Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Category: Sports

Skip Bayless

I mash up some low-hanging fruit over at le Classical.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love AJ Daulerio

I tried to give AJ Daulerio a compliment once. I told him, in a chance meeting before Memorial Day in 2010, that I thought he had done something remarkable: He had taken a site that was essentially Will Leitch’s and made it indisputably Gawker Media’s. I was a fan of Deadspin from near the beginning, and like many of the people into the tiny sports bar into which we were crowded, I read it compulsively. Daulerio’s eyes fixed on a point somewhere behind my skull as I talked. He was polite enough in thanking me, but it was clear that it was not a conversation he wanted to be having.

The Daulerio/Leitch dynamic dominated the site’s early years, not entirely without reason: both of them were extremely talented, but they were also friends with divergent styles, and you could draw a line from their friendship to their Nick Denton-sanctioned editorial handover. “AJ RUINED DEADSPIN” became a both mock- and sincere refrain among the commenters who made it their responsibility to feel the weight of the change from Leitch’s aw-shucks Midwestern blend of optimism and cynicism to Daulerio’s pretty much balls-out misanthropy, replete with penis pics. Sex sold, and the pageviews went way up, and three and a half years later here he was answering questions about Will F*cking Leitch.

On January 9, Daulerio will take over as editor in chief of Gawker. He has made Deadspin the most important sports site on the web. ESPN’s aspirant, Grantland, can’t touch it, and ESPN.com and the other sports news sites are fundamentally interchangeable. Deadspin has something no other sports site can totally claim: credibility. It has built a reputation for sniffing out hypocrisy with the efficiency of a team of hard-living bloodhounds, while simultaneously celebrating the greatness of sports. Unlike ESPN, its sine qua non, it conforms to Leitch’s founding principle of Sports Without Access, Favor or Discretion. What Deadspin has gained in access and reputation it has worked to shed in favor and discretion.

As Daulerio departs, he gives way to Tommy Craggs, the site’s one-man Supreme Court. For everyday and even minor glitches in the sports-industrial matrix, the site can rely on its increasingly talented cast of writers, including Emma Carmichael, Barry Petchesky and Tom Scocca. Only the most dire cases end up on Craggs’s desk, and he dispatches them with a firmness that leaves his targets in shambles and the Internet community agog.

What’s next for the site is anyone’s guess, but the changes won’t be as drastic as they were during Daulerio’s tenure. For better or worse, he made the site what it is now: the establishment anti-establishment sports source. For those of us constantly choking on ESPN’s crap, that’s something for which to be thankful.

Garbageland

Nostalgia isn’t insidious by nature, but it’s close. Close enough, for me.

Once upon a time, I thought I was important. I grew up rooting for the Boston Red Sox and some of what I’d call my fondest memories are of listening on a transistor radio to Mo Vaughn hitting a home run on a lazy August afternoon or poring over the Peter Gammons Baseball Notes column in the Sunday Boston Globe—the column that made me want to assemble words for a living.

It, of course, takes someone with a supreme sense of self-importance to think anyone wants to read their shit. Reporting was an easy choice for me. You are provided with most of the material, and you string it together. It’s not that hard to tell a story: People do it all the time, everywhere, even if they’d never think about sitting in front of a screen and putting it to paper.

The thing about reporting is that it’s just a trick. You tell the stories of other people long enough to convince readers that you are important enough to tell stories of your own. Soon enough, the stories of other people become stories of your own. The emphasis shifts. It becomes the name on the back of the jersey, and not the name on the front. The name on the front of the jersey is another person’s charge: the editor.

I had imagined, for as long as I imagined such things, that I would eventually distinguish myself by writing about the Boston Red Sox. In the mid-aughts, this career path hit a temporary dead end A lot of this was due to Bill Simmons. He was hoarding the Red Sox readership, and doing a good job of it. Much like I used to read Gammons and call it a day, Simmons was the first and last source for Red Sox columns on the Internet. He had critics, sure, but this was before the sophisticated nesting-doll structure of criticism that has developed. If you hated Simmons, you had to go out of your way to express that, to feel heard or cared for or even loved. Now you know where to go.

