Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Gatsby Complex, Part One: The Lost Generation

Hey guys! How you doing? Well, last week was Spring Break, and I spent it doing my real job-grading papers. Anyway during that break time, I watched a lot of sports shows, of course, but I also, started re-reading one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve been at a loss as to what to with my blog for the last few weeks. Football season is over, my fantasy baseball team won’t be up and running for a minute, and I’m about as interested in the draft as JaMarcus Russell is in his attempt resemble a real quarterback. So, I’ve decided to do a series.

Every year, I roll out the literary canon. You know the literature teachers think you should read, but you don’t want to, and most of us didn’t. The first question that every student asks regardless of the work is “Why do we have to read this?” followed by “This happened so long ago, it doesn’t matter today.” As I pondered these questions, I remembered that I too had asked the same questions when I was in their shoes. As I listened to the stories about Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and Ben Roethlisberger, I find that two of the novels that I teach should be placed in the swag bag of every rookie in all the major sports, every aspiring diva, and every future thespian. The first book is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
The Great Gatsby; I’ll discuss the other at a later date. Pens and paper, boys and girls, it’s time to take notes; there may be a quiz later.

Literary Inspiration

For those who have never read
The Great Gatsby, I’ll give you a few details. It was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald who lived a life similar to Gatsby’s during the 1920’s. He lived the American Dream, married a beautiful socialite, lived hard and died of a heart attack at age 44. The characters in The Great Gatsby are loosely based on people he personally knew, including his wife and himself, as well as, acquaintances they met in their travels throughout the continental United States and Europe. The novel takes place in New York City in the summer of 1922 during the Jazz Age. Prohibition was in full effect; gangsters were everywhere; and hedonism ruled America. The narrator, Nick Carraway moves to New York to become a bonds salesman. During this summer, he becomes drawn into the lives of his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom, Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker, Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson, and of course Jay Gatsby, the for whom the novel is named. So, you are now thinking to yourself…what does this have to do with sports and/or entertainment? Indulge me a little longer, and you will see.
Writer Gertrude Stein labeled F. Scott Fitzgerald’s generation “The Lost Generation.” According to James M. Keller in his article “Americans in Paris,”
“You are all a lost generation,” Gertrude Stein remarked to Ernest Hemingway, who then turned around and used that sentence as an epigraph to close his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Later, in his posthumously published memoir, A Moveable Feast, Hemingway elaborated that Stein had not invented the locution “Lost Generation” but rather merely adopted it after a garage proprietor had used the words to scold an employee who showed insufficient enthusiasm in repairing the ignition in her Model-T Ford [. . .] the phrase lingered in the language as a descriptor for the brigade of American artists who spent time in Europe during the 1920s, most prominently in Paris. It is particularly applied to writers—Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, and their ilk—who, having made it through the World War I years, found the City of Light to be financially affordable, intellectually stimulating, and far enough from home that oats could be sown wildly without long-lasting effect. Some suggested that the appellation “Lost Generation” conveyed the idea that these literary Americans abroad were left to chart their own paths without the compasses of the preceding generation, since the values and expectations that had shaped their upbringings—the rules that governed their lives—had changed fundamentally through the Great War’s horror.
Basically, Stein felt that these young men (and women) had somehow “lost” a central part of themselves. Because of World War I, Stein saw these young men as losing part of the maturation process. Some were asked to be leaders of men when they were teenagers themselves. They saw their friends dying on the battlefield for reasons they may not have truly understood. When they should have been discovering themselves, they were being asked to survive and make adult, life and death decisions without the resources to make these choices. When they came home, they were restless, rootless, and directionless. Many of them partied too hard, drank too hard, and lived life too fast. No one prepared them for life after the War and making themselves a part of society. They gave us great literature, beautiful paintings, and great music. Yet, Hemingway married four times, drank too much, and ultimately committed suicide. Fitzgerald’s hard-living and his wife’s nervous breakdowns, led to financial ruin and an early death. Even Picasso who lived to be 91, married twice, had 4 children by three different women, and had multiple mistresses.

