Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sports, Books, and A Given Cereal

I’m back in Klosterland.

There’s a lot to be said for each of the individual entities of sex, drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, but leave it Chuck Klosterman to heap them all together in a disjointed low-brow opus. The former SPIN and GQ writer is, along with Bill Simmons (my literary godfather), one of the few people whose work I can read without begrudging his talent or recognizing a repetitive, derivative sequence of recurring themes and vocabulary. Klosterman and Simmons both feed into a ceaseless, original conduit that serves the blogs, books, and columns that unfailingly amuse (Simmons) and engage (Klosterman) their respective audiences (me).

I suspect that neither writer is nearly as mind-blowing as I take them to be. Even if you factor in my self-aggrandizement, however, there’s a lot of room for quality. Of the two, Simmons is, by far, more openly fanatical about his interests, if only because Klosterman relies heavily on hipster skepticism and detached intellectualism, so you never get the sense that he’s crazy about anything—even the things he professes to be unable to live without. That list, by the way, is limited to music: the KISS solo albums, his CD collection in general, and absolutely NOTHING by Coldplay. Klosterman despises Coldplay. If I recall correctly, in the first chapter of “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” Klosterman calls Coldplay “just about the shittiest fucking band ever.” Klosterman also hides his self-obsession behind a wall of self-effacement, which would be obnoxious if he didn’t do such a poor job doing it. As it is, he's kind of endearing.

As opposed to Klosterman, Simmons’ biggest problem is that he’s too passionate. Like Steve Carell’s character in “The Office” says at a job interview, his problem is that he cares too much. For all the entertainment value in Simmons’ paranormal love affair with Boston sports and the NBA, there were certain times this year that he just couldn’t get off a topic, be it Kevin Durant, the Celtics’ abysmal season, or the disappointing NBA playoffs. Paradoxically, Simmons’ greatest flaw is also his genius: when he repeats himself over and over, he achieves a longitudinal entrancement, such that the reader gets just as obsessed over a period of months. Klosterman cannot do that—when you read him, you don’t get involved with the things he’s involved with; rather, you get involved with him being involved with things. You get addicted to Klosterman’s general state of being addicted. Simmons, though, sells you so completely on his passions that you adopt them. This year, for instance, I became totally enraged that the Celtics didn’t fire their head coach, even though, independent of Simmons, I don’t give two shits about Doc Rivers. I probably couldn’t cite one relevant fact or statistic impugning Rivers’ capacity as coach, but I’m pissed that he still has a job.

Ultimately, Simmons is your friend, and Klosterman is your smart professor. Simmons is appropriately titled “The Sports Guy,” while Klosterman is called…well…a published author. Still, just like in real life, you need both types of people—someone who speaks with you and someone who speaks to you. And just like their great social symbiosis, Klosterman and Simmons complement each other on a personal basis for me. Simmons is currently on a break from ESPN.com while he writes a book; coincidentally, I recently borrowed “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” from my local library, which means that while I won’t get my northeast sports fix for a while, I’m re-familiarizing myself with rock 'n roll trivia. Klosterland is warm and inviting, and it will keep the seat warm for when The Sports Guy emerges from his authorship and gets me all fired up about things I don’t care about.

Stay Soggy, Cocoa Puffs
DJ Doc Rivers

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