For years, I defended Simmons against the inevitable criticisms of laziness. In John Updike’s famous essay on Ted Williams, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” he said that for all of Williams’s hits to have come in non-clutch situations would have been “unparalleled in the annals of selfishness.” Similarly, to call Bill Simmons to be a garbage writer, and to dismiss his entire body of work on a column you didn’t like, seemed silly and reductive. The guy showed up every day and did my own dream job well enough that I respected it, even if it put me at a dead end. I have no axe to grind with Bill Simmons, which means it’s with no great joy then that I say Grantland is trash. As a writer, he is defendable, but as an editor and administrator he is an embarrassment. He’s so bad I hope he grew the mustache just to avoid looking himself in the mirror. At least then we’d know that he knew there was something wrong.

What could have been high-concept—The New Yorker for sports, or something similar but more fun—is instead a cross between kitty litter mags Vanity Fair and New York Magazine at its absolute best and a shitty buddy blog for sports and entertainment at its worst. When Grantland was first announced, I never thought it would have a lower batting average of good articles than espn.com, but it does. Simmons’s writing success never bothered me. This, a real hope for good sportswriting on the Internet gone sour, bothers me.

I don’t need to go into the ghastly copy editing and fact-checking associated with the site; Deadspin has kept on top of that. Many of my complaints are similar to those Mr. Destructo laid out in a pre-official launch pasting of the site; I thought it was a tad unfair for Mr. Destructo to go crazy on the site based on two articles, but he’s turned out to be right on nearly all accounts, the key sentence being this:

This site in general is all premise and no twist. The set-up seems to be all you need: someone has an opinion about something, and it’s humorous because thinking about it is. The minimum daily requirements for humor have been provided.

The baffling part to me is who Simmons thinks he’s fooling by throwing up a four-part series about poker, the craze that’s seven years dead, by Colson Whitehead, titled “Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia.” Unless you sleep next to a signed copy of Sag Harbor, would you read this? It is presented as a near-perfect mix of pretension, lack of timeliness and self-importance. Part of being an editor is saying “no,” even to famous authors like Colson Whitehead, if even just to a headline. (Update: the original version made it sound like I was critiquing the content; I was going after the presentation, albeit poorly.) As in, like, 75 percent of it. Less can be, in fact, more, but as Mr. Destructo says (and his post is much better than mine, you should read it), Bill Simmons is insecure. I nearly fell out of my chair when he told Tom Shales and Jim Miller in Those Guys Have All The Fun that he had “thick skin.” It’s not good when you have the least self-aware comment in a book full of narcissists.

As others have mentioned, the extremely talented Chris Jones is completely miscast as an “AL East columnist;” it’s like asking a star quarterback to place-hold. Jonah Keri is enthusiastic, which is good, but wrote a good book proposal that no one seems to notice made a really crappy book. The book, called The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First begins discussing these strategies at its three-quarter mark. I know, because in my Kindle I made a note when the first “Wall Street strategy” was discussed that said simply, “It begins!” and the little number in the bottom left said 75%. It also kind of boils down to this: buy low and sell high. It’s also vitally important that we meet Joe Maddon’s entire Rust Belt family to understand this, and that we understand the Rays, who didn’t win the World Series, are some sort of living miracle, like a baby born without a heart who’s bouncing around all the same. The Rays are pretty good, and they’re pretty good because they’re run by smart people, but that hardly makes them unique. Keri’s trying to ride the long coattails of Moneyball, but you’d be better off re-reading the genuine article (“Oh look, here comes Mr. Swing-At-Everything”) or maybe even Vanity Fair.

His Grantland columns aren’t much better, describing at length simple statistical measures that have been used for years to an audience that’s self-selected to already know what he’s talking about. Nor is he consistent. A recent column on potential MLB playoff teams used Nate Silver’s “Secret Sauce,” created nine years ago, in the first act, disavowed it in the second, and brought it back in the third act like nothing ever happened.

