Sunday, February 14, 2010

Woof

So my plan for LOST this season was just to relax, try to stop irresponsibly speculating at every possible moment, leave my episode critiques to a minimum and enjoy the concluding chapter of a story the producers spent five seasons spinning. I was able to stick to that plan for just under three episodes.

I was not a happy camper with “What Kate Does”. It seemed like a bizarre way to use one of the series’ final fifteen episodes – a curious detour on our way to answers. There is so much to do and so many things to explain, but we were served up with a warmed over episode potmarked with clich├ęd vagaries and tired back stories.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too critical of any episode that focuses on Kate as that means a lot of screen time for Evangeline Lilly. But I have a tough time caring about her character within the context of the safe-815 world. The potential intrigue and excitement of the characters that landed safely at LAX is how their past lives have been different from the ones that we have already understood and how the characters themselves are different than their on-island counterparts. But with Kate we got exactly what we were expecting – a dogged fugitive with the occasional sentimental weakness. Her narrative orbit between Jack, Sawyer and Aaron is well-worn now, known to the viewer and never all that interesting in the first place. This episode pioneered no new territory. There was no clarification on her pre-815 life or any suggestion that Kate might be somehow different than the same character we would have expected to find. So effectively what Kate did was bring whatever momentum was built from the season premier to a screeching halt. There seemed to be about 20 minutes worth of story that was stretched into the full episode, which probably explains my surprise when I fast-forwarded through what I thought was the second commercial break, but was in fact the last of the episode.

Though to be fair, it wasn’t entirely Kate’s fault the episode collapsed faster than the 4-toed statue. I am quickly growing tired of the Temple captivity and worry that the location itself symbolizes season 6 as a whole – a once intriguing location that once reveled leads only to a disheartening let-down. If things don’t turn around quickly, the temple could be to season 6 what the Hydra was to season 3, shackling the story telling because the producers think the location is much more interesting than it really is.

Perhaps the temple’s most interesting superpower isn’t the ability to heal the lifeless, but actually to compel those within its walls to speak in unnecessary vagaries. I mean seriously…why don’t they actually just tell Jack what the hell is going on. The stupid euphemisms and vague descriptions are getting really old, really quickly. It was a fine tactic to use in season three – loosely define what is happening so the audience has a whet appetite for three more years of being strung along. But guess what? We made it. You made it interesting enough for us to wait it out for six years and interminably long breaks between seasons. We are sufficiently interested in the show. We aren’t going to leave you now. We have too much invested and too much hope that the payoff will meet our buy-in. SO STOP EXPLAINING THINGS USING WORDS LIKE “INFECTED”, “CLAIMED” OR “CANDIDATE”. EXPLAIN TO US WHAT THE HELL IT MEANS AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE. THERE ARE ENOUGH DAMN MYSTERIES…GIVE US THE PAYOFF. WE ARE SMART ENOUGH TO PICK UP YOUR KIERKEGAARD REFERENCES AND OBSESSION WITH ALICE IN WONDERLAND…WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHATEVER DARKNESS IS TRYING TO GET NEAR SAYID HEART IF YOU WILL JUST GODDAMN WRITE IT DOWN FOR THE ACTORS TO SAY IT. WHY THE HELL DOESN’T JACK ASK “WITH WHAT?” WHEN HE IS TOLD SAYID'S IS “INFECTED”? HE IS A GODFORSAKEN DOCTOR DAMNIT. HE CAN UNDERSTAND AND WE CAN TOO. WE ARE NOT CHARLIE BROWN AND YOU ARE NOT LUCY. LET US KICK THE DAMN FOOTBALL…WE’VE WAITED LONG ENOUGH. I feel sometimes like the producers treat us like we are in second grade. Like they are a parent after a car breaks down and we ask what happened, but the only thing our parents will tell us is “the car is sick”. Scratch that…they would tell us the “car is infected” and leave it at that. That is more frustrating than trying to explain why Claire would get back into a cab with a woman who held a gun to her head. Wouldn't she have gone right to the police after getting forced out of the cab?

