The Fall, Classic.

As a recovering sports zombie, I’ve often wondered if autumn’s ascension to the top of my season rankings was driven by the American football marketing machine. After three years of not watching college football and at least as many of dwindling bother for the NFL, I finally cut the cord with fantasy football at the end of this summer. No teams. No leagues. No weekly contests. No need to pay attention. It’s been great.

Autumn finally rang Cincinnati’s doorbell this week, and came with sensory gifts before hanging its coat in the closet nearest the door. Situated for a quick exit, yes, but it’s here now and let’s all enjoy the time that our favorite friend opts to give to us. Football, I am finally assured, factors not at all into the function that still yields such a positive outcome for me. I can see my breath. The air is crisper, as are the colors beneath the gray visor Earth puts on most of these days. The trees’ teachings have their leaves displaying such cordiality that one would feel comfortable slapping their backs and calling them Roy G. for reasons more closely associated with first-name familiarity than acronymic accuracy. In short, life is fucking beautiful.

Autumn is a test of mindfulness for me – an opportunity to accept home and deal with tendencies to sour over the fact that sleet and salt will batter emaciated branches before long. As I’ve gotten older, zenning has become easier. Apologies if the use of that non-word suggests a nihilistic sarcasm toward the whole subject. I assure you when I typed it I had positive thoughts regarding what it may very well mean.

In the American sporting landscape, it would probably be argued by most that baseball is the sport most closely aligned with the principles of being in the moment, forming the right physical and mental habits, the existence of randomness and interconnectedness, brushing off the past, and some element of outdoorsy nature. Sure, the more every new ballpark looks the same, the less that most latter element can thrive, but there are still some holdouts.

One such relic is Boston’s Fenway Park, home to the Red Sox. That place is so quirky that it has many of the hallmarks of what previous generations might have referred to as a place. And this weekend, it will host a game or two that I don’t even regret to say that I will care about. Don’t get me wrong – the outcome won’t matter, and I will be an adult rooting for a privately owned team that drains not only the public coffers to the point of city-wide bankruptcy, but also to the competitive detriment of another privately owned professional sports team that I care even more about, but for whatever reason, I’ve taken a litmus test, and my Detroit Tigers’ blue came up just shy of infrared. Perhaps this is evidence that I drink too much coffee and eat too few Tums, but it was metaphorical anyway so let’s move on.

Justifications for remaining a viewer of televised sport seem like good fodder for a later blog post, indeed one I’ve intended to sort through for a while now. But for now, I’m coming to accept that when the time comes for ALCS and World Series games that involve my hometown former-worst-team-of-all-time, well, I enjoy that time. Perhaps the passion is enhanced by the autumnal surroundings. I hope so. All I know is that an old pro will be providing color commentary for the last time, and without so much as a read-through for tires or soap or my aforementioned stomach relief chewables. Averages and trends will both hold up and be “disproven,” depending on which conclusion one wants to prove. Old friends and relatives may come back into contact, remembering this thing they used to have in common that seemed so central and existent and now. The unelected international consortium representing the Motor City will try to abandon their Garfield and aspire more to their inner Tiglath-Pileser, minus the literal warring and genocide. It never hurt anybody to figuratively come through and crush the building though, even if the building is one of the last vestiges of personification left in American sport. On the line will be a spot in The Fall Classic, which is a term I find to be self-evident, the opposite of an oxymoron. None of that depends on baseball, either.

Divide & Monger

I’ve been caught by a thought today. It seems to me that for a lot of special interests that I consider nefarious, a key strategy is to divide people — even persons. Divide the human interest. Create a smokescreen of issues, fabricated and real, potential disasters that are dealt with by Other people on a daily basis, bullet points on what kind of people fit into what tribes and bullet points on how to hold one’s own in an unmediated mock trial against a member of a tribe that has been sold to one as “opposing.”

