Friday, September 17, 2010

Concuss and Discuss, or Everyone Works During The NFL Season

Here is a reasonable person doing a reasonable thing. His name is Jared Allen, he plays for the Minnesota Vikings, he fucking loves guns, and he is almost impossible for me to relate to in any way. It's not just that I'm kind of meh on guns, have not been arrested for DUI even once, and have never driven Dan Orlovsky's face into the turf of Ford Field. It's that the life experiences and physical bigness and immense wealth and tremendous overwhelming love of firearms that have shaped Jared Allen's personality is as foreign to me as can be. This isn't to say that I can relate with, say, Jose Reyes's life experience -- I don't love fried meats or other Dominican delicacies, I did not grow up excruciatingly poor and then become excruciatingly rich. But man: writing about the NFL, which is mostly what I've been doing for the last two weeks and mostly what I'll be doing for the next five months, sure feels strange.

I mentioned it earlier, but I should probably have been linking to the two columns I've done for The Awl in my new role as their weekly NFL columnist. Which, like so many of my other gigs, sounds really awesome until you check out the (imaginary, in this case) pay stubs. But I love that site, love the editors, and am pretty proud of the two columns I've written for them thus far -- the first is an elaborate scene-setting given over almost entirely to making fun of Chris Berman; the second is about mirroring and reflexive unreflectiveness in the broader NFL discourse. So kind of like Peter King if you replaced his pumpkin spice latte with scotch and his love of the NFL and everyone in it with intense ambivalence. There are also predictions at the end of every column, in which I'm getting soundly out-predicted by a flipped Canadian coin and posting a winning percentage that even Charlie Morton thinks is pathetic.

Anyway, it has been fun, and as you can see I've decided to busy up the righthand column -- which did not contain nearly enough information, obviously -- with links to each of these columns and all of those to come. I will, however, probably be saving most of my NFL insights -- insights such as What Is The Deal With Jared Allen, among other pricelessnesses -- for my bylined stuff. Between The Awl column, which I have apparently decided to make a sprawling weekly exercise in cultural studies capped with totally incorrect predictions, and additional NFL writing for the Journal -- More bad predictions! Semi-gamers for the Metropolis blog! -- I'm really pushing my NFL tolerance to its limits. This is a sport I'm more fascinated by than actually interested in, and I watch the games -- and the behavior of the totally reasonable national heroes playing and coaching those games, like the 100% not DSM-diagnosable mentally ill man at right -- at a much further remove than I do any other sport. In part because the players are like strange zoo monsters, and in larger part because of its outsized impact on the broader national discourse and the terribly stupid fear-based machismo that defines NFL culture.

The sport itself is interesting to me, maybe more so than ever -- when you start noticing for the patterns of the game and the intricacies of each play, football is a fascinatingly complex (if also culturally complicated) thing. But the discourse surrounding it keeps me at arm's length -- increasingly rapt at the weird, brutish intricacy of the sport itself, but also puzzled by the combination of incautious canonization and casual loathing to which the players are subjected, irritated by the terrified gay-panic weirdness of its broader discourse, discouraged by the sheer equine scope and bellowing utterances of CBS halftime dude Shannon Sharpe's face. If this sort of insight sounds like the sort of thing you're interested in reading over and over again, with varying intensity of expression and a fairly high amount of profanity, man do I have some good news for you about your next four-plus months.

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