That being said, I suppose there were a few cool moments. Ethan showing up as Claire’s doctor was interesting for sure and gave me hope that Ben and Juliet will be – or already are – interacting with the 815 passengers in some way in the future. And I suppose the return of Claire was interesting as well, as she has now become the Island’s new Rousseau – a deranged wanderer who has lost her child after giving birth on the Island. Kate’s moment of recognition, driving by Jack outside of the LAX terminal, was also significant, but only so because it was the first time someone other than Jack seemed to stir a lost recognition in the fog of their mind. But the moment was fleeting.

The “nothing happened” complaint is one heard frequently, though it is often misplaced. The importance of a single episode is rarely immediately evident and the lines of demarcation in a serialized drama like LOST should be unimportant. It is all just one big story. Nothing is self-contained. And until we get a proper look at the entire mosaic, the importance of each tile can’t be fully appreciated or criticized. I am just not sure right now what this piece adds, especially with precious few left to reveal.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Beginning of the End

As you can see, commitment to my blog is tenuous at best, negligent at worst. I have not posted since the day John McCain decided he would try to skip the first Presidential debate so that he could help craft a bailout package in the Senate. This is what happens when you spend your free time organizing Family Feud parties. But here I stand (or type), shameful of my neglect, an absentee father who now must face the sobering realization that so many one-time moments have passed without me there - or at the very least, commenting upon them to an audience of no more than 4.

So I have no idea whether I will have the perseverance nor enough warmed over insight every week to scribble my thoughts about the most recent episode of LOST, but - damnit - I am going to try.

And so we start with the very literal beginning of the end. I found myself pleasantly disoriented with the season premier - excited by the prospect of a new narrative structure and the full out gauntlet of answers to questions that hopefully won't lead to more questions. The former is likely to be more satisfying than the wicked pursuit or expectation of the latter.



After 3 seasons of exclusive flashbacks, season four unleashed the narrative shackles, as flash forwards told the story for the O6's departure from the Island, while last season was the skull-clowning time travel narrative, which admittedly I found far too abstract and confusing to enjoy fully. And no more than 5 minutes into Season 6, the curtain was pulled back on this year's narrative engine - the flash sideways. While this may have (read: did) annoy a lot of you, I ate it up. I think the assumption was that if the A-bomb detonation did in fact work, everything would be exactly the same for the characters until the moment they should have crashed onto the island. No, sir. Things on the plane were different - some slightly askew, others wildly off-base. Obvious examples are Hurley's insistance that he is the luckiest man alive, Shannon's absence from 815 and, most strangely, Desmond's presence. But I want to point to a few smaller things. Sayid had an Iranian passport, not an Iraqi passport; Sawyer certainly didn't look as if he just mistakenly killed the wrong man; Desmond didn't look as forelore as he should be if he were still trying doggedly to win the approval of Charles Widmore; and also I don't believe that Sun and Jin are yet married. Sun is referred to as Miss Paik at the border and Jin isn't wearing a wedding ring. None of the characters appear to have the exact life experiences leading up to 815, but granted, the differences are sometimes subtle and based in irresponsible speculation. I also don't think you can assume Claire is pregnant - we didn't get a complete view of her in the taxi - or that Locke's biological father pushed him out of a high rise. Understanding how these characters are different from the ones we have come to know - and how the two personas are ultimately reconciled - offers a distraction from the cascade of raw revelations.


This is why I hope to find the flash sideways (there has to be a better name for it) so compelling; to see how the lives of the people on 815 would have intertwined even if they plane had not crashed on the island; enjoying the dramatic irony behind Locke and Jack's interactions - two former (current?) adversaries playing out their relationship in an entirely different way. Kate and Claire - Aaron's two "mothers" - and what happens after the taxi squeals out of LAX. These are two small examples, but the new possibilities for the characters and their outcomes gives the flash sideways a refreshing take on characters we have gotten to know so well in the past six years. It also begs the questions as to where are others and do they already have some type of relationship with those on 815. Where are Farraday and Widmore? Is Penny somehow with Sawyer? What about Juliet and Ben since they aren't on the Island? (By the way, I don't think we can assume the bomb directly caused the Island to sink. There is a difference between what the bomb caused and what the bomb enabled. Just something to keep in mind). I think this will provide a nice intrigue to the weighty hopelessness that saddles the same characters currently on the island...

