Olive Street, Jonestown, San Diego black activists, Sherley Williams, the blind, the fat, the author's family
Jangchup Phelgyal 8:30 a.m., May 26
[Concluding the Chargers'coach's ruminations on training camp 2011 in light of Susan Sontag's essay, "Notes on Camp."]
All good things must come to an end. As must all bad things, and all middling things. I will let the reader make his own judgment about the quality of this guest column, but good, bad, or middling, it must end here. For as Sontag writes, "It's embarrassing to be solemn and treatise-like about Camp. One runs the risk of having, oneself, produced a very inferior piece of Camp."
So I will let these few brief sallies suffice, lest these notes transmogrify into a treatise on the "shockingly abrupt" end to the lockout and the subsequent "scramble" to assemble a workable team for the 2011-12 season. The "ticking time bomb counting down to the disappointment of America" scenario was as embarrassing a thing to take seriously as an episode of 24.
And because this is the end, I will permit myself a venture into the realm of the general. There are ways, of course, in which football itself is Camp, certainly since the Super Bowl Shuffle, and perhaps even before that. Joe Namath's grotesque uber-jock bravado before Super Bowl III is tinged with it - as Sontag notes, "The pure examples of Camp are unintentional; they are dead serious...In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve." Yes, the Jets won that particular battle, but Namath never again scaled those heights. Still, it was a fine performance: a true apprehension of life - and certainly sports - as theater. Indeed, the subsequent horror of his on-camera come-on to Suzy Kolber in 2003 was compounded by the fact that, once upon a time, he knew how to perform. Not for nothing was he once known as Broadway Joe.
Certainly, my own attraction to the game owes something to the Camp sensibility. Notes Sontag, "The connoisseur of Camp has found more ingenious pleasures [than the high-culture dandy]. Not in Latin poetry and rare wines and velvet jackets, but in the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in the arts of the masses. Mere use does not defile the objects of his pleasure, since he learns to possess them in a rare way."
But perhaps the strongest argument for football-as-Camp is to be found right at the essay's outset: "Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration." Consider, then, the insane physique of the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, lovingly rendered in ESPN Magazine:
Or the sheer gigunditude of the Patriots' offensive line:
Or the desperately exaggerated aping of regular-guyness exhibited by Brett Favre in the Wrangler jeans ads:
Here endeth the lesson. See you in the stands!