Then, just in case too many well-meaning sponges get swayed by the power of counterargument or disarmament, the powers that be give us Games that humans invented over a hundred years ago and hotties that always seem either muted, self-edited or too unconscious to be either, lest we impressionables get to thinkin’. The advertising culture has become so entrenched in sports that we can no longer imagine a major professional league (which includes the NCAA, as it simply redirects the “professionalism” from player to promoter) that is not wholly owned by corporate interests. Don’t get me wrong, the public is the entity funding the erection of all the new arenas and stadia, but alas, no ownership is conferred with such generous gifts.

Speaking of semi-private erections, the sex industry, and by that term I do not mean anything relating to actual sex, which continues to be assaulted by an ongoing mind-fuck intended to sell everything but human intimacy, but instead I of course refer to the virtual sex industry, is by now asymptotically ubiquitous. When you find a product being advertised to you without the overt or barely nuanced claim that this product will get you laid by either a hot chick or dude or by your begging-for-it hand as you lust for what’s beyond the mirror, you let me know. The “hot” formula has become so twisted that Maxim magazine just gave its paying subscribers and newsstand suckers a Hot 100 one-two punch to the podium of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. Seriously. Is nothing sacred?

But getting back to that division thing, its main purpose is obvious: to divide people from their wealth. This is done pretty easily, as persons’ wealth tends to correlate with their options. The more wealth gets concentrated at the top, the fewer options the rest of the people have. People that have few options (or see themselves as having few options) see giving their labor away for pennies on the dollar as more desirable than starvation. Everyone has basic needs, but it wouldn’t do to have a massive population that only buys what it needs, so the owners have to manufacture wants in a mass of people critical enough to influence the rest of the people. You know, to divide all of the people from what could remain of their wealth.

A key tactic in the success of a divisive campaign is convincing individuals to detach from their environment. People must not see themselves in the struggles of others. They must not identify with other human beings — instead they must be shown what makes those sufferers different. The people who got mowed down in that Aurora movie theater aren’t like you, because you didn’t go see the third Batman flick the night before it opened. But if you did, don’t worry, because you don’t live in Colorado. Ok, but these people brought a baby to the showing. You wouldn’t do that, right? See! You’re not like these people, and it almost certainly couldn’t happen to you.

The same goes for all the bombings you see in other countries. I mean, that wouldn’t happen to you because you aren’t proximate to the “wars.” What’s that you say, the Boston pressure cookers on the street? Oh, well go ahead and tell me the last time you ran a marathon. See? You’re not like those people, those unfortunate ones. No, you are blessed, just so long as you don’t identify too much with the unfortunates. Detach and survive.

But, of course, it could happen to you. Every moment you exist in the world you could be the victim of random or targeted violence. So be afraid. You’ve seen what we do to protesters, right? Now see, that really could be you, if you were dumb enough and hated freedom enough to join those angry people in complaining about their lot that they’ve inherited through their own unwillingness to just work harder. But you’re not like them — those angry, lost souls who are pushing a socialist agenda, which by the way is totally what the Eastern Bloc was if you just don’t look anything up and unquestioningly take our word for it. And you will, because you don’t want to get beat down by our brute strength that you should be in lust with by now anyway, thanks to your conditioning.

See that? You’re not like them. You’re like this other group of people that should spend energy bickering with other groups within the same dwindling economic class over whatever issue we tell you is on the line and whatever rights we insist are endangered. But beyond that, eat our salty, genetically modified foods, drink our beer, go into debt to drive our cars (but don’t drive them if you’ve drank our beers, pretty please), take out loans that we service but for which we are not on the hook to go to college and beyond to get watered-down degrees that by now must have a median ROI that is in the red, which is exactly where you’ll always remain, but don’t worry about it because it’s just the way it is and you’re totally immortal but you’re gonna die someday so go big or go home while we go big and have you bail us out. Buy our flatscreen televisions and subscribe to the biggest cable package you can find, because somewhere in that fifteen-hundred channel list is a sliver of happiness that you didn’t even know you wanted, but do not consider the ever increasing bill that comes with it.