So long as the two narratives somehow meet. I am going to be terribly disappointed if I find out that LOST's final season turns out to be a Choose Your Own Adventure where we can pick the world that we want to believe is the most true - or most convenient. (I am also going to be disappointed if the lesson from LOST is the best way to deal with a painful past is to erase it.) I don't want to have Island Jack find redemption in 1 world, but remain adrift in another. There is room for ambiguity, but not for two wildly divergent outcomes. Which leads to the question of what nudges these two narratives (which are 3 years apart) onto a collision course? The easy answer for the safe-815 flight is Jack. Jack seemed to be unable to stir the embers of his mind enough to light the flame of memory when he saw Desmond. In fact, he appeared to be the only one to have some semblance of recognition. But saying that Jack will figure it out is too easy, so I am going to go with Desmond. We have no idea where Desmond is exactly after Ben shot him and sent him to the hospital, but we know 2004 Desmond is on 815 and he has already shown himself to not be constrained by the limits of time and space. I will tenuously assume that is still the case and say it is him that sends the 2004'ers to 2007.


As for the trigger sending the on-island narrative toward their safe 2004 counterparts, I vote for Sawyer. The closing scene of last season - Sawyer losing Juliet down the drill hole - was too dramatic and emotional to be a false climax. To bring Sawyer and Juliet back together - even briefly - diminished emotional wallop of their supposed final good bye and seemed like a strange way to spend 15 minutes of an episode. Unless it serves a larger purpose. And I think that purpose was Juliet seeding in Sawyer's mind that Jack's plan did indeed work, at least in some capacity. My guess is that it's a pivotal piece of information that informs decisions farther down the line as Sawyer - or Miles - shares that bit of information with others on the island.


That assumes that Flocke/Man in Black/Smokey leaves anyone else on the Island alive to share the information with. I appreciated the confirmation the Smokey, Flocke and the Man in Black were all one in the same - something that was hinted at during last season's finale - along with the indication that the ash line does in fact keep Smokey at bay and I am trying to grapple with those implications in my mind. I think the most curious impact is on Jacob's Cabin. We have long been lead to believe that the cabin - which was encircled by an ash/soot line - was inhabited by the mysterious Jacob, but last year's finale suggested that Jacob hadn't been there in a very long time. Which begs the question, "Well, who was Locke talking to and hearing in there?" My guess would be Smokey/Man in Black. Given what we know now about Smokey's difficultly penetrating ash lines, we have to think that maybe the ash line around the cabin was keeping something/one inside rather than the reverse. If you remember, the first visit to Jacob's Cabin - which are some of my favorite scenes in LOST - was made by Ben and Locke. In the cabin, Ben feigned a conversation with Jacob, while Locke called his ruse...until Locke heard someone say "Help me" and then the house started rockin'. While the cabin shook, a figure flashed briefly on the screen, one that looked strangely like Locke, albeit with longer hair.


One the second trip to the cabin, Locke entered, this time without Ben, only to find Christian sitting in the rocking chair, who told John that he needed to move the Island. At each stage, it was Locke who was spoken to - who was given instructions. It is as if whoever inhabited the cabin needed Locke - and only Locke - some grander reason. Locke's use appears now to be the vehicle through which the Man in Black was able to fully make it through the loophole he so desperately sought. And once Locke's dead body arrived back on the island, the Man in Black was able to escape his cabin banishment and get entirely through the loophole, allowing for him to kill Jacob. Remember when Ilana's group found the cabin after Flocke was leading the others to the statue, the soot/ash line was broken, which I took to mean as a sign of escape. Now there are problems with this. The smoke monster appeared a number of times and in a number of different places well before Locke's dead body would have allowed for the Man in Black to escape. And if Richard knew Jacob lived beneath the statue's foot, why didn't he tell Ben and Locke they were going to the wrong place/talking with the wrong people? But to me, this connection between Locke and whatever or whoever was in the cabin is too strong for their not to be something grander beneath the surface. Locke seems to have been a pawn in the Man in Black's larger scheme. For some reason, Locke had to be the vehicle through which the loophole was opened and perhaps Locke's entire life was orchestrated to fulfill the Man in Black's desire to kill Jacob. To be in a place and a position so that the loophole could be exploited and vengeance had. I would not be shocked if we find out the person who caused the accident that sent Locke's mother into premature labor, was in fact the Man in Black. I know the information we have right now counters some of this thinking, but this entire story arc hasn't yet been told.

