Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deep cuts.

As some of you may have guessed from my brand new instagram I spent last weekend with my grandparents out in the country. It was really nice to see them, to spend time with family, away from everything. My grandfather is an even earlier riser than I am and we spent a few mornings engaged in some pretty intense discussions over coffee before the rest of the house began to stir. My grandfather is a thinker, an observer, a creator--you can see some of his work here--and he’s extremely frustrated with mainstream media. A frustration I share. (I come by it honestly.) Of particular irritation to Grumps was an article in a recent issue of Time magazine on modern art… Here’s a topic I know really well, said Grumps, and this article is all nonsense! He didn’t understand how Time magazine, a respected (“respected”) mainstream outlet could publish such trash and, on top of that, if their modern art coverage was so lousy, did that extend to everything else in the magazine?? What is happening?

You see, Grumps is not online. He doesn’t read or care about listicles or “hot takes” or care about who’s trending on twitter. What Grumps sees, though he didn’t understand why, is the end result of our J-School media culture that prizes an odd sort of “objectiveism” in which the journalist doesn’t need to know anything about the topic on which he or she is writing. All the journalist needs is quotes from two sources on “opposite” sides and some buzzwords to generate interest. No need to fact check, to research and develop an informed opinion, to take responsibility when things go wrong… just find a angle, cobble together some quotes, post, and move on to the next piece.

It’s gotten to the point where the only mainstream outlets I read on a regular basis are the Onion and the New York Review of Books (and sometimes Harpers or Roling Stone). I’ve just grown so tired of sifting through self-important hackery, re-written press releases, “hot takes”, and groupthink. It’s all content with no context.

Grumps says I should write the book that blows the lid on the whole thing but even if I did--and that’s a big “if”--who would read it? We’re all so distracted and up our own butts. Reading and watching in order to be able to comment on things. Carving out a domain of authority in an obscure fandom in order to appear important, whether or not he knows anything about the topic at all or even speaks the language, Ronald. (I seriously can’t believe they PAY this guy for this shit.) Or mistaking access to celebrity for celebrity itself--If he’s important and I’m friendly with him then I am important--bashing anybody who might crack the elaborately constructed ego-facade.

One of the few good things to happen to me this year, a year of serious illness and death for me and my family, was bonding with my brother at D.C. United games. Once I was healthy enough to be outside and on my feet for a couple of hours, there was no place I wanted to be more than in the stands at RFK stadium, waving a flag around and cheering for the men in black and red. In the stands, surrounded by fellow fans, there’s no past, no future, only the seconds immediately in front of you as the game plays out. A fast burst of action towards goal, the time slowing to molasses as Hamid kicks some long balls which cycle endlessly back to him. Feeling the rain, the sun, the occasional beer shower, the body heat from newfound friends on either side. You are there. I am there. You can’t check your phone--what if Rolfie ends up with the ball?? No time for hot twitter takes when Pontius is racing up the wing. Eyes can’t leave the field, though my voice is hoarse from screaming encouraging phrases in Taylor Kemp’s direction and my beer cup has tumbled to the floor. Why would you want to want to watch the game from anywhere else when you could be in the middle of all that?!

And nothing gets the heart racing like treading on enemy territory. A couple of weeks ago I traveled with the fan club to New Jersey for a game at Red Bull Arena and the air was electric with hostility and excitement. Marching through the streets, banging drums and waving flags, we were there. We were D.C. United. I was there.

Soccer Twitter and the Soccer Interwebs have been considerably less enjoyable than actual soccer and the actual soccer fans I've met. Possibly because I haven’t been around long enough to find and mute all those self-important “obscure fandom” douches like I have with my other interests. I’ll tell you what I do know. I’ve been inspired by these D.C. United players, all of them, but especially Bill Hamid and Chris Rolfe. Digging through some D.C United youtube deep cuts I came across a gem of gloriously unslick PR video schlock (there are so many, Ben Olsen "off mic" is another gem) with the D.C. United “reporter” asking Rolfie to “hot or not” certain things. She asks him about “Chicago Fire, the TV show” and he’s like, “Nope” and she’s like, “WHY?!” and he’s like, “I don’t really watch TV.” And it struck me-- why would he watch TV? He’s out on the field. My grandfather doesn’t watch TV, he still gets more creative work done in a day than I do all week.

I don’t know where I’m going with this other than… inspirado. I was feeling the lack of it but it feels good to write something.

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