Get the highest high-speed internet because just super-fucking-fast won’t satiate you because who knows when you will want to masturbate to videos of Giada de Laurentiis swirling some gelato while you download the latest episodes of your favorite twenty-six podcasts and stream the latest Katy Perry song that we’ve pathologically Rorschached into emotions of tall, ravenous women with racks so unlikely that they happen to be multiple standard deviations from the mean of fit, dateable ladies whilst also being the actual mean of American women as a whole. Think about that. That’d be like if dudes’ members got bigger and longer as said dudes got fatter, but somehow Ryan Gosling was still hung with the average length and girth of the entire population, including those using those performance enhancers known as shitty diets and lack of exercise.

Ellen’s reaction indicates their status as “unlikely.” Katy’s dating record indicates she, and by proxy all women of comparable physical desirability, is totally into mindless consumers who categorically lack the capacity for sarcasm.

My point is that it seems a strange dichotomy that our owners are trying to plant within us. On the one hand, detach from your fellow human, it won’t happen to you, keep it moving, but on the other hand, fear everything. Remain in a constant fear of, amongst other things, the Other, so that you can not act rationally or in your best interest. But also detach, which connotes a dialing down of emotional doses. The dogma thus appears to be: “Be afraid, do not be joyous, surprised or sad, and we’ll get back to you on whether you can be angry, disgusted or contemptuous, and, if permitted, where you shall direct your anger, disgust or contempt. But whatever you do, do not care.” The whole thing feels incongruous. I guess those that are less responsive to fear are the ones targeted for detachment. The marriage of fear and detachment seems like honey wrapped in motor oil. I can’t figure out how to describe it. Just quit voting to fund arenas for billionaire owners.

On Arbitrary Deadlines & My Insanity

Deadlines. Where to start? Deadlines are kind of cool to me, in that they are to the moments one remembers on one’s death bed as a day passing into another and another is to the continuity of a life. Big moments, turning points, game changers, or whatever you want to call them, are examined chronologically by various Bokanovsky groups and are assumed to be the causes and effects of each other.

 This, of course, assumes that the camera must have been filming elsewhere in the meantime. As if you and I and every human being that ever lived just sat around an oval table the size of the flyover states and waited for our turn to draft in the current round. What excitement when it is finally our turn again! Adrenaline abound. The clock ticks, we abandon our plan five or six times only to come back to it, check the clock again, and blurt out whatever name resonates most with our hearts during the second-and-a-half that we scan seemingly every opportunity in this world and all of those that we’ve ever put ourselves into. Some argue the choice was predetermined. Some argue it was utilitarian. Some argue it was logical; still some say it was done in the heat of the moment. But they say something, they say everything. Why? Because it was our pick, our time on the clock, our moment, our action scene, our deadline.

 The rush of calculating our options and choosing a path forward steadily declines until we see the immediate results of the choice that we made. What “other people” probably do at this point is just sit around and go to work, find or continue a routine, do nothing of note. Until the next deadline. Until their pick in the next round.

 This peaks-and-valleys view is not truly reflective of a human life, though. People other than us live this way, sure, but not us. Our story is so much more complex than that. Our story is continuous. To quote every guest on The Maury Povich Show, “Y’all don’t know me.” This is true. We don’t know you, father of 4 with 3 different women, who made a national television appearance in a stained wife-beater and a scumstache. We don’t really know you. But we know enough. We’ve heard the bullet points.

 The struggle between trying to appreciate the complexity and room for growth in every human life and looking for the deadline decisions, the bullet points, is one that I try to combat as best I can. I’ve come to the conclusion that our nature is to look for the highlights (and lowlights). I think this is the product of the scarcity of time. If we did our best to really understand and engross ourselves in every little mundane experience that another person had, we’d be lucky to almost know about three humans before our time ran out. We simplify in order to open up time and brain power for other things. This simplification necessarily means looking at the lives of others, and oftentimes ourselves, with the skimming eye of one looking for comments inserted onto a SoundCloud file.

