Total Media Coverage, subverted

I’m told that this coming Friday, which ought to be July 3 unless my calendar skills have regressed back to post-BCS championship game levels, I should not attempt to drive on U.S. highway 101. This is because there will be a viewing of Michael Jackson’s body at Neverland Ranch, and the type of people who would fly in from Germany or the Philippines to get a view of the King of Pop’s (presumably) preserved corpse are also not the type of people who are willing to carpool. Likely they are willing to carpool, but carpooling is probably not an option given the scale of the M.J. Experience, which is the name I have given to both the actual group and the phenomenon.

I got a hint of the power of this phenomenon when I made a joke about child molestation in front of a co-worker after she told me he had died. I have a tendency to say uncouth things in moments of great delicacy, and this was no exception. She reared up – this isn’t just idle metaphor: she really did rear up like an angry bear, or a horse that finally got tired of stupid humans – and told me off. It turns out there are many, many people who love(d) Jackson, and “Billie Jean” is enough to make them catatonic with pleasure if it wasn’t also invoking one of the pantheonic demigods of dance. I stuck by my guns because who doesn’t love a pederast joke in a time of duress? Still, it made me think. All these years I believed that Jackson probably did something bad with those kids, or maybe with one of those kids and the rest piled on (sorry, had to stick another one of those poor-tasters in there); either way, the guy creeped me out. He was never convicted, though. He just lost a number of trials-by-public.

This is a country that prides itself on things like the assumption that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Have I been wrong all these years to assume Michael Jackson must’ve done something bad? Was he, in reality, just an eccentric person capable of immense genius and sensitivity? We’re all a bit weird, after all. I haven’t surgically altered my face to look more like white America, but I do clip my toe nails into the toilet occasionally. The truth is that I don’t really know anything that can’t be gleaned from Wikipedia or my poorly recalled experience with Moonwalker (the movie, the video game and the arcade machine), but my comment was enough to get a rise out of a normal person who felt involved in Jackson’s death in a way most people aren’t capable of expressing, but likely has something to do with a connection with someone you ought never to have connected with in the first place if our modes of communication were still in, say, a 17th century state, and maybe this is why people genuinely care about Jennifer Aniston’s love life.

Which brings me to Reggie Bush. It’s hard for me to watch New Orleans Saints games because of Bush. Sedrick Ellis helps, as does Billy Miller – and I never thought Miller would still be in the league in 2009 but I approve, you freckled spot-of-brightness from the nineties – but it’s so easy to focus on Bush for the obvious reasons of talent, speed and convulsion-inducing-impossibility. It makes me feel terrible inside because I know Reggie Bush is guilty of violating numerous NCAA rules during his time at USC.

Or do I? I thought I knew. I tell a lot of people he’s guilty. “He had a souped up Impala, man. The sheer stupidity of it, driving around in that thing as the star tailback of the most visible program in the nation!” as I writhe on the floor at the thought of such betrayal, showing off the stigmata. I talk about how proud I was watching the 2005 Heisman ceremony, how I was moved to tears when Reggie teared up and talked about his step-dad, and about how I felt when I read that LaMar Griffin was at the center of the accusations of cheating.

(Cheating? I suppose it would be, but to this day “cheating” doesn’t encapsulate everything. If Bush is guilty then he’d have been ineligible, which means his presence from the 2004 to 2005 seasons would be cheating, yes, but more than anything I feel the crime is actually greed and arrogance. Greed for taking that money and arrogance for thinking he could sweep a relationship with a guy named Michael Michaels under the table. Plus he pretty much disappointed in every bowl appearance he made.)

(That really is the kind of justification I make to myself while standing in line at the deli. I need help.)

I still feel betrayed. I remember the 2005 game at Washington. The poor, poor Huskies were several seasons away from the ultimate in futility, but they were still so crappy I had to justify my presence in Seattle with two rationalizations: the seafood, and Reggie Bush. Neither disappointed. Bush took a punt back using nothing but refraction and a pair of double jointed ankles. He made it look like he was running around a bunch of shades (the afterlife kind, not the venetian kind.) Every single Husky fan I talked to said the same thing: “We are going to lose, and lose big. I just hope Bush does something amazing.” They weren’t disappointed, which is odd since they’re technically rooting for the victims but still: the Chinese could appreciate the awesomeness of the Golden Horde even as it rolled over them. #5 wasn’t wearing a fur hat or launching plague-ridden corpses into European cities that day, but he r-and-p’ed the shit out of Husky Stadium. I’m not sure if Tyrone Willingham would’ve preferred facing Bush or Khan. I’d like to think Willingham was like me, and like those Husky fans: he was just happy to have a seat for the Best Show in College Football. Reggie was like that. He made everyone feel like they were watching history being made.

