Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Picture of (Your Name Here)

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only published novel, the title character is granted his wish for immortality. Despite the passing years, he does not show any physical signs of aging. Meanwhile, his portrait, which he keeps hidden, ages and becomes increasingly disfigured. But while Dorian Gray does not show physical signs of age, his internal disfigurement becomes increasingly problematic, as he secretly engages in worsening acts of lewdness and depravity. After many years of hidden debauchery, he attacks the now hideous portrait, but succeeds only in turning himself instantly into a withered and unrecognizable corpse, while the portrait returns to its original condition.

The novel’s examination of the question of immoral behavior and its impact on the soul captivated readers, and subsequent film versions of the story have done the same for movie buffs. There is even a condition known as Dorian Gary Syndrome, an excessive preoccupation with one’s physical appearance coupled with a fear of or unwillingness to accept aging. In light of recent developments in the political arena, I think the more compelling theme, in terms of applicability to the world as we know it, is the allure of duplicity, the thrill of leading double lives.

An item in today’s New York Post notes that the leading republican candidate for the congressional seat currently held by Vito Fossella is about to receive a judicial appointment. That appointment, should it come through and be accepted, would open up the door for Fossella to run for re-election, something he vowed not to do back in May. The reason he vowed not to run? After being arrested for DUI he subsequently admitted to having an extra-marital affair and fathering a three-year-old child out of wedlock. As for why Mr. Fossella wouldn’t think that having led a double life is an impediment to re-election to Congress, consider Senator John Edwards.

In early August, squeaky-clean John Edwards finally admitted the truth of rumors that had been swirling around his campaign for months. Namely, that while campaigning for the highest office in the land with his devoted, cancer-stricken wife at his side he had been carrying on an affair with a campaign videographer. Although he denies being the father of her new-born baby, there is at least some reason to doubt his sincerity. So why would anyone with such an unblemished image and reputation risk it all for such tawdry goings on? Perhaps we should ask Elliot Spitzer.

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer (aka Client #9) fell farther faster than either Fossella or Edwards, going from the Governor’s mansion to the political outhouse (and his wife’s doghouse) in a matter of days when details of his indiscretions became public knowledge. Yet his sin, hiring a prostitute, may have been the least distressing. (We don’t call the world’s oldest profession for nothing.) What made Spitzer’s fall worse was the fact that he had made his career as the crime-busting, take no prisoners, prosecutor of just these kinds of transgressions. When word got around that the holier than thou crusader was paying $5,000 a night to sleep with a woman only five years older than his eldest daughter, what he received was more than come-uppance. It was up, over, out and goodbye.

Three highly regarded public servants with everything to lose risk it all to experience the thrill of duplicity, and all of them within a period of six months. Three modern day Dorian Grays, composed, respected, and admired on the outside, while their secret sins eat away at their souls. Three people who were one thing on the outside, and something very different on the inside. If we can assume that for every one caught there are plenty more who get away with it, this is truly just the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, if we see it in public figures we can readily assume that many average citizens, regular folk if you will, who would never be subject to the scrutiny that brought these scandals to light are probably living similarly duplicitous lives.

So there I was at the Clambake party, a Frisbee party that, with its food, drink, games, bands, diversions and indiscretions, is about as impressive a Frisbee party as there is. It is, however, still a Frisbee party, which is why I was looking to get a ride out of there even as I was swallowing my last bite of lobster. Unfortunately, before I was able to secure that ride and get the hell out of Dodge, I found myself in the company of someone whose name I’ve omitted for his own protection.

Now this person, we’ll call him Tim, is a very recognizable figure in our little game. He has made a name for himself as a very successful player, committed organizer, and even authored an expansive collection of strategies. Along the way he has come to be known as polite, intelligent, soft-spoken, and perhaps even a little bit bland, or so I thought. At a Clambake party, that celebrated 20 years of the event with a theme that harkened back even farther, Tim revealed another side of himself, a side that, a la Dorian Gray, he may have been hiding for some time.

Because this guy, the one we’re calling Tim, has some very detailed knowledge of the Hall of Fame selection process, our conversation began there. We started with the usual innocuous comments and insincere pleasantries, but then things turned quickly. For starters, Tim readily revealed the names of the eight finalists for this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, information that, to my knowledge, is not supposed to be discussed so cavalierly. He then offered his opinions on who should and should not be inducted, again a matter of some sensitivity. Finally, in a boast that might’ve come out of Joe Durso, he declared that he should be a first ballot entry into the Hall of Fame because he was, for period of years, the best player in the game, uncoverable, won six titles in a row, AND he wrote a book. I’m not making this up. In case there were any doubt about how he really felt, when given the opportunity to soften his boast, Tim declined, instead repeating it. Twice.

And I thought I was full of myself.

Having finally secured my much desired ride, I left the party wondering which Tim is the real Tim. Is it the guy I’ve known for years, the quiet, sometimes awkward, intelligent and soft-spoken Tim. Or is it the bombastic, presumptuous, self-inflating egomaniac who holds so many of his peers in contempt?