Chuck Klosterman is, like many obsessive writers, better at writing against type: his sports stuff isn’t that bad. Specifically, his article on the mindset of Olympic sprinters was fantastic. But when he writes about music, and gets into “second-by-second” breakdowns of this or that… it’s stuff that belongs on a shitty, unread music blog. It’s insufferable. Molly Lambert is what she is, and was much better in the no-rules environment of This Recording than she is here. She’s the brainy slacker, and if there’s one thing anathema to ESPN culture, it’s overt laziness. (Just skip the research and yell louder, and it’ll be fine.) Sooner or later, someone at ESPN is going to realize that they can be as edgy as they want, but sports has to be the focus, even on a site that doesn’t have explicit ESPN branding. Klosterman is a big enough name to keep the experiment going for awhile, but its death is inevitable. We all know it’s part of the family. While Lambert is actually perceptive and talented, the preview column Mr. Destructo eviscerated was pure trash, and yes, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Klosterman hired her because he has a crush on her. This non-transferable ability to draw male readers is pretty much null at Grantland. (Good criticism of this paragraph in the comments.)

Bill Barnwell, Rany Jazayerli and Katie Baker are the three consistently good writers on the site, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have just been hired at espn.com. They deserve better.

The main problem, though, is Simmons, and it’s not just “his” “editing.” So much of life is context, and ripped from the company of fellow ESPN.com columnists, his columns and podcasts look just… fucking… terrible. As much as Simmons hates Rick Reilly, despite claiming not to, he needs him. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Rick Reilly, ESPN’s molar- and moralist in chief, is the winner of the whole affair. He’s vain and grandstanding and usually insufferable, but at least he’s consistent, and now he has a Simmons-free universe to glop up readers. The ESPN book had the wonderful little note that Simmons would return his columns with little notes to STET all changes; it’s the writer’s equivalent of tooling around in a shiny, tiny convertible Porsche.

Next to other self-styled geniuses, though, his writing falls apart. His article on “Hollywood” starmaking—whoever the fuck “Hollywood” is—was such an embarrassment that it’s hardly worth discussing. Suppose for a second, though, that he’s right. This “Hollywood” entity is trying to force Ryan Reynolds down our throats as a bona fide movie star, when in reality he’s way out of his league trying to headline a movie. Couldn’t one make the association with Simmons and ESPN? Isn’t ESPN trying to force Bill Simmons down our throats as a bona fide media star, when in fact he’s out of his league trying to do anything than write silly columns? Yes, he was the executive producer of 30 for 30, and deserves credit for that. But to get Rumsfeld on you, he knew what he didn’t know in filmmaking, and stepped out of the way. On Grantland, he thinks he actually knows what he’s doing. He did in one sense: he got smart people to write for him. He largely made them suck, through direction or presentation, and made his own work look terrible in the process. The emperor is naked, except for, yes, the mustache.

Fixing Grantland would be so, so easy. Bill Simmons needs to be fired or step aside. If Bill Simmons was actually a historian, instead of just playing one in his error-riddled The Book of Basketball (STET all changes), he’d see the historical comparison to his (and my) exhaustively beloved New England Patriots staring him right in the face: He’s the problem. When Robert Kraft meddled, Bill Parcells scrammed. When Kraft promised to keep his hands off something he had no clue over, the Patriots took off, with a little or a lot of luck, depending on how you look at it.

As I wrote at the top, nostalgia isn’t always insidious, but it’s close. Bill Simmons has built a nice career on exploiting nostalgia, and of giving people 15 minutes per week to live in the past, when sports and movies were the most important things in their lives. Either he really still believes sports and movies are the most important things in his life, and he’s a freak (having, you know, a family), or he’s selling a bill of goods. Either way, I don’t begrudge him. It’s the internet. Everyone has their hustle. It’s the name of the game. But it is a hustle.

It’s different when your name’s at the top. It’s not about what you’ve done in the past: it’s about what everyone under you is doing, right now. And nearly everyone at Grantland is creating content that wouldn’t be published at a legitimized website for one reason (spelling, grammar and factual errors) or another (totally uninteresting). We don’t need Grantland editors to be the arbiters of what is or is not a “Hall of Fame” YouTube video, and to put the results at the top of their site. It’s this type of laziness and self-importance that breeds competition. Even now, there’s another collective of sportswriters attempting to start a thinky sports journalism site called The Classical; they’re trying to raise $50,000. You want to see Moneyball in action? Watch what happens when a group of smart. focused people take on a rudderless, bloated corporate behemoth—you know, what Grantland was actually supposed to do in the first place. It’ll be interesting. Someone might even write a book about it.

