Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m currently enjoying a media blackout phase. Consequently, I’m trying to stay away from the television. Still, I sometimes have a nature show or something running in the background as I surf the web or shuffle disappointedly through profiles on OkCupid. Oh, I don’t really pay attention to it (I don’t really pay attention to OkCupid either). I experience what’s running mostly as audio-visual wallpaper; it’s about as consequential as that shit the stewardesses warn you about as you flip through “SkyMall” and wait for your damn flight to stop being delayed.

Wallpaper. That adequately describes the culture, doesn’t it? It’s wallpaperish. The internet, porn (or is “porn” just another word for the internet?), satellite radio, those pixely screens on the back of airplane seats, the full galaxy of television channels, smart phones — I sometimes feel as though popular culture has been reduced to white noise. A banal omnipresence is its most salient feature. But it’s also its raison d’être. Because we need its constant reinforcement, don’t we? We need it so we don’t stop paying attention to what’s important, like political parties or the latest warning from the Surgeon General. Because if we did that then the whole goddamn matrix might collapse in on itself, like a depressurized beer ball. And then who would fund global warming research?

Anyway, what I mostly take note of are the ads. You can learn a lot about things by watching the ads. Or at least you can if, like me, you’ve honed your cynicism to a fine, adamantine point. (In “The Matrix,” Neo needed a red pill and some kung fu to see through the bullshit. All I needed was alotta red wine and a few months of sexless wall climbing.) Below is one of my recent favorites. It’s an ad for sportscrap, but it’s also the most cutting critique of contemporary maleness I’ve ever come across.

Have a look for yourself:

Where to begin? Perhaps with the notion that professional ballplayers are suitable heroes for grown men? I mean, enjoying sports is one thing; dressing up as ballplayers like little kids in the ’50s dressed up as Davy Crockett is quite another. It seems to me that any adult, semen-producing, hairy nutsack-sporting man should be embarrassed to be seen rolling around in some other man’s essence — which is basically what’s going on when a guy swathes himself in sportscrap, isn’t it? But noooope: guys all around the country wear this stuff on the regular. To me, they’re about as appalling as the guy in our ad (we’ll call him “fanboy”), who’s shown starting his day, dejectedly going to his closet, and then compliantly smothering himself in a giant helping of David Ortiz. It’s clear that Ortiz has the upper hand in this relationship. When stroked on the shoulder, he gives our boy a sweet, reacharound-ready smile.

And let’s not even pretend this spot doesn’t contain some pretty explicit sexual overtones. After the closet bit, the next thing we see is fanboy’s back as he walks down the street. Ortiz is straddling him from behind, the big man’s ass subtly joggling up and down as his groin pushes repeatedly into fanboy’s tailbone. When the camera turns around to show the couple from the front, Ortiz’s face is wearing a blissed-out, Buddha-like expression of satiation. I guess that’s why they call him Big Papi.

But the highlight (or nadir?) occurs when fanboy stops to get a hotdog, then nonchalantly wanks a skimpy load of mustard onto his hero’s muscly forearm. Ortiz just rolls his eyes, like women sometimes do when you can’t contain yourself and blow off half-cocked. This has happened before. It’s annoying, sure, but Big Papi’s not going to make a big deal out of it. He doesn’t even complain that it’s not Grey Poupon.

When did it become acceptable to always wear sportscrap anyway? The late ’80s? Whenever it was, it seems to have kicked into overdrive in recent years. I know guys who wear nothing but sportscrap — everything they own features a whooshy, market-tested team logo. What’s going on there? Can we chalk it up to a general trend of cultural infantilization? Or maybe to a withering of outlets devoted to traditional male concerns and pursuits? Perhaps contemporary dudes are so bereft of pride, comradery, and standing that identifying with a giant Latino ballplayer is the best they can do to feel macho, virulent, purposeful. Or maybe, in their rush to reassure themselves of their manliness, they’ve become confused as to exactly whose balls they should be playing with. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Sex, Sports, Television, Women men and fashion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Ballplay

  1. epiminondas says:

    The first thing I notice when I turn off the television is how noisy it was. It is an audible assault on your senses…never mind what you’re seeing.


  2. Callowman says:

    There’s definitely a background noise aspect to contemporary culture, partly induced by the portability of media, and partly by the absolute safeness of our environment. Only rarely do I ever feel like I need to pull out the earbuds.

