Ghosts of Ole Miss

Ghost of Ole Miss

The ESPN series 30 For 30, available on Netflix, is really great.  I think today I saw one of the best, if not the best.  It was called Ghosts of Ole Miss and it covered the undefeated Ole Miss football team of 1962.  More importantly, it also covered the bravery of James Meredith and the riots that ensued because of him being the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi.

However, if this was just a documentary about history, I don’t think I would be writing about it.  (Even though it is a completely enthralling piece of filmmaking that covers a time period that many Americans would like to forget.)  For anyone that doesn’t understand the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, or thinks that controversy is much to do over nothing, I think this is something you must watch.  The film is also great at providing the missing link between the Civil War and modern day problems dealing with race.  I also don’t think race is the only modern political situation this film is relevant to.  At a time when we are seeing local and state politicians try to stand up to the federal government on the issue of gay marriage, one can’t help but see their historical counterparts in this film.

There is also a positive element to this film.  Even though the film does not make the claim that all race issues are gone are settled in Mississippi, as they clearly aren’t there or anywhere else, the film does acknowledge that great strides have been made.  As dark as the history showcased in this film is, there is hope that, over time, people can change.

The Circus Bowl

Tonight at a friend’s house I caught America’s Funniest Home Videos’ salute to our troops.  Nothing says patriotism like someone getting hit in the balls with a child’s baseball bat.  Before that I was watching the Houston’s Texans game.  I am a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan and I love pro football more than any other sport.  Many football fans like college more because they say the game is more pure, but not me.  I love pro football for its circus like atmosphere, its rampant militarism, its flaunting of gaudily dressed women, and its bizarre mascots.  Oh and I love the game.  As George Carlin once said, “There is nothing better than watching 300 lb millionaires kick the shit out of each other.”

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that professional sports are inherently silly.  The Eagles have probably taken five years off of my life, but I should and do know better.  What happens in these games has no real effect on me and my life.  I have no control over the game and I sure don’t know the people involved.  It’s a decision I make to get emotionally connected to their games.  It’s a tribal thing and a way to connect with old friends.  It’s fun.  Outside of these meanings that I place on it, it has no real meaning.  All sports are, as are many things in life, essentially only as valuable as the meaning that we choose to attach to them.

When I used to have cable I watched ESPN all of the time.  ESPN are geniuses at getting you involved in all kinds of sporting events, even sports that you don’t like!  When I got rid of cable, all of a sudden most sports became things that were going on in the background.  Something that I could get mildly interested in if it was on at a friend’s house, but not much more.  Other than my beloved Eagles, which again I choose to get emotionally involved in, sports simply faded away for me.  Sports removed from emotional context and tribal allegiances, isn’t as much fun. Someday I may get cable again, and at that moment some of my old passions may return, but it will probably never be quite the same.

There’s nothing wrong with loving sports.  It’s just important to remember its place in the scheme of things.  I think it’s also important as you watch to realize how they can be used against you.  It’s not that sports are bad, but as they have become more commercialized, they have brought some baggage with them.  This baggage shouldn’t detract you from enjoying your hobby of choice.  However, hopefully you can steel yourself against some of the bullshit that goes along with being a modern sports fan.

A few years ago I read Michael Wolff’s biography of Rupert Murdoch. It’s called The Man Who Owns the News.  In this book it talks about how Murdoch would use the love that the average blue collar male had for sports to push his political agenda.  In some of his papers he would include a big sports section and feature large front page stories about sports.  With this he would lure his readers in.  Once readers were lured in by these features, he would use the rest of his paper to push his right wing corporatist agenda.

There is also a lot of empty patriotism and militarism surrounding sports.  I kind of enjoy it as I realize it’s absurd.  There is something comical to me about fighter jets being flown over a stadium to celebrate some men fighting over a ball.  And as much as some people might disagree, you aren’t supporting the troops by giving them two minutes of air time and then getting drunk as shit and yelling obscenities at an opposing teams fans.  There is no shared sacrifice.  You are just sort of patronizing them with an obligatory and empty gesture for a moment, and then getting back to what you are really interested in.

Despite all I have just said, the Eagles better win the Super Bowl this year.  If they don’t I will go into hiding for a month and dress myself in a shroud of black.  I will cry the tears of the criminally insane, and pray to the dark gods of revenge.

Fly Eagles fly

On the road to victory

Fly Eagles fly

Score a touchdown 1, 2, 3

Hit ‘em low

Hit ‘em high

And watch those Eagles fly

Fly Eagles fly

On the road to victory