 A person will say to another, “I bet that thing that happened or decision you made that one specific day really set you on your path toward all of those other line breaks that I see in your story,” and another wants grab a person and shake them and say, “Yeah, but you’re discounting all of the other stuff that happened in between and all of the other influences that made me decide to do that one thing in the first place and the continuity of it all.” And a person says, “I’m sorry, another, but I just don’t have time to understand all that.”

 Now that you get what I think I’m trying to say about the arbitrariness of deadlines in general, let me move to something even more absurd: arbitrarily setting a deadline.

 That’s what I’ve done to myself. In a conversation with the most important person in my life, I decided to arbitrarily set a deadline at the end of this year. What are the terms of the deadline? What needs to be accomplished in 2013? Would that I knew. But the origin story of the setting of the deadline amounts to the following.

 I have the ability to make a notable (to me) increase in dollars brought in, but I’m not sure it’s what I “want to do.” I’ve been kicking the can down the road regarding this decision of which path to take. What is the other path? Good question. I’ve always considered myself a creative person, although no, the irony of saying that whilst publishing this unedited mess of a post is not lost on me. I tried writing about hockey, my first true love, for a good while (3 years), but it just didn’t feel important anymore. I had a blog that only I posted to, it had a good amount of page views, but it felt stupid to continue to waste my mind on a league that exists entirely to sell its fans to corporate sponsors. By the way, that’s every major league on the planet. The fracturing of a conscious sports fan is its own essay, and one for another day.

 I started this blog for a few reasons. 1) I wanted to spread and comment on things I found to be awesome, funny, beautiful, or true. I want to do this because when I find other people doing it I am thankful for them, and I think I’ve come across enough stuff in my 28 years, a few of which I’ve even been awake, that I have a little something to contribute to the subject; 2) I wanted to share some original writings. I want to get as much terrible shit out as soon as I can so I can finally get good at the whole thing. So maybe someday I’ll feel confident enough to publish anything I care about; 3) I wanted to figure out exactly what was on the other side of my funnel. I feel like my mind is scattered, although I’m not convinced that’s uncommon. So much of my past feels utterly wasted, and I am aware of the cursing I’ve done of myself over this lost time. I know berating oneself over the past is a waste of time and can be paralyzing, so I started this thing to see if I can’t just work myself out of those feelings of irreparable setbacks and hone a craft; 4) I just fucking loved the pun / pseudonym that I chose for the blog. I feel like now is a good time to point out that I came across Vercingetorix, and my chosen pronunciation of his name, through Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast. Thank you for using a soft “c,” Mike. You changed everything for me.

 So, there. I felt like my endeavors at being a “successful” writer were being hip-checked at every turn by this nagging guilt trip I lay on myself and project onto people who care about me. I suffer from this subliminal guilt most of the time I’m not at work proper and just enjoying some reading or writing because why aren’t I doing what needs to be done to get ahead? It’s been bugging the fuck out of me. Sorry for the language, but posts like these aren’t meant to be censored.

 The strange thing is that when I’m watching a game, for instance, I don’t feel this guilt at all because that’s just unwinding time (which yes, I realize makes no fucking sense). So, I don’t feel guilty about wasting time watching professional athletes play games for teams that I do not even care about, but I do feel guilty when I’m writing anything at all, or even reading if I’m doing it as a writer, because odds are it will turn out to be fruitless and someday in the future I will rue all the money that isn’t in my bank account and all of the options I won’t have. It’s a sickness.

 Do any of you know what I’m talking about at all, or is my stupid self-shackling just a product of majoring in business and growing up believing all the talking points? If you got to the end of this post, thanks. Good on you. I guess. Bottom line is if none of the seeds I’ve planted or plan on planting look like bearing fruit come the winter, I’m going to move forward and sell my soul and be surrounded by just not quite the right kind of people. Just not quite the ones that I would feel like telling the capital-t Truth to.

