Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fandom à la Quentin Tarantino

If you ask ten movie buffs to tell you the greatest movie of all time, you’ll probably get ten different answers (mine: Pulp Fiction).  If you ask those same ten movie buffs to tell you the greatest movie since the greatest movie of all time, you’ll probably get ten different answers (mine: Inglorious Basterds).  If you ask ten movie buffs to tell you the greatest directors of all time, you should get only one answer (Quentin Tarantino).

Tarantino has no problem using curses (bastard), but needs to improve
his spelling of them (basterd)
One of the glorious bastard’s movie trademarks is the use of non-linear plots.  I say such methods of presentation are interesting because they present the viewer with different perspectives and the benefit of foresight.  Tarantino haters (and these people do exist) say such methods are annoying and are intentionally done so everyone knows just who directed the film.  If you fall into the latter category, you might want to copy and paste this article so it better follows your ideals of a standard story.

December 13, 2011; 3:15 PM

“What took so long?” asked my dad when I arrived back at the house.

“I had to go to four different stores, but I finally got it.”

“So what was this article you needed to read?”

“Well, it wasn’t really an article.  It was a quote.”

“A quote?  You spent five dollars on a quote?”

December 8, 2011; 4:00 PM

After being on winter break for two and a half weeks, I decided it was finally time for me to put an abrupt end to the developing Jew Fro on my head.  When I walked into the shop, my barber had her hands full with a mini 13 year old Guido, so, knowing from not just Jersey Shore but life experiences, I figured I had a few minutes to kill. I went to the magazine rack and grabbed the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine, the most important of my haircut rituals.  One more glance at Pauli D told me that I probably didn’t have enough time for a full article. 

I turned towards a page that posed different athletes the following question: “If 1 equals, ‘They need to read Football For Dummies’ and 10 equals, ‘They’re like extra coaches!’… How knowledgeable are fans of your sport?”  Being a fan myself, and someone who likes to think he is particularly knowledgeable, this question had particular significance. 

Adrian Wilson, a three time All Pro Strong Safety, who would be more frequently listed among the NFL’s elite defensive players were he not stranded in the desert of Arizona, responded with a ten.  To be honest, ten seems a bit high, but I liked where he was going.  He talked about how Twitter and fantasy football make everyone more knowledgeable.  On the complete other end of the spectrum was a linebacker whose name escaped me immediately after putting the magazine down.  He said something to the effect of fans now knowing anything.  He gave us fans a 1/10.  Ouch.

Around this time Nina informed me that she was ready for me.  I angrily slammed the magazine back into the shelf and proceeded to have a mini, silent conniption for the entirety of my hair cut.  Who the hell does he think he is?  One?  I know nothing about the sport of football?

December 12, 2011; 1:32 AM

I knew I wanted to write something in response, but I needed to find the actual quote first.  At the time of my haircut I had so many things to say, but without the word-for-word quotation an article would be grossly incomplete. 

December 13, 2011; 3:45 PM

I finally sat down to write this blog article, now that I obtained a hard copy of the sought-after quote:

“They’re fans for a reason.  They have no knowledge of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it” – Kevin Burnett, Dolphins linebacker.

December 8, 2011; 4:07 PM

As I sat in that barber chair with my hairs trickling down my neck and thinking about how nice my post-haircut shower was going to be, I continued to contemplate the absurd quote.  They’re fans for a reason?  Is Burnett suggesting that if I was more knowledgeable about football I’d be on a professional team?  I fail to see the correlation.  In 2008, the Eagles and Bengals played a game that ended in a tie after neither team could produce a point in overtime.  Donovan McNabb explained that he had no idea a NFL game could end in a tie (The best part of this video is the stammering reporter. “You… you seriously didn’t know that?  You thought there was another overtime?  Oh, wow.”)  What NFL fan doesn’t know ties exist in the NFL?  Every other season in Madden’s franchise mode has at least one simulated tie!  There was a tie game in 2002 while McNabb was in the NFL!  So, Burnett, why then is he still a professional quarterback?  (In this example I actually don’t know why Donovan McNabb is still a professional quarterback.)
Strong words from a... strong man
I think the more likely reason that I’m not a professional athlete is that I’m not talented enough.  At 5’ 9 ¾’’ (clinging to that ¾) I am the Shaq of the Weinberger family.  Unfortunately, most of the world’s population isn’t the offspring of generations upon generations of circus midgets.  Granted, there are small professional athletes, but they’re able to overcome the genetic disadvantage with lightning speed, years upon years of intense practice, other-worldly amounts of coordination and general athleticism, and a hostile parent or two.  I have none of these. 

