatre. If anything, most playhouses are slashing ticket prices—or giving them away for free—just to get people’s asses in those tiny chairs. Do you think Coachella or the Staples Center where the L.A. Clippers and L.A. Lakers play would ever consider doing that? As far as the intangible: much of the other areas of Entertainment have been extremely corporatized which, in essence, is predicated on maximizing profits whereas the Theatre (sans Broadway; though the medium too would like a larger bottom line) — bad material and all — seems to be more about how we (Society) are driving the culture. And you can’t put a price on that!

(2) A great if not better option to go on a Date. An excellent venue for Social-gathering. Another man is less likely to test your manhood — meaning you won’t have to “defend her honor” — while one a date at a theater versus the food court at the mall or right outside the men’s bathroom at a sports arena. (What is it with American men wanting to get into fist-fights outside the one room in a public facility that’s there so humans can relieve themselves?) I’ve hit on this before but the air in the theater is quite pretentious and in that setting, it’s rare that tempers flare—just think of the cost incurred to get into the building. No one’s trying to get kicked out! Theater patrons go out of their way not to speak or make eye contact in general, so there’s never any worry about a scuffle happening. Hopefully, the date is to see a comedy (or a musical) which allows for lots of playful hitting, knee-grabbing, and eye contact which is crucial early on in any courtship. (You can thank me later.) As far as it being an excellent choice for social gatherings, well consider the alternative: digital screens. Earlier Millennials and prior generations know what I’m talking about; face-to-face interaction is something we still pine for. It’s my own personal theory for why so many of us feel so aimless walking around nowadays—that and the economy. Hell, if the date is going well you might be so inclined as to talk to the other couples seated around you—between acts or coming back from intermission, of course. Who knows, that same conversation could potentially lead to some networking. With the average age of the theater-goer currently sitting at 54, the Baby Boomer you’re trading barbs with just might put you in the run-in for his/her position when they retire or bring you aboard so as to groom you along seeing as one so cultured as you is at the theater on a Saturday night… Sure beats firing off résumés online, or figuring out if you possess any of the skills for the “jobs” listed on Craig’s List.

Well, dear reader, that will have to suffice for now. I would like to turn our attention to August’s stage play, The Nether.

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They’re out there…

Title: The Nether (2013)
Playwright: Jennifer Haley
Time Period: Postmodernism (Transrealism)
Plot: A young detective investigates the inventor of an online virtual realm where morally questionable acts involving young children are being carried out behind the anonymity of “Shades” — human avatars that could potentially be real and what, if any, ethical ramifications this may have regarding the real world.
Dope Line(s):

[Scene 5]

MORRIS
It’s more than that, Mr. Doyle. It’s sound, smell, touch. The Hideaway is the most advanced realm there is when it comes to the art of sensation.

[Scene 13]

IRIS
People come to things on their own time. We offer a place where you may dismantle everything the world has told you about right and wrong and discover pure relationship.

[Scene14]

DOYLE
It draws people who are—broken—I know that, but—I don’t judge them—they are part of us, too—they are part of the world—God does not judge them—why should we?

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Ones & Zeroes

The Eagle has landed! I’ve been back home for a little more than a month now and both my body and sleeping pattern have adjusted back to west coast time. It’s the bank account that’s jet-lagged. But no worries, the system wasn’t built for folks like moi to keep it all. So spend it all I shall, whenever it does touch my hands… For those of you who have been with me, you might get the sense that I’m in good spirits—well, I am! One needs to be whenever one is blind-sided by life, in many more ways than one as of late. (Some things are just too personal for me to say here.) So who cares if this month’s play trivializes pedophilia, or has no clue on how real criminal investigations are run, or is ignorant as to how mental illnesses work; in real life, I’m being cleaned out by my own government for a fraud I didn’t commit with the paperwork to prove it, and my country’s president(?) is instigating World War III, at home and abroad. To hell with morals, screw decency. Pour big globs of debauchery and bad behavior all over the mob; just see if we push back—we won’t! We’re plebs for a reason! I’m a hundred percent sure now there’ll be a purge soon.

