1. I’m seeing two really great, exciting sports stories unfolding right now. On the home front, the College of Saint Rose’s women’s soccer team is ranked number one in the nation, is undefeated, and is playing in the national semi-finals next week, for the third straight time. And looking beyond our own market, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is poised to break the all-time college basketball consecutive winning streak (88 games, achieved by John Wooden’s great UCLA teams) sometime in the next month, barring a big, unexpected trip up. I’m stumped, though, as to why these aren’t much, much bigger stories, nationally and (in the case of Albany-based Saint Rose) in our own local media. I love Siena men’s basketball, sure, but seeing them on the cover of the local sports pages day after day as they struggle to a 1-3 start of the season, while the Golden Knights women are making waves on a national front with far less coverage, seems a bit odd and biased from where I sit. Likewise in the national sports news, where the usually-over-rated North Carolina men losing are bigger news than the Huskies women winning and winning and winning. It’s interesting to me that the general sports-following public seems to be engaged by athletic women when they compete in individual sports (e.g. tennis, golf, track and field, stock car racing, etc.), but rarely when they participate in team sports like basketball, soccer or softball. Except, of course, when the Olympics roll around, because jingoism is gender bias-free.
2. I’ve long upheld Network as one of the most prescient movies released in my lifetime, as the news-as-corporate-hucksterism paradigm it richly satirized in 1976 has become sickeningly real in 2010. I cringe, for example, every time I hear someone using the “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” rallying cry with a straight face, clearly not realizing what that line meant in the movie and screenplay that birthed it. (Anyone who uses that line should be really shouting “I’m an easily-manipulated dupe, and I am doing the bidding of my corporate masters!”) In recent years, I’ve grown to consider another movie from that era to be equally prescient in its view of what was then a dystopian near future: the original Rollerball from 1975, which posited a “corporate controlled future, where an ultra-violent sport represents the world.” When I’m at the gym and can’t control what’s on the television, and I watch vicious hits in the NFL being replayed over, and over, and over again, until I become numb to the violent imagery, I see Rollerball. When I watch highly-engineered, human-packed rockets on wheels going around and around the NASCAR track, completely devoid of any compelling interest or meaning until someone bumps someone else and sets off a series of crashes, flips, fires or all of the above, I see Rollerball. When martial arts have been reduced to men getting into literal cages with each other and beating, kicking and choking each other until one of them loses consciousness, I see Rollerball. When it’s more important for us to put highly-paid professional NBA and NHL stars onto our Olympic teams, to make damn sure that U.S.A. brings home the gold, at the expense of up-and-coming amateur athletes who would probably represent us better in a holistic sense on the world stage, I see Rollerball. When I ponder the piles of money being made being the scenes in all of these public spectacles, by people like agents and promoters and lobbyists and advertisers, who have never once actually played or participated in the sporting events in question, I see Rollerball. I’d recommend you watch it again, if you’ve never seen it. It’s almost as chilling as Network when viewed through a modern lens.
3. What would a Thanksgiving week post be without a “what I am thankful for” musing? I am thankful that my daughter came home last night, and my mother will arrive tomorrow, so I will have house full of women I love for the weekend ahead, and (best of all) I will get to make them a feast tomorrow. I am thankful to have honest work in tough economic times, and hopeful that those who are struggling see their fortunes change in the weeks and months ahead. I am thankful for the general good health and happiness of the people in my life who matter the most to me, friends and family alike. And I’m thankful that the latest intellectual diversion to spill out of my head, this here Indie Albany thing, is growing into something cool and fun and good, with 14 writers and a bevy of readers having generated 180 posts and 880 comments in just under two months, with a highly-coveted WordPress Fresh Pressed gold star on our collective refrigerator to boot. It’s always nice to see a concept turn into a reality, especially when the concept involves shared artistic expression without the taint of commercial enterprise. I do not see Rollerball here. And for that, I am thankful.