Friday, February 17, 2012

Deep Thoughts

Although I once wrote a GTB post welcoming Grantland to the 'sphere, I'll confess I have gone long stretches of time without reading anything from their site. In the past couple of weeks or so, though, I've poked around, and not just for a bemused look at SportGuy's Super Bowl sadness. What I found was at least three top-shelf articles worth passing along.

The first one is by the Father of Sabermetrics, Bill James; he makes a mathematical case for Prop 24 . . . not the tax break issue in California, but the proposition that Dwight Evans should be inducted into Cooperstown. I always liked Dwight Evans, and frankly, how could you not? Sweet 'stache, unassuming guy, rocket arm, good bat. Hall of Fame, however? I wasn't so sure before reading the article, but James makes a strong, mathy case based on Win Shares (as opposed to WAR or VORP, related stats). I'm not sure whether the formulae take into account Dewey's appearance in a Farrelly Brothers film, but I would hope it does. Curious to hear what Rob thinks of this one.

The second is a curious piece by a couple of economists who take the increasing public concern about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football and apply economic principles to describe how, specifically, football could collapse in American society. They make that far-fetched notion less so. Curious to hear what Dave thinks of this one.

Finally, Grantland MVP Chuck Klosterman writes (more) about Van Halen. He's obviously an acclaimed writer, but the kid-in-a-candy-shop tone as he comparatively assesses VH works old and new thoroughly resonates with my rock and roll self. Even as he humbly comes to not much conclusion, confessing, "I don't know what I'm trying to express here," it's an endearing bit of relatable sentiment for anyone who loves a band through moments of fading legend and even outright embarrassment. (Perhaps e.g., Dave and The Cult.) Curious to hear what Squeaky thinks of this one.

* * * * * *

Taking a tangent and seeing where it goes . . . one of the lines in Klosterman's VH piece struck me. He's describing an Eddie guitar lick that's more than a little derivative of their old tune "Mean Streets."


"So why don't I like it more than I do? Probably because it actually is what it
sounds like — a condensed, economical, conscious replication of something that
used to be an organic extension of his genius. It's no one's fault. Eventually,
everyone becomes who they always were.
"

Is this true? Eventually, everyone becomes who they always were? It's a philosophical consideration limited to people 35 and up, I'd say. You have to be old enough to have seen a great many people change and consider that a great many of the great many eventually change back. But does everybody gravitate back to their inherent state?

It sparks an interesting line of thinking -- at least interesting when you've had a dozen pale ales.

There are obvious examples of Klosterman's assertion: for example, Dave. In high school, Dave was a fairly amiable, brainy Jersey dude who played sports and had lots of friends. He then went to college in Williamsburg, VA, where for four years he was a warped madman who played a few sports and had a few friends but spent most of his time drinking obscene amounts of malt liquor, tequila, sangria, and Milwaukee's Best; listening to and/or making terrible music; smelling very bad; getting tattoos; insulting unattractive women (sometimes by sleeping with them); and conjuring ridiculous hypotheses of nonsense. After college, Dave went home and became a fairly amiable, brainy Jersey dude who plays sports and still has the same friends. The parabola for Dave was miniscule.

It happened to Superman in Superman II. He had to come back to his true self. Indiana Jones was under the spell in Temple of Doom, but being burned brought back his real nature. Reno Hightower tried to be a better guy, but the reality was that when Reno Hightower was a prick he was the best damn quarterback in the history of Kern County. And so he was. Dean Keaton couldn't do it. The cops wouldn't let him go legit, but neither would his inner being. Like he tried to tell Edie Finneran, "I tried."

Even in the New Testament! Luke 22:32 -- "you, when at last you have come back to your true self, must strengthen your brethren." Jesus is telling Simon that Satan is going to have at him, but after his true self prevails, he will be even stronger. Or in guitar god Eddie Van Halen's case, he will be less awesome at guitar.


"What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what?"
--Edie Brickell
It even happens in a physical sense. People who are big-boned and big eaters drop a bunch of weight through an array of dietary adjustments and rigorous exercise; eventually, many of them return to the plump people they really are at the core. What I can never tell them is that, to me, it feels more natural when they're their big selves and kind of creepy when they're thin.

