I've pretty much convinced myself that Mel Kiper is Big Brother, the face of the government. That may seem excessive for America's #1 expert on how the NFL draft will play out each year. But think about it. His looming, pseudo-benevolent visage on the television almost anywhere we go, his sudden appearance and then instant credibility, his forecasts and prognostications, our inability to remember what he might have said in previous years and whether any of that turned out to be true, the sheer security of his pronouncements, how his hair is styled so that it tends neither to the right or to the left in these times of divisiveness--all of these things speak to a carefully-crafted persona. Plus, if he'd bleach his hair, he kind of looks like Max Headroom.
Mel Kiper keeps us calm. He knows more than we know. We must listen to him. And nod. Because he cares about us. He wants us know know how the draft will go, and how crucially important that is to all of us. And then we care.
Or maybe, as I've suggested in other contexts, we are indeed living in Brave New World, that government-controlled "utopia" where citizens are distracted from any real concerns by mood-altering substances and sports. That's right, sports. And the more expensive those sports are the better. These days, sports take every kind of entertainment dollar there is from us and much of our time--television, film, Internet, phone apps, video games, clothing, beer, poster art, books, magazines, spectating, concessions, underwear.
Sports are heroin.
Actually, it was Billy who put me on to this kind of thinking a couple of weeks ago. He was lamenting that, even though he would still participate in Fantasy Football next season, he was otherwise weary of all things Pro Football. His blasphemy shocked me, until I realized that I agreed with him. And, I fear, my malaise has spread even beyond his.
For I am tired of sport, period. You say sports. I say sport. Football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis--they all feel like part of One Giant Sport.
There used to be sports seasons, just like there used to be winter. Baseball into Football, Football into Basketball and Hockey. Oh, yeah, a bit of overlap, but the only interest was about the actual season. There wasn't so much information about the post-season or the pre-season. If someone got traded, there was always a day or two of surprise, a sense of loss if a player you liked was traded away from your team. But that was it. Only serious sports geeks subscribed to The Sporting News and knew anything more than that.
This past season, the NFL never really ended. No sooner had we wrapped up the Super Bowl than the Peyton Manning situation started getting analyzed and parsed 24/7 on television and on sports pages and on the Internet, and its drawn-out resolution led into Saints-gate, the "hits for pay" headhunting plan that landed them in the crapper, and then the NFL Draft. And, actually, all of those stories overlapped each other, vying for the hundreds of talking heads' attention and insight. Even Charles Barkley weighed in on Saintsgate. We have so many "experts" now that their expertise knows no bounds. They will opinionate about anything. And while they do that, they also continuously break down what has already happened and what is happening. We can watch players work out with Jon Gruden. That's legitimate TV. Hell, we can watch quarterbacks watch film with Jon Gruden! That's totally legit.
Have you noticed how all of the scandals just flow together? There's the hit on Hossa in the NHL, the Saints headhunting program in the NFL, the "inadvertent elbow" of World Peace in the NBA, violence, violence, and more violence. And we like violence in our sports, but I think we like controlled violence, don't we? The "big hit" and the "hard slide" and the "good check," not Elle taking out Tiger with a 4 iron or the cheap shot after the play. But even when the sports news strays away from the field of play, we still stay tuned in. From Tiger's texts to Brett's penis to Petrino's young lady, we've seen it all, we take it in stride, boys will be boys, it's a rough game, he'll land on his feet, he never did any of that when he worked for me.
I'm with Billy. I'm getting a little sick of it. But I'm not entirely sure what to do. If you drop sports, go through the shakes and the other symptons of withdrawal, you may feel a little better, but you'll be left out of the conversation, out of many conversations, since sports, even the criticism of sports (which still requires the knowledge of it to have any credibility) is the language of America.
Obama's not a bad player, but he can't make NCAA picks for shit. Boehner is a better golfer than he is. There are jokes that suggest Nick Saban is bigger than the president. The goal of any self-respecting multi-millionaire is to own a sports team. All of the sports are like strands of a cable, spun and twisted together until they are so strong that they can bear the weight of anything.
You can't walk away from all of it. You can't put all of your expertise into European sports. That's side meat.
And Mel Kiper? He's made himself a paragon of prediction, so integral to the last six weeks of our lives that we actually find ourselves quoting him to each other. I've had at least three friends do that very thing. Once in a while, when he's not too busy listening to his own hype, he's got to be shaking his head and laughing and thinking, 'Who ever thought that a guy like me would get three months of concentrated airtime every year to talk about a draft consisting of players, very few of whom will have an immediate impact, some who might break out in a few years, many of whom will never play substantially? And all I have to do is to create a little doubt, a little controversy about team's choices while being absolutely certain about mine. Even though I don't play or coach Maybe tomorrow, just for the damn heck of it, I'll suggest that RGIII has done some things in the last week that have raised his star just a bit higher than Andrew Luck's."
Unless, of course, Mel Kiper isn't real, which is entirely possible. A sexy guy like that, why isn't he dating a supermodel? Why isn't he golfing with Mario Batali? Why hasn't he had any decent scandals? What if he's just an actor who puts on that hair and starts pontificating, saying whatever it is that the government wants him to say that will both reassure us and keep us oddly off balance? Mitt Romney could do a whole lot worse than picking Mel as his running mate. I'd probably vote for him. It's not a huge leap to suggest that a man who can nail down the NFL draft can likely fix the economy as well, or at least show us all how to make a killing on Wall Street.