The following day, Clambake Sunday, I arrived for our quarterfinal game still a little undone from the previous night’s encounter, and was approached by a teammate who asked ,”Did you hear about Tim?” He proceeded to tell me a story that was soon corroborated by several others. As the night wore on and the party continued, Tim had gotten so drunk that he fell on his head, not once but twice. Soon reports started rolling in that he was on his team’s sideline vomiting.

Was everything Tim said just drunken rambling? Or did the alcohol, whose effects were less obvious when we spoke than when he walked, acting like a truth serum, bringing his real, honest, heartfelt feelings out in the open? Had he been living a double life all these years, pretending to be one thing but knowing he was another, and did that duplicity and its attendant tension finally push him to do something so outlandish he would never be able to go back to old Tim? Is that what happened to Fossella, Edwards and Spitzer? If so, if it can happen to them and Tim, who’s next?


Frank Huguenard said...

Wait, Jim Parinella thinks he's was the best player in the game for some years?

Are you fucking kidding me? He's a joke and so is his book.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that human behavior is guided by constant internal negotiation. We have illogical, selfish, arrogant impulses that we consciously temper with measured analysis of reality, considerations of future happiness and compassion toward those around us. I would not call this rendering duplicitous, I would call it human.

To examine a self-aggrandizing drunken rant--a possible glimpse of someone's uncensored “id”--as unsettling evidence of a rotten core is to give the idea of a good man/bad man dichotomy far too much credence. We're most of us in constant negotiation with the less noble aspects of our selves. I really can’t speak to this ill-concealed “Tim’s” essence, but the parinells...er.. parallels you draw seem, well, overdrawn.

It is one thing to live out a life that is a charade and revel, delighted and smug, in your deception. It is another to recognize, struggle and occasionally fail against the short-sighted, self-serving impulses that accompany the human condition. Judging from the insightful, dry-eyed self-critique that you reveal in your writing, this is something you understand deeply.

Why, then, do you mount this ad hominem attack? You’ve already articulately, directly and publicly expressed your displeasure with the system[s?] you mention in your narrative. What is the purpose of this piece? Is this a philosophical companion piece? A farcical public service announcement regarding the darker side of Ultimate's golden "boy"? An "understood" barb between two former competitors? A wholly unconnected meditation on human nature?

Shame on me if I question the legitimate and necessary calling out of scumbaggery. But it seems that, in this piece, you veer toward forsaking thoughtful critique to indulge a personal vendetta.

...or maybe that's the whole point?

s said...

Whats wrong with self-nomination for the hall of fame?

I see no problem with saying: I was the best player for some time. I deserve a place.

Just imagine the opposite: Jim saying: I was such a bad player. I don´t even know why i´m so famous.

That would sound like false modesty, wouldn´t it?

J. Becker said...

11:37 has it just right.

Obviously, Dorian has it wrong in Wilde's novel. His sneaking harms everyone he touches, even brings death to some . . . but if he's a villain, who's our hero. Lord Henry? If anything, his worldview is one of unity--everything is touched by his ironic wit, nothing is sacred, everyone and everybody is fair game.

Dorian's descent isn't CAUSED BY his division of self, his divided self CAUSES his descent. And Henry causes his division of self by a relentless stream of rhetoric that the innocent Dorian is ill-equipped to resist.

It's a false "unity" of character that I fear more than MULTIplicity.

Anonymous said...

T-Man returns! Then vomits.

Match said...

First off Ken, I wanted to say that I've come to enjoy your little corner of thought over the last few weeks. I really liked your 9/11 piece as well as your High School news paper article. I had to rewatch the Ken Dobyns mock-umentary by those queer twins on ESPN as a refresher to who you were, simply because after reading your "call from the hall" article, i wanted to make sure I knew who was spouting out this stuff.

With that in mind, I think you are at least somewhat guilty of what you are criticizing. Even mentioning your interest on such a topic reveals some deeper motivation and where as you articulate it on a public blog, others get ripped and start talking themselves up. I think the actions are somewhat related but I think there is very little evil at play.

Parinella is a person that I have gotten to know a little bit over the last year or so and when he could have been the person you are criticizing, he wasn't. He has been very open about things he knows I am interested in and for that I am thankful. This is especially important considering that other people that have far fewer rings are much more dismissive than he is.

With this to consider, I think the bottom line is to not read anything into it. In partying with jocks, I get the sense that when they get ripped some self-touting comes out, but this makes sense, they've earned it. Considering that you've "known him for years" I get the feeling that this should have been a moment of hilarity for you, not skepticism. If I were in your shoes, I would have just sat back and watched Jim make a fool of himself and then poke fun at him later. Judging him like this seems a bit naive to the effects of alcohol and championships.

