Saying Goodbye to Football

In September 2001 I started watching American Football – the NFL. I had watched it a little as a kid, but never really bought into it. I always preferred to play sports than to watch them (especially baseball), but I had some good memories of the few Super Bowls I’d watched.

Anyway, after the horrible events of 9/11, I decided that I needed something light and “all-American” to take my mind off of the strangeness of the world. Needless to say, I realize that football is its own kind of strangeness. I knew that then. But I was looking for something normal to participate in. I could talk about it with people instead of talking about terrorism or war.

As an artist I was stereotypical: basically uninterested in barbaric, chauvinistic feats of strength. I got over myself a bit, however, and began to pay attention to what was swiftly becoming America’s real pastime. I took sides. I was a Manning fan.

Most of the time I watched the game were Manning/Brady years. People hotly debated their relative status in the contest of best ever quarterbacks, and I joined in. Ultimately it wasn’t close. Brady certainly is the best.

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Of course, I hated Brady with a passion. Winners always garner the most vociferous hate. Peyton Manning just wasn’t good enough. Yes, one of the best. Yes, perhaps he had a couple of the single best years in the history of the game. But he played on teams that should have won many, many championships. They – he – just couldn’t seal the deal, and a couple lack-luster Super Bowl wins don’t make up for it.

img_1995Peyton always had horrible happy feet and got nervous any time he didn’t have complete control. He was great in a dome, with no wind, at 70 degrees, and with a decent offensive line. Brady was great anywhere, any time.

I did get to experience the glory of seeing the Giants dash the hopes and dreams of Brady’s Patriots not once, but twice. Though Eli sure is dorky, thank The Christ for David Tyree’s helmet in 2007 and Ahmad Bradshaw’s flop into the end zone five years later.

img_1996But a lot of things have changed. I have four kids. I had a heart attack. There are just so many more things I need to focus on, and so many more things to be aware of. In an era of continued war, of human trafficking, of terrorism near and far, of climate change, of idiots running the show… well, I just can’t see my way to give energy to a game. I guess cardiac arrest will do that to you, maybe. I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment of the NFL, concussions and all. I just don’t enjoy it any more.

I have to admit that I’m sort of excited to be heading into the new semester and fall season without anticipating football. Those Sunday afternoons will feature lots of relaxing, playing with the kids, reading, writing, making art, and generally making good use of my time. And who knows, maybe we’ll turn a game on once in a while.

Maybe.

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Inspiration – Simon Tatum

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One of my best students ever was Simon Tatum, a fantastic young man who recently graduated from Mizzou as an undergraduate. He is currently working for the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands on an internship, and his work is on display there now. Simon has really demonstrated his quality as an artist and as a person over the years I’ve known him, and I am confident that he will be a leader in Caribbean art for many years.

Before he left, Simon gifted this incredible study to me – below. It is a work of ink on Mylar (24 by 16 inches) that had been enamored with for a long time, and one that I consistently returned to gaze at as it hung on his studio wall for more than a year.

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In some ways this work is a study, an early experimentation in the ink-on-Mylar technique that Simon explored for a good part of his undergraduate career. In other ways it presaged his current fascinations with Caymanian cemetery houses, the geometry of memorials, and the catalysts of memory that many human beings experience. I really love the piece and am planning to mount it in a light box so that it is back-lit… glorious.

Examples of some recent work (graphite screen printed on newsprint, dimensions variable. Photos by Simon Tatum):

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Simon’s work has inspired me, but he has also given me a deeper connection to one of the most important stories I’ve encountered: Donald Crowhurst and his Teignmouth Electron. The tale of Crowhurst and his voyage, as recounted in the fantastic documentary Deep Water, are items that come up frequently in my classes. A wonderful book about this strange episode is Peter Nichols’s A Voyage For Madmen. Seriously, go read it.

The final resting place of the Teignmouth Electron is Cayman Brac, near where Simon grew up. It turned out that he knew how to find the boat, and so he visited it for me and others here at Mizzou who are interested. Just a couple weeks ago Simon, along with fellow Caribbean artist Blue Curry, visited the boat again to document its ongoing disintegration. Their photos have been posted here.

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A fragment of the Teignmouth Electron, washed away from the decaying wreck after Hurricane Paloma in 2007.

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The current state of the Teignmouth Electron, June 2017. Photo by Simon Tatum.

Thank you, Simon! I can’t wait to see what you do in the future!