Not that there is a direct comparison, because many of today’s entertainers and athletes never have had to fight a war. Yet, there is a bit of a lost generation to them. They like the “lost generation” of the 20’s are living hedonistically.

Serbians Prepare To Go To The Polls

This hedonism is glorified every week on any number of reality shows, the newspapers, and police blotters. They party like there is no tomorrow. The biggest difference is that these young men and women have money. They have money and no moral compass. They are asked to lead grown men on the grid iron, the hardwood, around the bases and on the ice, barely out of high school. They are asked to play mini-adults for our entertainment on the movie screen. They are asked to over sexualize themselves in the videos we watch. They are given a Fort Knox bank account with little preparation into how to maintain it. They spend small fortunes on clothes, alcohol, drugs, and women, not unlike the men of the lost generation. At ages far too young, they are asked to support their families and friends. They become overwhelmed. They have an emptiness that they throw money at, but money can’t fulfill it, girls can’t fulfill, drugs and alcohol can’t fulfill it. They begin to think they are untouchable, invincible. Then, they crash and burn. Be it financially ruined (John Daly/Antoine Walker/Lenny Dykstra), jailed (Travis Henry/Ryan Leaf/Plaxico Burress), publically humiliated (Tiger Woods/Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds) or dead (Heath Ledger, Chris Henry, Steve McNair). There have been those who came back from the brink to be successful and rebuild their lives. For every success, however, you had those who were so desperately lost that they couldn’t find their way no matter how hard they tried (Corey Haim/Michael Jackson). They could not fill that emptiness inside. They often don’t consider the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. Like the 1920’s, the party is going to eventually come to an end. The reality then, the stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, and WWII. Let’s hope it doesn’t take something equally devastating to save this generation.

Next time, The Tom Buchanans…

“He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, [. . .] His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hello, My Name is Diana...

Red Byron

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 25: Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers watches the warm ups before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 25, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)Content © 2010 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Welcome back, boys and girls…It has been a very long month since the Super Bowl has passed, and I was having a hard time trying to figure what I was going to do with my blog now that football season was over. After all, I started this blog to chronicle my season as a fantasy football player and to declare my fandom and to defend and fawn over my favorite players. Now, I felt like I was at a loss…So while I will still focus primarily on football (*cue Whitney Circa 1987* “My greatest love of all”), I going to touch on other topics as well, so buckle up folks…

One topic that I have been exploring is addiction. I started researching it for a short story that I was contemplating, but the more I read, the more I realized that I, too, am an addict. I am addicted to football. The first step they say is to admit, but bear with me. Here are a few of the signs that made me come to the conclusion that I am an NFL addict.

Signs that you are a football abuser:

1. You neglect your responsibilities to watch football. I have passed on my household chores, paperwork, an occasional relative to watch my games.

2. You are using the NFL under dangerous conditions or taking high risks to watch. I’m not proud, but I was once on the internet while driving trying to check the score to a Chiefs game, which is not necessary, because they are often losing, but I just had to know how badly. I once almost got a ticket speeding to get back home to catch the kick off of a Chiefs/Chargers game. I’m not proud.

3. Your addiction is getting you in legal trouble. See my answer to sign #2.

4. Your addiction is causing problems in your relationships. I have had full blown arguments with family in explaining why their team sucks. I have yelled at people to leave me alone while I’m watching the game. I totally ignore people who want to have asinine conversations with me during the game. I scared my nephew when I was yelling during the game, because the Chiefs scored. I apologized, because he didn’t understand why his aunt had suddenly lost her mind.

