Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman has a great take on some of the connections between contemporary sports publicity and hip-hop culture at ESPN. Klosterman (who penned the bestseller, Fargo Rock City) meditates on these connections and whether or not the iconic Muhammad Ali invented rap. Klosterman's column takes an interesting turn when he describes the critics of both music and sport.

Sports columnists and rock critics have a lot of qualities in common (more than most readers realize, I suspect). Chief among these similarities is a sense of arbitrary righteousness: Sportswriters and music writers are appalled anytime they get what they once pretended to want. In the '80s, tennis writers complained John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were obnoxious and undignified; today, tennis writers3 inevitably insist men's tennis is boring and that we need a new Super Brat. Whenever musical acts become obsessed with import and authenticity (i.e., U2 during the "Rattle and Hum" era), pop critics find them egocentric and ridiculous; the moment those same musical acts embrace artifice and grandiosity (i.e., U2 on the 1997 "Popmart" tour), those same critics question their integrity. Whenever you deliver anything to a sports columnist or a rock critic, they will want its opposite. And this is especially true when the (mainly) white media covers the (mainly) black worlds of football, basketball and mainstream hip-hop.4 In both instances, journalists remain simultaneously fixated on two paradoxical positions:

(1.) Most athletes/artists are boring because all they do is repeat safe, meaningless clichés.
(2.) The few individuals within these idioms who do say provocative, controversial things are ill-informed media whores who should be more grateful that they are rich.

da*n straight, Chuck.

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