The Nether received rave reviews—spoiler alert!: this gets only a “meh” from me. And it pains me so to say that because this playwright is my contemporary—or would be if I could ever get over the hump and make an impact on Pop Culture—and a fellow Angeleno by way of San Antonio, Texas. Troubled waters lie ahead… I know readership is low for this blog, but I also know that Millennials and Gen-Xers love to “Google” themselves (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) — so only time will tell how playwright Jennifer Haley will receive me… But for those #TINWIPA faithful—oh, how little of you there are—you know exactly where Big G (to those special two in Las Vegas, Cousin G) draws the line when it comes to taste and decency, so I must remain firm… I believe it was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd who said it best: “Leave them kids alone”. And with a few days (weeks?) left before the official start to the new school year here in the States, I wanted to see what the kids were doing. And by kids, I mean the playwrights currently making names for themselves in the Theatre world. Overall this series is geared towards old stage plays but I wanted to reserve at least one slot for a modern stage play, and The Nether has the proud honor of being on my inaugural list.

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Small on scale, big on dreams…

I couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or so pages in when I had to read the word “molestation” having had the notion be implied to me in a number of ways in earlier scenes… The majority of them featuring the play’s protagonist Detective Morris—a woman!—who works ‘em hard and fast; a sort of tough, no-nonsense and perhaps overworked public defender in an unknown city, world, and time. We are far out into the future and the Internet/internet we affectionately slave all of our time away on is now like those old Nokias of my high school days—gone! A major upgrade has been made to the web and it even has a new name, “Nether” — thus the riddle of the play’s title is solved. Yes, the world many of us fear where humans can no longer tell what is real and what is fake is alive and kickin’, and if weren’t for what this play was trying to peddle, I would have had no problem in finding this sort of world-building inventive. But, ideally, we get to see none of this brave new world only glimpses rather, because much of this play’s narrative involves overtly-dramatic interrogation scenes—the stockiest I’ve seen this side of a film festival circuit. (Interrogation scenes are common with new filmmakers looking to make their first short film. Just about any space can be turned into an interrogation room and then all you need is a few props and two committed actors to sell the drama.) And like so many before in this series, the story unfolds bit by bit, the heaviest of all the exposition being front-loaded so as to lace the back end with lots of navel-gazing and soap-boxing. However, Haley has decided to break her story line in two (which isn’t a bad idea in itself): one part is in the “present” featuring the interrogation room drama, the other in the “past” taking us inside the Nether—but still in rooms and the occasional foyer. And back and forth we go, watching as the two converge… And it’s the story that takes place in the Nether region (pun intended; forgive me) that makes me pause for concern.

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Jennifer Haley

Side note: Early on in my mind before I keyed in on what type of story this was going to be, I envisioned this play as a feature film, a fast-paced thriller where we cut back and forth between the different interrogation scenes all of which would be even more intense and amplified, and the majority of the “action” would take place in the Nether, requiring Det. Morris to jump back and forth between the virtual world and the real world while in pursuit of the truth/bad guy. Either world, Det. Morris would be running down some corridor, or turning over her shoulder and seeing ones and zeroes in everything around her, and always having a feeling that the world—either one—is on the verge of collapsing in on itself as she races towards some stock, arbitrary countdown to save a little girl from a pedophile which she would do—heroically, of course. And, as always, just in the nick of time. But then, the little girl would be lost to the Nether world forever, perhaps never being real at all, which would add some emotional weight to the story because the audience would’ve grown attached to her by then. And as the little girl turns to pixels, she would give Det. Morris a code that would show her the location of the server or the bad guy—or both. Det. Morris then would haul ass there, talk it out with the bad guy for a bit, then waste him… Again, this was all in my mind, and I was only about thirty or so pages in—and even then, I was giving this play too much credit.

Instead, as written, much of the suspense is telegraphed in advance; so people like me are far out in front of where Haley is trying to go with her story. Now I’m a fan of disjointed timelines, but it really serves no purpose here other than to drag out the story. And when stories start to drag that’s when I start to ask questions, especially when they take place in the future and technology (as well as surveillance) should be better than what’s currently on the market. I start to ponder questions like: Why doesn’t law enforcement have its own team of white hats to aid Det. Morris in finding out who the inventor is and tracking down his location? Why can’t the government just shut down the Nether (internet) seeing as there are “kids” involved and platforms allowing pedophiles to congregate could potentially become a societal issue which in the world of this play it clearly is? Egypt’s government did it (in 2011) and the U.S. has the Patriot Act (which if the President wanted to he/she could technically shutdown the Net) so some future politician/bureaucrat must surely have access to the Nether (internet) kill switch, right? Does Det. Morris have a superior officer, and if she does, why isn’t she or he monitoring her behavior? For that matter, shouldn’t Det. Morris have a partner to at least try to ensure that she doesn’t cross the line, and if she does decide to, at least there’s someone present in her life with a firm moral compass for the case she’s been tasked with trying to solve to perhaps prevent her from doing so? Why does Doyle’s lawyer—if he even has one—allow his client to keep being brought back in for interrogation? Hell, why is Doyle’s lawyer not present, considering what’s at stake (pedophilia charges)? Did Doyle even contact his lawyer before deciding to speak to and cooperate with law enforcement? Nothing was in writing, so what if Det. Morris reneges on her side of the deal? … I can go on and on and on. (No wonder Americans have no idea about how the Law works. Just look at the material they have available to them.)

inter_room2

The room.

