Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eff That!

I read an article by Roger Ebert the other day, which was actually reposted from his blog about the word fuck. In it, a reader asks him if he will review a movie called Young People Fucking, assuming that he might not because of the highly offensive F-word in the title.

Ebert was a bit wishy-washy in his reply, saying, on one hand that he’d certainly review the movie if it was worthy of review—regardless of what words are used in the title, but also expressing that he feels the word fuck has connotations of rape and reminiscing about a time in the 30’s when no one would ever say such a horrid word and how they were just as happy for not having had it in their vocabulary.

Perhaps I’m still showing whipper-snapper tendencies, but I found myself rolling my eyes at cantankerous old Ebert. I think that implying the words fucking and raping are synonymous is absurd. And I think it foolish to compare modern vernacular to that of almost 80 years ago.

I think the most distressing part is that someone who writes for a living would ever disparage the usage of a word, or reminisce about a time when it wasn’t in common use.

Words only have the power that we assign them. Think of it this way, has someone ever told you that they loved you, but deep down, you knew it wasn’t true? The fact that this person said the word didn’t equate to its true significance did it? And similarly, when a person who isn’t comfortable using that word—expressing that emotion, does use it, isn’t it even more potent?

I get a kick out of people who refuse to swear, especially when they substitute homophonic euphemisms for their word of choice.


Who do these people think they are fooling? The sentiment is the same, even if the particular word is different. Can anyone really be so obtuse as to think that assigning the meaning of an “offensive” word to a widely accepted one really changes the vulgarity of the thought and emotion that drives it?

And what about that thought and emotion? Is it so new? I look back to Ebert’s friends from the 1930’s and ask myself, did these people ever stub their toes? Did they not cry out in pain and frustration when they did? Are the ideas of scoring or getting lucky really so much more tasteful than that of fucking?

It’s really pretty simple when it comes down to it. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Words are nothing more than various combinations of letters and the word fuck is harmless unless you assign it a power greater than that which it deserves.

80 years from now, when the word fuck is powerless and inconsequential, some reporter may look back to a better time and place, when it was in common use instead of the current in vogue obscenity and it’ll still be a joke. Sooner or later, people will have to learn that it’s not the word itself that is vulgar or offensive or powerful, it’s us. Same as it always was; same as it always will be.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

NBA? Not Basketball Anymore

There’s a rumor going around that the NBA Finals begin tonight. I wouldn’t know because, although I’m one of the most avid and ardent basketball fans you’ll ever meet, I do not follow the action in the NBA. In fact, I don’t consider what’s going on in that league to really be basketball at all.

It’s a fraud. Men’s professional basketball in the United States isn’t basketball so much as it is basketball themed entertainment. It’s the closest “sport” in existence to what goes on in the WWE. From the indoor fireworks, to the motorcycles running up and down along the court to the trumped up noises to unhealthy decibel levels, things in the NBA are geared toward the fan experience first, and the integrity of the game a distant second.

It’s odd that in the game with the fastest pace, the longest periods of prolonged non-stop action in all of professional sports, that the people in charge would feel it necessary to manufacture the enjoyment. And all of the focus on this ridiculousness has taken the spotlight away from the fact that the game itself has become bland.

Defense is only played in the final moments of a game. Team offense is a myth, with one on one and two on two isolation becoming the norm. The game is strategy free. Coaches are babysitters, not tacticians. Players are more concerned with achieving rap star imagery than they are with being able to execute the fundamentals. Showtime is valued over teamwork. Foreign players provide the only semblance of playing together and that is only when they are bunched together on a team.

The game is entirely too long as well. Players pace themselves to shine in the 4th quarter, which is the only time a real basketball game ever threatens to actually break out. If you want to know what is wrong with the NBA, look no further than NCAA basketball. It’s still a game. It’s a competition. They have these amazing rules that are enforced, like no travelling, no charging, no carrying allowed. The coaches do this revolutionary thing called coaching, where they teach their players and show them how to execute. They have this crazy thing called strategy, that the coaches employ against each other.

The game is fast paced, but not obnoxious. A run and gun team like Memphis can get matched against a grind it out half court team like Wisconsin and you get to watch the battle for tempo ensue. Two twenty minute halves mark the perfect amount of time for a game, allowing the players to expend maximum effort throughout, instead of pacing themselves until the very end of a game with four, fifteen minute quarters.

Everything about college basketball is right when compared to the nightmare that is the NBA. For years, it’s almost seemed like the NBA playoffs have been scripted, only to find out that some of the referees were accepting gambler money throw games. NBA “basketball” is integrity free.

So yes, I’ve heard the rumors. Historic franchises from Boston and Los Angeles will meet up in a best of seven series, of which I will not watch a single moment. Magic and Larry: they played when it was still a game, a competition, when they still actually played basketball, instead of used it to entertain a stadium full of people who just need an alternative to the steel cage match once in a while.

NBA? Yeah, it’s definitely Not Basketball Anymore.