Just a few other things. I said this when watching - as have others since - but if you are to read into Flocke's "chains" line to Richard, I think you can conclude that Richard was a slave on the Black Rock, not a captain or officer as many - including myself - have speculated.

I think what happened to Sayid at the temple is the same thing that happened to Ben after Sayid shot him 30 years ago, though I am intrigued with the idea of Jacob using Sayid's body the same way the Man in Black is using Locke (though the Man in Black is not using Locke's body, just his persona, likeness and memories). This would also make this photo wildly deeper and symbolic if it came down to "Locke/Man in Black" vs. "Sayid/Jacob". In the Lost Supper photo, Locke is obviously in Jesus' seat while Sayid occupies Judas' position.

I also laugh at the idea that the note hidden inside Charlie's guitar case read, "If something bad happens to me, I need to use either Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid or Hurley's body - preferably not Hurley's if you can help it though. Love - Jacob."

I assume answers will come quickly enough, but who knows. I am just going to try to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Message From the Detroit Lions


The Detroit Lions this week face a historic crisis in our football operations system. We must game plan to address our 0-3 record. If we do not, wins will dry up, with devastating consequences for our organization and fans. Our fans will no longer be able to cheer once every other game and their emotion investment will be at stake. Our franchise will not have enough wins to make the playoffs. If we do not act, every corner of our organization will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen.

Last Sunday, we laid an egg in San Francisco and we have since discussed priorities and concerns with the game plan our coaching staff has put forward. This morning, we met with a group of front office staff to talk about the proposals on the table and the steps that we should take going forward. I have also spoken with members of the league office to hear their perspective.

It has become clear that we have no idea what we are doing. The only consensus that can be reached is there is no support for the current game plan. We do not believe that the plan on the table will pass – or run or defend – as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.

Tomorrow morning, we will suspend all football operations going forward. I have spoken with Commissioner Goodell and informed him of our decision and have asked him to have the rest of the league join me.

I am calling on the Commissioner to convene a meeting with the leadership from both conferences of the League, including All Davis. It is time for all teams to come together to solve this problem because we clearly can’t do it ourselves.

We must meet as football franchises, not as Lions or Bears, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. We are directing our front office to work with the league to delay next Sunday’s game until we have taken action to address this crisis. We are willing to delay all 13 remaining games if we can. Despite these dire circumstances, we will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel as soon as we move the limp bodies of our wide receiver busts are moved to the side.

I am confident that before the games start next Sunday - or by the start of the 2014 season - we can achieve consensus on a game plan for the Lions going forward that will stabilize our gridiron fortunes, protect season ticket holders and earn the confidence of the Lion fans. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set competitive games aside, and we are committed to doing so. Just please remember, we believe the fundamentals of our franchise is strong.

Following that fateful 2001 season in which we went 9-11 after our front office didn't take the "NFL Determined to Play 20 Games Inside America" memo seriously, our organization came together to throw its support behind an ineffective leader. Teams across the country now lament that he is no longer indirectly helping them secure their own division titles because we are such doormats and directly preventing us from addressing our franchise's troubles. Now that there has been a change at the top, we hope we will eventually have the chance to prove that Detroit is once again capable of winning this league.

Source material.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Family Feud Glory


I love the Family Feud. I know it is childish and juvenile at certain points, but it is unendingly hilarious, mainly because of the blatant stupidity displayed on the show. When asked for a state where you can wear the same clothes year round, would you answer Washington, D.C.? Who thinks “whoops” rhymes with “barn”? Are clothes something just little kids wear? Does a bad golfer really go through a lot of carts? And is Regis Kelly one of Oprah’s best friends? Some of my favorite Feud moments can be seen here, here, here, and here. There is much more to love…watching people get an X to the face, listening to the audience respond en mass to the remaining answers being revealed, and having people give the Family Feud-default answer of choice – “making love!” A few weeks ago, when one of the questions was “Name something that children close their eyes when doing”, Alyse’s immediate response was “MAKING LOVE!”.

