Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

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To their own devices: Pablo Larrain's 'The Club'

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Florida's Fake Championship, Sympathy for the Utah Utes, Israel and Palestine, and Other Ramblings

January 10, 2009

"Y'see I always wanted one of those cars,
long black 'n shiny an' pull up to the bars."
                                           --The Clash, "Broadway"

My Dad works in the Presbyterian Church, and I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, hearing preachers quote Jesus' message that to get into heaven a rich man must drop his riches and become just a man.  If you were to look at the nightstand in my room right now, you'd see a copy of The Rig Veda.  I read a hymn from its pages every night before I go to bed, and it too warns against seeking material wealth at all costs.  In my classroom, I try and teach students that there is merit to learning besides the mark in the grade book or the approval of the teacher, that knowledge and morals are not always quantifiable.  Go through my CD collection, and you'll find The Clash, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, etc also warning me against focusing on material wealth.  Still, these things that are worth nothing in the long run find a way to mean a hell of a lot--the nothing finds a way to be something, and sometimes, I can't tell the two apart.    

I try to live a life that's not in excess, but I've got ever growing collections of music, movies, and clothing; and I know they don't mean much.  I know they're not golden tickets.  I know they will not accompany me to the next life, and that even in this life they can't keep one from being tired, hungry, or lonely; but after hearing Florida won another BCS (Bowl Championship Scrimmage) championship, I can't help but think how much I want a trophy that doesn't even mean a thing in this life, let alone the next.  I want that scrap of mettle, even if I despise it so much I haven't watched a BCS title game in years.

I admit that seeing the Florida Gators win another meaningless trophy makes me bitter, combined with the possibility of my Georgia Bulldogs getting their paws on such a trophy has grown significantly more difficult with the early departures of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.   Times are dire, downright miserable.  Basketball season beckons, but I can't let go of what this college season has shown us.  While Obama's election to the highest office in the land should show us anything is possible, a game we play as children has shown us that anything is not possible.  Certain institutions are still more powerful than others and with that power they carry more prestige.  

The Big Ten, the ACC, the PAC-10, the SEC, the Big 12, and the Big East are social elites, and their teams start every season with a silver spoon in their mouths.  Maybe it seems a bit of a reach to say that Obama's accomplishments thus far are undercut by an inept college football system, but hasn't Washington spent the last couple of months bailing out Wall Street, the auto industry, and other big businesses.  Isn't the BCS a bailout for the major conferences?   

We divide things up in this world.  We place things in hierarchies.  It starts at an early age.  We pick teams on the playground.  We alphabetize and assess the value of baseball cards, which are just gum-scented cardboard.  None the less, we didn't want to get caught making a trade with a friend that downgraded our own collection.  We would never trade a Ken Griffey card for a Cecil Fielder.  No seven-year old gives cards away as charity to boost their friend's collection,  and tendencies as children carry over into our adult lives.  Why would the major conferences give up an automatic payday and a system that gives their teams a leg up, reducing the field of competition to about 66 teams?  No one did it as a kid, so why would they do it as an adult? 

The Utah Utes went 13-0 and beat several teams from BCS conferences, but they were given no shot at the championship, which leads me to think what do teams like the Utah Utes have in common with the Palestinians.  The Utah Utes have a resume that says they should be considered a top notch program, but they've got no shot to even compete for a championship,  which must be how the Palestinians feel in their quest for land.  Constant humiliation, like having no water and asking permission to take a dump, can make a man do unspeakable things, even if the land is only land, the trophy a trophy, and the black car a black car.  The BCS draws a line between all the BCS and non-BCS conferences, and the world draws lines between nations and occupied zones.  We drew this line on the playground as kids.  Washington has drawn this line with its bailouts, and the world has drawn this line when dealing with Israel and Palestine. 

The problem is everything doesn't always stay on its designated side.  Sometimes a team from the Mountain West conference goes undefeated and beats up on the team that should have bullied it.  Sometimes a Mountain West team does this twice in five seasons.  Sometimes the sins of Wall St. spill over and drown Main St. too.  Sometimes a nation protecting itself from terrorists becomes a terrorist.  Sometimes it's hard to tell where one side of the line ends and where the other begins, like when the ocean meets the sky, and then goals in life become as impossible to reach as the horizon.

The Mountain West conference is the Gaza Strip of college football, so I wish Utah all the luck in the world with trying to prove the BCS is breaking anti-trust laws, just as I wish for a peaceable solution between Palestine and Israel.  I'm wishing for lines that better define who deserves what ranking, who deserves blame, and who deserves sympathy.   I want to know what is the nothing I really can ignore because it really is nothing, and the something I can appreciate because all it has to do is be.  I want a world that makes sense.

The problem is that world doesn't exist.  These nothings in life become somethings when we continue to treat people like nothings, and our arts and our sports attempt to embrace us when human arms fail to do so, blurring the line between what is and is not important.  We make the the nothing stuff into something stuff by labeling it as not important.  By calling anything nothing, one calls anything something, and these labels ripple throughout our world, causing us to ask which is more important, causing us to ask how can a nation that can not agree on fair rules to a game help other countries agree on fair rules to end a war.  How do we break the habits we've learned since birth?    

We all want something, whether it's love, equal footing, or the recognition of our existence; and we want it, whether we are a non-BCS school, who turns to politicians for a chance at a  title, or a  civilian with no country, who, unfortunately, turned to a group of terrorists  because no one else would acknowledge them.

We all want something.  We all want to be on the right side of that line. The problem is, as long as there is a line, there probably is no right or wrong side, just nonsense.



" 'It ain't my fault it's six o'clock in the morning,' "
he said, as he came up out of the night

When he found I had no coins to bum,
he began to testify:
born in a depression
born out of good luck
born into misery,
in the back of a truck.

'I'm telling you this, mister,
don't be put off by looks.
I been in the ring and I took those right hooks.

Oh, the loneliness 
used to knock me out
harder than the rest.' "

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