Saturday, June 19, 2010

B&B: Basketball and Beelzebub

It's amazing what fits into a line of thought, so precipitous it was that game 7 of the NBA finals was played a couple of nights ago.  Lakers vs. Celtics, the classic, immortal battle of East Coast vs. West Coast.  And the Lakers won in a supposedly amazing comeback by Kobe Bryant.  As you can tell, I care nothing for basketball.  It's not my sport.  Give me the coliseum-like atmosphere of Jerry Jones' palace and a game of Football (that's American football to the people watching the linoleum peel in South Africa).  Football has so often been likened to the Ancient Roman sport of gladiatorial fighting, with two warriors fighting out to the death, or, when that got boring, watching Christians battle it out with the Lions. Real ones, not those in Detroit.  Cause the Lions usually won.  Or there have been the cases where Football has been compared to war, with terms of battle used in the game itself. Find George Carlin's comparison of baseball vs. football on youtube.  Carlin does an amazing job with this. 

There is a blog post, here, which deals with the "Tribalism" of football.  In short, football brings out the "violent tribal reservoir of the hindbrain", or the part of the sub-conscious mind that is wired toward domination, control, destruction.  John Stonger says that we attend sporting events such as football (hockey, wrestling, NASCAR) to see the destruction of another human being through the might and athletic ability of another.  There are teams to be sided on, and profit to be made by being on those teams.  It's the exaltation of mankind through the destruction of another.  And maybe this is taking it a little to extremes, but I think a comparison between tribal desires to raid other people's villages and the organized violence of football can be made.  I don't fully agree with Stonger's essay, or for those who commented below, all of which is worth reading, but I do see where winning and losing in sports can be compared with the forces that "Make" and "Unmake" our world.

As humans, we desire a sense of organization, of order, in our lives. Even as the world around us falls apart.  For example, take my room.  If I do nothing about my room, it will eventually become a pig sty.  This is because the natural order is for things to break down, for chaos to set in.  "The center cannot hold," as Yeats said.  Diane Duane, in her Wizard series, calls this Entropy, after the physics term in which a system breaks down given time and effects on a that system by friction, gravity, etc... It can also be termed "decay".  It makes sense, as only through decay and Entropy can new systems emerge, renewed.  If Las Vegas kept every resort and casino place ever made, those buildings would eventually crumble of their own making, because it is increasingly difficult to maintain a structure when the elements are continuously trying to break it down.  So the structures are torn down, and new buildings are made in their places.  Again, I digress...

Lets go back to the Laker/Celtics game.  The Lakers won, at home, and the spectators spilled out into the streets.  Revelatory (well, for those who were Laker fans), welling with pride for their city and for the athletes who had just been crowned the champions of their sport, most people went home.  Some however, decided that, in a drunken state, that the proper way to celebrate would be to destroy their own city.  Cars were burned, glass windows smashed, goods from store fronts looted.  Where is the pride from seeing those that represent your "tribe" conquer those from another?  You've just seen the best of mankind, athletically, and so now you are going to show us the worst possible behaviors as recompense? It makes no sense, that, after seeing the Creation of a champion team, people would want to spill out into the streets (most not coming from the arena, but rather from houses, bars, and back alleys) and Uncreate their city.  What force lies behind these actions? 

This happens far more often than one might think.  After important football games at the University of West Virginia, the sofas from the residential halls are routinely brought out into the campus and burned.  Most goal posts in football stadiums are now either retractable or easily removed, so that they cannot be broken down and destroyed by fans as they stampede onto the field after a game.  Granted, most of this happens with a generous amount of alcohol, but surely there has to be some underlying reason why, when a game is won, something has to be destroyed.  In a much more benign example, New York City has long had Ticker Tape parades whenever something major happens (from the Yankees winning the World Series, or the Astronauts coming back from the moon).  The symbolic throwing of paper from the windows is one of destroying records and useless files, and throwing them down upon the heads of heroes.  The same metaphoric idea takes place at Texas A&M with the lighting of the giant Bonfire prior to the Texas game. 

What is the motivation behind the riots in Los Angeles? I've been trying to figure this out. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the idea of Entropy, or "Unmaking," as an opposite force to Creation.  Do an image search for Los Angeles Laker riots, and you'll see many images of people happily acknowledging the act of destruction and mayhem throughout the city.  With their beer bottles and their cigarette lighters in one hand, and a cell phone in the other, they proudly take pictures of themselves in front of a burning car, and then post it on the Internet for the world to see (or at least, they are posing for reporters instead of hiding their faces since they did something illegal).  Is this simply a case of jealousy, a sarcastic message that says, "Wow, you made millions of dollars putting a ball into a hoop while I sit inside a miserable apartment with two kids and no money and a terrible job, and so I'll go out and make myself known to the world?"  Is it a barbaric need to pillage and burn, even your own city, after your "tribe" had conquered the neighboring one?  A misguided instinct brought on by materialism and the violence that wells up from the subconscious.  Honestly, I have no idea. 

I do know that if you look at news reports from June 2009, you'll see the exact same riots going on, since the Lakers won the NBA Championship last year, too.  You would think (and this is sidebar) that the LAPD would have expected such a thing to happen again, and brought out all of their forces to keep such a thing from happening.  If a riot is expected, at least try to stop it.  Unless it's more beneficial to have a riot take place in order to unwind pent up emotions from daily life.  Again, I don't know the answer. 

I do know that there are forces in this world that Create and Uncreate.  Orson Scott Card, in his Alvin the Maker series, has many discussions about the nature of the Unmaker.  He personifies the Unmaker as that of Satan, or as Diane Duane calls it, Death.  That most of us live our whole lives trying to promote building, creation, growth, there are some that would rather propagate destruction, decay, death.  (I looked at this before, October 22, 2007, in this post.) They not only want to destroy all that we have built, the glory of the moment, but they want us to watch them do it.  They want the attention that those who have Created something magnificent have.  They want the power that destroying something brings with it.  The terrorists of 9/11 thrive on it.  And if we forget, they will not hesitate but to send out another taped message, or send a suicide bomber to a busy marketplace in Baghdad.  And always there will be cameras to capture the carnage, and always the Unmakers will proudly claim responsibility.  "Look at us! We have Unmade what you have created!"

Next time, I want to take a look at the Unmakers more closely, at the ways that they "Unmake" a creation, from fame and fortune, to the physical manifestations of mankind.  Lets look more closely at the wind howling around the monument of Ozymandias, and see whether it was Entropy, or mankind's own desire for destruction, that made the desert swallow it whole.

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