What I read and wrote this summer

Not pictured: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Motherless Brooklyn

Those of you who have followed the WordPress site, and the fewer of you who have followed the Tumblr site, know that I’ve written many, many things over the past few years. The one thing I’ve been bad at is bringing them together in any sort of cohesive way, and I’m going to change that. This is a list of everything I’ve read and written this summer as defined by Memorial Day through Labor Day, because that’s how I’m defining it. I’ll start with the books I’ve read, in the order in which I finished them:

As you can see, I spent a lot of time in the classics, new and old. I picked up Kavalier & Clay because it was one of those books I hadn’t read but every friend of mine had read and liked. Oscar Wao was the same deal, and I actually put a copy of it down at the bookstore to pick up K & C, only to have a friend lend me a copy later in the summer. I had never read Moby-Dick, despite growing up on Martha’s Vineyard: mistake. Somehow I hadn’t read Of Mice and Men, either. Ben got me hooked on David Mitchell, first on his new one—the first half of which probably changed my writing style forever—and later, Cloud Atlas, which I finished yesterday to meet the unofficial deadline for writing this post.

You can probably see the progression from Moby-Dick to Heart of Darkness to Things Fall Apart, or at least the second part of it. Hitchens I picked up because I’ve seen several interviews with him since he fell ill, and realized that I’ve been delinquent. I wasn’t disappointed. Are We Winning? was a review copy based on the interview I did for Leitch’s last book, though I have yet to write any sort of review. I tore through Motherless Brooklyn in less than 24 hours on M.V., during which time I also managed to sleep for eight hours and paint two ceilings. It helps that it mostly takes place within three blocks of my Brooklyn home. Finally, I was iffy on A Visit from the Good Squad until a single paragraph mid-book ratcheted the awesome up to 11 and it didn’t stop until it was over. Highly recommended, especially if you like music.

What I’ve written

I spent the majority of the summer writing imaginary conversations, which I enjoyed immensely. I really liked fitting all the dialogue together, which I had never tried before. It was a little exhausting, though, which is why my production plummeted in August.

  • Sports
  • Baseball busts the barometer; a mistake shows how big the game has become (WordPress)
  • Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (WordPress)
  • LeBron, the Knicks, the Nets, and the red pill (WordPress)
  • If I was LeBron James (WordPress)
  • Chris Bosh, -$28 million man; David Stern, superstar (WordPress)
  • If everyone always did the safest or most popular thing, the world would be a shitty place (WordPress)
  • A few more LeBron thoughts (WordPress)
  • Oosthuizen (Tumblr)
  • “Superteams” (Tumblr)
  • A-Rod at 599 (Tumblr)
  • David Tyree and David Patten (Tumblr)
  • Pet Peeve (Tumblr)
  • Mad Men Recaps
  • Episode 1: Betty’s Alive. Yay? (Tumblr)
  • Episode 2: Enough Foreplay (Tumblr)
  • Episode 3: “You know what’s going on here? Handjobs!” (Tumblr)
  • Episode 4: I’m the asshole (Tumblr)
  • Episode 6: The cure for the common Mad Men season (Tumblr)
  • Humor
  • We’ve changed our name to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard (WordPress)

It is my intent to “drop,” so to speak, a post about the 2010 Patriots on Thursday morning. We’ll see how it goes.

American Pride

Yesterday I finished a lunch date at Union Square and heard cheering and whistles a block away. I headed toward Fifth Avenue, mistakenly thinking someone was projection-screening the Argentina/Mexico game. (What? It could happen.) I only had to go a few feet before I realized the error of my ways: it was the Gay Pride Parade. I’ve never seen it in person, so I walked over to take a look. It was more or less as I imagined it: part political rally, part clothing optional dance party, good feeling all around. I couldn’t put it better than my friend Katie M. had the night before in a Facebook message:

Katherine M. is proud of the brave souls in this very bar who decided, 41 years ago, that they had had enough. Hopefully I can raise a glass next year to the end of DADT and more fairness in marriage laws.

The one criticism I had heard about the parade was that, in its occasional overwhelming flamboyance, it detracted from the gay rights struggle. My reply to that is onefold: Horseshit. If you were oppressed for the entirely of human history, you’d probably celebrate the ability to just live as you are pretty vigorously at least once per year. And, with the political action messages sprinkled between the discoteque floats, it certainly bore more resemblance to the fight than, say, Christmas at my house ever did to the birth of Jesus.