(So, yes, I guess it would be cheating having a paradigm-shifting non-eligible tailback on your team. Access to the Speed Force only heightens that distinction. I guess my love of USC football makes it seem like a technicality, which is the segue way into the next paragraph but how do I get out of this parenthetical?)

My love of USC football made the accusations of cheating seem like a technicality. But I was – am – convinced of Bush’s guilt. This has nothing to do with school pride and an attendant wish to visit swift, Old Testament justice to someone who’s besmirched the name of the university. It doesn’t even have to do with a desire to clear the university’s name. Neither of those are factors, particularly because I went to UC Santa Barbara.

I think it has something to do with the 2004 opener against Virginia Tech. USC was favored by a couple of touchdowns but the Hokies, true to their late season form, were performing admirably. Correction: they were being assholes by not giving up. I wasn’t at Fed-Ex Field. I was watching the game at my neighbors’, and everyone of course hated USC. (Understandable, and not in that smug way. The factors which led to my USC fandom were uncontrollable, and had they not aligned so I, too, would hate USC. It’s simple fractals.) They were all, rightly so, giving me shit for a terrible passing interference call that benefited the Trojans. I did not help anyone by being drunk and telling them to fuck themselves. Reggie Bush ignored us all and single handedly won the game. He made Frank Beamer’s brilliant game plan moot, he made senior Tech QB Bryan Randall’s heroics null, and he made 80,000 plus Hokie faithful sad. This made me so happy I held a bottle of bourbon to my heart and swore on the soul of Kentucky ricks everywhere (in Kentucky) that I would give anything to see USC play for the national championship that year.

Bush made all that happen. He went from promising freshman to savior of the world in one game. The play where he turned a slip screen into a demonstration of the presence of God in the Creation was the play I hung my hat, firmly, on the back of a stool in a bar called “Reggie Bush Will Lead Me To The Promised Land”, and if that’s too much religiosity in a sentence about the 2004 BCA Classic you clearly haven’t heard me talk about the 2005 Notre Dame game. I spent three plus years in that bar, which includes more than a year after he declared early because I think I believed, particularly after USC lost in Corvallis in 2006, He would come back despite NCAA regulations against such. Little did I know.

So on some level I invested at least a sliver of my spiritual well being into Reggie Bush. He was capable of rendering pleasure (see: mostly every play during the 2005 season) and pain (see: lateral) more readily than any sports figure I have ever encountered. It’s kind of grotesque how easily he made me happy just by being in a huddle.

Everything I’ve read makes me think he did something wrong during his last two years at USC. I want this investigation to be over already, but it’s not going to be over this season or any time soon. I could care less about Tim Floyd and the money-gobbling new Memphis Grizzly, because that is basketball. It does not matter. But Bush? He’s hurt me. I’m not sure if there’s a USC fan convinced of Bush’s innocence but  I can imagine their reactions to talk about guilt, lack of institutional control, etc.: reared up like an angry bear, or a horse that finally got tired of stupid UCLA fans. I can understand such USC fans. They might well have given their heart over to a supremely talented tailback. It happens if you’re lucky enough to be a fan when Bo or Herschel or Reggie carry the ball. There’s no shame in devoting a bit of your essence to that kind of hero worship because they make their qualifications for such worship so obvious with a simple off-tackle or sweep. It does leave you vulnerable, though.

There are going to be a lot of devoted Michael Jackson fans in Santa Barbara on Friday. Maybe they were moved by his music, or his gentleness, or the awesomeness that is “Smooth Criminal”. I never imagined there could be that much in common between us, but it took a poorly judged pedophile joke to bring the realization: they believe Jackson was innocent, I believe Bush is guilty, and it seems like neither the twain shall meet evidence to the contrary so long as death and the NCAA stay true. Love clouds all judgment. That’s why courtrooms never smell like perfume.

For the record, though: not even a returned Heisman, vacated wins or NCAA sanctions can take away the sweetness of the Bush Push. Not all cheating is wrong.

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It has become apparent I must be stopped, no matter the cost

The loss to Oregon State caused me to withdraw from the internet, television, newspapers and all forms of mass communication including but not limited to tin can-and-wire, shouting, smoke signals, imagined telepathy, real telepathy, gazing, ham radio, nostril flaring via elaborate mirror setups running along the beautiful oceanic stretch of Highway 1 from Cambria to Santa Cruz, the maritime code book, and talking. This is the first time I’ve been online since that terrible, terrible Thursday.

