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Sports

Top Ten Occurrences of the Sporting Summer, In Light of Media I Have Recently Consumed

It's a long summer, and not everything is sports.
August 1, 2014, 9:05pm
Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After good championships in basketball and hockey and an excellent World Cup, we're left with baseball, and, for some of us, with being angry at being angry about people talking about free agency. But there's more to life than sports: there's loud guitars, moving pictures of explosions, apes, and art deco trains, and, if you're completely broke or too hungover to move, even books. Let's recap the summer so far, shall we?

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LeBron James Goes Home 
Maybe you heard about this one: the world's best basketball player finished his season off looking like he was playing one-on-five against a pretty good team in the finals, losing, as basketball remains a team game, then decided it was time to change jobs. He returned to the team that first employed him, and that is located in the state where he was born and raised: Cleveland, Ohio, the Cavaliers.* When it looked like James was going to draw out the job-picking process interminably, confused scholars suggested the go-to artistic comparison was Achilles, sulking in his tent, but that was premature. It turned out that James was able to make one-time journalistic enterprise Sports Illustrated his personal PR department. Reactions were mixed. While Tomas Rios is certainly right that anybody reasonable would rather hear James than any given sportswriter, Jack Moore is also right that that just isn't journalism. In this light, James has evidently put us into the world of Snowpiercer: the system used to be cruel, but it was functional, and appeared to be capable of reproducing itself. Now it's broken. All of it. Now what?

*It is an odd but true fact that the lyrics of fIREHOSE's 1987 burner "Soon" actually outline the bulk of the process and its likely aftermath perfectly:

They'll greet you, receipt you, retreat you, then leave you alone/They'll entreat you, receive you, and treat you like someone they know

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Soon you'll be waking with season that changes you know/Soon you'll be making your way to way back home

NHL FinalsKings/Rangers
Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers was of instant and inherent interest: with a flouridated prose style and subject matter reaching from the proto-fascists of last century's Italian Futurists, blurring flesh, machine, and architecture, to the art scene of 1970s New York, merging ego, gossip, and abstraction into an art/life salad, the book had all the right hooks. Similarly, Los Angeles' hockey team squaring up against New York's in a championship context didn't appear to need any lily-gilding. Once finished, though, both were a little underwhelming. I was glad for both, no regrets, but I kind of wished each had been…a little bit better, maybe that they'd been done by somebody else.

MLB All-Star Game
Godzilla was…okay. Given the proper editing assistance, I think I could make it great: my version would be roughly 88 minutes long, not 123 (!), and would include all the giant monster footage, and almost no humans, or, worse, humans talking. My version might also actually have a woman in it.

The only part of the All-Star game I watched was the Home Run Derby. It was pretty great: I always like watching Yoenis Céspedes do amazing things.

Yoenis Céspedes Traded to the Sox
A's honcho Billy "is 52" Beane is famous for his unorthodox roster-building style. Unorthodox in the sense that he seems to choose players and value them in more or less rational ways, and in the sense that he doesn't seem actively hostile to the idea of…ideas. This differentiates him and his "process" from most sports executives and their ways living/being/working. He can push this too far, obviously. Beane is also famous for his shit not working in the playoffs: the A's has never won a World Series under him, despite being a reliable playoff contender for better than a decade now.

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This year, he appears to be abandoning the long-view mode, which has made and kept the A's reliably good for a long time. He's in "all-in" mode now, trading Yoenis Céspedes's power and great defense for a powerful starting pitcher. Spoiler: it's not going to work. Also deeply unconventional is film director Richard Linklater, who stretched out the making of Boyhood for 12 years, letting the cast age in real time; that didn't really work, either. Which is to say that the process neither added nor detracted from the result, which was a basically very conventional movie. But the process isn't for the observer, nor about them: Linklater by his account had a hell of a lot of fun making his movie, and I bet Beane really liked pulling off this move. More power to 'em both.

NBA Finals: Heat/Spurs 
Heat vs. Spurs and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were beautiful, superbly executed, and satisfying sequel/remakes. We've been there before. We'll probably go back. I don't know if either will last in the memory all that long, but they were fun while they lasted.

Real Madrid/Inter Milan 
As Patrick Redford chronicled, there was a lot not to like about this essentially stakes-free exhibition of "Christ, it's hot out here" soccer professionalism, played under looming clouds of "let's just not get hurt." There was a flat crowd, money-reminders everywhere, and a pervasive sense of unreality (I was a little drunk). MORE LIKE INERT MILAN! That said, it was a day spent in the sun, some good plays were made—Gareth Bale's thunder strike, Juan Pablo Carrizo's two saves in the shootout—and a kid ran adorably and flappily out to hug a player, and everybody went home happy (I was a little drunk). If only the same could be said for Brian Lumley's Necroscope, a fairly offensive and often repellent vampires-vs.-psychic-spies Cold War tale with some weird-ass takes on sex not quite redeemed by the well-executed, gut-wrenching violence. Here, as opposed to that Berkeley friendly, the off-putting stuff does overwhelm the decent stuff.

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Tour de France 
Didn't watch it. Probably not going to watch Guardians of the Galaxy either.

Carmelo Anthony Goes Back to the Knicks 
The transparently announced and unsurprising return of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks—for just a dash less than he was eligible under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement—was entirely satisfying. Like Jim Jarmusch, Anthony seems perfectly suited to be in New York, even if Jarmusch is crabby about the city and the city's hoops fans are crabby about 'Melo and his team. Anthony's deliberate game and controlled pace mirrors Jarmusch's hypnotic and wonderfully slow vampires-in-love movie Only Lovers Left Alive. At this point, you probably know if you like to watch Carmelo Anthony play basketball, or if you like languorous shots of pointy faces with guitar drones on the soundtrack. I like them both immensely.

The World Cup
Too long and internally variegated to be reduced to any one piece of representative art, the World Cup was, like San Diego's peerless instrumental stoner-rock band Earthless, inventive, repetitive, and prone to running seriously long. The Cup had endless games go to overtime; Earthless is a major proponent of songs that crack the 20-minute barrier. Like Obvious Child, the World Cup is also something of a niche piece of work: in the way that many people don't like soccer, many people don't like women. Both Obvious Child and the World Cup are, however, probably the best thing we'll see this year in their respective genres (#sports and film).

Sterling Sells the Clippers
James M. Cain's noirish Mildred Pierce is a tough, penetrating novel about it being hard out here for a woman in a capitalist society. It shows a range of options and the logics behind them, and shows all those logics to be fairly ugly, if understandable. In the book, Mildred Pierce spends a couple hundred pages with a sharp, sharp pencil, tracking her expenses to the penny, making and losing a pretty nice fortune, and watching her family disintegrate under the pressures of sex and money. At the end, she's lost pretty much everything except the willingness and ability to get drunk. Donald Sterling is a racist slumlord who is about to make a couple billion dollars for his trouble. Welcome to America. Hope you've got a penis.

The Baseball Season 
Like the great Bongripper, paying attention to the entire baseball season isn't for everybody. I mean…seriously: baseball teams? They play every day. They play for like three hours, every day. Bongripper plays long, too, with the kind of bleakness and hopelessness and grinding frozen rage that any Royals fan should be able to appreciate. Their new album, Miserable, is said to be named after Royals General Manager Dayton Moore's job performance, and its three tracks "Endless" (17:48), "Descent" (18:51) and "Into Ruin" (28:25) are a perfect accompaniment to any given Royals game, even as their titles describe another season where the Royals will not play a playoff game.

Follow Chris Collision on Twitter.