Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fan Baste

Though I'm moving toward the audio-visual, there are times when print seductively beckons. I feel this pull at the beginning of every NFL season, where fan behavior reinforces the arguments made in my book, "American Fan: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It."

Here's a recent example. At last week's Detroit Lions home game against the Minnesota Vikings, two drunken women were captured acting like assholes. According to witnesses, these dopes were verbally abusing Vikings fans and pouring beer on people's heads. An alert auteur turned on his camera as the action heated up, giving the rest of us an intimate look at American fans without the physical risk.

How'd you like to party with these girls?

While it's easy to mock them, these two exhibit a sadness and emptiness that tribal attachment to the local team cannot address, much less fix. How bad is your life that you must act this way in public? Michigan's shit economy doesn't help matters, fueling desperation and recklessness. People here are p-i-s-s-e-d off. I see it every day. (Fuck, I'm one of them!) But since there's no political alternative, no real social structure to fall back on, the locals are left to fend for themselves. For a good many, sports remain a safe place, however illusory and fleeting.

To be fair, these women probably love the attention. In this degraded age, any form of exposure, no matter how embarrassing and pitiful, is viewed positively by countless, powerless people. The Detroit Free Press is pushing this little scene, which I'm confident pleases these women, their families and friends. To paraphrase Rupert Pupkin, it's better to be noticed for a moment than be ignored for a lifetime.

Oh yeah -- the Lions still lost. Reliable as always.

FAN APPRECIATION: While dated in certain respects, "American Fan" contains some of my best writing, yet most of you have probably never read it. You can thank HarperCollins, a print division of Fox Sports, for that. Despite favorable reviews in USA Today, Boston Globe, and The New York Times, HC despised the book they inherited through corporate takeover. You can get it cheap at Amazon and related sites. I'd be interested in hearing what some of you think should you decide to read it.

Flipping through a tattered copy of "Fan," I found a yellowed, folded review I haven't seen in years. It was written by Alison Swan for the Ann Arbor Current, right after I'd moved to Michigan. I don't think Ms. Swan was aware that I'd become a recent A2 resident, but no matter. She understood what I was going for:

"At his best Perrin is scathing and hilarious . . . At times -- some readers will feel too often -- Perrin's biting sarcasm crosses the line from biting to devouring, and his targets become almost sympathetic in the face of Perrin's venom. But most often, his attacks are the sort that are so well-deserved and so rarely seen that readers will gasp -- whether with relief or disbelief will depend upon the nature of the relationship between reader and subject.

"The sports machine might be horrifying, he shows us, but the American fan supplies the power to keep it running."