Apparently David Foster Wallace is dead.

This happened sometime around the fourth or fifth touchdown USC scored against poor, hapless, resurgent Ohio State, which was a week and a half before Oregon State, which means I am an idiot of elephantine proportions. Perhaps idiot isn’t the right word, but I do feel idiotic.

I like(d) DFW. “Genius” gets thrown around a lot these days, but he was a genius. More to the point of this blog, he was also an athlete who admired what athleticism represents, whatever that is (and DFW never claimed to know.) More than anyone else in the world he made me feel it was alright to ascribe awe, religiosity and mysticism to sports. He readily admitted, even after writing three essays about tennis and tennis players and an 1,100 page novel involving a tennis playing main character, he still couldn’t explain how Roger Federer does what he does. I have come to terms with the idea that I will never truly understand what happens on a college football field until I become a member of a Division I-A college football coaching staff and, in excruciating detail, review the tape. DFW, like Brian – whose own DFW obit I took, in absurdly monstrous dullness, as just a kind of “Hey, this guy is great. He’s not dead or anything. I simply wanted to explain how great he is,” further spiraling me into obtuse hell: I read most of it, glossing over some bits and recalling, very fondly, the beauty of footnote #17 from “Roger Federer as Religious Experience” but I still somehow missed the bit about suicide and, filing it in my internet cabinet of Things To Read And Do Later, assumed Brian was making a very accurate comparison between himself and DFW, and, yes, that’s all about as stupid as it gets – would very likely have been the kind of guy who’d break down game tape and watch it fully and comprehensively no matter the current situation, be that terminal illness, coitus or crippling spiritual agony due to a loss.

I can only imagine a DFW essay about college football. Very likely he would be funny, sardonic, baffled and intrigued. There is something about the suffocating, all-consuming coverage of college football he’d riff on, and in extremely humane and agreeable terms. He’d have done it recursively, and then doubt himself in that pathologically remarkable way that, for me, more than the footnotes, abbreviations and clauses, made DFW DFW. He also had an eye for detail that made its best effect in his essays, which were always fair to their subject and more often than not the kind of thing that made you think, “Holy shit, are all magazines full of this kind of stuff? What have I been missing out on after decades of not reading The Atlantic? Fuck fuck fuck,” but actually not that howlingly despairing because it’s a salve to the soul not reading more stuff by guys much, much smarter than you, but still: he was good, and you knew it the moment you read paragraph one, i.e. pages 1-6.

And it took me almost a month to find out DFW is dead. I suppose that’s the kind of detail he’d have included in an essay about college football: this guy is serious about the game, he obsesses about it, he doesn’t even know there’s a recession going on much less the fact that the author is dead by his own hand, etc.

So where does this leave me? This isn’t some promise to myself about being more involved with the world. I will continue to be obsessed with college football. And it’s completely absurd to think I won’t be devastated the next time USC loses.

I think I need to write more. That’s about it. I haven’t written much over the past year, so that’s a pretty solid hard fact to bang my head against. It’s been a pleasant nine months of stationary 40-hours-a-week life. I have money in my pockets and whiskey in my glass and a heavily monopolized daily routine of work, friends and ritual. Not traveling reminds me of the non-romantic bits they exclude on the Travel Channel: gas station showers, shitty cheap food, constant paranoia, 14-20 year old British citizens, etc. It really is nice to be in one place for an extended period of time without worrying about an expiring visa. But re-reading DFW’s essay on Roger Federer recalls the warm comfort I felt in my sternum, radiating outward with gauzy familiarity, after recognizing a fellow traveler in the well invested but rarely believable realm of Sport-As-Truth, Or-At-Least-A-Kind-Of-Truth. Some guys choose comic books or jazz or cars or porn as their personal cross to bear, a fetish they believe reflects the world in ways very few people realize. This kind of devotion to genre is admirable from within, occassionally repulsive and incomprehensible from without. Knowing everything there is to know about DC cosmology, or Charlie Parker, or 1967 the automotive year, or the shifting axis of power between central Europe and the San Fernando Valley: these things matter to devotees because they are the accumulations of Biblical or rabbinic or whatever-text knowledge, which is not itself understanding but at least one way towards understanding.

