Thursday, April 1, 2010

SPORT

I fucking love sports. My childhood was an active one involving hockey in the alley, biking to suburbs to visit comic shops, jumping under bridges to hang out with freight trains. Physical activity was our culture, my pals' and mine, as we curved our plastic hockey blades over the stove, ordered parts from Ohio so we could custom-build our BMXs, befriended hobos and heroin addicts as we shouted over the rumble of Burlington-Northerns. I was a Junior Canucks Fan Club member -- the pennant that I got signed by Trevor Linden at a Safeway was pinned above my bed next to a poster of Kirk McLean, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Andy Moog. I used to read stats everyday and I could tell you that Cam Neely weighed 185 and scored 51 goals in 1990-91. The climax of my sporting came around 1991 when I wrestled for gold, with a denouement in 1994 when I strolled Robson with my Pentax ME Super and shot hooligans during the Stanley Cup riot. I seriously thought Canucks woulda got it. Besides near-daily jaunts in the train yards and the odd single windmill when I wanted to be a b-boy pretty hardcore, my physical activity stopped. I was learning that I suck at sports and have no business being near balls or sweat.

I became a snob. For the next ten years, if it wasn't written by Mamet or sprayed with a New York fat cap or directed by Bergman or produced by DJ Premier or riffed by Sleater-Kinney or theremined by Stereolab, I ain't havin' it. Fuck sports.

Then I got stressed out in 2004. I dunno how serious it was but I didn't wanna leave my crib. Being around people made me feel uncomfortable and all of a sudden I'd get way too warm and I'd start focusing on my breathing way too much. I felt like passing out and fixated on the horror of passing out in public which made me want to pass out even more. Thanks to Dr. Internet I figured out I was attacked by anxiety and blah blah and who fucking cares, it's the past. The point is, the Olympics were on.

It was summer in Athens just like it was summer in my living room. While people were outside doing fun things like walking, standing, whatever outside, I was happily sitting in my teak-legged armchair watching Olympics and breathing properly. If I was gonna pass out, no one was gonna see. And I never did pass out. I never felt anxiety creeping its nails around my throat. How could I when the only thing that mattered in any given moment was how far that discus was thrown, how high she would leap. It didn't matter that my student loans were evaporating and my relationship was breaking the fuck up. All that matters is-- Look: That javelin went really far. Everything is so simple.

I was soothed.

Now it's 2010 and I'm too busy to give a fuck about anxiety. But I still get stressed. Don't you? Go watch some sports. That is the answer. Since 2004 I've learned to love sports again. I've watched hours hours hours hours of play-off hockey with Owen at a bar and Jamie in a yard and Morgan in a basement. I've watched every Olympics since 2004 obsessively, to the point of repeat broadcasts at 3AM. Me + Jamie + The Embassy + beer + pints + World Cup = 2006 the greatest, mothafucka. That year was mad stress for me too, 2006, and three things helped me through: homeboys, booze, sports. Listen, I have nothing to do with sports. Whether Brazil slays Argentina or Crosby scores or China wins gold, no matter how much I get caught up in it, it means nothing to my professional life. Sports mean nothing to my career. And that is why I watch sports. I'm not thinking about my next gig or the deadline on a draft or when I'm gonna direct a fucking film again. I'm not analysing mise-en-scene and editing and lighting and narrative and actors' beat changes, which I do with every frame of film and moment of staging that I watch, and watching film and theatre exhausts me... All that matters is-- Hey: He scored.

I learn more from athletes than I do artists. Luongo is one of the best goaltenders around but he still has bad games. It's okay, he'll get up and play again in two days. Kim Yu-na is poised and ready to skate, and the few seconds she is in tableau, underneath her fixed smile is a focus that we'd kill to have while waiting in the wings or waiting for action to be called. Elite athletes work their whole lives towards a singular goal, a single trophy; they require time and nurture and their triumph can only come after failures. Olympic athletes are the best and they compete amongst the best, perform at the best. Excellence requires discipline. If only artists were as serious about their craft as athletes are about their sport. Some are, yes.

I watch sports because athletes teach me what it means to be a champion. The simple and sincere joy of throwing that discus farthest is the result of one thing: hard work.

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