 The arbitrary deadline works both ways, I think. I didn’t feel liberated to truly pursue writing as a career (or even a possible career) because half of me wondered if the time was being wasted not “getting ahead.” But I also know that I haven’t made the decisions necessary to “get ahead” because at least half of me is raging against getting old and never really trying to do what I love. So, holy shit. The deadline felt liberating two nights ago. All it took was one 1,100-word short, followed by an audible, “This is crap,” to throw me back into fear about the next six months passing without remark. I really don’t want that to happen. I might need your help, though I won’t ask for it. I certainly will need luck. But I’ve been granted six months to feel free from advancing my other career, in an effort to spark the one I truly want. An arbitrary deadline, but one that had to be set somewhere.

[editor’s note: this got insane quickly. I hope to leave it up.]

Nike Kids’ T-Shirts, ICYMI

This is seriously WTFish. Saw these in the kids department at a local department store recently. I’m trying hard not to go on a “wonder what’s wrong with kids these days” geezer rant. The better question would be what kind of parent would buy these for their kids.

Brought to you by Nike, sponsor of LeBron James and victims of teammate-on-mother intercourse everywhere.

Brought to you by Nike, sponsor of LeBron James and victims of teammate-on-mother intercourse everywhere.

Oh, my mom knows something? And what exactly pray tell, kid shopping in the kids’ department, does my mom know? You? Probably not. You in an intimate way? Almost certainly not. You may as well be wearing a T-shirt that reads “I Am Lying” or “Inferiority Complex” or “I’m Not Sayin’, I’m Just Sayin'” or fucking “SWAG.” I have had too little coffee to properly eviscerate a parent who would consciously consume this shirt with the intention of putting it on their own spawn. But seriously, WTF Nike?

Here’s the one that really gets me though: “PLAY ME OR TRADE ME.”

Kids demanding to be played or traded. That's where we're at, America.

Kids demanding to be played or traded. That’s where we’re at, America.

The phrase “Play Me or Trade Me” above a swoosh on a kids’ T-shirt has to be the saddest thing I’ve seen from consumer culture this week. 1) It reveals a microwave mentality that betrays the virtue of patience; 2) It is egomaniacal; 3) It speaks to entitlement, that despite there being 12-15 players on a given basketball team, nobody actually thinks of themselves as deserving to slot in anywhere lower than 6th on a team’s depth chart; 4) If taught by a parent buying this shirt, the statement reveals said parent’s propensity for getting in fights with little league officials and likelihood that this kind of bullying trait is already being passed down; and worst of all, 5) IT PRESUPPOSES THAT THE CHILD ATHLETE IS THE PROPERTY OF SOME ARBITRARY TEAM.

“Play me or trade me” is an ode to professional athletes with six-to-eight-figure annual contracts that become frustrated with their situations within their given team or club. It’s an old phrase meant to say, “Look, you’re paying me this money but you’re burying me in your doghouse. I’m good enough to play, so either play me or trade my rights to a team that will play me and pay me under the terms of my current contract.” The phrase in and of itself is not unreasonable. If the player uttering it were, say, the 11th best player on the league’s worst team, then yes, the phrase would be ludicrous. But professionals want to practice their craft, and riding the pine can be in direct conflict with certain pro players’ personal goals.

This situation can not, in any way, translate to unpaid children who are supposed to be playing whatever game it may be for the enjoyment of said game. Their rights are not owned, there is no standard player contract for kids. With regard to scholastic athletics, a kid typically plays for his home school district, with house leagues and travel leagues in the offseason. “Play me or trade me” is never an ultimatum that can even be posed to a kid’s coach, because there is no contract to play for pay. At least, there isn’t one for the ages of children that would fit into the T-shirts I was seeing on stunted mannequins, aghast with horror for the future.

This is just the latest in a long line of examples of disregarded self-awareness from the sports industry and the self-important, mindless consumer that is the American sports parent. Teaching kids to view themselves as the property of an organization before they develop the critical thinking skills to see why this view is akin to cutting their arms with forks down the street or across the road so that their blood can get more oxygen from the outside air and also that their every wish must be satisfied by the elders who are charged with molding them can only lead to a further gone generation of  narcissistic little assholes that will grow up and aspire to business and political leadership that might make us long for the crazy, regressive days of today.

Stay classy Nike. Keep unconsciously consuming, sports parents.