It’s that confidence in owning the stupidity that makes it work. Those are the special moments: ‘Yeah, this is stupid. And I am not. I will stare you down with this if you want to have staring contest over how stupid this is and try and get me to apologize. But I will not lose. You’re going to give in before I give in.’
The New Yorker web item about Jack Kerouac and possible concussions is, on its face, an important melding of sports and literature. Football has always been part of Kerouac’s All-American backdrop. But we’re rarely given any reason to consider the difference between one sport and another, or acknowledge which one he excelled it and what that might mean. This line of inquiry belong to football and football alone. It also has the effect of extending Kerouac’s sports biography as something more than a symbolic echo. It gives it, um, resonance.
It also has the unlikely effect of deepening the divide. Beyond-the-grave CTE check-ups are inexact science but they are science nonetheless. The self-destructive literary genius is at best pop psychology; often it verges on mythology. Here, sports beat up literature and not only took its lunch money, it stripped away a key narrative and reduced it to a doctor’s visit. Body beats mind, reason screws Romance, life becomes a little less magical even in suffering. The most important thing here is a human life, so keeping score like this is kind of tacky. Then again, shouldn’t that be the case whether we’re talking about the nuts and bolts or sports or the inner workings of authors?
On some later date I am going to write a lot about the place of Romanticism in sports, specifically when it comes to injury (what up, long lost book proposal!) I’m not sure, though, if it’s indicative of a shift in the way we view creative heroes or just how resistant concussions have proven to poetry of sports injury.