[Editor's Note: With Craig being out today, we thought it would be awesome to have Denny Mayo return and do WWW today in Craig's place. For those who are new to the site and may not know who Denny is, he was one of the original weekend editors at WFNY and he gave this site a unique and interesting voice that we lacked before and have never quite been able to replace. But a lot has changed in Denny's life in recent years since he left WFNY to focus on his doctorate. Because he's touching on some hot button topics below, we are of course obligated to say that his opinions are his own. There is no unified stance from WFNY, as we are made up of many different voices and opinions. Some of us stand with Denny, while others disagree. But no matter where you stand, whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, this piece is incredibly well thought out and well written and, well, it's just awesome to have Denny back at WFNY, even if it is only for one day and for one piece. -- Andrew Schnitkey]
It has been 1344 days since I last wrote words here. It’s nice to see you all. Things have changed, but you haven’t aged a day. When I decided to stop writing here to focus on graduate school, the NBA had just died a young death, never to rise from its ashes. Craig and I have talked about this on the podcast, but as I’m growing older, I’m finding it difficult to enjoy sports as much as I used to. At this point, I very well may like making esoteric jokes about sports more than I actually like sports. So it goes.
There are a number of reasons why I’m not digging on sports so hard anymore, and I’m writing whatever I want to write, so let’s get into them:
1) It really bothers me that Chief Wahoo is still a thing. Not the ‘debate’ about Chief Wahoo, mind you, but that the actual logo is still in use—and that any semblance of a ‘debate’ among the Cleveland fan base continues. The logo is racist dreck from a (mostly) bygone era and is generally condemned by the National Congress of American Indians. Yet we annually drudge up a ‘debate’ that begins and ends up with mouth-breathing talk radio hosts denying any evidence that Native Americans oppose the use of Native American likenesses as athletic logos, in order to get radio listeners to call in to their show so that they can convince advertisers to keep paying them. This debate is an auroboros of stupid.
I know that this topic is 1) stale and 2) not a lot of fun to discuss, but this is not an issue where there is much nuance, yet it is treated as such by many who cover it in order to frame the ‘two sides of the debate’ with a wonderful veneer of false equivalence, as though there should be equal weight given to each side. The AV Club review of the excellent series premiere of Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s COSMOS reboot (which you should be watching this show, by the way, because science is wonderful) gets to the heart of the matter of the show, but also the issue at hand here as well:
“The show is also unabashed in its commitment to truth—it matter-of-factly presents what we know about the universe, what we’re pretty sure about, and what we don’t know yet. Cosmos doesn’t hedge: You won’t hear the narrator, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, neuter any of his statements with a gratuitous “some people believe…” counterpoint. … In a media environment where truth has to compete with a “balance” designed to prevent hurt feelings, Cosmos’ straightforward tack is quaint—laudably so.”
There are facts about the history of America’s treatment of American Indians that are not pretty and that are not touched on during our primary education (probably because they are not pretty!). But they are facts, and they are ever-relevant when discussing the ongoing plight of the American Indian.
Sports should be fun, harmless, and inclusive. Chief Wahoo is none of these things—enough so that I refuse to put onesies with Chief Wahoo on my infant daughter that were given to us as gifts. To gloss over the nasty nature of the logo because [a largely non-Native American base of] fans want to keep using a Samboface logo because it reminds the fans of the halcyon days of their youth, or because the logo is ’tradition’, or because ‘only whiny white people don’t like the logo’, or because ‘it doesn’t matter because it’s only a logo’ are reasons that are at best selfish and juvenile and at worst come from a place far, far more pernicious.
2) It’s increasingly difficult to enjoy tackle football in its current incarnation. I’ve never been a huge Browns fan (cf.), but the NFL’s—and Roger Goodell’s—staggering ability to whistle past the graveyard and spread false information regarding the effects of brain injury does not sit particularly well with me. The tried-and-true delay tactics of pointing out that ‘the science is not conclusive’ and ‘more studies are needed before taking action’ are especially pernicious when you realize that every season that involves a delay in instituting some sort of acknowledgment and subsequent change to the game is another season in which 1) the powers-that-be profit wildly at the expense of other humans’ lives, while marketing their business as safe and humane and 2) another cohort of impressionable (and brain-capable!) children put on their Pop Warner helmets and start crashing into each other.
