I am going to blog here more often, as suggested, but I am working my way back into it. I will not let it die for lack of water.
It took 17 years of work to understand the type of writer and journalist I want to be, and to be okay with it. It was a long time and it’s still hard sometimes but I enjoy it more now.
Hamilton Nolan’s piece on how the Steve Bannon origin story makes no sense hits all the right notes, but I think there’s a coherence in it that Nolan misses, albeit a dark one. It’s not that Bannon wants to protect the vested fathers of the future from a financial crisis, nor is he trying to avoid said second crisis. It is, in fact, the goal. He wants to take away the rules so the banks will fuck up again and then he’ll get the privilege of telling them there’s no bailout, and he’ll have “revenge” for his dad, and get to deliver it himself. That’s exactly as far as it goes, I think.
As a smart person than I might write, Glorioski! So Rachel Maddow lets out that she has a scoop a whopping 90 minutes before her news program and, on said program, laboriously, professionally and honestly provides context for said scoop through the first commercial break and, for her troubles, has become a tantric Geraldo Rivera? As a talking dog might say: “No.” These are spoons at a gun fight; as the bard of Douglaston has said, you cannot be serious.
It all makes sense now. I finally get soccer. I finally love it. And you can love it too.
For me, it’s been a long time coming. After a decade’s worth of failed attempts to pick up the game by watching Arsenal games with my friend, who insisted I was an Arsenal fan until I believed it, I have finally swallowed the game whole, Arsenal included. (Quite recently, it’s been the bitter pill.) Previously, I have watched the World Cup, and I watched parts of the last five Euro tournaments, but not until now did I care about the sport itself, divorced from a single competition. I only understood the tournaments, not the game.
I tried going to soccer bars in the city to be around ‘real’ fans. I tried buying various kits, to see if being a part of the ownership society would work. I even tried pretending that my ¼ Italian-ness meant I liked Italy in the World Cup.
Yeah, well, it still hadn’t worked: not the gear, not nuthin’. It made me feel like a buffoon, not a Buffon. I appreciated soccer, but I still couldn’t enjoy it for long periods of time. It just wasn’t my shit. Now it is my shit, and I think the method that finally worked for me is a pretty good way to actually learn to like the sport, and it is very simple. Here it is:
Watch the best teams.
Full stop. Soccer works very unlike American sports, which are self-evidently the best leagues in the world; not so in Europe. This means a lot of the teams in Europe are butt, and are not fun to watch. For that reason, do not force an attachment to a team in England (or Spain, or Germany) and try to follow it alone. It will not work. Pick a team in England or elsewhere and follow it, then watch Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Zlatan and whoever else among the baddest dudes alive is playing on your television. The more you watch, the better it will get and the better it gets, the more you watch.
Fuck Real Madrid, though. You can skip them and the German teams. Bayern is great and Dortmund is everything I like in a franchise, but the sound of 60,000 Germans screaming rubs me the wrong way even if I was born 33 years after WWII finished in extra time. I only hear the Horst Wessel song, and I don’t even know how it goes.
What I do know is this: I can’t see myself going back. The Netflix revolution has made me allergic to commercials, and my allergies only get worse as I age. This is all I can handle, and it’s everything I want and more — even if it means Arsenal choking away its best chance at a title in 10 years. After all, if life was all roses, I would have never turned to this sport in the first place. I came here in desperation, but I’m not desperate any more.
Today SB Nation published and took down a very bad story about a convicted rapist that had no business existing. That’s bad. However it happened, the story was trash, and they know it. Twitter has made certain of that.
Without picking sides, I wonder why Twitter gets so mad about these things, so I’m going to project, hard-core. I think that there are so few ‘good’ jobs in journalism that the average person is probably working below their station and doesn’t feel good about it. That magnifies any real screw-ups from the people with the ‘good jobs,’ because they’re laid bare for the people without the ‘good jobs’ (i.e., us) to pick apart.
To that end, while the merits of this story are nonexistent, they are at least existent in theory, in that it is possible to write about a convicted rapist in a fair way. This was not it. Insofar as it caused damage to the victims of his actions beyond his actions, I’m not sure it did much. The stories to which it obviously compares, in terms of recently hyper-Internet-local journalism, are those of Dr. V at Grantland at the Geithner dude at Gawker, but I think both of those were orders of magnitude worse than this one — in both cases, there was an irreversible, negative first-order impact on its subjects. Not so with today’s disaster: only embarrassment.
So as bad as this was, it could have been worse, and it invariably will be, the next time.
My daughter turns one tomorrow. Here’s what I’ve learned about life:
a) Conservatives are nuts
The craziest thing to me about having a kid is realizing that the people who have a ton of children are the ones who think that we are intelligently designed, and not evolved from monkeys. First, is there anything about giving birth that seems intelligently designed? A single thing? No, there isn’t. Second, have these same people held their baby monkeys? My child grips everything she can like a monkey, and grabs ahold of anything possible with her little baby toes. She’s a monkey like the rest of us!
b) People who don’t have kids miss a thing
Not a value judgment! I think most people have kids, so I’m preaching to the choir, but something activated in my lizard brain once Lila was born. Every baby I saw, I was attached to, be it in real life or on TV. When I see Bill Maher be Very Sure Of Himself On Things Because He Never Had Kids, I get a weird feeling now, because I know that having kids will change your brain, and it’s hard to sympathize with someone so anathema to the idea. The kid will become your life, even if you are very much still vibrant and alive, and I feel like that transition is a real part of modern life.
c) It will kick your butt into some gears and not others
I’ve spent a couple years not writing or reporting as much I would have liked. I thought I would stop when I had a bebe. I was wrong. This is what I was meant to do, and nothing has set me back toward what I was meant to do by having a baby. Instead of overthinking what I should or should not be doing, I now do my shit with a promptness. The time is now, whenever I have the time. Lila and Lisa own my time now, and that’s how I want it, and it’s only because of that that I can finally relax in my own time. So get ready for the good stuff.
Earlier today, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal tweeted this quote from ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, linking to a full rundown of an event that is just as exhausting as it sounds:
Wilbon on sports journalism: “What bugs me now is that people sit in their mother’s basements and write this crap.” https://t.co/hmHuolWRIw
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) November 23, 2015
As it happens, what was once Grantland will be toasted at something like an Irish wake at venue in the city tonight with more than 1,000 people, including yours truly, having RSVP’d. Though Grantland was well-funded and played host to many wonderful pieces of journalism, it also ran very wonderful silly pieces, and many wonderful pieces that came from other reporting methods than the one through which Wilbon attained fame. Wilbon was no fan of Bill Simmons, and while Grantland doesn’t entirely fit the profile he was targeting, he couldn’t have considered it too far off, either. Now Simmons is gone. The blog king got. The Old School rules again. Or so it goes.
It doesn’t, but if he is obliquely right about one thing, it’s that the basics of beat journalism — talking to people, in person — can yield relationships and stories that cannot be unearthed in other ways. This is News, but it isn’t news. If he is wrong about the rest of it, and he is, it is because he has placed himself at the center of a universe in which he cannot be wrong, one in the Right People. Like him, Christine Brennan and Tony Kornheiser believe that the blogs are gonna ruin sports, or reporting, or America, or something, and for this they are afforded the gift of being on Wilbon’s level. If he his right, and I have no doubt he is, they’re professional equals only because they’re fading just as fast as him.