Messenger Archives - March 2006
by Grant Cogswell
The month kicked off with the ascension of the Seahawks to previously unknown heights, and all of a sudden everyone was a Hawks fan. The city took on the disquieting enforced positivity of a family in denial, bullied into pretend happiness.
On the Stranger's blog (which seems these days to be absorbing too much of the paper issue's verve and inventiveness: more than once recently the main feature story has been a shaggy-dog joke, as disposable as the Weekly's dependable and tedious logorrhea) Books editor Christopher Frizzelle called doubters of the cult of sports fandom a bunch of gloomy party-poopers, or something, and urged the whole city to celebrate, as if no one else was doing so, something about as related to our civic virtue or even locale as the weather on Saturn.
Weirdly, and like no one in my family, I was born without the sports-watching gene. I also don't play cards or pool or shuffleboard or Yahtzee. I find hockey oddly hypnotic but dull and basketball interesting mostly because of the degree to which it resembles ballet. This allows me to see pro sports without even the old loyalties jaundiced by salaries, corporatization, strikes and scandals that nudge a lot of fans toward what they at heart must know: The whole thing is an elaborate con.
The long-term Seahawks fans are victims of an illusion. This statement will no doubt be seen as classist by those who regard a person living beyond their means in the suburbs, driving a large new vehicle and watching TV in their spare time as working class, while someone with the same education living in the city on the same income in a small apartment, who maybe just drinks beer with friends for fun is, I don't know, metrosexual.
Nevertheless, I lived above a sports bar in Pioneer Square two years ago and heard every conversation held by half the attendees at both our southerly sports franchises (and received death threats from these douchebags on a daily basis for a while when I was running the campaign against the public financing of their stadiums) and am ready to report the results of my research: These people are mostly the kind of ignorant suburban boneheads city dwellers came here to escape from.
Nevertheless they are faithful, having stood by the team through many dismal seasons, and deserve some payoff. The posers throwing on Seahawk regalia for the last two games of a long-awaited good season are just trying to enjoy fellow feeling with the conservative, anti-intellectual, xenophobic masses out in Suburbia, USA. Comforting in these days of psychic civil war, understandable, but still phony.
Their apologists claim sports should be a realm above politics, but the entry of the Seahawks into the Super Bowl is entirely political. What does it say about us that this is our great communal moment, that what we gather around is a gladiator-type event (if you don't believe it, talk to some former pro, college, or even high school football players; these guys are getting sacrificed) with no connection to this place or this community except a financial one?
That this is our real priority, obviously, we were willing to spend a billion dollars on two stadiums, but not a transit system, or to bring education in our state up from its national thirteenth- worst rating, or to save the ecology of Puget Sound, or the salmon or the killer whale. There's some things we could really congratulate one another for, but gosh, those things are so dull. Like, teachers SUCK.
The Super Bowl (and here I mean off the field, for what happens on the Astroturf is a tiny fragment of this day) is an affirmative ritual: It says we're doing everything right, this is the way things should be. Consume, consume, consume, drive drive drive, it's a man's world.
Now, just ten years after the city renovated the old Coliseum and sold its name for a pittance, the Sonics are threatening to leave unless they can build a mall inside the Arena at public expense. Though plenty of bullshit is getting called, the ball is still in play.
Sports leagues were invented by the Godly clean-living movement of the 19th century in which the church (which wanted people to stop getting shitfaced and find Jesus) worked hand-in-hand with the industrialists (who wanted the large immigrant populations of industrial ghettos to pay attention to something other than politics). As life off the farm grew more sedentary, the legitimate need for physical activity bolstered the unnecessary regimentation of that activity. This is why schools don't have hiking or sailing teams.
Kids' games were just for kids until the big boss realized there was much to be gained by turning us ALL into children. And boy, has it worked amazingly well. But I'm not blaming the victim. As one refugee from working-class London Irish poverty once asked, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" (He also said, "God save the Queen/ the fascist regime / they made you a moron.") All that said, I'm the first to say I'm no better. I love staring into oblivion; I just prefer the sea, the space between a woman's breasts or the fingerprint whorl of the place on the scalp a man's hair winds into itself like a whirlpool, the sky, the sea, alcohol, drugs.
In service of this aim I flew to Puerto Vallarta for four days of winter sun, swimming, and Spanish. Listen. Never go to Puerto Vallarta. The new section is charmless as Myrtle Beach, and the old district is a sad but in places lovely memorial to the pre-John Huston town, trashy and dedicated to the gringo's pleasure. This is not the great-souled country of the Estados Unidos de Mexico, but Orange County with a giant custodial staff. (It did seem odd that I sought refuge from the last stage of making my film in a city-maybe the only one on Earth-built on a screenplay, Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana.) After bailing on a snorkel trip after ten minutes in dirty, murky water (I explained to the guy I'd been to Oaxaca, and he understood), I found the town's great remaining attraction-the easy availability of over-the-counter prescription-strength drugs. Specifically Somalgesic, or Soma as it is known to the Strokes (and surely to many others)-36 ten-hour doses for $10, the total obliteration of earthly pain (and of one's liver probably), and yeah, my spinal subluxation begun by the daily death threats directed at me as campaign manager of Citizens for More Important Things as well as my drinking and Oresteic stress in the snow-dumping winter of 1996-97 which placed me in this world of ten years later aboard a plane into Phoenix, FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) and sanguinely contemplating the chance of the metal craft shredding spectacularly into the ground-it might be cool to watch-my shaving kit full of Somas in their delicate foil, topped with socks and dirty underwear to discourage tampering, also holding, as the once great poet James Tate (who thereafter smoked himself into a babbling fog) wrote, the "misfortune this world has placed in us." Whatever gets you off. Go Hawks! Hang in there; winter's almost over. God save us from religious people.
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© 2006 Belltown Messenger