Signs that you are a football addict:

1. You’ve built up an NFL tolerance. I love football so much that there have been times that I watched Oakland Raiders games just to have a game on. I am ashamed to admit that I watched a Detroit Lions game that wasn’t on Thanksgiving. There have been Sundays that I have watched games from Noon-10:30 pm and then watched the entire NFL Gameday replay show to watch highlights of the games that I’ve just watched…

2. You try other sports to try to avoid or relieve your withdrawal. I grew up watching all types of sports. I loved baseball (go Braves!), basketball (go Celtics, Cavs!), and I even watched pro wrestling (Go Steiner Bros. and Lex Luger!). Yet, none of these sports could make my pulse pound like a great football game. Okay, baseball did twice, okay, so did basketball, but none could sustain my addiction.

3. You have lost control of your football. During football season, there were times when I was checking blogs, newspapers, stat sheets, and my fantasy teams hourly. [BTW, if it’s your first time to the blog, I had 4 this year, down from the 5 I had the previous season.] The only time I didn’t was during work hours. But, I checked during my breaks. *shrug* I say that I’m not going to read the San Diego Union-Tribune today or the Kansas City Star, but there I am every morning checking, even in the off season, to see what moves my team has made (nice job picking up Thomas Jones, KC).

4. You life revolves around football. Well, yeah…I make sure I tape NFL Live daily. I watch NFL Total Access and have subscriptions to Sporting News, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated. I’m looking for a new place and the first question usually is “Am I allowed to get DirecTV or Dish Network here, because cable is not going to cut it?” I write a blog about my love of football. I have pictures of Joe Montana, Derrick Thomas, Jerry Rice, and Tony Gonzalez over my desk. The first PowerPoint that I ever made was about…You guessed it, football. My pens rest in a KC Chiefs mug, I have a KC Chiefs scarf that covers my computer monitor when it’s off, and I have a cute custom-made card holder with Tony Gonzalez and Shawne Merriman in matching Pro-Bowl uniforms (it was a gift from a student).

5. You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy. I have never been a big socializer. So, that abandoning that was not a problem. I have avoided going on family outings and trips because they have interfered with my games. I cancel weekend activities if they conflict with the Playoff and/or Super Bowl.

6. You continue watching football, despite knowing it is hurting you. Yeah, well, yeah…Blood Pressure pounding, heart racing, obnoxious amounts of food that is bad for you. Of course, football is bad for you, but yeah, I keep pulling a chair up in front of it every single time.

I have had brief stints of football sobriety. After Derrick Thomas died, I just didn’t want to watch. I thought I would get myself cleaned up as far as my addiction was concerned. I realized that there was more to life than football. That period lasted from 2000-2003, and I stopped watching football cold turkey. I gave it up. I didn’t watch SportsCenter, didn’t read about it in the paper, and I admit it was pretty good. I got a lot of work done. I found other hobbies. One afternoon, I was flipping through the channels, and there was a Kansas City Chiefs highlight playing. It was Tony Gonzalez leaping into the endzone backwards for a touchdown. I was mesmerized, captivated, and I slipped off the wagon.

NFL Football: Raiders vs. Chiefs NOV 30

November 30, 2008: TE #88 Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs in action vs. the Oakland Raiders. Photo via NewscomContent © 2010 Newscom All rights reserved.

Sigh, now I suffer, along with the rest of the NFL addicts, who use any tidbit of info we can gather just to be able to talk about football. We have a kind of support group on Twitter. We talk about what we miss, and how we hope our teams will improve, or make fun of other teams bad decisions. But mostly, we wait. It won’t be long until the Draft, Mini-Camps, Training Camps, or preseason games. But, we are all anxiously waiting for that day in the fall when the clarion call of Hank Williams exclaims “Are you ready for some football?!!” Yes, Hank, we are…so until next time just remember what Heywood Hale Brown said, Football is, after all, a wonderful way to get rid of your aggressions without going to jail for it.” See ya, next time!!!

Where You Been?

Hey, guys! Sorry, I've been away soooo long...I feel like I haven't been here in a month...oh, right...I haven't...

Yeah, well, my bad. But, I'll be back to this week on Diana Dishes...I'm gonna take a look at a variety of topics...Like to hear about them...Well, tune in this week...I'm gonna try to make up for that month in a week.


"Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age."~John Dryden