Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Caps: On the occasion of your first reality show

Dear Caps,

So far I've been a pretty uncynical fan.  Which is something, considering my demographic profile. And although this year ticket prices at the Verizon Center have become so very steep that I can no longer justify the expense (Hershey, here I come), I still love you.  I still watch your practices sometimes, and I was very excited when, last week, I had the opportunity to hold the door open for rookie prospect (since sent to the AHL Hershey Bears) Jake Hauswirth.  (He said, "thank you."  I said, "you're welcome.") 

And guys, technically I'm probably not qualified to judge on this matter because, although I aspire to reality in my everyday life, I've never actually watched a reality show.  I look forward to the time when a couple of TV writers might get together and write a show about a hockey team and their off-the-ice experiences. It wouldn't claim to be real, but if it was really good, it would show a heightened reality; it would show something of the humanity of the players and of the game.  My father served in the Army in Korea.  We'd always ask him if M*A*S*H was a realistic portrayal.  He'd say, no, M*A*S*H was actually more real than the real thing.  That's because it concerned itself with showing not the things, but the essence of things.  

Okay, sports fans.  If that's too Platonic (with a capital 'P') and, well, weird, for you, consider George Plimpton.  Did he just plant some cameras in those dressing rooms?  Hell, no.  He put something of himself on the line.  You might say, "wow, the ego of that guy!"  And you might say, "that wasn't a real look at the locker room, at the guys, because Plimpton interacted with them; he violated the prime directive!"  But if you really think about it, isn't that at least as natural a scenario as setting up cameras to record people's necessarily self-censored conversations?  After all, people have always interacted with one another.  Cameras - not so much.  We have far less experience deconstructing camera play than word play.  You can read Plimpton's accounts and decide for yourself what was what.  You know it is his perspective, and you know it is subjective.  And from a player's point of view, there was just one guy, and he was accountable.  If you didn't like him, you could fire the puck at him.  Hard.

In this case, I'm not sure what your recourse is, or mine.

Because the camera lens is a filter that is, paradoxically, much less transparent, much harder to explicate than George Plimpton's persona, or the writers of M*A*S*H and their socio-political/humanistic agendas.  The lens filters not only light, but also a bunch of other less tangible things that are tough to enumerate or describe.  In the hands of a master, it might be masterful.  But, last I heard, Ingmar Bergman is not working on this shoot.

And this is me, the uncynical fan speaking again:  Even though, I know, professional sports is a business, and yada yada yada, I like to believe, I want to believe, I have the god-given right to believe that there remains something primal and sacred in that locker room.  I don't know what it is exactly, but I imagine it's partly guys blowing steam and partly reporters asking dumb questions and partly jockstraps hanging from pegs in the wall and partly bloody birthplace of creativity.  What it is I'll probably never know for sure, but I'm pretty sure I prefer my own imagined version to the one on HBO.

But what's done is done and there's nothing you or I can do about it.  The cameras will be on you, boys.  I'm not sure whether I get HBO; if I do, I may be watching - unless actual reality intrudes.  But in any case I will surely be watching the real you - no, I'll be watching the you that's more real than you - the Washington Capitals on the ice.


Your 4-ever uncynical fan

Go Caps!

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