December 13, 2011; 2:15 PM

When children go off to college, cruel parents do malicious things.  Bedrooms become gyms and libraries, annoying pets suddenly “die”, the box of baseball cards that said, “Do Not Touch!” is touched.  Thankfully, none of these things happened to me, although my parents did regrettably cancel our ESPN Magazine subscription.  After a quick search on Google and proved useless, I realized I needed to pick up the issue myself to find the desired quote.   

And so began the next hour of my life.  Wawa (NJ area, high-class 7-11) was a bust.  Rite Aid had five-thousand different Justin Bieber magazines but nothing on sports.  I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was in Limited Too.  I tried a supermarket, but they only carried “Sports Magazine.”  I didn’t even know that was a thing.  Then, finally, seven dollars of gas later, I found it at Shop Rite. 

December 8, 2011; 4:10 PM

They have no knowledge of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it?  Enlighten me.  Do you mean to say I don’t understand the complex dynamics of being a professional football athlete?  I have to agree with you on this one.  I’ve long since wondered about the player dynamics and interactions that prompt a plethora of puzzling occurrences. 

Why do professional athletes leave their longtime homes and loyal ownership, coaches, and fan bases to get an extra three million dollars over the course of five years when they’re already bringing in 25 million over that same time span?  How can an athlete call himself a competitor after he gets together with other phonies and decides to partner-up and take the easy way out?  Why, after a athlete’s team makes a game-changing play, does he lose all control of his emotions and taunt, hit, and speak in a manner that he knows is illegal and, in doing so, shows no respect for the game so many wish they could get paid to play?  Since when are salsa dances and skits spontaneous demonstrations of the emotions associated with success?  What could possibly make athletes think that the pot they’re smoking won’t come up on the drug test they know they’re taking that week?  Why are some players so idiotic that they Tweet before they think?  I suppose it’s a mystery because I have no knowledge of what they’re doing or how they’re doing it.

December 12, 2011; 12:06 AM

As I listened to Chris Collinsworth lament about the weekly fourth quarter Dallas Cowboys meltdown, I wondered quietly to myself how and why the end-of-game breakdowns are basically the only constant in the entire organization.  Coaches, personal, opponents, and end-of-game situations all change but the one thing that doesn’t is the unequivocal fact that Dallas will painfully squander away a lead in a game that they should have wrapped up midway through the fourth quarter.  There isn’t a player on the roster that hasn’t been one of the two to five players who are largely responsible for each loss.  There isn’t a coach on the payroll that hasn’t been one of the two to five coaches responsible for each loss. 

Suddenly, the truth hit me like a locomotive.  Kevin Burnett was right

Fanatics don’t know.  We don’t know what it feels like to be a part of a team like the Cowboys.  Every move a player makes is analyzed, debated, and further analyzed by the public.  All we see is the final product, but we have no sense of the hundreds of steps and decisions that went into creating it, regardless of whether the final result is good or bad.  I know how something should be done, but not how to actually do it and you can only know if you’ve played at the professional level.  Statistics are the guiding voice behind much of sports writing and fan support, but numbers don’t actually mean anything, case and point being Tebow’s tremendous success.  Athletes are people and a number cannot measure our lives or theirs.  For every statistic there are countless exceptions.

When the Jets call a run play on third and five I lose control. What are they thinking?  That never works.  Really, it never works?  Do the coaches have a big spread sheet with the percent success for each play call in every possible situation?  Is a run on third and five a 0%?  Of course not.  Think of all the intricacies that go into each decision.  How did the team do with the play in practice this past week?  Did film studies reveal that the other team’s linebackers quickly drop into coverage on third and medium distance?  Does Sanchez need to take a breather?  Has Shonn Greene been barking for the ball?    

