Thursday, August 28, 2008

Event: Being a Douchebag - Medal: Goldstein

On the topic of "THERE'S NOTHING REMOTELY INTERESTING GOING ON IN THE WORLD OF HOCKEY", we couldn't resist a major Jamaican "what ya been smokin' man?", shout out to Yoni Goldstein who medaled in the Olympic Event of Douchebag, at the 100m Douchebag, 200m Douchebag, 4xDouchebag relay, Douchebag Vault, Long Douchebag, Synchronised Douchebag, Floor Douchebag, Parallel Douchebag and the Equestrian Douchebag.

Because we couldn't say it better in our own words, we asked permission to publish this great reply by TrackFan96:

Yoni Goldstein, I don’t know who you are, meaning how old, what sports you love, where you have been, what you have done in life. But after reading your post on the End of the Beijing Olympics, (the first time I come across your blog), you sound nothing short of a sheltered nudnik with a good job who has pretty much stayed in his nest his whole life, a nest radiating of American hegemony (yes unfortunately in Canada we apparently cannot resist it) whose sports culture is based on games where hockey pucks should have neon red trails blaze behind them so that the entertainment value of our programming interests can be nudged a inkling higher if not by the pervasive ads that pepper images of what are supposed to be athletic achievement.

Yes sports must have an entertainment value, but the fact that you cannot see it in Olympic sport speaks volumes about your TV consumer habits in between Olympic years. Sure, Canadian sports coverage sucks. Though it’s slightly better than American coverage, let’s face it: we’re not a sports loving nation, we’re a hockey loving nation. So no kidding it’s hard to follow other sports in this country. But there’s a great invention called the Internet that kind of revolutionized things a wee bit over a decade ago that allows you to pretty much follow any sport taking place in any continent. Then there are airplanes (another nifty invention, thank you Wright brothers) that allow us to actually go SEE these events and really appreciate their entertainment value and athletic excellence, revel in euphoric atmospheres, and also get to discover some really interesting countries while we’re at it. I take it you have not conducted any of the latter two types of explorations. If you have then you must be one hell of a grump!

I’m an athletics (meaning track and field) and football (meaning soccer) fan despite the fact that I have lived in Canada my whole life. Hardly anyone relatively gives a crap about these two sports in this country, one of which is amateur (and boy does that ring true for track in this country). Every few years, track greats like Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay clash at the world stage and what makes it so exciting is that between those years you get to follow their and their peers’ exploits from obscure places like St-Kitts and Nevis, or the Netherlands Antilles, via the net and see their stories unfold and intersect every now and then. This produces the drama and entertainment value you seek so much in your NBC-ed, CBS-ed and CBC-ed enhanced versions of the sports you allude to. If you wish not to follow what happens to these athletes or their peers between leap years, tough luck man, it’s not as if you had no means to anyway. If you just don’t like it, not many will actually care to hear you rant about it. After all, who cares to hear someone rant for the sake of complaining, especially when they are paid to do so for god’s sake! Those who do probably have nothing more interesting to add to the discussion anyway. As someone who also works in the media we all know that the only interesting rants are A) the funny ones, B) the ones that actually have intelligent comments backing them up. In this case, your post is devoid of both.

A lot of these amateur sports (some of which are not that amateur) are actually quite enjoyed and played at high levels in countries worldwide, like volleyball and handball are across Europe, track and field in Jamaica (haven’t you heard that the country has pretty much been on holiday for a week?) and swimming in Australia (read Ian Thorpe: walking god among mortals in Australia – even before he won six medals in Sydney, and a slew more in Athens). They are also well funded and so Italian sprinters who cannot even crack 10.20 (who has even heard of an Italian sprinter apart from Pietro Mennea… have you even heard of Pietro Mennea???) actually don’t need to flip burgers and buy bus passes to putz around because the state gives them the means to excel and even sometimes the wheels to go with it! The narrative builds up, year after year on each pro or amateur circuit, teeming with rivalries between athletes and countries, and climaxes when they all meet at the Olympics, where they actually don’t get paid to play in their arena of excellence (now isn’t that a paradox!!!).

Yes of course some get million dollar contracts following their gold medal feats, but the fact of the matter is, if you can’t see entertainment value by 10 000 athletes coming together for nothing other than to win a piece of metal to hang around their necks for the time to belch out their national anthem, then you seem to be suffering from a serious bout of North American I-don’t-care-about-sport-if-it’s-not-hockey-baseball-football-basketball syndrome, where we need posers like Bob Costas to overdramatize ad nauseam the story of every player on the field, schmucks like Don Cherry to keep us in front of the TV as we fatten ourselves up with more pizza and beer while our girlfriends in the background wait for those thrilling 200 minutes to end, or illiterate yutzes on RDS to tell us what’s happening on the ice - though we can actually see what’s happening on the ice !!! (Wow that was in bad taste, Jacques Demers was actually illiterate!! Much respect Jacques.)

