Monday, December 12, 2011

Quick Takes - The Death Driving Circuit

These guys get it.

I often wonder what sports will be like in the future. I wonder if the modern day sports even can be played in the future; if they'll even be transferable to some future Matrix-y world where people are consuming better, faster, more vivid information and entertainment. Will sports have to adapt and become more connected, more fast-paced, more violent and aggressive? Or is their stoic simplicity what has keep them surviving in our current era? Baseball has changed very little in the last 100+ years. The players have changed a lot, to be sure, and the stadiums have shrunk, but the game itself (and the fan experience, to a certain extent) makes baseball something of instant nostalgia. The same could be said for most sports. There's a consistency that allows their history to remain current and their core games to stay mostly untouched by idle hands. But is that sustainable? The one example I always think about is Nascar. Some people love Nascar, sure, but a dwindling fanbase and dwindling TV ratings have shown that Nascar is a "sport" in decline. The same could be said for boxing, although boxing has been sent to the nursing home by something bigger, stronger, faster, and more violent (more Daft Punk?), as opposed to Nascar, whose self-contained boredom seems to be forcing even the most die-hard fans to trim their mullets. But that's really the point. Boxing seems so tame compared to MMA, and fans have mostly rejected boxing for its grotesque counterpart.

There was a terrible movie that came out a few years ago, "Death Race," about a future world where convicted prisoners had to race and battle in suped-up cars for their freedom (or something ... let's be honest, I saw it once, and it didn't leave the deepest impression on my vinyl). While the movie is nearly unwatchable, unless for its unintentional comedy, I really feel like they were onto something though. If you want to make something like car racing watchable, make it hilariously-violent. Add jumps, spikes, cannons, machine guns, trap doors, tigers, whatever. That's how car racing will survive into the next century; that's what people want to watch and will shell out their hard-earned cash to see on Pay Per View. Nobody watches Nascar for the racing, they watch it for the crashes and the post-crash handbags. So just ... get on with it. You know? They don't even have to be convicted felons on death row, they can just be crazy people who volunteer (not actual mental patients though, that would be beyond disgusting to do) to participate in our death driving circuit (DDC!). Think of the heroism, the intrigue, the highlights! I'm not even a violent person, and I don't enjoy watching it in really any form (except theatrical), but how could you not watch it? At least once! It's like bull fighting, only the bulls are people, and they're volunteering, and there are guns and lasers and explosions (I think I just fixed bullfighting too).

That works for car racing, but would it translate to the unshakable beacons of human sport: Baseball, basketball, football(s)? Would exploding baseballs and land mines work? Would people want to see their favorite NFL player's leg get caught in a bear trap? I don't think so (maybe their least favorite player ...). I think the difference is that those other sports have remained mostly-unchanged and successful for as long as they have because the sports are already fun and exciting at their core. You can tweak, and you should tweak, but a full futuristic renovation will lose what's already beloved. While the technology and methods of fan consumption will surely change, the actual gameplay of our great human sports will probably stay the same. Unless we're talking golf and tennis; time to spice those bastards up.

  • The Yankees have apparently won exclusive negotiation rights with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima with a $2 million bid. A star in Nippon Professional Baseball, Nakajima now has 30 days to negotiate a contract with the Yankees, else they lose their $2 million and their rights to the player. As a Mariners fan, I have to say, I'm the tiniest bit pissed off about this thing. I know I shouldn't expect every top Japanese player to end up in Seattle, and I'm not sure Ichiro wants to share the spotlight either, but for a measly $2 million bid (we've spent more on stupid free ballpark giveaways), the Mariners could've worked out a deal with a young Japanese star, at a position of need for the club, in the best market imaginable for his talents. I would've tossed some cash at a Kickstarter project to sign him for f*&%'s sake.
  • When the Chicago Bears were up 10-0 heading into the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that Tim Tebow was going to do something to orchestrate another late-game win for his team. I watched the score creep closer to equal on my phone while I drifted around the mall, soaking in the "holiday spirit" (ahhh shopping!). When the Bears gave the ball back to the Broncos up 10-7 with less than two minutes left, there was no doubt in my mind that game was, at the very least, going to overtime. Why the hell did I expect that? The easy answer is probability, but let's just call it religious magic instead. And sure enough, the game went to overtime, and as I walked deeper into the pit of the Christmas season (ahhh buying stuff!), there was a crowd of people huddled around a bank of TVs in the mall. It was all men, and they were all watching Broncos kicker Matt Prater line up a 51-yard field goal to win the game for the Broncos in overtime (Matt Prater for MVP?). My first thought was, "You can take a man out of his home, but he'll just recreate it somewhere else," and my second was, "This guy standing next to me in sweatpants yelling profanities at whoever would hear him is not safe." The kick went through, the Broncos won again, Tim Tebow thanked the lord profusely (He's a Broncos fan), and I slipped away from psycho-sweatpants and hid in a Gamestop.
  • This is how ridiculous this Tim Tebow delusion has gotten: ESPN has a poll that shows, state-by-state, which current NFL quarterback fans would want to lead their team to a 4th-quarter comeback. Aaron Rodgers thankfully finished first in the overall voting, with 41% of the vote, while Tom Brady barely squeaked ahead of Tim Tebow for second place (Drew Brees and Eli Manning finished behind Tebow ...). But in Colorado, 47% of fans would rather have Tim Tebow than Aaron Rodgers, who only received 30% of the votes! People in Colorado would rather have Tim Tebow than the quarterback of the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions and the QB who's threatening to break every passing record in the books this season. Serious question: Is winning ugly more fun?
  • I don't know why David Stern even tries to hide it anymore: Just remove all GMs from their teams, take full ownership of all basketball and financial operations for every team in the NBA, orchestrate and micro-manage every minute detail so your league is perfectly crafted to your personal liking, and invade Poland.
  • Wait, Matt Hasselbeck got hurt on Sunday? But that never happens!
  • Thanks to David Stern's infamous Chris Paul trade veto, multiple teams are falling apart and having to part ways with those included in the initial trade for pennies. The Lakers sent Lamar Odom to the Mavericks for a trade exception and a protected first-round pick, which made Kobe Bryant really happy, "I don't like it. To be honest with you, I don't like it. You're talking about the Sixth Man of the Year last year. He played lights out. I don't understand the criticism of reality shows and this, that and the other. I don't get it. I don't understand that. He had his best season last season, clearly wasn't a distraction, and he played his ass off. I don't get where that comes from." It comes from a team having to scramble to move Odom after stabbing a necessary knife in his back to pick up arguably the best point guard in the NBA, only to have the commissioner pull that knife out, show it to Odom, point to the team who did it, bandage him back up and send him back to his would-be-murderer like everything's going to be okay. And, the best part, the Lakers just made the defending Western Conference and NBA Champions better. What a disaster.
  • New Jersey Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov plans to run for the Russian presidency this year. Let's see how he'll do: Money for bribes? Check! ... Looks like he'll do okay.
  • Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, "The Special One," is going to be digitizing his talents for a cartoon series called, "Jose Mourinho and the Special Ones," where the Madrid manager will counsel children on how to be great footballers and great human beings. I could puke at how heart-warming that sounds. Never one to be left behind, the NFL has announced it will be airing its own cartoon series, called, "Rex Ryan and the Bleeping Bleeps," where New York Jets coach Rex Ryan will berate children in expletive-filled tirades before dunking them in sausage gravy and biting their heads off.

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