Sunday, June 12, 2016

30 for 30: believeland [2016]

once upon a time i read the heavy glossies, magazines like esquire and gq and, dare i say it?, playboy.  back in the '90s i ran across the journalism of scott raab.  i recall a piece about the actor mickey rourke.  raab was with rourke's entourage, and because raab was a large guy with tattoos, was mistaken for the actor's security.  then there was a long piece about the writer's difficult relationship with his father, an old man who was incontinent, diabetic, tattooed, and still ready to kick your ass.  i read that piece when i was in the periodontist office waiting to get some serious work done on my chompers.  i became a fan of scott raab.

raab is from cleveland, a former manufacturing powerhouse in the 20th century that has long since seen those manufacturing plants close down.  the city began its decline 50 years ago.  50 years ago was the last time cleveland had seen its team win a championship game   cleveland has three major teams pro ball teams: the cavaliers, the indians and the browns.  neither team has won a championship for so long the losing streak is deemed by more than a few as a curse.

but raab is no ordinary fan.  he is a rabid fan of sports.  he has a chief wahoo tattoo inked on his forearm.  i know.  i read his book the whore of akron [harper perennial; 2012].  i checked it out of the library last summer when i spent a couple days in the bay area sitting in a hotel with anna.  the book is about raab's fury at lebron james' defection to the miami heat.  but the book is way more than that.  raab tells his stories of hard living, loving and fatherhood.  when i read that piece about raab's father in the periodontist's office raab admits and laments the fact that at his age [late 40s, early 50s?] there were no books by him.  and yet he got by as a writer.  i know that feeling.  i could barely read the print on account of the water swelling in my eyes.

yet, everyone who knows me knows i do not like professional sports.  i hate the culture of sports.  turns my stomach.  i hate the dichotomy of winners and losers.  i hate the irrational tribal identifications of sports fans to sports teams.  i hate the violent emotions often displayed by sport fans.  and i hate the self-identification of sports fans to winners, as in the phrase, 'we won that team by a knife's edge'.  you rarely hear a sports fan say, 'we lost.'  no, rather you hear that fan say, 'they lost.'  'we win' and rarely 'we lost' is relayed toward an enmity of the losing team.  in my line of work as a poet and human being i think every human endeavor is achieved by degrees of losing.  therefore the mentality of sports fans, and mind you i'm not talking about all of them only what i have observed in my own limited way, is a way of feeling toward the hatred of loss and the tribal identification of the win.

well know okay.  it was a long day yesterday.  when i sat down i opened up netflix and scanned the what's new section.  i found this documentary produced for espn.  because it was about cleveland i knew scott raab must be in it.  and he is, along with his son, for he is a producer of this piece of film.  it opens with raab and his son at a deli counter, burgers on plates before them, talking about their love of cleveland and its sports team.

and i tell you this is a watchable documentary even for one who doesn't like sports.  it's watchable because the documentary is more about cleveland and its curse.  i am the native son of a city that is likewise, well, i won't say cursed, but we get a lot of flack because we are not SF or LA or San Diego.  my beloved city is currently spending 10s of millions of $$$ on a new stadium for the kings basketball team.  i work downtown.  i have a front row seat to the construction and the changes wrought to the city's core.  the kings have not gotten close to a championship in several years.  i don't know if the new stadium will be the economic shot in the arm the city wants.  if history is a guide then it probably won't be that economic boost.

but yet and still sac is my city.  it is becoming well known for its food scene.  midtown is crazy insane with young people and restaurants and bars and beer gardens and music venues.  midtown is a hipster happening.  i believe scott raab would recognize and understand my love of sac, and its purpose for a new basketball arena.

that doesn't mean i'll be getting a kings tattoo anytime soon.  i might go to a game.  i'll probably see U2 in concert.  they are a band who plays stadiums and now that we have one there is no earthly reason why they should skip out on sac when they are on tour.  who knows with all the construction going on downtown maybe i will be able to find a decent place to have lunch.


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