I'm a bit curious to know how Jim feels about this though. I know he reads all this stuff so I'm sure he is sitting there in his study polishing his brass laughing to himself, at least I hope he is. Taking this rant personally would only impower you and belittle him. However, I am sure he is mature enough to know when to ignore criticism. I think that is why he started his "I schooled Jimmy P" blog.

In any event, I really think you are a decent writer, although I think you could have done better here. If it were me writing it, I think I would have gone with something like "when it comes to booze, we're all idiots".

just my thoughts

Anonymous said...

Wow, Match Diesel is belittling your writing ability. Coming from the king of ultimate journalism who is roundly acknowledged to have the best writing style in ultimate blogs, that must sting a little.

I thought the post was interesting, the sort of gossip we all like to hear. Thanks.

dj said...

hmm, considering that you are a much better writer than Match, its laughable for him to be giving advice to you here. Equally laughable that such a supposed fanboy of Ultimate had to rewatch some lame ESPN shows' clips to know who was speaking. But then again, he is the self-proclaimed best ultimate journalist writing today so what do I know...

Hope you keep up the writing, its excellent...

bali_ultimate said...

A few thoughts:

Ken, who i don't know, is the best writer in the tiny little ultimate blog-world (despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that his best posts aren't really about ultimate)

Jim is the second best writer in said world.

Match is weak sauce as a writer and as a commentator. It's usually just cliches wrapped in ignorance and misplaced worship.

A few years ago, i'd been spending a lot of time in a bad place, let's call it Eye-rak. Other parts of my life weren't going well. On a trip to new york, a friend of mine happened to know people inhabiting my little corner of the Eye-raki world, a little corner even more self-centered and foolish than the ultimate world. Let's call it hack-world. Anyhow, i got wasted, and in what at the time i thought was an ever-more hilarious diatribe, I started calling out fellow said denizens of aforementioned tiny corner, in increasingly absurd, offensive and apparently abusive language (at the time i thought i was going so far over the top that it would be obvious i didn't mean it.) Instead, of course, i was branded a raging asshole and, apparently, was only saved from a savage beat-down by my friend, who talked the most insulted fellow down from the rage-ledge i'd placed him on.

Lesson: Drunks say stupid shit. 360 degrees is still a circle. And Jim and Ken are (were, whatever) very good ultimate players who write well, and add more value with their rare contributions online than most of the rest of us (dar excepted).

Dan ("scoop")

Anonymous said...

Good writing?

How many of you actually read all the way through that dry text?

Anonymous said...

so.....up the names of the hof canidates......as well as "tims" insights on the matter(or should i say the ones other than his obvious homerism).

Anonymous said...

Another great entry on your blog. Blog being the key word here, where private thoughts go public. But at what point do we cross the line as we express them?

T(J)im's expression of his private thoughts make him the baffoon. Sure all great athletes think they are the best, its the starting point for having any chance of success when competing against those that are. He crossed the line when he verbalized his arrogance and thus warrants our disdain.

Your iconic status grants you the privledge to express the same thoughts about your HOF status, should you chose to, and to denounce his actions, with impunity. I for one, find your clever exposés a breath of fresh air, especially in light of all the BS we have had to endure every day this election year. However, at what point does your expression of disapproval cross the line and seek to humiliate him. One of the most self-aggrandizing athletes ever, Dion Sanders, once offered this insight, "Dion don't ever put another man down".

Unfortunately, independent of your refreshing diatribe and ironic in its coincidental timing and pertinence, I am afraid that the shit is really about to hit the fan.

Oh, and word to Match. My new nickname for you is JJ as in Gittes. Your motivation might be in the right place but far too often you truly don't know WTF is going on. You should learn when to STFU and just be entertained.

Anonymous said...

I was at this party and Red Tide (current Tide) one the party hands down with their shouts of "Roll" response "Tide" as their captain was just getting ready for bed at 5:30 a.m.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this?


Ha ha

Jay Schulkin said...

Seems to me that Match's comment was clever self-satire. (I hope).

Anonymous said...

Hold on...you read Match's comment as "clever self-satire"? Match has never written a subtle post in his life--everything is 100% earnest and straightforward to the point of easy ridicule. This is the self-christened (with no hint of irony) most-respected journalist in ultimate you're talking about. Match's comment was some things, but "clever" was not one of them. He's finally gotten to be "friends" with "Tim" after calling him out on his blog a while ago, so he felt the need to defend the guy from kd, who he doesn't know at all. I don't see how you can read satire into Match's comment--he does not have the wit to create satire as subtle as you claim this is. He brags on his blog about his heckling skills, then gives the example: "And speaking of heckles, I kept laying into Gibson for wearing a Jam hat on Saturday. I would toss out stuff like, "Oh man, Idris got up on that guy" or "Namkung's white now?"." One doesn't brag about witticisms like these unless one does not understand what wit is.

Satire this was not. 100% fawning and foolishness it was.

Don't I have better things to do than anonymously bash the greatest (most vocal) journalist in ultimate? Not this morning.