3) Add the labor issues involved in collegiate athletics on top of brain injury seriousness, and it’s even becoming hard to enjoy my beloved Ohio State Football Team. This does not mean that I do not watch, nor does it mean that I do not cheer for my team. But a lot of the fun is gone knowing that every time the crowd is cheering a big hit, the man who made the hit likely did so at the expense of a part of his life—and that he will go pro in something other than sports™ after being subject to the capricious gaze of the “Non-Profit” Arbiters of Amateurism.
4) Sports franchises aggressively hold their host cities hostage for absurd tax breaks in order to renovate perfectly good (yet highly land-inefficient) facilities, and will move if their deal isn’t sweet enough. This is no different from plenty of other businesses, except that sports teams are viewed as some sort of public trust—that just happen to be banned by law from being publicly-owned. And the leagues are non-profit entities.
So what we end up with are carpet-bagging team owners who come in, run roughshod over any semblance of tradition that the fan base is proud of, and then contribute little, if any, to the actual community where they make their sportsball happen. Immediately upon purchasing the team, we are inundated with PR blasts that tell us how we’ve turned a corner and that Everything is now Coming Up Cleveland, and This Owner Totally Gets It!
And then down the line these owners whose arrival and general existence has been lauded at every opportunity may even decide to build a casino and have their sportsmen happily remind stadium-goers to remember to vote for the casino referendum. And then after that, a land bridge to hermetically seal the casino-goers from the public. But if you hesitate to give them everything they want in terms of land and infrastructure, you’d better watch it—they’ll be gone before you know it.
5) That sports fandom seems to requires some caveman-like viewpoint of masculinity. This doesn’t manifest so much in dealing with actual sports, but often creeps in when sports and culture collide such as to allow the real men in the crowd to step forward and assert KNOWN KNOWNS, such as: the inability for a grown human adult to effectively play sportsball because of who they happen to be romantically involved with; that using statistics as a lens through which one can evaluate sports is invalid; or that Richie Incognito is anything but a racist bully.
Many of these collisions involve spectacular non-sequiturs, such as but not limited to: ‘WHY IS THIS NEWS?!’; or ‘I JUST KNOW A GOOD PLAYER WHEN I SEE ONE’; or ‘WHY CAN BLACK PEOPLE USE THE N-WORD BUT WHITE PEOPLE CANNOT?’ (For answers to these questions, you could do far worse than reading Ta-Nehisi Coates on two of these topics. Seriously, go do so. I’ll wait.) These questions reek of desperation and deflection from the issue at hand: that it is indeed possible that people of differing backgrounds can all participate in sport effectively, and that masculinity and personal background have little to do with it.
It’s also increasingly difficult for me to stomach the ‘suck it up and play’ aspect of fan culture. This is particularly bad with respect to hockey fans but happens across all fanbases. It’s not our place to demand injury upon others, or that someone over-expose themselves to the risk of further injury because we want their team to win at a sports.
Sports are an extension of humanity. It’d be nice if fandom were more humane.
6) I don’t like that I don’t like sports as much because of these reasons. This is much more inward-gazing and meta, but even with all of these issues I still do like sports. I enjoy going to Nationals games and DC United games, and I’m ecstatic that the Buckeyes will be playing in Baltimore and College Park this fall and I’ll be able to take a short train ride to go see my alma mater play tackle football. But I don’t view sports fandom as a very significant facet of my life at this point, and that’s weird and off-putting because it’s a pretty big shift relative to the majority of my life. It’s going to take a long time to come to grips with this, and I’ve only recently begun to really acknowledge it.
Falling out of love with sports has been a change that has been slowly developing, the sort of thing that’s been hard to track the evolution of. It’s been like watching a puppy grow, where suddenly three years later you look back at a picture and realize ‘wow, our St Bernard used to be tiny‘. The changes have been incremental and additive, and now I’m to a point nearly four years removed from writing about sports frequently where I can’t imagine trying to write about sports with any sort of frequency. Though I’m firm on the points above, please don’t read them as value judgements—not long ago I cared a whole lot about Cleveland sports, and I may care about them again at some point. Most of my good friends love them some sports, and I continue to make good friends with whom sports fandom (or, maybe more accurately, making sports jokes) is our initial common thread. I want to love sports again. I really do.