Not to get all Michelle Obama on you, but I was proud of my country, and for the second time in less than 24 hours.

The day before, I had eased into a popular sports bar at 1 p.m. for the U.S.A/Ghana game. It was surprisingly empty, but not for long. Before the bottom of the hour, the bar was Breathing Room Only, and this was 60 minutes before kickoff. Not quite Williamsburg, this was still Hipstamatic Brooklyn—which, to most of the country, is a year-long Gay Pride Parade—and the only thing you could see was red, white and blue. (And maybe a TV, if you were lucky.)

By now you probably know how the game went. The U.S. fell behind, then evened it, then lost in extra time. The second Ghana goal popped the atmosphere in the bar like a packing bubble which not even the lone vuvuzela player could inflate. I slunk home in disbelief, as much that the U.S. National Team had gotten me to the point where I could care about them as much as I did as they wrenching manner in which they lost.

The reason the loss was so bad this year, as opposed to years past, is that I was proud of this team. This team was good, without really having any of the world’s best players. They were a sports team of that idealized, not-often-realized ilk: the scrappy underdogs with a legitimate chance to win it all. I don’t know how we did it, but we did, and even if it makes no real sense, it makes me proud of my country.

I wish they had won, because I didn’t want to let go of the dream of them winning it, of summoning whatever courage it takes to stare down their bigger, faster enemies and take them out as a team. Sports courage, however, does not necessarily involve real courage. Both Saturday and Sunday were days to be proud of America, without forgetting the real work that’s left to be done.

•••

As proof I have World Cup on the brain, here is a doodle I did during a long telephone conversation on Thursday. There’s a reason I use words to communicate rather than pictures. No idea where the skateboard came from:

House and home, House and Holmes

It’s a little before 6:40 a.m. here in Phoenix, and I’m sipping on McDonald’s coffee and drinking down some SportsCenter between World Cup games. Grant’s girlfriend has to be at work at some ungodly hour that coincides with the early games, so I woke up from my spot on the floor and clicked on Netherlands/Denmark and decided not to go back to sleep once it was over. I justified it by telling myself it was better to get back on East Coast time early, but mostly I wanted the coffee.

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day taping up Grant’s new home—which he bought—so that the other worker ants could paint around me. I was a taping machine. I didn’t paint the walls at all, to the point where my dad forced me to paint my own clothes so that I fit in with everybody else. To my friend Sam, whose novelty bachelor party shirt I painted over, I apologize.

Oh shit, Italy plays today. That gives me about four hours to learn the Paraguayan national anthem.

No, I do not like Italy, despite the quarter-blood I cling to despite my very English name. (I swear I’m from Sicily! Or at least my right leg is.) They play boring football and they flop, and they threw Amanda Knox in jail for being flighty and kept her there. I’m not comfortable with the decision to imprison very likely innocent American girls, no matter how ditzy they are. In fact, I just searched the entire Paraguayan penal code and didn’t find it in there anywhere. It’s settled: Go Paraguay. (Except imagine that in another language.)

Here is Paraguay’s flag:

Toward the end of yesterday, after the basketball game, Grant and I entered the gloaming of my vacation, where it was too early to go to sleep but too late to do much else. We decided to buy a movie through the TV and after a quick negotiation settled on Sherlock Holmes, which neither of us particularly wanted to see. Grant made it through 15 minutes; I made it through a Coke Zero-aided 40. My thoughts on the movie were exactly was I suspected they would be: if you like Holmes, just watch House. Simpler execution of the same idea, and except for the Flight Club stuff, Downey’s basically doing a Hugh Laurie impression.

Oh, and Rachel McAdams is no Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Consider it said.

Rick Reilly Disses Women

I can’t sleep, and that makes me angry. I just ate a microwave burrito I keep around for times like this, so our state of being could change at any moment. But I just read an infuriating Rick Reilly column.

