Friday, July 11

Not cool

In the never-ending battle sportswriters are waging to see who can craft the worst article possible, I think SI's Phil Taylor might have struck a decisive blow.

The article's title, "The Day Cool Died," is a pretty big tip-off that this is going to be a poor piece, and it doesn't disappoint. Taylor's central thesis is that players celebrate more on the field than they used to (because of money and fans, of course), and thus, nothing is cool anymore. It's kind of similar to an article he wrote six years ago that he has either forgotten about or never stopped thinking about. It's misguided, yet ridiculous, with a nice veneer of inaccuracy. In fact, browsing Taylor's archives, I find few things I agree with him on, but let's focus.

Taylor's first example of "cool"'s "death" is recent NBA champion Kevin Garnett, whose victory yelp of "Anything is possible!" after winning the NBA Finals apparently represented the death of coolness in Taylor's eyes. It did not represent the giddy exuberance of a player who plays as hard and intense as any other, one of the sport's all-time greats, a fellow who toiled on subpar teams for years, finally achieving a dream he's worked basically all his life for. Nope, it's just: not cool.

Taylor then criticizes easy targets like Joba Chamberlain, Vince Carter, and Chad Johnson for their antics. Here I'll give him some credit - there are definitely guys who do more showing off than is warranted, and I certainly respect players who handle victory with grace. But you can easily go to any era of sport and find guys whose on-field demeanors you didn't care for. Man-o-War, for one, was a total showboat. I refuse to be one of those fuddy-duddies picking on guys for getting excited during sports. You know why? Because I play sports, and not even at a high level, and sometimes I get pretty fucking excited. Am I "not cool" because I pumped my fist when I threw a game-winner in dodgeball last week? No. I am not cool for various other reasons, but not because I get a kick out of winning and sometimes express that. Why else would I play? And why do we expect these ultra-competitive guys to be such robots? I'll never understand this.

Where Taylor really loses me is some of the counterexamples he cites: Michael Jordan and Walt "Clyde" (or is it Clyde "Walt"? Or are they separate individuals?) Frazier, to name two. I'm not knocking Jordan as a player or leader, but if you're writing an article narrowly defining the word "cool" as "not celebrating athletic accomplishments," you can't have Jordan on your side. Consider his wild fist-pumping after that dumb shot he made against the Cavs, or his defiantly standing and yelling over two fallen Knicks in a playoff game. I'm not ripping on those displays - those were damn exciting moments and I would have been jacked up as well - I'm ripping on Taylor for just kinda glossing over well-known examples of this paragon of cool acting, what should be in Taylor's eyes, very uncool.

As for Frazier, have you seen that "Just for Men" ad he does with Keith Hernandez and Emmitt Smith? That's probably the least cool thing I've ever seen on television. In fact, drop the last two words from that previous sentence.

Later, he cites Magic Johnson's bear hug of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980 as the beginning of the end for his weird definition of cool. OK, Phil, if you're using Kareem, owner of the dorkiest Rec-Specs in league history and, as Bill Simmons is fond of saying, a total "ninny," you've lost. You're done (though I enjoyed his work in Airplane). And you claim that of late "Cool became confused with Bland and Uninterested"? Please.

Taylor continues his quickly fading metaphor for a few more paragraphs (Ichiro is cool?), including an exaggeration about players who "feel the need to punctuate every accomplishment with an over-the-top celebration." Ugh.

It's also weird how sports is the only realm in which cool is allowed to exist. Aren't the Beastie Boys cool? Doesn't The Dark Knight look kinda cool? I hear Batman spikes the ball every time he scores a touchdown. Sorry, Phil Taylor, I'm just making fun now. But really, buddy, things are still cool. Sports are still cool, players are still cool, you and me are still cool. Let the boys have some fun.

Bonus SI feature! Responding to an article about soccer, some dude writes in and says that the reason the US doesn't care about soccer is that we're not very good internationally at it. Thus:

The US is not good at soccer
US people do not like soccer

I would encourage this gentleman to look up "causation" and "correlation" in the dictionary or perhaps Wikipedia. In fact, we're not good precisely because we don't care! Ergo:

US people do not like soccer
Not a lot of us play it
The US is not good at soccer

(Wait, didn't we have some good World Cup showings? Didn't we topple Portugal and Mexico and make the quarters? Damn, if only I cared.)

The reason we don't care is that we have four way-better games (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) that all our youth gravitiate to once they turn like eight, siphoning away all the soccer talent. Trust me, dude, if we cared, we'd be right up there.

Wanna know something weird? I cancelled my SI subscription like two months ago but it keeps coming, perhaps solely for blog fodder.

1 comment:

Nick said...

I've heard the "show boating" argument for disliking the NBA, and it's total garbage. If I, as a fan, am excited when my team hits a big shot, scores a touchdown, hits a homer, etc., wouldn't I want the player(s) on my team to be just as elated?

As for soccer, there are worse things I can do with my time than watching soccer, but like you said, I have numerous alternatives I prefer. I'd add to your list of sports I prefer watching: golf majors, tennis, and many Olympic events.