Archives for the month of: May, 2014

When Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the US Men’s National Team squad, the first thing I though of was Ric Flair. The more I read about how Donovan would provide leadership, or be a supersub the more Ric Flair seemed the best way to understand what the Human Interest approach to sport has wrought.

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Back in 2003, Ric Flair had a career renaissance. He even had a brief run at the Big Gold Belt. At the heart of the feud was the question, does Ric Flair still have it in him?

Then, a few years later, Flair was once again at the heart of a narrative about his ability to still get it done in the ring. There are a number of moments in the lead-up to his Career-Threatening Match at Wrestlemania against Shawn Michaels that show one thing that pro wrestling does so well: it understands how our memories of performers colour our perceptions of them.

Pro wrestling can have a moment like the go-home promo between Michaels and Flair, in which Flair gives a history lesson on his career and links those achievements to his upcoming match. He brings out the NWA title he won almost thirty years previous, a gesture that both indicates how old he is and how much greatness he brings with him. That greatness creates The Nature Boy. And when HBK calls Flair Old Yeller, and says that he’s going to take him behind the woodshed and put him out of his misery, putting in place a narrative that acknowledges that Ric Flair when he’s The Nature Boy, when he’s Naitch, anything is still possible.

The most common reason for having Donovan on the roster was that he would come off the bench in the 80th minute and score the game-winning goal when the team needed it, is the very sort of Human Interest narrative that pro wrestling makes its money off.  But professional football is not professional wrestling. The level of cooperation that made Flair’s last couple of runs at the top of the card possible – wrestling being fake and all – is not present in the World Cup. I sincerely doubt that Philipp Lamb or Fabio Coentrao or any player on Ghana’s squad will sell Donovan’s offense.

I was among the last players cut during tryouts for the Barrington basketball team for three straight years (middle school and high school, mind you). In 1990 I was told that my outlandish trash-talking after blocking a shot during a game on the last day of tryouts showed that I wasn’t a good team player. In my defence, I was all of 5’6″ and the guy shooting was 6’+. I earned that! I turned my back on basketball to return to my first love, soccer, where someone 5’6″ and 148 pounds (that’s either me or Lionel Messi, although I went all of 125 in 1993), with a tendency to flop and scream and cry (but score goals) can find a welcome embrace.

My more recent experience with getting cut is in academia. Last year I made it through the school, but was cut before the faculty sent their top candidates. I met with people in the university’s research committees and they admitted that the people getting chosen had senior-lecturer-level cvs. For a postdoc. I don’t know how someone like me – an adjunct lecturer without any institutional support (ever) – is supposed to come up with a senior lecturer’s cv. If academia as we know it is dying, I don’t think I’m too heartbroken about that. But before it goes, I’d like to get a little bit of recognition (that is to say, money) out of it in return for all the super-cheap teaching I’ve done on its behalf.

To that end, here’s Section F, the proposal description, for my latest and probably last postdoc application.

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The manuscript for Film and the American Presidency ran into a due date, and as has been the case throughout the project, Jeff Menne is the source of good things happened. He’s the headliner of our editor pair.

Amongst my chapter responsibilities was Diane Rubenstein, who wrote a chapter on President Obama’s avatars not as presidents on films, but a film-industrial turn to questions of chattel slavery. For me, the highlight comes during her set-up, when she does an extended reading of a skit from the old Richard Pryor Show in which President Pryor holds a press conference. 

My reasons for enjoying her analysis begin with the analysis itself, but then my biography takes over. When I was seven years old, I found some of my dad’s less-frequently-played albums, most notably the George Carlin and Richard Pryor records. It is no stretch to say the most important texts to my current life are (in something like rank order) Class Clown, Occupation: Foole, An Evening With Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo and FM & AM.

The more forbidden pleasure was Richard Pryor’s That Nigger’s CrazyI remember the first time I listened to “Wino & Junkie” I didn’t understand what a junkie was, but I could register the bleakness of the humour.

I would try every one of the Carlin routines out not only on my primary school classmates (the seven words routine killed at both Sunnyhill and Hough Street) but also on the women who ran Saint Monica’s CCD (and even the priests). (I also love that St Monica’s has “cville” in their url. Glorious.)  Carlin was reachable – I parroted his material. At some point one of the CCD people must have told my parents that I was doing Carlin’s material because my dad told me one day, watching a Packer game (while we listened to Max and Jim on WTMJ), that it was fine if I wanted to tell George Carlin jokes, but I was never to repeat any of the Richard Pryor routines. Ever.