I really like zombie movies.
Not so much the new ones – the “28 Days Later School,” if you will – where it isn’t actually the undead, but a semi-logically explained ‘rage’ virus that has turned regular, not-dead people into berserker-type monsters. I prefer the real magilla, mainly because the virus zombies tend to run really, really fast. That’s scary, yo. Too scary. Fast-moving zombies completely shatter my delusion that when (not if, when) the evil horde arrives, I could weave my way through/away from a flock of brain-cravers because they’re staggering around like I used to after a night of pickling myself with vodka. If they’re running a sub 4.4/40-yard dash, I’m lunch.
These days, it seems there plenty of folks out there who share my predilection – given the success of The Walking Dead (Yes, I watch it religiously. If the makers of that fine televisual program read this blog, I’d prefer more zombies and fewer heartfelt conversations, please. Thank you.), all the Romero reboots, and the un-killable (pun intended) Resident Evil franchise. If you’ll allow your humble correspondent to get all sociologically speculative n’ shizznit I think the reason zombies have surpassed vampires as our collective current bête noire, is that no matter how horrible life might be when the zombies overrun the planet, at least it’d be…well…simple.
It wouldn’t matter what your credit score is. It wouldn’t matter if you did or didn’t possess the finest brand-name clothes/car/home/job. It wouldn’t even matter that the woman you’ve been flirtatiously texting for weeks finally agrees to go out with you and in the midst of what seems to be a great date, dropped the, “I think we’re just friends,” deuce right in your lap. All of the maddening inconsistencies and vast shades of grey that make up modern life would be gone in an instant. All that would matter is whether or not you can whack the noggin off the undead creature standing in front of you with a cricket bat before it eats you.
Simple. Back to the true nature of man. Kill or be killed. Survival at its essence.
That’s what makes the zombie apocalypse so appealing. In the name of intellectual honesty, I’m certainly not the first to have/hold this theory. There’s a really sweet (if lengthy) back and forth with more or less the same thesis over at Grantland (though I did think the above thoughts before I read the afore-linked article).
The reason for this possibly overly lengthy, seemingly jejune preamble is because at this hour, the hard-line owners (And it’s oh-so-deliciously ironic that we Knicks fans may find yet another reason to loathe Michael $%@#-ing Jordan) are thiiiiiis close to blowing the whole durned thing to smithereens. And as I check Alan Hahn’s Twitter feed for minute-by-minute updates, I’ve been trying to figure out why (aside from the obvious, “There might be no games,” aspect) this is all so enervating, so profoundly upsetting.
At least for yours truly, it’s because sports, like the aforementioned zombie paradigm, project the illusion there exists a world beyond the realm of money. Now of course, we all know this is patently false. Half the stories one might read about one’s team in any calendar year will inevitably be about free agent X or salary cap room, or (if you like the Mets) how much money your intrepid owners will have to pay Madoff’s victims.
The game, though, is meant to stand alone as pure combat. The Warrior-Poet. Effing Spartacus in the ring. Me v. You. Who’s better? I dunno, let’s play and see. Not, “Let’s go through your 990 return for fiscal year 2011,” and see. Not, “I’m going to impose my arbitrary aesthetic criteria and invalidate your artistic efforts because your entire venture exists outside my narrow, self-propagating definition of what constitutes good work,” and see.
I’ve actually put off writing about this because, over the last two months, I’ve been sent to “cover” a couple of ostensibly basketball-centric events that nearly sent me into a rabid, anti-consumerist frenzy.
Example One: Chris Bosh’s Fashion Week Charity something or another a few months ago. What it was about, I still can’t fathom but basically, crowds at Saks’ Fifth Avenue lined up to shoot Nerf balls at a hastily strung-up hoop with Bosh whilst he was draped in fancy garb. I too tried to “dress up” for the occasion, but as befits my fashion sense (or lack thereof), I looked like an out of work accountant from the Great Depression. But lo, there were hundreds of people, forming a serpentine path through the store, all for thirty seconds of…I don’t know…a chance to be near a star? To take and iPhone photo of someone famous so you could tweet about it and post it as a Facebook status update? Why, dear Lord, why? All I could think about while staring at the huddled masses was the original (and awesome) 1978 Dawn of the Dead – where zombies have overtaken a mall and are riding the escalators, numbly staring at stuff they couldn’t afford in some half-remembered haze, doomed for all eternity to repeat the pointless, boring, soul-deadening rituals of their former so-called life.
Example Two: about a month later, like a good little member of the fourth estate/zombie, when beckoned by the powers that be, I too, staggered in an undead stupor down to Greenwich Village to report on the unveiling of Carmelo Anthony’s new shoe (MJ’s brand, natch. That bastid’s everywhere!!). I mean, I really almost rediscovered my collegiate, bomb-throwing, Marxist past on this’n. They’d taken over a former gallery and built this monstrous deconstructed basketball court, draped the artistic golem in the new shoes and projected videos of Carmelo discussing his life, game and how his entire ethos is clearly been distilled to a plastic/leather shoe. When the PR guy was showing me around, it took all of my restraint not to ask which sweatshop in China made these items and if Carmelo cared about the deplorable conditions in free trade zones and the worldwide labor struggle in general.
I did ask if the shoe would improve ‘Melo’s D, to which the PR flack laughed knowingly. I still don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
There I was, staring at this unholy creature/creation and all I could think about was the amount of time and effort and thought and MONEY went into trying to sell me or any other potential consumer this product which is, in the end, a shoe. Just a shoe. In a pique of near-rage I just wanted to scream, “Dear God, what a waste! Look at all the creativity and intelligence on display here and it’s entirely been funneled into selling some thing that you and I don’t really need. Or more specifically, to making you or I feel like our lives are less than meaningful, but if you buy this shoe, well, that will certainly solve all your problems. Get out now! Save yourselves before this beast devours us all!”
Again, I didn’t do that.
I’m an American. Self-indulgent, holier-than-thou rants notwithstanding, I don’t think socialism can work on any large scale. If I’m going to be at all honest here, I have to admit that I like the toys and I want ‘em as much as the next guy and I’ll bust my hump to be able to afford ‘em. More importantly, I was legitimately excited when I found out I was invited to gawk at Melo’s shoe and discuss fashion trends with Chris Bosh. Why? I wanted…something. Fame. Money. Power. Immortality. I don’t know. But in my gut, I instinctively knew I wanted or even craved it — even if I couldn’t begin to articulate what “it” exactly was/is.
Alas, one can only confront uncomfortable realities so much of the time. I was talking with my father about the attendant problems with our escapist passion for basketball and he said, “I’m a realist. I’ve devoted my life to depicting reality.” And I replied (in perhaps, a moment of clarity) “Yeah, but sometimes in order to accurately perceive reality, you need to be able to escape it.”
So here we are. The truth is, you watch a ballgame, and you’re watching the money. There’s no way around that. But another truth is, you watch a ballgame and you’re watching poetry. The pass and fell of these mighty opposites is what makes sport great. It’s events like the Melo/Bosh ones and this protracted ‘negotiation’ process that make one dwell too long on the brutish pole. Or at least it does for me.
It’s five minutes to doomsday. Owners, players, I implore you. Give me my game, warts and all, back.
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.