I firmly believe DFW and I can agree that sports matter. He was a giant who will be remembered for his words, and for killing himself and depriving the world of an intellect so radiant it literally hurt to read his work, a throbbing behind the eyes that came directly from those areas of your brain responsible for piecing together clauses and signalling, klaxon-like, the approach of someone so far above you it’d be better if you’d just bury your head in a pillow instead of continuing to read this wonderful but depressing thing. I don’t think a young DFW imagined he’d be remembered as a sportswriter, but I do think some of his most personal moments on paper came via sports. They were so very often relevatory, so very often the kind of thing I needed to read at 3 a.m. I crave that. I had, I think, forgotten I crave that after two or three months of monotonous sifting of beat reporters’ resigned repetition of each other’s words and the absurd and ill-conceived talking points of columnists and talking heads, from spring ball to the day before Oregon State.

Now I want to find my lost copy of Consider the Lobster, and maybe finally garrote the person who never returned A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. They both contain essays on sports, the kind I’ve been talking about: beautiful, meandering, a little bit sad, always authoritative but never dogmatic, occassionally miraculous, and very much willing to stand back and say, “That’s just grotesque.” He had the chops and the rep to write this kind of stuff and actually get it published, full formed, without tacking on the neat little coda all sports stories are required to have. It’s literally insane they let him do this kind of thing. It wasn’t like DFW was this physical force of nature like Hunter S. Thompson, who’d pull a gun on you rather than have a foul adjective edited into mere libel. He was a dove. But he wrote like a convict: deep in it, unafraid of censure, maybe even a little addled by the walls and the solitary but somehow still a bit sweet, like doing time is enough to make innocence seem more tangible. It’s amazing stuff, and, shit, it’s about tennis – but I crave it. Truth be told, though, I’d much rather write right now even though it’s obvious I’m not going to fully satisfy that craving by writing what I want to read because 1) I’m no DFW and 2) it’s a craving that cannot be fully satisfied. Still, it seems like the important thing is to write.

USC 41, ASU 16; but it’s gonna be a more interesting post if things don’t go smoothly so, just this once, for David Foster Wallace, maybe I’m hoping things don’t go that smoothly.

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Filed under Pac-10, USC

The Approach to Ann Arbor

My life for the past year or so has been essentially summarized by a Scotsman.

For those of you who are not familiar: I drove more than 17,000 miles across 30 states for 90 consecutive days to watch 25 live college football games in 2007. I’ve explained this bit to many people. It’s become an easy way for my friends to introduce me to others: “He went on this crazy college football road trip last year. He got arrested in Texas. He dropped a bit of acid in New Orleans. Barbeque was involved. Etc.,” but it is rare that anything is actually communicated. Most nod and acquiesce to the vaguely epic feel of the tale; very few grab my hand a second time and shake firmly. Those who do have a certain look in their eyes.

The plot is as follows: a man, the incredulous and fugitive student whom we already know, falls among people of the vilest class and adjusts himself to them, in a kind of contest of infamy. All at once – with the miraculous consternation of Robinson Crusoe faced with the human footprint in the sand – he perceives some mitigation in this infamy: a tenderness, an exaltation, a silence in one of the abhorrent men. “It was as if a more complex interlocutor had joined the dialogue.” He knows that the vile man conversing with him is incapable of this momentaneous decorum; from this fact he concludes that the other, for the moment, is the reflection of a friend, or of the friend of a friend. Rethinking the problem he arrives at a mysterious conviction: some place in the world there is a man from whom this clarity emanates; some place in the world there is a man who is this clarity. The student resolves to dedicate his life to finding him.

The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim (1936), Jorge Luis Borges

I’m not Al-Mu’tasim, the origin of clarity and beauty. I’m not even his direct antecedent, who is in fact a fat and happy Parisian bookseller. I’m pretty far down the rung, but probably somewhere above Trev Alberts. I’ve seen more live college football games in one season than anyone, I think, and the kind of people who find that important light up when they hear about my travels. It must be, for them, like a cross between meeting Charlie Lindbergh and the Bearded Lady and her Lobster Lad. Both parties represent something extraordinary in humanity, the very limits of our physical and spiritual expectations. They dwell in opposite ends of fame: one a hero and the others freaks. By comparing ourselves to these examples of distortion and improbability we reach conclusions about what is normal and what is acceptable – but in some mysterious way, just by knowing of these people, we still extend into that otherworldly realm where weird shit happens that shouldn’t, and thus the boundaries are pushed back a little more.

Which is to say: if you plan on living in your car for three straight months, bring a fan with an independent energy source. Only a freak(ishly idiotic person) like me would realize that somewhere near Tennessee, and not, say, California.