    I look forward to future Forearm Spooge posts.


  3. Blowhard, Esq. says:

    Awesome post, my favorite here so far. And thanks for introducing the term “sportscrap” to my vocabulary.

    For me the breaking point came about 10 years ago when I saw a grown man wearing a T-shirt featuring the Transformers’ Autobot symbol. A few music/concert T-shirts aside, I vowed never to wear any sportscrap or clothes in which any logos or other cutsey shit are prominently displayed.


  4. nairb says:

    someone needs to get fabrizio a man. repressed much?


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      Repressed to point out that the extreme fandom of shlubby sports wannabes has homosexual overtones that they themselves would never admit — even though the commercials which sell this crap to them make it pretty explicit? Is it also repressed to point out, as people have been doing for decades, that professional wrestling has strong homosexual overtones?

      As for your offer to be my man, I’ll pass, thanks. But I might let you give me a piggyback ride like David Ortiz.


  5. Grown men going around dressed up in costumes … It’s a huge change from when I was a kid. I’m trying to remember at about what age a guy of my generation would stop wearing superhero costumes and sports uniforms … Maybe at about age 10. 12? And I’m trying to remember when it was that I first started noticing grown men going about their everyday business dressed up in bits and pieces of sportscrap. ’80s sometime?

    Did it all start at sports stadiums? It doesn’t strike me as odd that fans at actual games might wear team t-shirts and such. That they’d wear them away from the stadium, and/or away from doing some household chores, strikes me as really weird. Was the baseball-cap-turned-backwards the first sign of it?

    And what to make of it as a trend? General infantalization? “I get to live in my own fantasy”-style solipsism? “I am my own superhero”? All three combined?

    In any case; no wonder today’s young galz have so little respect for today’s young dudez. They’re going around behaving like 10 year olds.


  6. Question Lady says:

    Enjoyed this post! Lots of interesting points in your post, so forgive me if I just pick up on one. I became fascinated by TV ads in the last few months. Has anyone else ever noticed how all the ads on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel are for constipation, losing weight suing your doctor for your last pill prescription and/or operation and packaged foods? I’m a huge fan of true crime shows on TV (I think it’s something TV does really well right now) and I love all the ads for insurance policies you can take out on your spouses.


  7. Scott says:

    Hang on a minute now. I’m currently wearing a Rangers t-shirt, and I often do. I love my Rangers, and I have since they moved to town in 1972. I don’t fancy myself a ball-player (I couldn’t hit the curve), but I love the sport & my hometown 9. I don’t see that changing, ever — The Great Game is simply too beautiful.

    Now, you want to tell me that nurturing a love of my team and of The Great Game is — non-hairy-nutsack? Why, I oughtta… Swing by tomorrow and I’ll put you on the business end of a post-hole digger, tough guy — I’ve got to put eight more holes through 12 inches of Texas caliche and I could use a real man like you.


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      Ha. Maybe we’ll make an exception for you.

      Seriously, I assumed it went without saying that I was talking about extreme examples. Wearing sportscrap around the house or to mow the lawn or to a sporting event seems natural. It’s the sportscrap-as-everyday-uniform-and-personal-identifier that I find weird.


      • Scott says:

        Actually, I wasn’t too sure whether you were talking about teevee, commercials, or clothes. I just had to defend the wearing of a team logo, a perfectly natural thing to do if you grow up as a sports fan.

        And, of course, you could make your same argument about just about any article of clothing. Excepting, of course, your own.


  8. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    By the way, this kind of thing is also prevalent among the Nascar set. I met a guy a while back who dressed entirely in Nascar gear. Cap, shirt, jacket — like he was down there in the crew pit (or whatever the hell they call it). Lord knows what’s going through his head when he looks at himself in the mirror each morning.


    • Blowhard, Esq. says:

      He’s thinking, “Keeeeee-RIST, I love cars that only turn left and are sponsored by giant corporations that could give a shit about me.”


      • Scott says:

        NASCAR people are certainly different. I love NASCAR, but I wouldn’t pay a nickel for the clothing they peddle.

        Now, drag racing — that’s some cool shit.


  9. Thank you. Everything about this post: thank you. Our current “men perpetually acting like boys” situation is near-crisis level. Makes my heart sing to know there really are exceptions.


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