One of the more subtle aspects of Family Feud is their tendency to play racial groups against each other. I swear one time during college the Whites played the Blacks. And this happens with some regularity and certainly not with any malice. Just an interesting point of pattern recognition. While watching a few weeks ago with my roommate, we saw a family with an Adolph – dressed as a U.S. Marine, which we suspect was done for the sole purpose of deflecting suspension – playing the Schweitermans. Thankfully the Schweitermans handedly defeated Adolph, but the underlying context was tough to not miss and at least get a chuckle out of. (It was like when I went to a Catholic wedding this summer and the priest was joking about the flexibility of four year-olds…if you are going to lead me to the threshold of uncomfortable jokes, I will gladly cross it.)

This got my roommate and I thinking, what if the Obamas played the McCains played each other on the Family Feud? How hilarious would that be? So we thought about various questions and the candidates’ and their families’ responses, which carried over the next day to Gchat. The following is a “Best of…”, many of which are not by me. Please enjoy. And feel free to add your own.

“Name the most expensive electronic in your home.”
McCain: “My phonograph.”

“Name something you would hear at your local church.”
Obama: “God damn America.”

“Other than Democracy, name a form of government currently in use that you admire.”
McCain: “The feudal system.”

“Name a characteristic of middle class Americans.”
Obama: “Bitter.”

“Name something that costs less than a quarter.”
McCain: “A box of cereal.”

“Name a member of the Holy Trinity.”
Obama: “Me.”

“Name an invention you’d hope to see in your lifetime.”
McCain: “Sliced bread.”

“Name something people pop on a regular basis.”
Cindy McCain: “Pills”

“Name something commonly held in a football stadium.”
Obama: “Acceptance speeches”

“Name a recent event that thrilled the nation.”
McCain: “The Cubs World Series victory.”

“Name a place you wouldn't find lipstick.”
Palin: “A pitbull.”
Obama: “Hillary.”

“Other than the presidency, name a life goal of yours.”
McCain: “Visiting all 24 states.”

“Name something people hope for.”
Obama launches into his stump speech

“Name something a married couple may have more than 2 of.”
McCain: “Houses.”

“Name one of the 7 deadly sins.”
McCain: “Inexperience!”

“Name an unpopular sports franchise.”
Obama: “Mavericks.”
McCain: “Browns.”

A few other things about this election. I can't figure out how Obama let the "change" message get hijacked. I still don't understand how the Democrats allowed for this election to be more of a referendum on Obama than on Bush/Republicans policies of the past eight years. And I still don't see how Republicans can balance their desire for a nuclear family and to have such a inflexible position on abortion. I promise more regular posts now.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is Batman's middle initial W?


The popularity of a superhero is directly proportional to how well they reflect the contemporary political-social dynamic. The late 1930s and early 1940s demanded an impenetrable fighting force – both in reality and through our pop culture. Superman dutifully responded to the call and the Man of Steel's popularity grew accordingly. But more recently, ambiguity has riddled the concepts of truth, justice and the American way. Superman's resonance now echoes hollow as culture explores the grayer areas of a previously black-and-white society – and standing firmly at the intersection of darkness and light is Batman. To say that Batman better reflects 21st century America than any other superhero is to suggest a hierarchy where none exists; and the themes within The Dark Knight make Batman relevant to his time – meaning our own. He does not transcend the abysmal society in which he's born from. He becomes part of it. While the spectacle of surreal threats in the Spider-man films entertains us, it is energizing - and dually unsettling - when a film in this genre takes us someplace unexpected, namely the world in which we live.

While not mentioned explicitly in the film, Joker is the prototypical terrorist – a chaos-inducing agent, who acts not because he doesn't know better but because he relishes in the resulting bedlam. He is decidedly Hobbesian, wishing for a return to the state of nature because, in that context, no one will be able to stand him down.

