Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Opening Doors

I am ashamed to say that I spent an inexcusable amount of time yesterday afternoon staring at a live image of a door. I am no less ashamed to say that this door was attached to a gymnasium in Memphis, Tennessee, a city I have visited once in my life, and have no particular affinity toward or grudge against*. I'm not sure what I was expecting to see, nor what any of the thousands of others (who flooded the accompanying chat room with varied levels of absurd juvenilia) expected to see, either. Theoretically, we were all waiting for John Calipari to come shambling through that door and make some kind of dramatic pronouncement--that he was leaving to become the basketball coach at Kentucky, or that he was staying as the head coach at Memphis. (And then half the people in the chat room could start hurling insults at the other half, amid the cryptic and perverse pronouncements about the endowment of certain males and the cup size of certain females.) But, of course, it's not like John Calipari's office is trapped in some kind of Dharma initiative time warp; he has the Internet, too, and I'm presuming he just snuck out a door that was not being monitored by a local television station, and beamed across the universe.

And yet we still watched. We watched a door.** And behind that door was a basketball coach who would probably admit that he gets paid far too much money to do what he does. And I suppose this is an example of what perplexes me about modern technology: So much of it is about "removing the filter" of the so-called mainstream media, and yet at times, when we remove the filter, we realize that perhaps the filter was there for a reason.

Reporting is often boring. It is filled with hours of drudgery, hours spent staking out a parking lot, staring at a door, waiting to ask questions that won't be answered. In the case of sports, this can make you feel awfully stupid. For instance: In a previous job, I once had to stake out Pedro Martinez at a midtown hotel on the day before he announced he was signing with the Mets. When Pedro showed up, I shouted something at him, he very politely ignored me (if such a thing is possible), he got in an SUV, and he left. It was useless, just as this shot of the door was useless, but I suppose this is what people crave. They want the filter removed. They want immediate and instant gratification, and most of all, they want to shout at each other while getting it (or not getting it). They want to know what's going on under the surface, with men who have taken on far more importance than they ever should have in the first place.*** They want to stare at that door, even if never opens, even if never reveals much of anything about the person inside. Even if it reveals much more about them.****

*Though I did find Graceland so overwhelmingly "American" that it actually made me a little nauseous in places.
**As I was writing this, I just checked again. The door is still there, and the people in the chat room seem to be discussing (repeatedly) the following: A.) Whether "Horner is gay," B.) Whether "MichaelSean could bench that door," C.) The size of Sasquatch's member. Also, it appears to be "PeanutButterJellyTime."
***"Why do we have to attach mythical qualities to the millionaires who coach college sports?" wrote the Commercial-Appeal's sports columnist, Geoff Calkins, who is worth listening to for many reasons, including that he is the only sportswriter I know who went to Harvard Law School.

****Update: The door now has its own Facebook page. I am only shocked that it took this long to happen. By Wednesday afternoon, I expect the door will be in celebrity rehab.

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