Bowl in their soul
Not really anything NBA-ish to relate, but some more Katrina thoughts that don’t seem out of place here. You can decide for yourself whether I’m asserting the elemental power of sport (in the face of adversity. . .) or admitting, once and for all, that all these national pastimes of ours are nothing but ciphers for what really matters in American life.
I guess Simmons meant well with that column, but anyone bringing up New Orleans’s party town rep just doesn’t have a fucking clue about what’s going on here. Aside from the tremendous loss of life and property, a sense of place unlike any other is getting washed out to sea. And while debauchery and vomit are certainly part of the story (remember, the President himself remembers NOLA chiefly as somewhere where he enjoyed himself “a little too much” on occasion), anyone with at least a passing interest in history, politics, literature, music, or architecture would recognize a mystique far deeper than “that French-ish place with Dixieland and tits.”
I imagine it’s the same kind of low-level outrage that many of you real sports fans would respond with if I said, out loud, that I don’t see the point of carrying on college football at all costs. I know that team spirit is the closest some people have to a sense of identity and/or belonging, and that the NCAA kind takes it to a whole ‘nother level—especially in the South, where’s it’s practically inseparable from the religious core of the region (or, in its more self-conscious, non-SEC moments, the heraldry of tradition). I also know, though, that true fandom crystallizes what people already intuitively pride themselves on as Georgians, Texans, whatever, and that the style of the team on field scarcely matters in the face of the mode of fandom (see last week’s post on ATL, in which I try to argue that style has a far more potent effect at the professional level, at least in hoops. But of course I’m going to say that). For that very reason, I don’t know why schools that got clobbered by Katrina would want to go ahead with their football season. You’d think that they’d be doing enough soul-searching and feeling enough regional pride that jumping through hoops to field a team wracked by sorrow just isn’t worth it. Save it for the Saints (I’m not so naïve as to believe that a pro franchise could opt out of the season), who will need all the support they can get (and would have even before their city went underwater).
After 9/11, getting the NFL and MLB back on track was the only choice. In that case, there was an enemy, and the country had to prove its unflappability. Entire leagues had stopped in their tracks, but life had to go on. And, with a relatively small part of NYC having suffered actual physical damage, its teams' return announced that NYC was still standing and mighty as ever. Sports are part of the American way; whether, post 9/11, they created meaning or merely fed off of it, they were symbols that had to remain intact in order to make a point. Here, though, not only is there no city left to revive with inspiration; since the only enemy is whatever gross incompetence finds its way into the official handling of the problem, sports are only as important as they are instrumental. With people already repping for their city at an all-time rate, is a mediocre program's season really going to lift anyone’s spirits—especially if it’s adding to that perception of wasted time and money?
College football: so important to Southern life that it's disposable.
My NBA, then, insists on style's very "shallowness" as the site of profundity.