I guess one would find all of this cringe-worthy and unsettling (and possibly riveting) to see this acted out on stage: where and older man gets fresh with a little girl. Me, I would’ve walked out. Forgive me, I picked this at random from a best-of list and assumed it was going to be about dreams… Anyhoo, Det. Morris is knee-deep in a gentleman’s ass by the name of Doyle. He has been spending time in a realm known as “The Hideaway.” This realm exists in the Nether and was created by Papa, the kind of evil guy who believes he’s smarter than everyone in the room. She’s in his ass also, though spoiler: he goes by a different name, Sims. Both of these men suffer from mental illness but that never gets discussed nor does their sexuality really, considering it ranges from homosexuality to pedophilia. Papa (Sims) has created “shades”, avatars that allow users in the real world to be on his platform anonymously—and they nor he can be traced for some reason. The eerie thing is that some users take the form of little girls who then “play” in a little girl’s bedroom with another user who is usually an adult male or a male creature of some kind, and when the men have had enough “playing”, their next task is to bludgeon the girl (it’s always a girl, am I right?) to death with an ax. (Depraved, sadistic, nihilistic material; I can’t believe I read this.) There’s also a “crossing over” option available to users which means that they may possibly stay there in the Nether forever but it isn’t fully explained and dealing with all that was going on, I just had to let it go.

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Sadistic weapon of choice

Now I’ll say this much: Haley nails the sci-fi elements, though a lot what she offers up sinks under all of the navel-gazing from some her characters (Papa/Sims). One little girl, Iris, is Det. Morris’s way into finding out who the inventor is and the scenes involving Iris are some of the most inventive, and by inventive I mean disturbing… And that’s pretty much crux of this story: a man has created a “cyberplace” for other perverts and degenerates to get their rocks off online and he’s been brought in for questioning, and while in questioning he defends his right along with other pedophiles/pervs to be exactly who they are… Gross!

inter_room1

Talk!!!

I guess that’s the thing with modern stage plays. The ever present “shock value” that turns a lot of people away—myself included—from the Theatre. Someone is always vomiting on themselves or someone else, or getting completely naked (always a busty white woman) for no effin’ reason, or getting mutilated, or coming up with the most heinous act imaginable just to see if they can make an audience cringe then crafting a “story” around it afterwards, not even bothering to see if the “story” itself is concrete. Then me, poor me, I come along and ask a few questions, wondering why something is, and I’m told to “Relax… It’s just art, bro!” Okay…

There’s no sense in asking whether this play holds up or not; it was only written four years ago. Rightfully so, the play does deal with a relevant topic: online virtual portals where things like child pornography can potentially be traded and discussed. (Yikes! Yuck!) From the looks of it, this play has opened all sorts of doors for Haley, and I tip my hat to her: congrats! But having read The Nether, I’m left scarred so there’s no way in the world I can see what else she has going on… Well boy and girls and aliens, I see you next month with a classic work from one of the founding fathers of the LGBT theater movement.

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til September…

 

 

Rating: 2.5/5

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The Talk Now: The Movie-Slow, Slow Motion I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck Head Nod

Posted in The City: Los Angeles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2012 by gregnett

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.

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Run #44…

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.]

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Game Day…

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—twiceStar 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.

Game Day...

Game Day…

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).

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Run Forrest…

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?)

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CATCH THE DAMN BALL…

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.

Annual Revenue[s]:
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

****side note****
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.]

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Dead-and-Gone since ’91

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 . . .

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That “1” Will Never Be a “S” . . .

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.)

Another.

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.

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Couple-a-Teddi Brewskies…

Another.

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:

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I just love a good Center-QB exchange…

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.

Huh?

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.)

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And I was runnin’…

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.

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2-points…

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?

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Still 2-points…

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 . . .

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The Truth We Continue To Ignore . . .

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 . . .

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#1 pick of Draft Class 2083 . . .

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.)

Same year but a 3rd rounder . . .

Same year but a 3rd rounder . . .

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.

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Shooter…

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 BarkleySir 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.

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Namaste . . .

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.

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Celeb Endorsement…