Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thoughts on Books and Basketball

Monday night's championship game made me wonder why Butler's "Cinderella story," as it was called, had so captured our hearts. Yeah, the underdogs came out of nowhere; this in a town where basketball matters. But it occurred to me there was something more to this story, something that grabbed us from a place deep inside and sparked a wide-eyed optimism that we long forgot we harbored.

Every day, this world of ours seems to stretch further and further out of our control, cannibalized by rampant globalization and massive unemployment. Our culture is governed by the glossy concerns of commercialization and fame; money and fame being the only two currencies that haven't been devalued. The culture of celebrity distracts us with never ending stories about the escapades of the young, beautiful and talentless fame-seekers. Today's culture's focus is not on the journey, not in the long years of learning, practice and hard work necessary to produce excellence, but is solely concerned with the accolades of fame that used to be prerequisites for public acknowledgement.

The superficiality of the values of today's culture extends to all aspects of our lives. The models who appear in TV and magazines sport looks no self-respecting woman should aspire to. Society's idea of womanly beauty is exemplified by anorexic girls painted up with heavy, black eye-liner, smudged to give them the look of a heroin addict.

How tiring, and soul-sucking is the vapidity of today's culture. So here's where our Dawgs come in. How refreshing to see the unexpected, meteoric rise of The Butler Bulldogs, who, against all odds, found themselves fighting for the championship Monday night. In a culture that values athleticism over academics, where multi-million dollar salaries for pro athletes are the norm and our schools that struggle to teach kids from impoverished neighborhoods, Butler brought us back to a time when values mattered. A time when the term college athlete meant exactly that - a college student with one foot in the athletic realm and one in the classroom, not a marquee athlete paying lip-service to the college that has recruited and groomed him.

When Butler ascended to the top, I felt a slight shift in perspective, a bright hope, and I suspect others did, too. This shift took us momentarily away from present day culture, where the flash-in-the-pan glory of a star, fame, and athleticism are valued above all, to a world that holds at its bedrock the solid values of honesty, teamwork, and academic achievement. Duke may have scored more basketball points, but in my book, Butler definitely won.

March is the month of tournaments, and not only for basketball, but also for books. Who knew? A recent article in Salon by Laura Miller spoke to the insanity of these "battles of the books." How do you pit a collection of short stories against a novel? A sci-fi thriller against a memoir? Again, just as in college football, the question is asked: What makes one thing better than another? Follow the link below:

March literary madness

No comments:

Post a Comment