Ho-Hum Sports, Hi-Ho Zirin!




Ho-Hum Sports, Hi-Ho Zirin!

Columbus, Ohio

I’m not a sports fan. (In fact, I became an opera junkie about thirty years ago when the only alternatives for TV distraction while I vacuumed were football or The Marriage of Figaro.) Nor do I have any interest in Tiger Woods’s personal life. But I do take a keen interest in the politics and finance of sports, and Dave Zirin always educates me. I knew nothing about Woods’s sponsors. Zirin’s piece about the flap, "Caged Tiger" [Jan. 4], was the first that made sense to me. Thank you, Nation.





‘The Hurt Locker’ at CUNY

New York City

Eric Alterman ["The Liberal Media," Dec. 21/28] attributes to me something I have never thought, let alone said. I did not say The Hurt Locker‘s "portrayal of the American soldiers as decent human beings contradicted the message they received in training to lay aside their human feelings in the service of their military mission." I said that soldiers and marines are taught, in training and by combat, to put aside their personal feelings and to play the roles they’ve been assigned in an educational division of labor. They’re taught to become more human, not less, by playing these roles, by stepping outside themselves, by understanding how others will perceive them–by acquiring identities that negate what they have been in the relatively small worlds they came from. They’re taught that if they take any of it personally, they put themselves and their comrades at risk. If they are well trained, in other words, soldiers and marines know that the personal "authenticity" embodied by the hero of The Hurt Locker–the lonely risk of death in soulful combat with intricate evil somehow makes life more meaningful–is the drug that will kill them. Unlike Chris Hedges, Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, soldiers and marines know this drug is not addictive. They avoid it, anyway.

I have another vested interest in setting the record straight. That "irrelevant story" I told in response to Alterman’s question was, in fact, a lie. The truth is that my son is a marine who has been to Iraq and back. So I have seen, heard and read a lot about his training and his experience in combat. I told the story as if it were about a friend’s son because I didn’t want to pull emotional rank on the angry man at the back of the room.





Alterman Replies

New York City

I have a hard time seeing what has so upset James Livingston. Rhetoric aside, he does not dispute the truth of anything I wrote. He did call The Hurt Locker "a lie." He has never witnessed the operations of a US bomb squad in Iraq, as the film’s screenwriter, James Boal, did. He does believe that US soldiers are taught to lay aside their human feelings in the service of their military mission. He did respond to my question with an irrelevant story about a friend’s son’s enlistment, though he now says he was lying about the identity of that young man. I take no issue with Livingston’s observations about his son, whose sacrifices I admire and appreciate. I’m glad he’s taken the opportunity to set the record straight. But his remarks here bear little resemblance to those he made at CUNY, as he himself admits.





Adieu, Swank Filer–III

Mill Valley, Calif.

I express my gloom over your "Farewell, Frank" item in "Noted" [Dec. 14]. Frank W. Lewis and his puzzle are the reason I subscribe. I do not know Frank, but he is a friend. He taught me the hidden message, the artwork of the anagram. Any billboard I see, any license plate or sign I read, I ask myself, "What would Frank do with that? How would he parse that word?" I cannot slurp a bowl of "stew" without thinking "wild west." Frank was our word scout.


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