And why should we put tax dollars towards what you call “worthless endeavours”? Have you ever picked up a tennis racket, laced up some track spikes, glided through waters with a paddle and scull lighter than your own weight? It sounds as if you haven’t. But it doesn’t matter, because you probably have not noticed the obesity epidemic afflicting the planet, especially our continent.

And though we’re not going to get into the Freudian psychology of why people are fat and eat through their emotions, you and I very well know that people who love sport more than they love food grow up to be more balanced individuals who will in one way or another end up costing a whole lot less tax dollars while we spend the balance treating the others suffering from diabetes, heart attacks, strokes - you name it - and their insurance companies with ever increasing premiums dish out the cash for their relatives to throw them in nice and earthy pit in the confines of a nice and cosy pine box. I am still baffled at how a country like Australia can have such a high obesity rate. But when you actually walk through cities like Melbourne , Sydney , Brisbane , or Perth , which produce most of their sporting legends, you realize it’s no shit the Aussie fatties live in out in the countryside while the supermen and superwomen walk streets of the nation’s metropolis.

I’ll assume that you understand that most of us grew up playing hockey because of the Great One and his peers interspersed across the NHL, or shot baskets through slanted and netless hoops screwed into cement walls because Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made green and purple actually cool to wear.

Those of us who did not get inspired to go play with our brothers and friends and their tomboy sisters in our backyards or streets while we dodged passing cars or tried figuring out how the hell to make a baseball diamond out of a back alley ten feet wide by fifty long (thank you Tim Raines) either opted to sit on our lazy-obese-and-antisocial-asses-to-be and play Nintendo (sorry, loyal disciples of Sega) - or decided to give a 100m dirt stretch a try at full speed after we saw Donovan Bailey deny the Americans a podium twice in seven days sometime last millennium. Let’s face it: most of us play sports because we were inspired to.

I’ll put my tax dollars to them any day if it means it’ll teach kids that sports are not just a genetics freakshow laden with too much sponsorship money and insanely rich prima donnas, but actually a pretty damn good way to spend some time in life. And no, I will not get into the importance of sports in a balanced lifestyle. You can instead read Pierre de Coubertin’s declaration (and skip its sometimes Euro-centric and supremacist undertones), which itself was inspired by the British model of sport as a way of rejuvenating society. Too bad British hegemony got somehow blown off by the Atlantic and therefore we never got to see rugby reach the New World . There isn’t enough game stoppage there to allow for advertising time in between plays anyway.

Come on Yoni. You work in the media, you should know better than to write empty posts like the one you did on August 25th. You know that in this ADD-and-short-attention-span infested world we live in we need entertainment value to dilute articles, films, and shows to get us to read something, while their writer hopes that the original message (hopefully an intelligent one) will be absorbed during the viewer/reader’s hypnotic trance of content consumption. After all, you are taking up our all-too-precious time while we willingly gulp up your words. I would have hoped to have gotten something out of it, but I’m afraid in a post lacking in both entertainment value and any form of eloquence, not many people will.


PPP said...

Holy Shit. That was AWESOME. I wish that would get read out to every douchebag that slams the Olympics, the Canadian athletes, and amateur sports.

LittleFury said...

So the response to the charge that the Olympics and amateur athletics are boring wastes of time is "No they aren't!"? You needed 1,500 words for that?

Honestly, I don't see much in there to contradict what Goldstein is saying. That there are enthusiasts of these sports to be found is not in dispute. But the fact remains the Canadian population as a whole couldn't give a toss. If they did, we wouldn't need government sponsorship money to feed our water polo team.

The point that, yes, there are some countries where track or sculling or aquatics are appreciated is interesting, but irrelevant. A lot of countries also enjoy public executions. It means little to us. These sports are simply not part of our cultural fabric and throwing buckets of money at them won't make them any more interesting or attractive.

But the most egregious claim is that state support for amateur athletics will help combat the obesity epidemic. It won't. Your own example of Australia, to which I would add the example of the top 2008 medal finisher and home of the Whopper, shows no correlation between the two, and why would there be? Tackling a social problem like obesity requires a broad-based effort to make an active lifestyle and proper nutrition a priority. Funding for elite athletes benefits elite athletes alone. Hoping for some kind of trickle down effect from their performance is either naïve or self-serving.

fezworth said...