Marion Barber bamboozled NFL fans across the country last weekend when he ran out of bounds, thus setting the stage for Tebow’s most improbable Tebowing to date.  Everyone knows that if you stay in bounds the game is virtually over, but when you look through the eyes of a professional running back, Barber’s mental error was far from inexplicable.  If Barber stayed in the field of play Tebow would have had roughly 20-25 seconds to get Denver into field goal range, rather than the minute Barber gave him.  Who are we to say that Tebow wouldn’t have driven Denver down the field anyways?  A Chicago first down would have ended the game.  Marion Barber would have been the hero, not the goat.  
As much as he may not want to admit it, Barber’s become a second-rate running back.  He’s playing for his job every time he touches the pigskin, but, with the Forte injury, he has a chance to earn millions of dollars if he plays well in relief.  Imagine how that pressure would impact your job performance.  I wonder if you’d make a mistake.  A former pro-bowler who once scored 16 touchdowns in a season, Barber probably still believes he has the talent to be one of the league’s top backs and, for a split second, these factors contributed to a major mental lapse.    
Barber's disastrous Sunday probably cost him a million dollars
over the rest of his career
This type of confidence (some might call it arrogance) is the norm in professional sports and is the driving force behind the huge salaries, contract disputes, and controversial team departures.  Fans sit back and criticize athletes for these things and I include myself in this group.  But, is it not true that the same people who are harsh on “disloyal” athletes are the same ones who hate on LeBron James and similar figures because of a seeming lack of self-confidence?  Hot headed and/or high priced players are scorned for their arrogance while collaborators and gathering superstars are under siege for not having enough of it. 

I’ve always said professional athletes need to be blind to their public image.  After losing in the NBA Finals last season, LeBron James enraged fans across the country when he basically said, “You guys like to cheer for my defeat, but I get to be LeBron James and you don’t.  You wish you were me.”  Arrogant?  Yes.  Out of line? Yes.  But, he’s right.  Why should he care what a planet of inferior physical specimens think of him?  Of course, we don’t want to hear that.    

We don’t know everything.  Adrian Wilson, I appreciate you saying fans are a 10/10, but you are oh so wrong.  There is so much more fans do not and will not ever understand than what they can grasp.  This discrepancy is what being a fan is all about.  It’s not a conscious thought, but us super-fans are trying to cross the continuum.  We want to be a 10/10 and will absorb any statistic that helps us in this endeavor.  We watch 24/7 ESPN punditry because these guys are the “experts.”  I can break out that Steven A. Smith bombastic remark when someone questions my knowledge.  If I listen to Adam Schefter enough maybe I will move up half a point on the ten point scale.  After 50 online Madden Games I can understand the strengths and weaknesses of Cover 2, 3, and 4.  I know when to blitz and when to drop nine in coverage.  But life isn’t as simple as a video game. 

I don’t have a wide receiver breathing down my neck for the ball.  I’m not sore from taking a hit.  There isn’t going to be an article in the newspaper the next day ridiculing Sportfan99999 for attempting a two point conversion in the second quarter against xxLegendxx in their 11:30 PM Madden match.  My opponent hasn’t studied every play I’ve run over the last three weeks.  My livelihood doesn’t depend on the result.    

Why do talented college players bust?  They fail to perform because before they get paid to play, college players are very, very talented fans.  They don’t know what professional sports are like because they’ve never played them or been privy to the inner workings of the league.  Why are some promising assistant and college level coaches great successes while others cannot make the transition to head coach?  It’s the same problem.    

Still though, fans do know more now than they ever have before.  Within the next 20 years a professional sports team is going to have a head coach who’s previous experiences began with fantasy sports, religiously watching ESPN, and hours upon hours of a day devoted to sports video games rather than through playing or coaching at an early age.  We know the X’s and O’s, but nothing is as simple as the things that should work.  To be truly knowledgeable, someone must be a master of strategy as well as the intangible variability and before they are thrown into the locker rooms and game plans of their favorite teams, they cannot and will not ever surpass the midpoint on the knowledgeable scale. 

So what does all this mean?  Am I going to abandon my fandom since I don’t actually know much?  Does today mark the last time I will criticize an athlete or coach?  Don’t be absurd; that’s the best part of being a fan.  When you spend your time arguing could-haves and should-haves, you can never be wrong! 

Maybe I’ll just change my approach to skepticism.  I won’t say, “That was stupid.”  Instead, I will say, “I wonder what could have possibly made him think that would work.  Something must be driving the decision and given the disastrous results, I am truly in awe of how polarizing that factor must have been!”  I might never get to a 10/10, but I am certainly going to keep trying and I don’t care what my skeptics (professional athletes) say, just like they should do with us fans. 


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