And Batman is a one-man Department of Homeland Security, complete with his own Patriot Act – a "Batriot Act", if you will. He is a creature that, to the public, looks and operates like evil, but who is in creed and deed a fully virtuous man. Despite straddling the line between hero and outlaw, Batman applies his power and influence judiciously. He does not kill – or run the Joker over with the Bat-Pod after being taunted to do otherwise; nor does he unnecessarily trample upon the civic liberties of Gotham's citizens beyond when an imminent threat has passed.

The connection between the film's subtext and the current political environment is not difficult to see. And on the surface, the film seems to subtly nod its head in agreement with the path set by the Bush administration. A July 25 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal details these parallels between Batman and Bush.

While that initially seems to be true, the issues are as nuanced and two-sided as Harvey Dent's coin. Batman swears his foes crossed the line, but Alfred counters, validly illustrating the slippery slope of escalation by saying, "You crossed the line first...And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand." Such is the nature of telling adversaries to bring it on. Batman also created an enormously powerful wire-tapping system and then immediately relinquished control, for its power was too great for a single individual to possess. While Batman can be certain that he will re-establish civil boundaries when the emergency has receded, one thinks that such a promise from the current administration would ring hallow.

Another point where the parallel falls apart is the simple fact that there is a reason Batman needs to wear a mask and hide his identity - because he course of action is not one that can be taken by elected officials. There cannot be relative disregard by figures towards the public they are in theory serving by trampling on both civil liberties and mores. We expect our leaders to reflect Batman's morals and virtues, but not necessarily embrace his methods.

Regardless of political leanings or whether one thinks Dent serves as a warning about the folly of placing all their eggs in a basket held by a single white knight, what can be mutually agreed upon is that the film derives much of its success by serving as a mirror of the culture it is serving.

I swear, this is the last Dark Knight related post and after almost a month of seriousness, I will come up with something more light-hearted for next week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Partons of the Artist of the Beautiful

While I would love to give a review of The Dark Knight, I feel like too much has already been said towards the film’s quality. I can hardly add to it. It was a rich morality tale with a firm footing in both the arenas of crime drama and adventure cinema, but one where the action never eclipsed its intelligence. The subtext of the film – one spun tightly of terrorists, a one-man Department of Homeland Security and the danger of putting all of one’s eggs in the basket of a (delusional?) white knight. When more of my friends have seen it, I may post a review/explanation of the themes as I see it and try to tease out more of the subtext. For example, any doubt that Bruce Wayne is the alter ego to Batman is erased in a single decision made halfway through the film. Let there be no more debate on that front.

What I do want to touch briefly upon though is one’s capacity for awe and excitement as we age. There is a scene halfway through Knocked Up when Seth Rogen’s character is at the park with Pete (the fantasy-baseball-draft-sneaker husband) and Pete’s daughter. Pete is bemoaning the doldrums of aging, how life grows mundane and lacks joy. He tells Rogen, “I wish I liked anything as much as I like bubbles,” a defeated man who has watched all the promise and joy evaporate from his life. Bills, suits and responsibility ravage any enjoyment he may have. He lives in the real world equivalent of post-Mufasa Pride Rock. Promise and hope, joy and genuine excitement are such rare things. And I refuse to turn into Pete. The months of anticipation for The Dark Knight served as a nice reminder to me of what fun truly enjoying something can be – that even though the days of superhero lunch boxes and Trapper Keepers have long since been, we can still be childishly awed and impishly impatient. I found it relieving that I could be so excited by something so utterly inconsequential. As I made thank you notes out of pages from a Dark Knight coloring book for each of my friends who joined me for the movie or as I thought through the logistics of taking a three foot wide Batman balloon on the El to dinner and then to Navy Pier, it occurred to me how few of these moments there still are.

While the growing freedom we earn as we grow is appreciated, it takes some of the special/mysterious quality away from the outside world. We can go get a Happy Meal any time we want. R-rated movies aren’t all that special. Neither are most bars. The internet is flooded with top-heavy shirtless clownettes. Our capacity for amazement has been shrunk to a narrow, fleeting band and our desire for “amazement” is not always driven by the best of impulses. But having a few things that unmistakably remind us of our youth can be powerful in a way that escapes nostalgia and captures our dormant imagination. It is that much more special when the occurrences are beyond our purchase. That is, we can’t pay for a new Batman film anytime we want. We can’t demand with our Benjamin’s a new U2 album or book by Klosterman. It is almost entirely out of our control. And perhaps that is what is most subtly childlike about the experience.

