Tag Archives: racism

My Experiment with Sport(s)

Subtitles of this post might include ‘Am I a norm now?’.

There are two types of people in America.  People who like and watch and care about pro. sports, and people who don’t.  I really believed this for most of my life, and have hated every group sport (both as a spectator and a participant). I would roll my eyes and sigh as people around me discussed the Phillies or the Vikings or…whatever. I am quite proud that I can’t pick a winning QB out of a crowd–at least 2 of them are named Manning, right?  I spend Super Bowl Sunday watching Animal Planet (Puppy Bowl Sunday, as it should actually be called). The closest I’ve come to enjoying sports is bingewatching Friday Night Lights on Netflix.

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But this year, that all changed. As I said in my post on UK sport last year, I planned to watch the entire season of the Barclay’s Premier League (soccer). I picked my team, pointed out some very helpful condiment-based analogies to illustrate the offside rule, and I was set to go.  What happened next, I did not expect.

In last year’s post, I explained that I was going to support West Ham.  I used Harry Potter to make this decision–a strategy that usually works for me in life. I also explained that it is absolutely unforgivable to support one team, and then support another when the first team starts to do badly.  Punishable by death for many football fans. But…there are a few things I didn’t take into account.  The first problem with my support of West Ham–they were never on TV.  NBC Sports broadcasts ~2-4 matches per weekend, and the rest are available on their app.  West Ham, throughout the season, were only featured on TV if they were playing one of the top 4-5 teams.  The first weekend of the season, they were not on TV.  Instead, I watched Arsenal (my bf’s team) lose to Aston Villa. The second week, they were still not on TV, so I watched Arsenal again.  And so on, and so forth.  After about 3 weeks, I abandoned all pretense and admitted that I support Arsenal. Luckily, I am not in the UK and cannot be extradited to face capital punishment for my shift of loyalty.  Hopefully the statute of limitations is pretty short.

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So, I watched every Arsenal match in the season.  Every. Match.  I even watched some of their non-BPL matches, in the Champions League and FA Cup. Here’s what I learned:

1-Football players can be very attractive:

David-Beckham

Though loved by many, Ronaldo is not my type (he’s too shiny). But there are enough of them to please everyone. David Beckham is not an anomaly. Bonus: They take their shirts off at the end of matches.

Unfortunately,

2-Football players can also be really unattractive:

250026119Sorry Jon, if you happen to ever see this.  Remember you get paid a lot of money to play a sport, if you ever feel too bad about how you look. Also, I could have used a far uglier picture of you, but I felt guilty and scaled back.

3-Wayne Rooney always looks like he’s about to say ‘you talkin to me?’ with false bravado, and get abnormally close to someone in a bar

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4-Arsene Wenger (manager for Arsenal) cannot operate the zipper on his ludicrously long coat:Arsene-Wenger-Jacket-Football-Realm

 

This has been such a constant problem that the cameramen will now pan to AW whenever he’s doing up his coat, to catch brilliant bits of film like this:

5-Jose Mourinho is awful. If you see this man:

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Punch him in the nose for me. Trust me, he deserves it. You should be able to tell, just from this picture, that he deserves it.

6-Being a BPL manager is probably the worst job in the world.  I lost count of how many managers were replaced during the season, but I would say there were at least 10 managers sacked just in the 20 teams in the BPL. Stupid.  This seems like such a bad strategy.  But the fans are very fickle and want a new manager if the team loses 1 or 2 games in a row.  People were howling for Arsene Wenger’s resignation after the 1st match (and loss) of the season.  After that match? Arsenal was top of the league for almost 5 months, finished in the top 4 and won the FA cup. So…people are stupid.

7-A large percentage of football players are probably assholes:

There’s a lot of proof of this, and who would really not expect that?  Who’s more of an asshole than young men who can get everything they want?  They are under a lot of pressure, but they also have fame, money, adoration, and male and female fans ready and willing, wherever they go.  That’s the perfect equation to produce assholes.  In my opinion, the worst of them is Luis Suarez.  He bit a competitor during a match.

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WHAT?! Who does that? Who, in any way or capacity not related to kidnapping or attempted assault resorts to biting someone?  wtf.

