Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heart and Soul

If you have the time (it is a long piece and a rather involved read), then check out David Remnick's masterful profile of Bruce Springsteen in the July 30, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.  Entitled, "We Are Alive:  Bruce Springsteen at Sixty-Two" it is far more than a rah-rah puff piece attempting to attach a lot of imagery - faux and otherwise - to Springsteen's music.  In other words, it is clear about two paragraphs in that Dave Marsh did not write this profile.  Among the weightier topics Remnick and Springsteen discussed was the latter's complicated, multi-layered and by all accounts rather difficult relationship with his father. 

Springsteen told Remnick that he took to writing songs about his father in an effort to open a line of communication with him and that his efforts bore fruit.  "He might not have liked the songs, but I think he liked that they existed. It meant that he mattered. He’d get asked, ‘What are your favorite songs?’ And he’d say, ‘The ones that are about me.’ ”   It probably speaks volumes to the personal demons that dogged the father that it took certain elements of his son's work to ratify his own existence and to reaffirm his significance - at least in his own mind.  If you have never walked a step in either set of shoes (those of the father or of the son), then consider yourself damned fortunate.

The Summer Olympics are in full bloom.  While I have been following the results of certain sports that interest me (principally swimming -  track and field as we move deeper into the games) on-line I abandoned watching NBC's nonsensical coverage on the first full day of events.  On Saturday afternoon as Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were competing against one another in the 400 IM - an event and a matchup that NBC highlighted in its pre-Olympics coverage - NBC was broadcasting Dan Patrick interviewing Bela Karolyi about the prospects for the young ladies on the US gymnastics team.  I did not realize that Lochte and Phelps were in fact in the pool facing each other until - moments after Lochte won the gold medal - my phone started buzzing with "Alerts/Updates" from outlets including the Washington Post and USA Today.   Every media outlet - whether on-line or on television - not only chirped about the result but began writing Phelps' Olympic obituary.  Every outlet except NBC.  In their world, the race would not be contested until prime-time Saturday night on the East Coast. 

If you are not going to pretend to give a rat's ass about the "athletic" aspect of this two-week international athletic competition, then do me a favor:  leave your sports broadcasters home.  Send Mario Lopez, Maria Menounos and the crew from Extra to England.   They can subject your viewers to wall-to-wall coverage of Will and Kate, the Queen and Prince Phil and (presuming they are in town for the Games) David and Posh while simply having a crawl across the bottom of the screen updating viewers as to the results of the events as they are actually taking place.  I wonder if New York City had been successful in its attempt to land the Summer Olympics would NBC - based as it is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in (wait for it) New York City - have actually aired the events live.  Actually, I do not wonder about that at all.  I know the answer.  Sadly we all do. 

Perhaps someone at NBC should read Remnick's profile.  Talking about performing live Springsteen said, "You're the shaman - a little bit - you're leading the congregation.  But you are the same as everybody else in the sense that your troubles are the same, your problems are the same, you’ve got your blessings, you’ve got your sins, you’ve got the things you can do well, you’ve got the things you fuck up all the time. And so you’re a conduit. There was a series of elements in your life—some that were blessings, and some that were just chaotic curses—that set fire to you in a certain way.”

As a wise man once observed it is damned difficult to start a fire without a spark.  Much in the same way it is hard to embrace the spirit of an athletic competition from which the television network broadcasting it has removed its soul....

....with equal aplomb those who penned young Mr. Phelps's "Olympic obituary" following Day One of competition have been forced to remove their feet from their mouths.  While somewhere the ghost of Samuel Clemens smiles - being as he is well-versed in the concept of the exaggerated demise.



Schiff said...

Downside is NBC has ratings through the roof for their prime time show We just can't win

Adam Kenny said...

You are 100% right Schiff and since NBC (as a commercial TV network) is ratings-driven, I do not blame them for NOT changing a formula that works for them.

I understand why they air them in the manner in which they do. I do not have to agree with it - but I understand it.