Last week was a truly terrible week in international news, sports fans, and it couldn’t have come at worse time. The 21st century sports calendar is on a 24/7 cycle, so there’s no real “offseason” for sports (you can always fill up on NBA or soccer personnel shift news). But late July has seen our options for mass distraction dwindle to only cycling, tennis, golf and baseball. Personally, I find the Tour de France interesting only for the HD landscape tele-photography. I know there’s lots of competitions within the main competition, but it’s one international sport I can’t really get into. I’m more inclined towards tennis, but the US Open is still a ways off.
That leaves baseball. Up until the late 20th century, baseball was the opiate of choice for Americans looking to ignore the chaos of the world around them and numb themselves to the alienation of existence. I’m not going to wax poetic about its aesthetic virtues or handicap the midseason favorites, but I respect the game’s ability to survive and adapt. As live, in-stadium entertainment goes it is far superior to football, but the best thing about its mediated form is that it can be consumed as slow, steady drip-drip-drip.
All I’ll really say about baseball is that I’m not enjoying the introduction of instant replay. TV aesthetics seem to be magnifying the undecidability of bang-bang plays in a way that is not particularly entertaining, slowing the game down even further and making umpires’ decisions seem more arbitrary than ever. I know this is heresy, but in a 162 game season, I’d rather they just get the damn call wrong and let us all move on with our lives. This isn’t about preserving the “purity” of the game, but baseball is a perfect illustration of the fact that there some things TV technology cannot improve. I’m sure that’s no consolation to all the Dodgers fans who are, unthinkably, STILL getting screwed by their team and Time Warner Cable.
The summer story of the NFL is its struggle to reconcile the rabid homophobia of it’s locker room culture with the changing attitudes of its consumer demographics. Just today, the Human Rights Campaign criticized the New York Giants’ hiring of David Tyree, who tweeted against same sex marriage in 2011. Before that, this Chris Kluwe story exposed some of that conflict, as did NBC analyst Tony Dungy’s devious bit of homophobic rhetoric. To be clear, I see the “distraction” argument as a pure smokescreen, particularly from a man who, as many have pointed out, championed Michael Vick’s return to the NFL. Come fall the NFL’s stance on LGBT issues should be one of the biggest stories in US media full stop.
In international football news, the CBF, the bureaucratic brain trust in charge of Brazilian football, have appointed Carlos Dunga as the new manager. Dunga was a great player, but this is a backwards-looking move that indicates an entrenched refusal to come to grips with the crisis that manifested itself in Brazil’s humiliation at the end of World Cup 2014. The rich of world football, meanwhile, continue to get richer: Real Madrid have signed budding Columbian superstar James Rodríguez for a mere $108 million, while FC Barcelona have bought Luis Suárez from Liverpool FC for $128 million, in spite of the fact that he he won’t be allowed to use his feet or teeth for four months.
The Kevin Love news is everywhere, so I won’t link to that, but for the record I think he’s wildly overrated. More interesting on the NBA front is the lingering fallout from the Donald Sterling controversy. Sterling’s lawsuits and delaying tactics are now stimulating stories that Doc Rivers is thinking of walking away from the Clippers if Sterling is still the owner when the 2014-15 season begins. I’d certainly support Rivers’ decision to publicly shame the odious Sterling, but I think this is news is mostly designed to heap pressure on Sterling to sell the team while it’s at maximum value. These stories have the additional benefit of making desperate Laker fans froth at the mouth in hopes that the suddenly moribund franchise will become relevant again.
Finally, LeBron gave his neighbors cupcakes for screwing up their lives. I guess it’s thoughtful, but it’s still kind of staggering how desperate he is to be liked.
Great design on the note though. Spared no expense.