8-A massive percentage of football fans are terrible human beings:

A visible and audible percentage are racist, and more racist, pathetic hooligans, and just every combination of awful humanity you can picture. Recently, a racist fan threw a banana at one of the black players.  Like…how do you even associate that in your mind? If someone threw a banana at me, or anyone around me, I wouldn’t even understand that it was an insult because who the fuck in this century associates people of color with monkeys? I mean, any more than the general theory of natural selection and evolution associates all people with monkeys?

After a player got injured in Arsenal vs. Tottenham, the Spurs fans threw coins (coins in the UK, btw, are much heavier than ours in the US. They also threw a water bottle, and some sort of bread roll!) at him while he was being carried away on a stretcher. Last year (!!!), a horse was punched when Newcastle fans rioted.  what the fuck.  Fuck you, football fans. I currently live in a city that boos Santa Claus, Robots, and a man who was the recipient of the world’s first hand transplant.  Sports people in Philly are some of the worst sports people in the world. Or so I thought, before I watched the BPL. BPL fans boo, they throw smoke bombs, they rush the fields, they make up horrific chants–most of which I can’t really hear from this side of the pond, so that’s lucky. If I could hear them, I’d be even more horrified.

One more (far more positive) thing I learned from watching football.  This man,

santi-cazorla

Santi Cazorla, is the most adorable thing I have ever seen, and I really want to snuggle him in a totally not-weird way. Like, the way you might want to snuggle Kermit the Frog. Also, I always root for the short athletes, out of commiseration, and he is a great football player who is only 5’6″.  Here he is next to Per Mertesacker, who is a ludicrous 6’8″

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So…the real thing I learned is that I can actually get into sport(s).  I have never had the least interest in basketball, baseball, (American) football, or any of the sports we watch over here. But I do enjoy watching soccer.  While I’m in the US, soccer is still something a bit on the fringes–it implies a slightly more elite and worldly fan, when compared to 250 lb 45 year old men tailgating before the next Eagles game.  But that’s only true here in America.  Everywhere else in the world, soccer is a main sport, and there is nothing elite or worldly about it.  So I’m not sure my new found interest would (will, I should say) continue when surrounded by the mass of truly heinous behaviors displayed by players and by the fans.  I suspect my new passion for football will be nurtured by quiet watching at home, and will shrink to nothingness when in a large group of totally insane fans. This turned out to be a great year to watch football for the first time.  The championship was up in the air until the very end, I got to watch David Moyes age 10 years in 6 months, Arsenal won the FA cup, and the World Cup is just next month. So, in short, I plan to keep watching.  But if I ever act like a heinous douche-bag about it, someone needs to pull the plug on me or tell me to snap out of it.

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Mysterious Affair at StylesMy second Agatha Christie.  I had a yen to read her again, because the books are quick and easy, like junk food.  Being written in the ’20s means they have a bit more sophistication than your average Stephen King novel, but in truth they are the same level of book.  Enjoyable, quick, but not life-changing.

This book was no exception.  It was engaging, unpretentious, and a pleasure to read.  That being said, I must start out my review by pointing out that Mr. Hastings, the narrator of this story, is the dumbest character I have ever had to read about.  What a clueless bland bag of flour.  And this guy apparently appears in 8 other Poirot stories?  I could barely deal with him once.  Agatha, I know you’re dead, and have no reason to change your books now, but I need to give you some advice.  You do not need to make a dunce accompany Poirot in order for us to see that he is intelligent. I know Watson isn’t as brilliant as Holmes, but he’s (in the books anyway) of average, if not slightly above average, intelligence).  Hastings, on the other hand, is one step above lake algae.

Hastings is like the fat friend who makes the other girls look thinner and prettier. I am not exaggerating; I think he has an IQ below 80.  Not only is he dumb compared to Poirot, he is dumb compared to every other character in the book. If Hastings is supposed to represent the ‘reader’ as we bumble along through the mystery, then Christie thought her readers were utter imbeciles.  I recently found a website titled ‘Shut the Fuck Up, Hastings!’ so I know I’m not alone in my irritation. But I’ve now said my piece, and can move on.