I know, at this point picking on Rick Reilly seems too easy, but I’m just baffled by his unflagging stupidity, and his willful intransigence. Every week, he publishes a self-flaggelating column entitled, “The one email that wasn’t insulting,” as if he bears no responsibility for the vitriol that comes his way. No, you’re not going to please everybody, but you’re especially not going to do it if you don’t try.

Today’s column was called “Mickelson’s win a victory for women,” and posited that the gender that makes up more than 50 percent of the human population “won” something because Phil Mickelson won a golf tournament, the logic being that Tiger was bad to his wife, and Mickelson, whose mother and wife are undergoing cancer treatments, is good to his wife. Thus, women “won” something when he won the Masters, because the image with which we were presented was that of a man who was deeply in love with and devoted to his spouse, and used that as fuel to win a golf tournament.

This is familiar because it is what we were presented with from Tiger Woods for so long. Nevermind the question of whether Phil Mickelson is having affairs (I am not suggesting, nor would I suggest, that he is), the question is, “Is he capable of it?” Well did we learn anything from Tiger or not? Are you going to unblinkingly believe the reality with which you are presented, or are you going to maintain some sort of perspective? Perspective like, I don’t know, remembering that what just happened was a golf tournament at a club that does not admit women members.

For Rick Reilly, the answer is no: He will not maintain this perspective. He is a sportswriter, and thus life must be seen as a morality play that is told through the results of major sporting events. Women won today, but wait until tomorrow’s Twins game. The sickening part is that sports can teach us an amazing amount about life, and we can learn and funnel life lessons through them, but Reilly has the order all backward. He sees the result and draws a conclusion. What he should be doing is observing a phenomenon and finding the root cause. Some women may remember that Phil Mickelson won the Masters next week, but will that get them better-paying jobs? Happier relationships, with better lines of communication? No. It will do nothing for them, because “Phil Mickelson” is just an idea like “Tiger Woods” was, and if you’re building happiness atop a house of cards it’s bound to fall. We can learn to make better choices, and sometimes it’s tempting to take the easy way out and swallow the lines that have been given to us. We don’t need idiots like Rick Reilly to put an exclamation point on them. We need guys like Rick Reilly to tear them down, so we can attain the happiness that he ascribes to Phil Mickelson in our own lives.

ESPN: Making an example of Kornheiser

ESPN suspended Tony Kornheiser for two weeks ostensibly because he criticized Hannah Storm’s wardrobe, but he also criticized Chris Berman’s weight.

ESPN’s making an example of Kornheiser, throwing down the gauntlet against both perceived misogyny (good move) and intra-company criticism (bad move). Two weeks wouldn’t seem like much if Kornhesier didn’t co-host the only consistently bearable show on the network, but he does. For what it’s worth, he did what he could to get in front of the story, apologizing to Storm both publicly (on his radio show) and privately. In this sense, and only this one, his a victim of his own adulthood. By drawing attention to himself by doing the adult thing, ESPN did what it does — rule over its kingdom like a bunch of ecstatic-happy-to-be-here College Republicans. Having already admitted he was wrong — and he was wrong — ESPN inflicted punishment that they knew he would take without incident to teach the dumbasses who work there, which is basically everyone else, not to do this type of stuff.

The whole thing will go away soon enough, and I’m sure we’ll be treated to an Inside SportsCenter commercial where the two yuk it up at Kornheiser’s expense. If this keeps a less visible woman from getting mistreated by a less self-aware guy, fine with me.

(Sports) Myopia

I just finished a game of Scrabble in which I was handed every opportunity to win, and I did. My opponent tends to take losses pretty hard even when he shouldn’t, and there’s no question he thoroughly outplayed me. I got three “bingos” for 150 bonus points, owing to outrageously good tile fortune, and he got only one, for 50. I won by 12. While planning for and around the bingos is certainly part of the game, the higher your score without them, the better lemonade you’ve made. I was going to write him and tell him this, but I know he doesn’t want to hear it—he just wants to win, and would take it as gloating on my part, not because it would be per se but because we’ve been over this enough to understand how he would feel about it.

