Football Dub

(In homage to the passing of Lee Perry, here’s an unpublished essay I originally wrote for the Believer about football, head injuries, MKULTRA, video “hash,” Roger Staubach, MNF, Burroughs, 1200 lb. videotape machines, digital delay, and dub reggae. Fun fact, I wrote parts of it while suffering from a concussion myself.)

Calling the meek and the ‘umble
Welcome to Blackboard Jungle
So don’t you fumble
Just be ‘umble-umble-mble.
-Introductory incant to “Black Panta” from the Upsetters’ 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle

1st DOWN

Shadowing the past few campaigns of the National Football League like a corner in man-to-man coverage has been the medical revelation of irreparable brain damage caused by merely playing the game. With every post-game recap, there seemed to follow even more news on helmet-to-helmet hits, new scientific studies revealing the depths of such trauma, all of it lingering over the game like post-concussion symptoms. Commentary last year alone ranged from 60 Minutes profiles to Time (deflated pigskin cover on its 2009 story: “The Most Dangerous Game”) to the New Yorker, where Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Offensive Play” discussed the brown tau and beta-amyloid stains that appear on damaged players’ brains from too many head-on collisions. He noted that NFL players suffered a five times higher than average diagnoses of “dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory-related disease” after their playing years were behind them, adding a lineman’s description of a standard downfield drive: “Every play, collision, collision, collision…literally, these white explosions –boom, boom, boom– lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter.”

Continue reading “Football Dub”

Jean Seberg

Jean 1

[This essay on Jean Seberg originally appeared in the print edition of Stop Smiling Magazine. It’s not in their online archive, it’s one of my favorite pieces from back then, and since there’s now a movie about her life, I dug it up.]

At the end of Played Out, David Richards’s biography of doomed blonde starlet Jean Seberg, he offers an epilogue set at Marshalltown High School, Jean’s Iowa alma mater. Members of the Masque and Dagger drama club are preparing to crown that year’s winner of the Jean Seberg Award, named in honor of the small town’s most renowned citizen, who long since absconded from farm life for the life of a movie star in Paris. Both finalists, Patty Tiffany and Kris Hoelscher, are visibly nervous about the impending honor, yet neither –when prompted– can conjure the name of a Jean Seberg movie. It is September of 1980, but eight months on from when Seberg’s body was found in the back seat of a Renault on a Parisian side street, wrapped and bloated beside emptied bottles of barbiturates and mineral water, and yet she is already a distant memory in her home, all but forgotten in America.

Continue reading “Jean Seberg”

My Deadspin Non-Sports Writing

Air Supply

I only got to write a handful of times for Deadspin (h/t to Down in Front), but I greatly enjoyed what I submitted over there. At one point in time, I wrote often about cinema (even having a column about soundtracks at Idolator called VHS or Beta) but those outlets slowly evaporated, or rather, stopped paying money. So it was fun to get to write about shitty directors who kept name-dropping John Cassavetes while not taking one aspect of his work to heart and the brain-frying brilliance of Jack Nicholson’s early westerns. Back when Guardians of the Galaxy was a box office smash, I got to wax about the mighty 10cc in all their permutations, from the woolly Consequences box set to Godley and Creme’s godlike “Cry” being used on an episode of Miami Vice, making it “ideal music for a sockless-yet-shoed Don Johnson to shoot a shirtless-yet-sports-coated Ted Nugent to.” And when Roberta Flack was used on the final season of Mad Men, I got to tell the little-known story about how Play Misty for Me actually put Flack in the public consciousness.

My favorite Deadspin piece was no doubt “Big In Jamaica: Why Reggae Fans Mysteriously Love Air Supply,” which explored why the pillow-soft Aussies were revered throughout the Caribbean and plastered on reggae festival posters in my old neighborhood of Crown Heights. The piece touched on the likes of FKA twigs, the Clash, Bread, and Marty Robbins, none of the above sports figures per se, but it was fun and enlightening to cover non-sports for a site that’s getting shittier by the day.