Thursday, August 26, 2010

Write What You Know (That You Find Objectionable)

The sound of corny aggro pseudo-Sousa on highlights and the bray of eight-dude pregame shows and the screaming -- just straight-up screaming -- of a half-in-the-bag Chris Berman. The terse, impatient crypto-Rumsfeldianism of a coach's press conference and the audible-on-mic line-on-line grunting and the glottal honking of Tony Siragusa in a golf shirt, talking about toughness. It is not only nearly NFL season, it increasingly seems that it is always NFL season. The Real Housewives of New Jersey? That would basically be the AFC North turned into people with burnt umber tans, periodic instances of depressingly cartoonish pontoon fakebreasts, and industrial-grade pill habits. Protests against the Non-Ground Zero Non-Mosque? Basically just New York Jets fans getting ready for the season to start. Katy Perry's videos? They're what people think about while masturbating in the bathroom at Cowboys Stadium, basically. The only difference between Fox News and Fox's pre-game show is that Fox and Friends features nine fewer commentators and no Jimmy Johnson. These are FACTS.

They are not facts. But my push-pull revulsion/attraction to the NFL is both weird and undeniable at this point. Given that I write about football as part of my livelihood -- and that I willingly solicited The Awl in hopes of writing a NFL column this year, and that I am actually going to be writing that column -- I don't really have the option of sitting it out. Increasingly, though, I don't want to sit it out. Increasingly, I'm drawn to the sociocultural car wreck -- and often-torpid sports-watching exercise -- that is the NFL. No pro sport is covered more poorly in the media, I don't think -- who is YOUR favorite NFL writer? Take as much time as you need -- and the interplay between long moments of inertia and short spurts of violence is less poetic to me than it is like being stuck in traffic. No pro sport, with the possible exception of hockey, features less-relatable, less-sympathetic players; no sport anywhere features more unconscionably nasty management or more disagreeable self-important martinets as head coaches. These are pretty close to facts, too. It's not just that I dislike a lot about the NFL. It's that I have a hard time, sometimes, understanding how a decent human being could like anything about the NFL.

But, but: I sort of do like the NFL. I really do like fantasy football, and I really did enjoy watching the NFL Playoffs last year. Which is probably why -- despite the fact that the NFL is easily the most objectionable pro sports league and the sport itself is not at all my aesthetic favorite -- I enjoy writing about the NFL so much. Over the course of a year, I wear down: by Week 14, I'm just kind of mumbling to myself; by Week 16 I'm essentially just making stuff up. By the Super Bowl, I'm basically writing eulogies for everything I hold dear while also trying to discuss injuries in the secondary, the pitfalls of the West Coast Offense, and etc. But I think I not only enjoy the challenge, I enjoy the argument with myself. Being a sports fan is never something I've felt terribly guilty about -- occasionally dorky, but not even really that anymore, as my dorkiness has become something merely factual, rather than something to try to obscure in order to impress others -- but the NFL conjures in me this weird combination of haughty down-the-nose dismissiveness, ethical revulsion, and anthropological how-does-this-even-work curiosity. None of them are exactly fun feelings, but they're all at least more complicated than getting bummed out by how poorly run the Mets are.

I guess this means that I'm ready for some football? I am, at least, roughly as ready as I ever will be, or allow myself to be. Let the challenge begin.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Building With The Older Gods: Empire State Building, "Ground Zero" "Mosque" and Etc.

It has been quiet around the blog of late, I know. Just a few goofy videos and that one long What's It All Mean post from a few days back. I hear my public asking: David, where is the legendary fire in the belly? Where are the overlong and too-fervent exegeses on the myriad awfulnesses of Papa John and The Giant Rum-Glazed Pork Butt Known As Guy Fieri? Whither the searching examinations of your own random one-off writing goofs?

To all of this I can only say: calm down, America. The fire is still in the belly. It's just that the belly has been spending a ton of time on Metro North of late, helping the belly-owner's wife move into a new apartment in New Haven, CT. And also building some Ikea furniture. For this, the belly has been rewarded with a trip to lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns -- wedding gift certificate in effect, there, which made the cost a bit less ridiculous -- and a brief vacation from freelance-related anxiety. But the fire is there. The pride is back!

What an unbelievable American!

So, yeah: I have been doing husband things, and also briefly did some going-to-New-Hampshire-and-jumping-in-a-lake things, which was incredibly nice. But I've also done some writing stuff of late that -- because that is what this blog is supposed to be for -- I should mention here.

The first of these -- in that I started it first, and submitted my first draft like three and a half weeks ago -- is a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the greening of the windows in the Empire State Building. It was fun to report, although I keep bumping up against the fact that, despite all my years writing for (some) money, I have never really mastered the arid/informative news article style. This is not to say that my prose is just too vibrant and unforgettable for this sort of thing, so much as it is to say that I just lack confidence in my ability to write that sort of piece, and thus make it a lot harder than it probably is. Also that my prose is too vibrant and unforgettable for the strictures of the form. Anyway, this is why the good lord made editors, I suppose. At any rate, it's here, and has a neat video attached by Maya Pope-Chappell.

Of course, part of the fun of this stuff is being your own editor. Which is another way of saying "essentially writing without an editor." That's what I'm more or less able to do at GreenbuildingsNYC, where I'm both managing editor and head writer and (because why not) also shop steward and ombudsman and headwaiter. It's a great gig, in that regard. It's also great because I periodically get to pop off with 1,500-word pieces about Park51, the not-at-Ground-Zero non-mosque that every out-of-town clown and fame-humping media-bigot feels entitled to criticize. It's a non-story, in the end -- an opportunity for more un-reporting and corny SEO-ed link-whoring from a media that's essentially taking August off. But even though this whole dumb kerfuffle doesn't really matter -- doesn't matter relative to disaster in Pakistan, for instance, or really matter to many of us who actually live here in New York City -- it still has a certain importance as another chapter in New York's blessedly endless process of becoming itself. For many words on that -- almost all of which I'm proud of, despite my suspicion that an editor may have helped somewhat -- check out my piece on Park51 at gbNYC.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Found Troosers

Always be closing the in-jokes. Everything is Terrible is always good, but this is speed-up-a-7-hour-car-ride good. I'll see you in Branson.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our Tricorn Hat-Rocking Right: Now Ruining Vacations

This was inevitable, probably. Once you get enough people to believe that George Washington was somehow a megachurch-y libertarian with a staunch opposition to any taxation at all, the next step is clear -- book a vacation, and just totally ruin things for everybody else.

They stand in the crowd listening closely as the costumed actors relive dramatic moments in the founding of our country. They clap loudly when an actor portraying Patrick Henry delivers his "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. They cheer and hoot when Gen. George Washington surveys the troops behind the original 18th-century courthouse. And they shout out about the tyranny of our current government during scenes depicting the nation's struggle for freedom from Britain.

"General, when is it appropriate to resort to arms to fight for our liberty?" asked a tourist on a recent weekday during "A Conversation with George Washington," a hugely popular dialogue between actor and audience in the shaded backyard of Charlton's Coffeehouse.

Standing on a simple wooden stage before a crowd of about 100, the man portraying Washington replied: "Only when all peaceful remedies have been exhausted. Or if we are forced to do so in our own self-defense." The tourist, a self-described conservative activist named Ismael Nieves from Elmer, N.J., nodded thoughtfully. Afterward, he said this was his fifth visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Salem County stand up! Okay, now please sit back down. You're terrible. Please sit.