We have arrived at the eve of the most glorious season of the grandstanding year. From the Kentucky Derby to the World Series and every splendid spectacle in between; happy times are here again. This season is a particularly special one because this summer dear grandstanders, is a World Cup summer. What may possibly be the grandest spectating spectacle of them all, the greatest of human creations, the every four years futbol fiesta is just days away and so too is a new season of Grandstand.
We will start this season with a conversation set against the back drop of the FIFA World Cup. Despite the fact that this grandest of the grandest spectacles may be a passé nationalistic relic of a 20th century past and that it has been commercialized beyond redemption it still has a very poignant story to tell about the state of grandstanding. The World Cup unleashes the dogmas of nationalistic identity and the temptation to want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. On a global scale no other spectacle has the power to rejoin us to the internal human drama of culture and identity.
The month of May not only kicks off a summer of grandstanding, but it also is the soft beginning of the fourth season of Grandstand. We’ve decided to change a few things since you last heard from us. The start date for this and all future seasons will now kickoff in the late part of May/early June instead of fall as has previously been the case. We’ve been diligently at work connecting the dots between seemingly disparate story-lines and ideas, forming a coherent unified impression from visions gathered from the grandstand and in the process decided to change the approach of our podcast conversations. Our season’s narrative will be guided by the commentary of editorial pieces published on the Grandstand website all revolving around a central theme as seasons past. There will still be sidebar episodes and roundtable discussions with the ushers, but our goal is to get down to business and finally resolve this issue of telling the story of spectating spectacle in the manner we had originally intended.
Initially this season was going to be about building a narrative around ideas related to immigration and migration. In response to the present we were hoping to make a hard-nosed remark about the beauty and necessity of the movement and migration of people and ideas with the spectating spectacle as the framework for illustrating that point. With every brainstorming session our conversations evolved past trying to do a mere Wikipedia retelling of the change affected by the migration and interaction of people and game-play philosophies of the sporting borderlands. Our aim was to not only focus on the more obvious instances of social change occurring within the sporting world, but to also discuss the more nuanced aspects of change not necessarily related to social-political movements, but nevertheless hailing from the social, geographical and political.
Through the evolution of tactical schematics, change in uniform designs, in-groups and out-groups, millennial ballplayers and their kowtowing managers, and soccer in the Paris suburbs we wanted to explore how migration and encounter helped to bring forth change in the spectating spectacle.
Our interest in migration and immigration as the topic of conversation came from the not told often enough saga of the racial tension produced by the advent of the slam-dunk as a new scoring strategy in basketball. At a glance the story of the simultaneous rejection and embrace of the slam-dunk by traditionalists and non-traditionalists alike is the story of a basketball grandstand divided over a scoring tactic. However, anyone familiar with this story and the history of race in America instantly recognizes that this was more than a mere rejection of a new style of scoring. UCLA’s Lew Alcinder (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) made such great use of the slam-dunk that it was eventually banned by NCAA from 1967 to 1976 in what became known colloquially as the Lew Alcinder rule. The dunk came to be perceived as a menace and threat to a more sober and traditional tactical style of play in basketball not only because it was new and different, but because it instantly became a symbol of black power. To date no single gesture in sports has had such a profound effect on the makeup of a game as has the slam dunk and we wanted to explore motifs related to that story but…
Eventually We Arrived at the Issue of Protest
Very few things cause as much collective indignation and polemics in the grandstand as the introduction of a new tactical philosophy or change to the rules of play or engagement. The old guard’s immediate rebuff of a new gameplay approach versus the new guard’s embrace of change has always been as much a spectacle as the action on the field of play. With that said there is no hiding the fact that Grandstand has been very vocal about the mistrust we have of the incessantly rapid rate of change in the sport spectating experience. Numerous times we have hypothesized about nightmare scenarios that could be brought forth by the gentrifying villains of our debased imagination. We have attempted in vain to defrock the priests of the millennial apocalypse with their statistics and fragmented fandom. We have said that we are yet to be convinced that it is necessary that technology replace humans as the arbiters of impartiality on the field. We have decried the changes produced to the spectating experience by mass commercialization and the made for television spectacle and so on and so forth. And so what started as an attempt to celebrate and honor migration and movement through the lens of sport slowly morphed into talk of looking for grandstander examples of protest and resistance against the cookie cutter corporatism and the incessant numerology of present day spectating. We talked a great deal about the potency of the encounters that occur at the borders where the spectating spectacle past encounters the spectating future and of the responsibilities we grandstanders have to uphold certain traditions and embrace new ones no matter how much we disagree with them. So we asked.
Who in the grandstand gets to decide what stays and what goes?
What does grandstanding look like when it’s practiced far away from the overly mediated corporate place it’s at now?
When, if ever, is it prudent to walk away from the mainstream spectacle?
Where in spectacle can we see the shaping of narratives that parallel the political secessionist movements of states within states and secessionist movements of grandstanders looking for an out from the densely corporate brand of grandstanding currently being shoved down our spectating gullets?
But Still at Least for One More Season
And because of May, and of the possibility of another Horse Racing Triple Crown, Lebron vs Curry IV, Iniesta's swan song and the sight of human souls about to get disheveled by a month of nation versus nation football we will stick around to see what happens.
Grandstand may be no weather channel, but this season’s prognostications look to be on point. Join us, come help us forge a manifesto that will speak in resistance against those who would believe that we grandstanders in the colosseums are all but mere props for the television audience.
Resume the celebration, open the gates of the cathedral and let our grandstanders in!