Friday, March 03, 2006

reports from the plastic bubble: gladwell, angell, sports, death

Gladwell is interviewed by one Bill Simmons of ESPN. And he, Gladwell, explains the virtual-ekphrastic practice of reading about basketball, in Canada, at length:

"Why am I a sports fan? I'm not sure. I grew up in small-town rural southern Ontario. Neither of my parents or my brothers are sports fans, and we never had a television growing up. (In fact, my parents still don't have one, which means that when I go home I'm reduced to trying to catch the AM broadcasts of NFL games from the other side of Lake Erie). [ Really, no shit? How fucking classy. ] I don't think I saw a televised professional sports contest until I was a senior in high school. Everything I know came from Sports Illustrated, which I read at the town library. For some reason, I was a huge fan of the Spurs. I had a George Gervin poster above my bed, and I can talk quite knowledgeably to this day about James Silas, Larry Kenon, Billy Paultz and all the others -- even though I never saw any of those guys play and I'm not even sure (with the exception of Gervin) what any of them looked like. (Surely, with the nickname "Special K" Larry Kenon was black.) [ Please. ] Do you know how hard it is to understand what finger rolls are -- or even dunks -- if all you've ever done is read about them in magazines? Once, when I was in high school, Bobby Smith -- the great natural "athlete" of my hometown -- tried a dunk during a game and a great collective cry of amazement came up over the crowd, as if Bobby had just whipped out a scalpel and was attempting an on-court appendectomy. (I should point out that Bobby came up a little short, and the ball caromed on the rim about 40 feet. The locals are still talking about it). Rural Ontario is not, exactly, a hotbed of athletic ability."

Bill Simmons, in turn, sums up this baffling aesthetic and political paradox thus, "I find this amazing. Have you ever written about this? You were like the sports fan's equivalent of John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble."

We have to assume this startling analogy was lost on Gladwell since, "we never had a television growing up," etc.

Way back when I got all those visitor from blogger, someone mentioned that The New Yorker doesn't write about sports. Well, what do you know, I found out that And he's famous for being a sports writer.

***

As for Roger Angell on the strange pleasures of cemeteries, a few weeks back, I'm with him. One of our favorite walks for a cold, snowy but sunny day is the exposed hillsides of the Calvary Cemetary in Greenfield, overlooking the Mon River and the scenic Homestead shopping development (with tribute to labor, and Lowes multiplex). Well, maybe I'm not quite with him, as he was in some idyllic New England sort of place. Frankly, on cemeteries I preferred the NYRB investigation of macabre Italy, on Mussolini's body and 20th century Italian cemetary monuments - two separate articles in the February 23, 2006 issue of that general interest periodical.

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