Thursday, May 3, 2012

National Friday League: Oedipus

Oedipus and the Problem of Fandom (or, "I killed a bunch of strangers on a road because they looked at me wrong.  And, also, why do the gods hate me?) (or, centuries ago a genius wrote a masterpiece so that I could whine about the Vikings on the internet)
Oedipus killed his father and married his mother.  His father Laius and Oedipus himself received prophecies of this fate, and each took actions specifically intended to avoid this result.  The actions they took to avoid this result specifically brought about this result.  These are the machinations of those malevolent gods.  This is fate.

But here's something you need to know: Oedipus is a dooouuuuuche.  He really did kill a bunch of strangers in a right of way dispute.  He really did angrily accuse his brother-in-law of treason on no evidence at all (and refused to back down).  He really did threaten to torture an old blind man if the man wouldn't tell him what he wanted to here.  Oedipus was violent, threatening, impulsive, rash, and angry.

There may have been a problem of fate, but Oedipus was the sort of asshole likely to do all the things he was fated to do.

The Vikings' performance on a Sunday probably affects your mood on Monday and for the rest of the week.  But of course it goes deeper than that.  When the Vikes are having a good season, you* look forward to Sundays.  You have excited and energetic conversations with people.  You find yourself thinking about the Vikings at all sorts of different times of the day.  You have some hope, and you walk with a little spring in your step.  And when the Vikings have a season like they had last season...well, I don't know how you respond to that sort of season.  Anger?  Sadness?  Despondency?   There is a lot that is different about you during the Viking season, that is dependent on how the Vikings play.

When the Vikings succeed, you feel and maybe act differently than you do when the Vikings fail.  And here's my question:

Is that on the Vikings, or is it on you?

How the Vikings perform is obviously beyond my control.  In that sense, my mood, feelings, maybe even my sense of general well-being, is affected by the Vikings.  I might ask, do I choose to be the sort of person to let the Vikings' performances change my day-to-day attitude?  But that only leads to another problematic question: to what extent do I choose to be a Viking fan at all?   I'm guessing many of you became Viking fans in ways that precede rational choice: you fell into it through geography, family, friendships, and the like, probably when you were young.  By the time you realized you cared way too much about the Vikings, you already cared way too much about the Vikings.  Could you, at any point, have made a different decision?  Could you have chosen otherwise?  And at this point, could you choose at all?

In that way Sophocles' Oedipus the King got to the mess of it all: even if you set aside religion, our lives are a giant mess of some things we choose, and even more things we have no goddam control over at all.

*I'm making some assumptions about "you," but tell me I'm wrong, person reading a fan blog devoted to the Minnesota Vikings.  Tell me I'm wrong.

But of course I want a stadium!
Well, sure.  It's complicated.  But in my heart, I desperately want the Minnesota government to approve a stadium.  The state gets and spends money in all sorts of ways I don't understand.  A lot of the ways the state gets and spends money don't affect me.  But whether the Vikings play in Minnesota or not affects me a whole hell of a lot.  The getting and spending of money can seem a little abstract, but watching the Minnesota Vikings on Sundays in autumn--no, following and caring about the Minnesota Vikings all year round--is very, very concrete.

If I use my values (civic, social values), public money for the stadium seems like a bad idea.  If I use reason, public money for the stadium seems like a bad idea.  But as Dostoevsky says in Notes from the Underground, "anything can be said of world history, anything conceivable even by the most disordered imagination.  There is only one thing that you can't say--that it had anything to do with reason."

When your favorite team sucks, you can console yourself with some sense of hope.  Things are bad, but they might get better (I watched a lot of bad Timberwolves basketball without ever despairing!).  But when there is fear that your favorite team might really relocate, then when that team sucks, it is hard to have any hope at all.  If I know that for the next 30-40 years, there will be a Minnesota Vikings,* then I can brace myself to watch a lot of bad football games with some kernel of purpose.  But when you have a constant fear the team might move, then watching the team suck is just watching the team suck: any moments of comfort you take in the future are immediately thwarted by your fears of the future.

*I mean, to the extent that I know that if the world and/or human civilization doesn't crumble to ruin first, there will be a Minnesota Vikings for the next 30-40 years.  You never know.  Be realistic, people!

Junior Seau. And there are serious things to think about (Slate).

Kick Ass Links
"In 'The Great Gatsby,' Fitzgerald described a stretch of wasteland along West Egg as a 'valley of ashes.' Since 1964, the Mets have called that spot home" (The New Yorker).

Dan Marino seems like a trustworthy fellow; I like to support those products and organizations he lends his name to.  So how do I join this AARP? (The PostGame).

Parks and Recreation actor Roy Hibbert is also a professional basketball player (Grantland).

Rick Spielman tells Peter King the Vikes' coaches "fell in love with Harrison Smith" at the Senior Bowl (SI).

But who will grade the graders?  "I don't know.  The coast guard?" (Football Outsiders).

If a rookie QB has an up-and-down rookie year for a bad team, but he's already enshrined as the starter for year two, you can bet during the following offseason there will be plenty of stories with interviews talking about being more comfortable, about the team now being his team, about all the work being done to improve, about leadership.  Ladies and gentleman, Christian Ponder! (Pioneer Press).

The Brooklyn Nets appeal to hipsters (Good).

I suppose it is inevitable to label it flip-flopping, but I don't think it worthy of the derisive label every time a person changes his/her initial reaction after seeing more evidence, talking to people, re-assessing the situation, and trying to bring about a positive outcome.  With this Viking stadium situation, the story is changing constantly, and it seems pretty natural that people with power that want the stadium built have to be flexible and evolve their views and attitudes in response to what other people do to change the situation (PFT).

Have a good one, suckers.


  1. PV:

    Oedipus and being a Viking fan - I never would have put the two together.

  2. But who will police the police?

  3. Here's how I look at the stadium and "using public money."

    * The state spends money on all sorts of amenities which make MN a good place to live. I pay for all sorts of things I don't personally take advantage of. And I'm OK with that.
    * The NFL is a controlled monopoly, so the supply of NFL teams is fixed.
    * Supply and demand dictate that if a state wants an NFL team they will have to subsidize the stadium.

    So, the question really _should_ be about whether it is worth the amount of money being asked to get the amenity of having an NFL team. Unfortunately, people only talk in absolutes and the amount of money never enters the question.

    I personally think it is worth the amount of money being asked.