I don’t think I need to tell Alex Massie, the Scotsman mentioned above, any of this. I’d probably only need to lay out the metrics – 17,000, 30, 25, 90 – and he’d get that look in his eye and shake my hand again, firmly. Read his article. He calls American sports teams “sides”, which is amusing to someone who had to call tenderloins “fillets” for several years, and he didn’t mention anything about the dark, monstrous emotions lifelong college football fans know as their blood type – it’s only a matter of time, certainly not perseverance – but he strikes the nail and he strikes it true: there is no other sport in America as American as college football.

One can sense this Scotsman is a searcher. Like me, and like the law student in the fictional book Borges “reviews” above, he senses there must be some central source of divinity that has left its mark on others, who in turn have passed on their share and created a whole nation of people endowed with a shard of the immutable properties of the universe, i.e. the 4th quarter comeback. He need only ask Colorado fans who remember 1994, or Boston College fans who remember 1984, or college football fans who remember 2007, and he will have met someone who also believes that this game offers a view into something highly Other. He probably wonders what the hell Conference USA is, and is likely intrigued by this East Carolina University prodigy despite its evident abnormality. He is undoubtedly very sensitive to the tidal change in Ann Arbor and, if he were a student of the classics, would compare it to Zeus and his war with Cronus, except that would also mean imagining Rich Rod killing Lloyd Carr in a necessary act of patricide. As a foreigner he might sense the terrifying, absolute beauty of this game, and reading anything intimating such is unreasonably gratifying for me.

I have no doubt that college football will continue to be the epitome of American sports, but it’s nice to have new converts. Clarity implies the seer and the seen, after all, so one more crazy fan is always welcome.

(HT: MGoBlog)

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Filed under Big Ten, One CFB Road Trip to rule them all

A review of What Happened On The Sideline Between Stacey Dales And Chris Long

Nobody has written for the stage with as much power and verve as ABC/ESPN, and yet the venerable playwright has been for some time now regarded as a relic of the past. This seems only fitting given a recent output whose high water mark is Comin’ To Your Citay, or, A(n) (A)Moral Tale (2006), an odious play which still featured the signature rat-a-tat dialogue made so famous in years past.

“ABC/ESPN,” wrote David Mamet in a guest review of Citay in The Economist, “may be slumming it right now, but the rest of us could only wish we were so gloriously dilapidated. This may be bad, but it’s still viscera. It’s blood and guts. It’s bone marrow. I wanted to smash my own face in shame knowing that even in repose, even in winter, ABC/ESPN could put this on a stage. Some day the truth will flare out and expose us all for the hacks we are, but until then I will continue going to the theater because I have no choice: it’s either ABC/ESPN, or the ledge.”

Though Mamet was a bit effusive in his praise of a minor work, he struck the chord: we were wrong to ever doubt ABC/ESPN’s ability to again seize the stage. Witness What Happened On The Sideline Between Stacey Dales and Chris Long (Nederlander Theater, 208 W. 41st St., 212-921-8000), a return to form so stunning in scope and audacity, so replete with energy and abandon, so utterly ABC/ESPN it makes the entire preceding decade’s worth of theater gray and dull in comparison. This new work is nothing short of the finest piece of American drama since we lost Arthur Miller to Marilyn Monroe. It demands to be seen. Like all great drama, it insists.

At times its blatant sexuality is overpowering, a kind of unctuous musk that leaves the theater dim and ungraceful. But that is rare. For the most part ABC/ESPN handles the scenes between Dales and Long with a light hand, letting the tension build slowly until even the audience is practically gasping for release. It is a pleasure to watch and be a part of: a vision so audacious one wonders how a nation founded by Puritans could possibly countenance this kind of out-and-out carnality in a place the Greeks considered sacred. But don’t let the talk of angry protesters fool you: this is art, High Art, and we can only be grateful that at long last ABC/ESPN has returned.

An excerpt from What Happened On The Sideline Between Stacey Dales And Chris Long:

DRAMATIS PERSONAE, in order of appearance

BRAD NESSLER, a perfum’d Rasputin with the voice of Bacchus.

STACEY DALES, the golden haired Amazon of the sidelines and daughter to the king of the WNBA.

CHRIS LONG, the number two pick of the draft and herald to Teri Hatcher.

BOB GRIESE, deposed king of Florida and father to the son of Bob Griese.

PAUL MAGUIRE, a crazed pauper.

PRINCES, COUNCILMEN, BARONS, GUARDS, MEN-AT-ARMS, SOLDIERY, SQUIRES, CITIZENS, LAWYERS, MUSICIANS, FISHMONGERS, etc.

