The Dwight Howard Trade Did Not Take Place

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From the binary concept that brought you AbeVigoda.com

At some point in my childhood, I had to get glasses because I couldn’t read the chalkboard at school. I remember not giving a shit about this medical development because it was almost summer, and the chalkboard couldn’t vex me between June and late August. I would be too busy playing baseball in the mote-filled slow-motion suburban summer sun to need glasses.

Unfortunately I chose to spend most of that summer lying on the basement floor, head propped in hands, staring (without my glasses on) at all-night reruns of SportsCenter. I would fill the hours between the late West Coast SportsCenter and the early East Coast SportsCenter with replays of beach volleyball, infomercials, World’s Strongest Man competitions, basically anything that was not sleeping.

My pre-teen insomnia was, in my opinion at the time, a great idea, but unfortunately my eyeballs did not agree. By the next fall, it turned out I needed my glasses not only to see the chalkboard clearly but to see anything clearly, at least beyond the frontier of my elbows. ESPN literally blinded me, but not in a way where I could seek punitive damages or that the blinding has any mythological significance. I doubt I would have turned into an Alpha male or not gone bald and bookish without my glasses; my character was sort of in the mail anyway.

I eventually grudgingly got over watching SportsCenter all night, in part because I ceased to have so few responsibilities in life that I could do so a regular basis. But for a few summers, even after my eyes went, I put on my glasses and kept watching SportsCenter, pretty much whenever it was on, because I thought Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, and Craig Kilborn were hilarious, and because it was sports, and I wanted to know everything there was to know about sports.

In search of total sports awareness, I would watch the same exact episode of SportsCenter over and over. For a while I was convinced that there were infinitesimal differences between the episodes that aired back-to-back through the night. Brett Haber or Larry Biel delivered a joke differently, smirked a millisecond longer, coughed a tiny bit. My refusal to grasp the nature of videotape technology eventually weakened, and the absurdity of the idea of two humans performing almost-identical recordings of a scripted newscast over and over into the Connecticut night eventually sunk in. Why would people re-record a static set of information, an unchanging roster of game recaps and injury reports? That would be weird and dumb, I realized.

***

The thing is, the entire world does do this now. We keep making, distributing, and disseminating reports about how Dwight Howard has not been traded. He has been not traded for many consecutive days and nights, but all we talk about is how he remains not traded, like it was breaking news. Before Dwight Howard not getting traded, it was reports about how Albert Haynesworth had failed to show up for OTAs or stolen Mike Shanahan's glass eye or something. Before that it was something about Terrell Owens. Any kind of contract holdout. Preliminary hearings in the Roger Clemens trial. Tim Tebow's entire existence. Stories discussing the incipient two-hour television special announcing the 2012 NFL schedule.  There are a million varieties of the non-story story necessary to keep the inflatable King Kong that is the 24-hour news cycle full of lukewarm air.

This is not a crochety gripe about how Things Used to Be Better and We Should Go Back to That. It's easy to feel frustrated by postmodernity. Traditional narratives have been dethroned in favor of sour, paranoid buzzing. Overexposure of a flawed genius like LeBron James cleaves the public into waspish haters or frontrunning juggalos. But as much as I might want to blame ESPN and the other piano players for the media environment, I get the sports I deserve. Only a society full of maniacs could have farted up the mushroom cloud of self-serious inconsequentialty that is modern sports. But we've always been a society full of maniacs. We're just more aware of it now.

"Dwight Howard Not Getting Traded" is not at all a new phenomenon or one that's exclusive to the republic of sports. There's a dated but prescient book about shit not happening that explains a lot about Pseudo-Events. This strange type of glitch-narrative, the same thing not happening, is bigger than sports. Dwight Howard Not Getting Traded is new in the sense that umpteen HD cameras and wall-to-wall live coverage let us see more clearly than ever before that nothing at all has happened, but it's always been with us. The underlying reason that we brood over Dwight Howard not getting traded and its ilk is pretty obvious: Nothing else happened, but we need to talk. The only logical solution is to talk about nothing.

Sports has always been talking about nothing. It's ostrich therapy from the real world, one of the many flavors of well-behaved unreality, to lift a phrase, that we use to make it through the day/night. We need sports. We're all complicit- social media and blogs and the million little pieces of us. All our media, which includes all our mainstream sports, are winged dinosaurs right now, weird hybrids marking the gap between old-fashioned network media, the kind that SportsCentermaimed and is currently bringing you tape-delayed pomposity, and whatever new mess comes next.There's not a jerk-illuminati conspiracy to make sports yappy and vapid, there's just us.


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