Regardless of the reason, I was simply thrilled that I could enjoy both the anticipation of the film and the actual 152 minutes of footage on a 6 story high screen like I was – at least temporarily – a six-year old and know that the ability to be awed does not totally disappear as we leave a once seemingly endless Neverland.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Favre Just Can't Quit You


To me, underlying motivations of fandom are inherently different sport-to-sport. Fans of baseball root for the game's traditional and urban/rural past as much as they do for the hometown team. Just look at the stadiums we build and revere. Basketball fans marvel at the individual accomplishments of the sport's stars as much as they revel of the achievement of individual teams. And in football, fans root for the logo on the helmet regardless of who hides themselves behind the anonymous mask and beneath the hulking pads. The sport is a byproduct of a society emphasizing structural functionalism, where the position being occupied is elevated about the individual occupying the position. It is a cold view of the surrounding world, but one that is entirely accurate for American football. Only the collective, synchronized action of the men in the Honolulu blue jerseys or star-emblazoned helmets matter, not who is executing them one year to the next.

And that is what makes this Brett Favre debacle all that more interesting. For the first time in recent league history, the identity of a single player has eclipsed the importance of the larger team - and thereby the logo on the helmet. Emmitt Smith nor Joe Montana, Jerry Rice nor Kurt Warner and Joey Harrington (OK, OK, I kid with the last one...) had the same identity larger than their individual team when they moved on to a finish their accomplished careers in an all-together foreign helmet. But one gets the feeling that a move by Brett Favre would ripple across both the league and Packer Nation in a way that none of the above moves could muster collectively.

(As an aside, I just want to posit my theory on Joey Harrington. He will continue to be an asshat until he starts to go by Joe. Joey just doesn't cut it in the NFL. You think Joey Montana would have won 4 Super Bowls? Or would Tommy Brady have 3 rings and a smoking hot girlfriend? What In-N-Out burger location might Stevie Young and Jimmy Kelly be working at? Mr. Unitas is the only one to get a pass because his last name is so absolutely perfect).

Favre could cause a total identity crisis for Pack fans. Would the anger and frustration over the front office's egos be enough to - at least temporarily - drive long-time Packer fans away from the team? And really, is there anyone under age of 23 that is actually a Packers fan or is everyone born after 1985 just Brett Favre fans? I honestly think this is the quintessential question that will be answered in the coming months. He is the only thing twenty-something Packer fans have known and I can empathize with that. If Steve Yzerman had pseudo-retired and then gone to play with a different team, I would seriously have to examine my fan-lationship with the Red Wings.

I have long thought that the most egotistical drama queen in sports was Roger Clemens. His act was tired and old. And now he is reaping what he has long sowed. But I would put Favre right behind Mr. Mindy McCready. The annual indulgence with his inner-Hamlet, the unending speculation about his future, the now melodramatic good-bye on Thursday night in the 2006 season finale at Lambeau and the New Year's Eve tears on the Soldier Field turf ten days later, then his emotional press conference in March and his continual dominance of the Lions all wore on me. I just wished (and despite the Phoenician rise last season, I still do) that he would just go away. But don't you dare tell that to a Packers fan. And their insistence and loyalty to Favre will be uniquely tested in the coming season. The Packers organization has long be held as an example of David consistently competing with Goliaths and connecting in a unique and lasting way with their fan-base - from the inherited ticket policy to the community ownership structure of the front office. These nuanced issues and flawed characters make the current situation ripe for the Shakespearian pen, but the lead role in the "Merchant of Menace" has yet to the cast. Does Favre truly mean more than the oblong G so long hailed and worshiped in America's dairyland? If you are a fan of the NFL, it is a fascinating question to ponder and to see how it is played out.

It's Bat-Week. A review of The Dark Knight will be posted next weekend. The forecast is 57 levels of awesomeness.