This is a great interview and I highly encourage you to read it:
At 8:30 pm E.S.T., the NFL jumpstarts its ninety-fifth season with a donnybrook between the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and America’s sweetheart hunk of cheddar, the Green Bay Packers. More than 20 million viewers will tune in tonight, and more than 100 million will catch a game over the opening weekend. Football rules the sports landscape. The NFL is king. Break out the nachos and settle in for the 2014 season, right?
Go ahead, but Steve Almond, author of the profound, searching, occasionally squirm-inducing book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, won’t be joining. After four decades of being a devoted Oakland Raiders fan, the father of three is calling it quits.
Anyone who pays any attention to the NFL knows we’re not exactly running short on reasons it doesn’t deserve our time (or our money).* Yet the league maintains a stranglehold on its position at the center of American sports culture. I find it basically impossible to defend – “but fantasy football is so fun!” is an atrocious argument for supporting something so fundamentally rotten – but, like so many others, I just can’t bring myself to turn away. Steve Almond does us all a service by calling us on our hypocrisy.
* And as a homegrown fan of the Washington Football Team, I have an entire extra set of reasons to find the sport abhorrent.
Matt Yglesias makes the obvious comparison, and draws the obvious conclusion:
When I was Brown’s age I also dabbled in drugs and alcohol. Even used Swisher Sweets to roll blunts from time to time. For that matter, I also did some shoplifting. Got caught one time by a security guard at the K-Mart on Astor Place who confiscated the stuff I’d stolen and yelled at me a bunch. So I suppose that, when an undercover officer came upon me and two friends smoking cigarettes and drinking beer on a park bench that night, he could have shot us dead and then the Times could have reported that we were no angels. We weren’t.
The NYT’s Michael Brown obit is shameful, but provides a helpful distillation of the insane double standard being applied here, where a kid’s possible youthful transgressions are held out to implicitly justify his cold-blooded killing at the hands of a police officer.
Jessica Sidman of Washington City Paper put together a lovely retrospective on what the city’s restaurant industry has been drinking in its leisure time, going back over a decade and spanning from Irish Mist all the way to Old Overholt. Recommended.
Steven Hyden, for Grantland:
In the past, Weird Al’s timing was perhaps his greatest asset. Right when the culture seemed to be tiring of a particular song or artist, the Weird Al parody would appear. It was the sign of an artist reaching “we love you, but we also can’t stand you” stardom. But that timing now seems rather, well, sluggish, and this has caused Weird Al to drift back into a crowded field. Now that the release of Mandatory Fun completes Yankovic’s record contract, it seems wise to explore more expedient alternatives.
When I asked Yankovic if it still made sense for him to make albums in the future, he was eager to steer the conversation back to the record he had already made and was trying to promote. But in spite of the hemming and hawing, he was pretty clear about what’s next.
“I don’t want to draw any hard lines in the sand, because I’d like to leave all my options open, but I’m feeling like this is probably my last conventional album,” he said.
I think it was Richard Nixon who said “if you’ve lost Weird Al, you’ve lost the traditional music sales model.”
Over at The A.V. Club, Rowan Keiser has a solid post about how things have changed (and not changed) for men’s soccer in the United States – with an emphasis on who we’ve been listening to when we watch it on television:
If you flipped on ABC or ESPN for a World Cup match this year or in 2010, you were almost certainly greeted by an announcer with an English accent. For the four World Cups prior, between 1994 and 2006, ESPN had used American voices like O’Brien—but the decision to change announcers wasn’t merely an aesthetic one. The networks took sides in an ongoing war over the nature of American soccer, where announcing is one of biggest battlegrounds about whether the sport should be Europeanized “football” or reflect a home-grown American soccer. It’s a conflict that encompasses media culture, fan culture, and even the overall philosophy of U.S. Soccer’s attempts to improve the national team.
Read the rest, then come back here. For my money, Ian Darke puts the rest of the ESPN World Cup announcers to shame when it comes to play-by-play (and the less said about Gus Johnson’s efforts to this point, the better). I don’t watch enough (read: any) MLS to know if there are any home-grown announcers up to the task yet, but I do hope that 4 years from now, when the World Cup is on Fox, we hear from some talented American voices.* Or at least some other voices that have more to contribute than just a smart-sounding accent.
* Can a voice be talented? Also, anybody think Gus is capable of getting good at this by 2018? He was atrocious in that Atletico/Real Madrid game a couple months ago.