Act One, Scene One

A stirring war-like processional is sounded. A video montage lights the back of the stage, showing CHRIS LONG in sudden, shocking violence: decapitating a quarterback, bending iron to his will, holding aloft the skulls of his enemy. It is impossible to turn away from this spectacle. Enter BRAD NESSLER. He is wearing a purple chiffon bath robe, with the belt only halfway done. We can see his gleaming mahogany chest and his dark curling chest hair with ease, and he knows we can. NESSLER takes his time in lighting a long black cigarillo. The theater is filled with the smell of week old bananas and coco butter, and something darker and sinister underneath. He inhales and exhales luxuriously, watching the brutal footage of LONG. NESSLER seems to approve.

NESSLER: Well, Virginia lookin’ for stars like they had last year. In Chris Long they certainly had a super star last year. First team All-American. Number two draft choice in the NFL draft. He was Mr. Everything, Mr. Hustle. And he created havoc in a lot of ACC backfields last year as he led this team in sacks. And he’s here on the old stompin’ grounds with Stacey.

Enter STACEY DALES. She is impossibly tall. She wields a triangular mace with ease in one hand. At her back is a retinue of naked Amazonian HONOR GUARDS, their hair cropped short and their nakedness contrasted with the spears and shields they wield. They dance slowly behind her, a warrior dance: aggressive, dangerous, razor-sharp. DALES is unconcerned with their movements. She is focused.

DALES: Well Brad I’ve got Chris standing here with me. Now Chris, obviously you’re an integral part of this program. How has life changed though going into the NFL?

The center stage pit opens and, as Richard Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra plays, CHRIS LONG emerges from beneath. LONG is wearing the half beard of a warrior gone to ground, unsure when his next respite may come. He is also, for some reason, wearing a backpack.

LONG: You know, it’s changed a lot. You know, I’m adjusting to it pretty well, uh, but having a weekend off and being able to come back here is really great.

DALES: What adjustments would you make with the defense right now, up 21 points for USC?

LONG, clearly irritated: Well you know, they’re doing their thing in there, running some zone plays. But, uh, I think the offense just has to get ’em out of the hole a little bit. They’ll catch up.

DALES: Alright Chris, I have something. I always come bearing gifts. It even has a little grass in it.

Fire shoots up from the back, and the lighting focuses on DALES’ hand as her HONOR GUARD writhe like serpents, undulating and bowing to what she holds. It is a SANDWICH. It is glistening unhealthily. Enter BOB GRIESE and PAUL MAGUIRE. GRIESE absentmindedly kicks MAGUIRE whenever the latter gets too close. MAGUIRE is dressed in tatters, and is very obviously unhinged. They both stare at the SANDWICH and the HONOR GUARD hungrily. LONG is trying not to stare, but he can’t help it.

DALES: Now this is Little John’s Chris Long sandwich.

NESSLER chuckles. It is an unpleasant chuckle, and he makes it even more uncomfortable by undoing his bathrobe even more. Now there is only the tiniest of material between the audience and NESSLER’s flesh.

DALES: Yes, that’s right folks: he’s got his own sandwich, the twelve inch steaker.

Everyone freezes and stares at DALES. The light turns a voluptuous crimson and the music acquires a low bass rumble. From here on in everyone moves with a slow lushness, a knowing kind of half samba, half tango.

DALES: Um. Well first of all, do you want the sandwich?

LONG: Uh, uh, I don’t eat the sandwich before ten at night. It tastes better late at night.

NESSLER, MAGUIRE and GRIESE cackle, throwing their hands up in supplication and delight. A thudding basso drum is struck once, twice, three times.

DALES, slightly unbelieving: It tastes better late at night.

LONG grins and gyrates.

DALES: Now, what happens if I give it to you? Do you think a fan might want it?

LONG: I think I can find a fan. I mean there’s 60,000 people, somebody’s hungry. We’ll give ’em a sandwich, yeah.

In the background is the low sussuration of 60,000 voices desirous of a sandwich, of the SANDWICH and all it represents. DALES cannot help but be affected. She moves in the trance state of the hunter and the hunted.

DALES: And lastly, did you choose the ingredients? Because I gotta be honest with you: I dunno if I’m eatin’ this.

LONG: I didn’t choose the ingredients, but hey Little John’s they make good sandwiches. Uh, you know a lotta people tell me it’s actually alright.

DALES: Alright, thanks for taking the time, Chris. Back to you Brad.

NESSLER bows to DALES. He swishes his bathrobe belt, and sticks his hip out to one side.

NESSLER: Somebody would probably want him to autograph the bun, if he took it out in the crowd.

