The smart thing to do, in a moment so multiply and manifestly overwhelming as this one, is to protect yourself. That doesn’t mean disengaging all the way so much as it means making smart choices about how and where you engage, because to engage totally is to give yourself up to something that is not just bigger but crueler and dumber than any person could safely manage. I speak from experience, here, not as someone who actually knows how to do any of that, but as someone who made the decision to reply to a “red wave” tweet by the embattled reactionary congressperson Lauren Boebert with a two-minute video of Tom Hallion’s most ostentatious strike-three calls. I am not proud of that, really. But I know that in an overwhelming moment, it can be hard to be the best version of yourself. I can’t say how to handle any of this stuff, although generally pointing to whatever I myself am doing and saying “do not do this” will tend to be correct.
There is simply too much shit happening all the time, and too many instances of bizarre and half-toxic Going For It from variously bad or just ridiculous actors in the culture, to keep things in perspective. There is no perspective to find. It is just this, all the time, and increasingly quickly. In a stretch of weird years in that regard, these have been some weird weeks. So we were lucky to have ESPN’s Bomani Jones, one of the great responders of his age and a commentator with an uncommon knack for putting and keeping things in context, on with us this week. Lord knows he had his work cut out for him, and really all we did was talk about sports.
As he is Bomani Jones, he came through. The stuff we talked about—the ongoing meta-fallout of the Kyrie Irving Irrational Defiance Tour, the possible end of Daniel Snyder’s vile stint atop the Washington Football Team, whatever the hell Jim Irsay is doing with the Indianapolis Colts and in general—is all very obviously symptomatic of some broader and deeper cultural sickness. It is also often very funny, and in some strange ways kind of satisfying, and all also pretty fascinating in that way. You have to tune out the menace and the dread and the cynicism and the rot to appreciate any of that, or anyway acknowledge all that and then keep talking, but that is broadly true about most things at this point, and it’s hard to imagine a more engaging or insightful person to Keep Talking with than Bomani Jones.
Some of the Kyrie stuff may be familiar to those who listened to last week’s episode; some of the stuff about rich people being disgusting and feuding with each other in hilariously sloppy and petty ways will be familiar to anyone who has been alive in America over the last couple decades. All of it, the childish defiance and craven laziness and relentless and unapologetic error, is by now just the water in which all of us are swimming. It’s overwhelming, but it is also something like the status quo.
And that was just the “smart” part of the podcast. Once we pivoted, in the back third, to the goofy shit, things really took off. A spirited if heavily contextualized appreciation of Tony Banks became a history lesson about black quarterbacks, featuring an extremely mind-blowing jewel from Bomani about a prominent Pac-12 quarterback factory. The Funbag gave us the opportunity to consider just how wet, and also how suspicious, a discarded bundle of cash would have to be for it to be not worth picking up, and also which professional athlete would most lavishly fuck up high school competition if given the chance. There’s an obvious metaphor to find there about Bomani consenting to join us on our podcast, but I’ll thank you not to find it. It’s rude. Come on. We’re all doing our best.
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