I have my own blind spots. Yesterday my flag football team lost to the #1 team in the league in an exceptionally close game. We were ranked fourteenth coming in, and as recently as two weeks ago lost 38-0 in our second game. After that, though, something clicked, and we won last week. This week, we held our own and fell apart but most of the team was happy with the result. The one person who wasn’t was me, and no one could figure it out, because I had played at least (objectively) a decent game as quarterback. The only problem was I threw two interceptions on our “girl plays”—the mandatory once-per-four-down plays that must go to a female—when I vowed not to throw picks at the outset. One teammate couldn’t figure out why I was so down about it until he mentioned it to the quarterback of another team at the postgame bar roundup. “You don’t understand,” he said. “You NEVER forget interceptions.” And at that point my teammate knew that there was nothing he could say to me to make me forget them, even if it wasn’t the end of the world. It’s just one of those things.

If I felt bad yesterday, I can’t imagine what Peyton Manning is going to feel like for the next 50 years.

On Video Games: Tiger Woods 10

When I was younger, I once lamented to a friend that some day we’d have to give up video games. I meant that we’d have to grow up, and growing up likely did not involve them, and he looked at me like I was crazy. “I’ll still play video games when I’m an adult,” he said, and he was the last person I expected to hear say that.

I think we were both right. I was just in his wedding, and I think that’s a conclusive sign of some sort of maturity, especially at our age. And at the wedding he told me how much he loves Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii. Full disclosure: I had never really played the Wii until his bachelor party this summer, and even then we were playing just the rinky-dink yet amazing games that come with the system. I returned from the bachelor party (at the Jersey Shore!) on Sunday. Monday, on my way home from work, I went to Target and bought a Wii… and had immediate buyer’s remorse which didn’t quite go away with hours of playing Wii Tennis, so I basically shelved it for awhile. After the wedding I wanted the Tiger Woods game, though, but it never came up again until another friend wanted to decompress after a Business School exam last Friday and suggested we take some swings. The Wii Sports games can only amuse you for so long, so I suggested I should just buy the Tiger Woods game, and I did.

We had a great time playing the game, but when the friend left, I was struck by something like a remorse that went beyond just the $80 I spent on the game and controller upgrade. It was a deep shame, really, that I was 32 years old and spending money on a video game to be played primarily by myself, behind closed doors, something I had long sworn that I wouldn’t do. I had played video games in the years since high school, and played a lot of them, but I always played them with people: They were a form of social interaction, however lowbrow. Now I was living alone, and spent a bunch of money I could have spent on picture frames or art or whatever on a game that simulates a sport I don’t even like.

So what happened? I played the everliving shit out of the game. After avoiding it for a few days based on actual, full-time work, I popped it in Tuesday night and played about 60 holes. I might have been ashamed at myself for doing so, but I wasn’t about to stop. Not that night anyway. I put aside plans to go to the gym (because I’m running a four-mile race Sunday morning with little training) until Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday with sore arms, which I thought would be an impediment to playing the game more and push me to the treadmill, which I loathe more than the real game of golf (at least you’re doing something). I was wrong. I played 120 holes.

On Thursday, my arms were sorer than before, and I planned all day to come home and play the game, but when I got home, I just couldn’t do it very effectively. I missed shots I could have made and realized that I simply had played too much, and in doing so saw where I had matured and still had room to grow up.

Do I still think video games are the provenance of children, on a fundamental level? Yes. But I think the bigger concern is the attitude one takes toward video games. If I was “missing” the shots I was “missing” yesterday 10 years ago, I would have been furious at myself, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Everything I did at any moment had to be perfect, which was the source of my problems; it wasn’t that I was playing too much XBox. Getting over that was one stage of maturity, and most assuredly a more important one that simply “not playing video games” in order to give me some false sense of maturity. My friend is naturally more even-keeled than I am, and spent more of his early twenties sitting around playing video games than I did without any sort of deleterious effect, but I suspect that married life won’t give him decreasing opportunities to wield the “club.” It’s probably waning as we speak, but maybe his rounds on the “course” are the few refuges from full-onset adulthood—ones that he most certainly knows, and fully accepts, are fleeting.

For me, playing the shit out of this game has had the opposite effect. I was so determined to “grow up” that I tried to just go around a very fundamental step: Living comfortably on my own, doing the same things I did as a child, and seeing their limits clear enough to transcend them. Playing Tiger Woods 10 fills my time with something that is necessarily worse than what I’d like to replace it with, but it’s better than avoid playing it on the grounds that doing nothing will lead me there.

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