But part of growing up is realizing that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to view sports in a vacuum anymore. So it goes.
So rather than link to actual sports things that are happening as is customary in these pieces, I thought I’d point out some cool stuff that I’ve been learning about in lieu of learning about sports rosters and statistics (and if you guys have other fun things to talk about, bring them up, because quite honestly the community aspect of sports fandom is like its most positive aspect and why I still do hang around from time to time).
*One place I make time to visit every time I’m visiting family in Canton is the I-76 Antique Mall. It is wonderful. I am not joking.
*Cooking is something that I’ve been trying to learn more about. This came up somewhat frequently in discussions with Craig when we were doing the Casual Friday podcast, but I thought I’d point out some things that I’ve taken to recently:
*I’ve read Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue twice and started reading Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. Serious BBQ is a hefty book with a whole lot of recipes, but it lays out some broadly useful stuff at the front end and includes a lot of tips that are quite interesting (like using an herb bundle to butter-baste meats during cooking). Ratio strips back recipes to their foundational bases, based solely on ingredient ratios and the order of ingredient addition. For me, this is hugely useful, because it’s easy to follow a recipe, but far more difficult to be able to grab a bunch of things off of a shelf and throw together a meal. Both books are super, super insightful and I recommend both if BBQ/cooking are things you like.
*The tri-tip is a fantastic cut of beef that I’ve recently gotten familiar with. So is eye round. Pork shoulder remains the meat of the gods. Bourbon is still king of spirits (I’ve recently been enjoying Weller Reserve).
*Internet Friend Sarah Sprague’s 2014 Chili Roundup is well worth your time. In brief: never, ever use store-bought chili powder in any dish ever again. But you already knew this, you smart devil, you.
*You should be reading everything that Kenji Lopez-Alt writes at The Food Lab. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is sublime (sea salt on cookies = advanced move) and the tacos al pastor recipe is absolutely worth the work (I made this last Friday and used leftover meat for nachos).
*Successfully growing vegetables and herbs is not trivial.
*Freshly-roasted coffee is sublime and remarkably inexpensive.
*If you want to find old pictures to make prints, the Library of Congress’ website is amazing. For instance: this old picture of Municipal Stadium during construction is incredible, and is free for download. Seriously. I printed, matted and framed a copy for my father-in-law this year for Christmas. There are lots of pictures of Olde Cleveland (and old WPA posters as well). Use this information to your advantage.
*As I haven’t been in Ohio this calendar year, I thought I’d ask a friend who has been to Cleveland this year about his experience. His response:
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – I’m assuming it’s named for Sir Anthony – is entirely successful from a functional perspective: planes land there, and then they take off again. It gets a solid A for Being An Airport, and that shouldn’t be ignored; there are still delayed flights from 1994 in Dallas-Fort Worth, for instance. Beyond that? It’s the airport you would design if you were too cheap to pay for an architect and just downloaded the first “airport_plans_eminem_freestyle.jpg” file you found on LimeWire, a choice reinforced by the fact that the dining/shopping options are places you think you’ve heard of maybe once. Look: the Chili’s Too people wanted a crazy franchise fee. You’ll eat at Burgers of Calais and like it. (Burgers of Calais is not actually a restaurant in Cleveland Airport, and if you steal that name I’ll sue.) This is an airport designed to be forgotten quickly. I was there six weeks ago and already it feels like a particularly unremarkable dream.
That friend is Celebrity Hot Tub, and he was stuck in Hopkins for something like 22 hours. It sounds like y’all wow’d him.
*Home organization is an incredibly difficult and never-ending process. Case-in-point: I lined the wall under my basement stairs with pegboard and spend ten minutes or so a week wondering if I could better-arrange my tools. The same goes for kitchen organization and wall-mounting of frequently-used items. These things do not matter, yet they matter.
*Babies: really cool, and quite anxiety-inducing. I’m gonna take my kid to go meet Brendan’s kid today, which is kind of weird, but also pretty awesome. Hooray Internet.
I’ve come a long way from photoshopping Kelvin Sampson’s head onto Bruce Willis, y’all. Growing up is weird.
OK, it’s been fun. Go sports.