Now, Dave's was a digression similar to lots of people -- go to college, tear it up like a wild man, and then slide back into a more responsoble self. It's the practical thing to do. Hmmm. I never got that memo, of course. I changed from a fairly reserved kid in grade school into a carpe diem idiot in high school, one who wore his Class Clown title as a badge of honor (my parents are still so pleased), and then . . . well, I just got stuck that way. It feels natural. It feels like who I really am. It's fucking fun, people.

Some folks also move away to a new town and establish new identities . . . only to move back home later. I sorta did that. But I didn't change my personality upon returning. The old neighborhood was like "Hey, Igor's back!" soon followed by "Oof, Igor's back." I boomeranged on locale but I refuse to on personality. You know how if you keep making that gross face, it'll get stuck like that? Yeah. It happened.


"We all go back to where we belong."
--R.E.M.
But there are others who call Chuck Klosterman's statement into question. They changed, but they didn't change back.

Our old friend Fitz was a yellow 1979 Camaro-drivin', Old Milwaukee-drinkin', Freedom Rock-listenin' piece of fraternity house furniture. An absolute mainstay. He almost never got laid, meaning he was always there to drink with you. He was a hilarious hang-out guy. And then? A handful of years out of college (after med school) he met the girl who would marry him. And bury him. He instantly dropped out of the circle of dudes, never to return. And he's not the same now. He's not funny. He doesn't drink much. He doesn't listen to Freedoom Rock. The last time I saw him was a few years back at a Tribe playoff game. I was with Teej, Jerry, and a few other dudes, and we were sitting in one of the front rows of the sidelines. I'd had a few, saw him strolling by, and hollered gleefully, "Fitz!!!" He turned his head, forced a tiny smile, said my name, nodded, and never broke stride. Jerry turned to me: "Good friend of yours?"

He's never changing back to what he was. So Chuck Klosterman is wrong, right? Unless . . . unless Fitz was this dud, altered into a cool guy before I met him, and then reverted to the mean guy he is now. Did that happen??

Makes you wonder. Is our friend Coby a big-time lawyer who's trying desperately to keep his delinquent ruffian self stuffed into that starched shirt and tie? Or is he a natural henpecked dork who, out of boredom and curiosity, dabbled in drinking to blindness and punching cops for a few years? Makes you wonder.

"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam."
--Popeye

And what of people who have never really changed? Rob is pretty much the same little guy I have always known since 1988. Sure, his weight has fluctuated between the 170 lb "Little Pork Rind" era and his current svelte, gall bladderless, bicycle boy state. Sure, he used to be a bitterly short fuse who would break stuff, and now he's this mellow svengali guy. Sure, freshman year he used to . . . okay, so maybe he's changed. But which is his true self?

Only time will tell, my friends. Place your bets now on everyone you know, sit back, crack a beer, turn on Freedom Rock, and enjoy the show.

Curious to hear what Teejay thinks of this one.

35 comments:

Danimal said...

nice read igor. nice read.

zman said...

1. For a variation on this theme, read The Corrections.

2. Speaking of Grantland, a co-worker showed up with two (2!) bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 23.

3. If rob wrote this with the "Philosopher Kings" tag I would reply with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyJVPx8tiiI

Mark said...

Is anyone else really disappointed that Shlara wasn't taking a shot at Zman last night? I was looking forward to a Zman-Shlara throw down on 3/3.

Squeaky said...

Kicking myself for not putting a hundy down in Vegas on Igor using a Bible verse in a G:TB post at 10,000 to 1.

Will have to check out the articles.

TR said...

I love me some amusing pederast stories:

http://espn.go.com/high-school/story/_/id/7581140/piggyback-bandit-puzzles-high-school-sports-officials-northwest

Igor said...

Thanks, Danny Boy, and thanks for the chuckle, Squeaker. Don't try to pigeonhole me, dude. Just when you think you've got me pegged . . .

Shlara said...

Igor--really loved this post. I could actually hear your voice narrating as I read it.