That was impressive, but if I may play the devil's advocate for a moment;

Mr. Goldstein raises an interesting point, that I think went unrefuted by TrackFan96.

The simple fact is; Canada doesn't win more medals, doesn't help its amateur ahtletes as much as they deserve, for the simple reason that we don't want to. I have no doubt that there are wonderful individuals in Swimming Canada, working tirelessly and without adequate compensation, to ensure that our young men and women are well-prepared when they get to major events like the Olympics. There are parents all over the country who drive 30 hours to take their young kids to track meets. There is individual heroism galore in amateur sports, this is without question.

All of that comes to naught however, in the absense of real excitement from the populace. In my view, a country like the US (and to an even greater extent, China) has just as much apathy for its amateurs as we do in Canada. It's only their massive populations that enable them to produce quality out of volume. If Canada & the US each have (hypothetically) 3% interest in Amateur sports, it means that the US amateur sports budget is still going to be MUCH bigger than the Canadian one, because their population is over 8 times the size of ours.

Australia is an outlier. Their population may be similar, but their interest in amateur sports is higher than Canada's. Therefore again, we will see a higher potential budget to spend on coaches, training, accomodation, and getting the athletes out of the grocery store and onto the track/pool/whatever.

I don't think Goldstein is right when it says that's the way it should be. I think TrackFan has written eloquently about a lot of the great things about amateur sport, and wherever possible, we should try and encourage people to join sports like that, to help out with leagues, and such.

However, I think TrackFan is dead on when he points out that we're not a country that enjoys sports, per se. We're a country that enjoys hockey. That's pretty much it. Until we start to approach amateur sports with a similar fervour, things aren't going to change much, I don't think.

too close to toronto said...

the question that deserves asking is this: what kind of society do you want to live in? one that views anything unpopular or less popular as a waste of time, or one that places a value on athletics, on achievement and on excellence? trackfan pointed out that these athletes inspire. i think that is important.

furthermore, what about those of us who like amateur sports *better* than the big, north american professional sports? are we supposed to just fuck off and die? goldstein talks about a red sox-yankees game being fun to watch. i couldn't disagree more. i would rather have sex with a thumbtack than sit through an entire baseball game.

and if we're talking about athleticism here, then it's also worth pointing out that probably 90% of the competitors in the olympics are more athletic than 90% of the "athletes" in major league baseball. so who is it that we should be celebrating? i know who has my vote.

the truth is that i actually don't care all that much about a lot of olympic sports either. but i'm glad they exist. i'm glad there are people in the world that try their hardest to be the best at what they do. i get way more inspiration from amateur athletes than from most professionals.

i personally want to live in a society where sport has value, and where we both promote and celebrate achievement in athletic endeavours. and i don't give a fuck how popular those endeavours are. we are all richer living in a society where diverse interests and achievements are celebrated.

Habsfan10 said...

Yoni says: "By some cosmic chance our amateur athletes have inherited or developed the bad luck of loving and being devoted to obscure crafts."

Kind of like writing for a newspaper?

PS 4, can you rustle up an articling student to read and summarize the rest of that tome? I've got angry rants to compose.

fezworth said...

@HF10: You are an evil man. Those poor articling students. As if they don't have enough on their plates already.

@too close to toronto: While I agree that you've posed a good question, it's not really practical to ask that on a societal level, 'cause it's a personal question. And the fact is, the majority of Canadians would probably rather watch the baseball game. I'm with you on that score personally, but I don't think it matters. There just aren't enough people in this country who care to really have a serious impact on our athletics programs. If you see it differently, I'd love to be proven wrong. I'm feeling very pessimistic so far today.

too close to toronto said...

@fezworth: i don't really care about practicality. what i'm saying is that the argument "well nobody cares about ____ anyway" doesn't hold any water as far as i'm concerned. not too long ago, tiger woods said "who cares about hockey, anyway?" well for starters, everyone who visits this site. and a lot of canadians in general clearly do. so obviously some people do care. i think the attitude articulated by tiger woods and yoni goldstein is arrogant and culturally jingoistic. and what i'm saying is that i would rather live in a world where people say "you did something that's hard to do better than anyone else can and that's fantastic" than "well nobody cares about shot put anyway". so for that reason i say enthusiastically: fuck you yoni goldstien.

fezworth said...

@too close to toronto: well put. I've definitely got time for that sort of argument.

Shit the meth is kicking in said...

this post needed the new "read the rest of it after the jump" feature...

-HF29, cause in the land of the 56k modems, you can barely sign in to Blogger...

fezworth said...

@29: It's funny.. I knew it was you even before reading your post.