Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Loving Things

A couple of days after my last post I added this genius image from Failblog to it, and I didn't want anyone who'd already read it to miss out:

Also yesterday Salon ran a piece called "In Defense of Twi-Hards" by Jessanne Collins, which I thought was also worth posting as a rebuttal to the failing of that photo, and to my own post. Not that I don't have the courage of my convictions or anything, but hey, other people are smart too (and get paid to write on the internet!).

Gather several thousand screaming, grease-painted New Englanders in a stadium and what do you have? A Patriots game. Pitch a couple dozen tents outside an Apple store and what do we call it? A strikingly common upper-middle class affliction characterized by enthusiastic gadget consumption. Play Xbox until your eyes bleed and who are you? An American teenager. Now raise your hand if you lost sleep hitting refresh on FiveThirtyEight during the last presidential election or could be witnessed pumping your fist in the air in a pub before noon at any point in the last two weeks. I thought so.

We're a nation of rabid fans. We love loving things that other people love. We love loving things, period.

I've never done any of those things (even my rabid Apple fandom couldn't make me stand in that line!) but I appreciate the point, and I do love loving things. Read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On Fans

Last night, when I twittered snarkily about the NBA whatever, my friend Joe replied, "I think if we laid all your 'what's a sports?' tweets end-to-end, they'd stretch all the way to those overturned cars in L.A." And he's right. I do get a little tedious on the subject. While my feelings about sports (and more to the point, sports culture and sports business) are nothing new, in the past year or so Twitter and Facebook have magnified my annoyance. Before, I just didn't travel much in sports-caring-about circles, and it was usually just a background buzz. But I'm shocked on a daily basis by people in my life who I'd expect to share my apathy if not outright disdain (okay, I'll say it: The Gays), whose status updates are in fact all, "Go team!" Now, I've been known to live-twit episodes of Glee, so I can't begrudge anyone their joy or the sharing of it. But looking at an entire screen full of Lakers-related posts last night, I felt backed into a corner and lashed out. My brain just can't process sports. I've simply never enjoyed watching other people play a game, whether that game is baseball or Grand Theft Auto. I understand that there is drama there, but I prefer my drama with a clearer storyline. But I do live in the world and listen to the news every morning and know what's going on.

But while I was being facetious about not knowing what the game was, I was being very sincere about those overturned cars. I mean, what the fuck? This gets into something bigger than sports. It's a level of radical fandom I have never understood. I am a fan of many things. I am a giant, nerdy, somewhat obsessive, very knowledgeable fan of certain things. Yet for all of the embarrassingly geeky facts I know about Star Wars, I didn't set fire to a deli after Phantom Menace (and really, if I were going to set fire to a deli...). I might say things like, "That was the worst Tony Awards since 1994 when Sunset Boulevard won for best musical because it was the only musical!" (um, not that I've ever said such a thing) but that's different from "GodDAMN it!! I can't BELIEVE the Tonys lost! Hey, that guy looks like a Catherine Zeta-Jones fan! Let's punch him!"

Sorry, my metaphor veered back towards sports again, and I didn't mean for it to. Because this really goes to everything. If you liked Michael Jackson or The Beatles, wasn't the point of going to their concerts to, y'know, listen to the music? Maybe sing along? Why would you SCREAM at the top of your lungs? What about just being in the room with them would make you actually pass out?

I'm as baffled by this level of fandom for things I'm in to too, or things that in fact pay my bills. I know a young woman (and she's not alone) who has seen the same Broadway shows - not a cheap ticket, generally - hundreds of times. I mean, finances and time aside, doesn't that get boring? I could see going back several times over the course of a run, maybe checking out the new cast members. I've done that myself. But several times a week for years? I used to get paid to do that and I got bored.

I checked out some Twin Peaks locations when I was in Seattle on business, but I didn't make a special cross-country trip to Forks, on which the town in Twilight is based only in name and weather. I went to a sing-along screening of the Buffy musical episode, but I didn't go in costume.

I think, also, that pop culture fandom, for the most part, is pretty marginalized. Things that are super-mainstream don't seem to breed the same kind of rabidity as things that are a bit more culty. (Lost is probably a good exception to this, as is the occasional pop star, I suppose.) A Star Trek convention sounds like torture to me, but I understand the appeal, especially pre-Internet.

But sports insanity is not just mainstream, it's expected. The thing I most don't get is the sense of ownership that sports fans get, which doesn't seem to cross over into other areas of fandom. "We won!" No, they won. You watched. You didn't even help. Like, sure, be excited, but why on earth would you have personal pride like you did something? I don't think even the most die-hard, parents'-basement-dwelling, Klingon-speaking Star Trek fan ever watched an episode and was like, "Yeah, best episode ever! We nailed that script!"

And really - really - why would you start a riot? Is that something people do when they're happy? As one friend wrote on my Facebook status, "I really liked August Osage County. After it won the Tony I set fire to my neighborhood deli." Is this a natural human impulse? 'Cause it seems really ass-backwards to me, and it does not seem to be something that fans of other things do, no matter how frighteningly intense they are.

I have no witty conclusion of my own (there's nothing to conclude anyway, I'm not trying to argue a point or convince anyone of anything, except maybe don't throw rocks at the LAPD), so I'll leave you with this quote from actual sports fan Chuck Klosterman, with whom I agree completely:

I hate the idea that rooting for a team without justification somehow proves that you are traditional, loyal, and "a true fan." All it proves is that you're ridiculous, and that you don't really consider the motivations that drive your emotions, and that you probably care more about geography and the color of a uniform than you do about any given sport. I have a sportswriter friend who constantly attempts to paint me as a soulless hypocrite, simply because I adored the Boston Celtics in 1986 but I'm wholly ambivalent toward them today. His argument makes no sense to me. I have no idea why my feelings about an organization twenty years ago should have any effect on how I think now. The modern Celtics have different players, a different coach, a different offense, different management, different ownership, and they play in a different arena; the only similarity between these two squads is that they both wear green and they both used the same parquet floor.

I'm not rooting for flooring.