And Mark, sorry to disappoint you...maybe Zman and I can pick another topic & throw down on 3/3 for everyone's amusement.

zman said...

Shlara and I are going to jello wrestle on 3/3.

T.J. said...

Teejay has been in the car all day, driving to upstate NY for a wake and funeral this weekend, and just now got to see this prose. Excellent work, Igor.

But did I miss the obligatory Jack Handey reference in a post entitled "Deep Thoughts? If so, shame on you.

Igor said...

Thank you, Shlara, and Teej, my condolences.

Borrowing from Grantland again, a recent quote from Darryl Strawberry: "I wish I could have lived my life like Gary Carter." Wow.

Mark said...

No problem, Shlara. Apparently Z & I are fighting on 3/3 as well. Hopefully not jello wrestling.

mayhugh said...

Teej - I'll supplement.

To me, boxing is like ballet. Only there is no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.

zman said...

I know that I'm getting old because I don't get Sleigh Bells. If you are cool, unlike me, you will want to watch this tonight:

http://www.youtube.com/BOWERYPRESENTS

zman said...

I fight every day.

Donna said...

Really cool post, Igor! Especially impressed with the NT interpretation (but I'm a bible geeky type). The whole thing is superb! Sorry about Fitz.

rob said...

i loved the dewey piece by james. evans was so underrated because he played with bigger personalities like yaz, lynn, rice, fisk, et al, and nobody knew how to value defense. one of my great dewey memories was actually a tough one for the sox. late in the final season of his career, when he wound things up as an oriole, dewey drew a bases loaded walk to beat the sox in memorial stadium. it was the second game of a doubleheader that several of us drove up from williamsburg to attend. typical dewey - did the little things that helped his team win.

zman said...

Crack is wack. Is the first loss of the Lin era upon us?

Igor said...

Got word that Rob survived his first half-marathon in Myrtle Beach and that Dave survived another Polar Plunge on the Jersey Shore. I got both of these messages as I sat in the warm comfort of my king-sized bed.

Congrats, go-getters.

Dave said...

I am typing on an iPad, which is limiting, but I loved the football post . . . Great reminder that we have a hard time imagining the future so enjoy those collisions now. I am glad I quit soccer for a season and played running back, I may be able to tell my grand kids about it.

As for the real you, read hamlet! There is no real you. You are created by context. We are all one cataclysm away from being zombie hunters . . . That's what walking dead is about.

Dave said...

Haven't plunged yet it is later but wil be a cakewalk. Nice post by the way, you generally do your best work when you mention the three coolest guys in the house.

Dave said...

Has anyone heard this new van halen album? I am sure it is exactly as described. It's rare that a later album competes witha bands wheelhouse stuff but Santana did it with supernatural. Aerosmith with pump? Others?

rob said...

i ran a half-marathon, ate a krispy kreme donut, and drank two beers, all before 10:00 am. also used an oxford comma. up and at 'em, bitches.

rob said...

wait, so espn actually used 'a chink in the armor' as the headline to a story about jeremy lin? somebody's not getting a christmas ham.

http://frontrow.espn.go.com/2012/02/statement-on-jeremy-lin-headline/

rob said...

chris christie must really, really hate unionized gay teachers.

Igor said...

Is that what Dave is?

(Unionized, I mean. I already know about the other part.)

zman said...

Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma? That espn headline is inexcusable.

Dave said...

Mose won the polar plunge. Swam for ten minutes and then strode out of the ocean wearing a speedo. Total surprise. He went in wearing long trunks. He got a lot of high fives from girls in bikinis.

Igor said...

Um, did the Tribe really just lose to VMI?

Danimal said...

What's the dillio w both coaching staffs in iona nevada game wearing bow ties?

zman said...

They're all tools?

Igor said...

I watched Lars and the Real Girl last night. I think Dave would like this and Teej would not.

rob said...

i've listened to a lot of mc lars lately. i think both dave and teej would enjoy.

Igor said...

I think we've already covered Gheorghe's take on Lars Ulrich.

TR said...

I liked Lars and the Real Girl. It costars the guy who probably regrets leaving Parks & Rec after one season.

Igor said...

Hi, Gheorgies!