images within images

Sunday, February 8th, 2004

Now that people have headed away from the Superbowl imbroglio, moving on to other tragedies, I’d like to suggest a venture back into it.

In sport there are moments or long lines of what might be termed naked excellence. I remember watching John McEnroe begin and end his career, going from brat genius to even-tempered old-timer, which created a relationship and conflict with the conventions of the court. The amazing six hour match in 1982 between McEnroe and Wilander, however, for the Davis Cup title is one of those moments where nothing moved but them.

Vinatieri’s excellence on the field proves that every game tells a story. The chair edges in the houses of sport’s fans are slippery with use.

Then there’s the half-time stuff, the fool’s game in between, the juggling for coins. I think there’s something to say about the audience (me) and the producers here in the positioning of things. It may be strange that pro ballers are paid nice chunks of dough. Deford and others have talked a lot about this juicy bit. Much like CEO pay. It may be outrageous. I think it is. Is maybe 200,000 not enough?

But the image does matter. When I watched McEnroe and Wilander play, I knew with every stroke that everything was in that match, the skill, the power, the commitment. It went way beyond entertainment but into the space of skilled struggle or excellence. Matching. The politics and the show disappear.

Then the kicker rises. Everything else disappears. Everything else becomes trivial. The half-time show proves this.


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