MAGUIRE and GRIESE giggle uncontrollably. MAGUIRE begins scratching himself as if he’s covered in a thousand bugs, but GRIESE is there to slap him and return him to the present world. NESSLER turns to them as if to ask, “Do you want something you wretches?”

MAGUIRE and GRIESE: [Indecipherable mumbling.]

A beat.

MAGUIRE: Put, put some mayonnaise on that baby!

Exeunt all.

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Filed under The Media

I do not recommend speaking to me the next two weeks

Much like the euro-to-dollar rate, my thought processes since Signing Day in February featured a long inevitable exponential: a steadily rising exchange rate of anticipation leading up to September 13, with a single blip on August 30 representing both the University of Virginia and the NYSE spike caused by the dollar-boosting announcement that we’d be converting our national currency to the euro.

Essentially: yesterday’s 52-7 tune up can now be safely described as what it was, a tune up. One game at a time, we have a tough opponent ahead of us, they won an NCAA record five games by two points last year, Chris Long has a sandwich named after him, blah blah blah.

This game was pretty much decided the moment Jemell Sewell bowed out of that whole school thing. Everything since then has been lip service to Al Groh and Virginia, two institutions that have a long history of being serviceable but not the kind of specters that make an entire off season tingly in all the right places.

For that, you need Ohio State in a night game at the Coliseum. I am indeed all-a-tingle, and take that how you will. (Given that the vast majority of people reading this site arrive through Google searches involving “Kirk Herbstreit wife cheater” and “Mark Richt ass lover” I can assume all interpretations will involve BDSM of some kind.) (And God bless you all.)

So. For approximately half a year I’ve been going through the motions of life, doing things like waking up and showering and working and occasionally imbibing delicious alcoholic beverages and pretending to myself that this is normality. But is it possible to pretend to yourself when that very same self is sitting quietly in a corner hunched over Phil Steele’s 2008 College Football Preview, gently rocking back and forth humming Tribute to Troy and mouthing the same words Robert Oppenheimer spoke at Trinity, New Mexico, “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds”? Oppenheimer needed a 2,500 year old Sanskrit text to describe the awful majesty of mankind’s mastery of the atom, but the old warhorse never had to go through an off season thinking about the second ranked Buckeyes and their Heisman candidate showing up in Los Angeles for the game of the year. This is actually important stuff, and it irks me that someone else got to quote that Bhagavad Gita passage for something as inconsequential as the first detonation of a nuclear device in the last year of the greatest war humanity has ever inflicted upon itself.

The son of Animal is coming, people, and I need deeply religious visions of Apocalypse to reference.

Which is why no one ought to speak to me for two weeks. I will still be going through those motions: wake, shower, work, drink. That will not change. But my interiors will be harnessed for something other, something greater, something necessary. I’m thinking now of a certain kind of ascetic that’s found in almost every major religion. Some mysterious inclination leads men to spend years sequestered and bent over paper, papyrus, brass or keyboard, writing out the many names of God in the belief that a summation of the totality of the Word will one day lead to revelation. Some chant it, some inscribe it on their own flesh with whip and blade, and some merely think it over and over but their effect is the same: a wholesale dedication to a monumental task. This isn’t exactly a bad approach in that it has the same probability of success as anything else. It’s certainly illustrative of one thing: men are capable of commiting their lives and energy to any venture so long as they can believe their work will affect the universe.

So you may see me going about my business as normal for the next fortnight, but be not fooled: inside, I am chanting – in all the languages of life – the myriad names of Winged Victory. They are legion, and they are always sweet. Bring on The Ohio State University.

And don’t mention a thing about Beanie Wells’ foot. If you’ve ever seen this guy run you understand, like I do, he’ll play two Saturdays from now. No. 28 knows you only get two shots at Ragnarok, and he isn’t waiting for the second half of the home-and-home to show up.

2 Comments

Filed under Big Ten, This game might be slightly important, USC

The storm is upon us

On one particular Islamic night, which is called the Night of Nights, the secret portals of the heavens open wide and the water in the water jars is sweeter than on other nights; if those gates had opened as I sat there, I would not have felt what I was feeling that evening.

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, Jorge Luis Borges

Tonight, something strange and sharp is going to happen. One term for that event – a human term – would be “kickoff”. It would be foolish on anyone’s part to believe that tonight’s significance revolves around the propelling, by hip, abdomen and lower leg, of a football through the air for the first time since early January. That’s what it’s nominally about, the way breakfast is nominally about ingesting your first sustenance of the day.

But you and me? We know it’s about the bacon: unequivocally bad for you, but oh, oh, oh so good. Tonight I begin my four month long descent into depravity. Yes.