This book was Christie’s first published novel, and is also the first glance her readers got of Poirot, the odd Belgian detective who would feature in some of her biggest hits, like Murder on the Orient Express.  Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and DI Japp (apparently) all make many appearances in later novels.  Christie admitted that she based this trio on the Holmes-Watson-Lestrade relationship, and it shows.  Poirot is no Holmes, though.  He’s a short, older foppy gentleman with slight OCD and a paunchy belly. No girl is going to have a crush on Poirot, that’s for sure.

The book opens with the dimwitted Hastings home from WWI and visiting friends at Styles.  There’s his old friend John Cavendish, and his aloof and beautiful wife Mary.  The matriarch, Emily Inglethorp and her (new) second husband, Alfred. The younger brother Lawrence, the ‘ward’ Cynthia, and the secretary Evelyn. The poison expert, Dr. Bauerstein.

Within a few days, the matriarch of the household has been poisoned, and everyone suspects her new second husband.  This being a murder mystery, the action obviously does not end there. Poirot gets involved to help determine who committed the murder and how.  Was she murdered via the coffee? Her nightly cocoa?  The sleeping powders?  Who burned her newly-written will?

I thought it was a good mystery, and though not as smart as Poirot, I’m nowhere near as dumb as Hastings.  So I saw some of the twists coming beforehand, but didn’t anticipate the denouement.  I think that’s about the perfect experience for a murder mystery.  You feel smart enough since you saw some of the clues and drew correct conclusions, but you’re still surprised in the end.

I found this book, despite the lovely mystery, to be lacking in characterization.  I could see glimmerings of the truth about Mary Cavendish (who looked like Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary in my imagination) and Cynthia. I could picture the moody Lawrence or the no-nonsense Evelyn.  I could see a love story brewing here and there, but it was like looking through the haze. Hastings was stupid and dull, but as the narrator we see most of the action through his eyes.  It’s a bit like swimming through jello, trying to glean any information from his incompetent retelling. As such, I felt a bit impatient for the plot to zoom along, since characters alone were not sufficient to make this book worthwhile.

So I didn’t love it–characters are really important.  But I still enjoyed it, because Christie is really good at this murder mystery stuff.  I think next time, I just need to go for one of the stories without Hastings in it.

My previous foray into the works of Christie was soured by a lot of antisemitism.  I’m pleased that this book had…less.  A few unsavory mentions of so and so being ‘a Jew’, as if it were an insult.  A really and truly unfortunate tale of one of the people dressing up in blackface, using burned corks to color her hair dark, in order to put on what must have been an incredibly appalling skit. It’s a thin line when you read old fiction.  Shakespeare has a lot of mentions about jewish people, about black people (more than you would think anyway, given that it was the 16th century in England) and they can make a reasonable 21st century person feel a bit uncomfortable.  On the other hand, Shakespeare wrote Othello and The Merchant of Venice.  Christie’s tidbits of casual and horrifying racism/antisemitism are far more disturbing in their thoughtless inclusion where they are not needed.  They come from a place of undeniable privilege and ignorance, and betray a nonchalance that makes me a little sick.  A Telegraph article about Christie’s antisemitism had this quote: The stereotyping made me squirm. But would I erase it? Never: to see antisemitism so endemic in the works of a highly-respected and best-selling author is to understand a period of history – and its horrific consequences.

Like taking medicine, it’s important to look back and to be horrified. That’s the only way to avoid doing horrifying things again.  And judging by the comments from incensed Christie fans claiming there’s nothing antisemitic about her works, I’m guessing this sentiment is warranted.

But that article also compares Christie’s casual antisemitism to Mark Twain’s very purposeful discussion of the black experience in America during a time of slavery and abject destitution.  They are not the same.  Christie is not interested in examining these prejudices, any more than Jane Austen was interested in the plight of the lady’s maid. Her prejudices are just there, making it obvious that she thought them nothing to be ashamed of.  So my feelings of guilt at reading and enjoying Christie’s books continue.  But she seemed so nice in that Doctor Who episode…and there’s that picture of her surfing!  Disappointing.

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