Also,

It’s been too long since I’ve updated this site. Update: I’ll be contributing to Matt Hinton’s new college football site, which is under the gaze of Yahoo! Sports and Rivals. You might know Hinton better as Sunday Morning Quarterback, nee SMQ, nee Ray Guy. Now he’s Dr. Saturday, and apparently I’m responsible for the Kubrickian theme he chose. If you spot him riding a nuke into Orlando for the Southern Miss-UCF game you’ll know who to blame.

Hinton’s always been good, but now he’s getting paid. I’m happy to be in cahoots with someone I regard as one of the premier college football writers out there. It also means this site will continue to be infrequently updated.

Enjoy your bacon.

3 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous

The briefest of updates

Hello. I’m Jonathan Tu. You might remember me from such blogs as 82 Sluggo Win, and Yertle, the Recruiting Turtle!

I actually can’t go on with this Troy McClure impression. Too many painful memories. Anyway: updates.

Signing Day is over and done with. USC was not number one, nor even 1.5, nor even top three. In years past this would have caused me to detonate myself and several tons of roofing nails in Westwood, but I am eerily calm right now. So calm I can even spellcheck “eerily” and not be horribly angry at such an awkwardly spelled word. Has it been the relatively disappointing past few seasons – i.e., “Fuck! Another BCS win? Audible sigh.” – or the merely excellent (as opposed to unfairly superior, on the level of map hackers in StarCraft or word generating tumescence suckers in Scrabulous) 2008 recruiting class that’s left me unmoved? I’m not sure. I did just complete that whole grand tour of college football, so it’s not for lack of interest.

I think this is a healthy step for me. I’m on a path towards normalcy, which should be a good enough excuse to get past security at LAX so I can fly directly to Tallahassee and thank T.J. Bryant in person for signing with Pete Carroll, grounding order be damned.

I am back in Santa Barbara living the dream: minutes away from a beach I never visit, working a semi-part-time job where I’m not even cooking yet, residing in a garage in a corner somewhat distanced from three hockey bags full of hockey gear, sucking at beer pong and generally being glad I am not crammed sleeping bag-first into the driver’s side of a ’96 Maxima in, oh, let’s say Ohio. I cannot begin to stress how nice it is not having to pretend my alarm clock doesn’t sound exactly like two cops tapping my windshield at 7:12 a.m. in a strip mall in Virginia.

I am also still writing. This is agonizing. If I could channel the angst, despair and frustration of the process into the actual process, I would have a romansbildung the size of Mike Stoops’ forehead vein and the best college football/existential diptych ever written. As it is I have a slowly growing manuscript and a hellish, apostatically barren white screen whose dread glow reminds me that Borges was right: “Mirrors and copulation [and Microsoft Office] are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind.” Borges was also right when he said that Nick Saban is the terrible black maw of The Beast, and the latest recruiting rankings bear this out.

Bear this out. Bear Bryant? Nevermind. I suck.

Apparently, I am in contention for best National Blog in the second annual College Football Blogger Awards. I’m not going to win, but it was nice having this site’s view count boosted to a whole 200 views per day instead of the steady 36 I’ve been receiving for almost a year now. This, and the Google searches for “kirk herbstreit wife cheating” my readers seem to be following, proves that none of the time I spent churning out elaborate Herbie infidelity jokes was wasted.

And, finally: congratulations to LSU. Now please stop emailing me. It’s been four years since the split title and I am still getting poorly typed missives threatening me over the AP trophy. Me? Me.

STOP. CEASE. ENJOY YOUR CRAWFISH ETOUFFE AND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. The same goes for the Georgia fans who can’t seem to grasp that Mark Richt loves ass. Get out there and live!

7 Comments

Filed under This Is Not Fake News(!)

If it had been anyone else…

I would’ve said, “What the hell are you doing you stupid bastard? Just run in and flip the ball to the ref and let’s get a touchback,” except with a lot more fucks and shits.

Instead I said, “YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEAGGH!!! Fucking shit yeah!”

He did get knocked over after sticking the landing, but whatever: SportsCenter Top 10.

6 Comments

Filed under USC

Three things

One: The Onion’s Our Dumb World should be the first thing you buy when you stop reading this post. It is, miraculously, just as good as Our Dumb Century, which probably had as much to do with the development of my world view and sense of humor as anything else.

Two: this is now my life…

Three: did Tebow deserve it? Ontologically speaking, boobies. Err, yes.

3 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous, SEC

Prediction…

No matter what happens tomorrow, Karl Dorrell will be fired.

And USC will win.

1 Comment

Filed under Pac-10, USC