Pass me the stomach medicine

Phillip Glass was in town recently, performing with Bang on a Can All Stars at Clowes Hall, and I was reminded of his soundtrack for the Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi. Loosely translated, Koyaanisqatsi means "life out of balance," and I've always thought: Wouldn't that make a great name for stomach medicine? "Honey? Where's the Koyaanisqatsi? That jambalaya is really starting to haunt me."

"You goof. It's right behind the Powaqqatsi pain reliever!"

I could have used a couple tablespoons of Koyaanisqatsi this past weekend, watching clips from the Pacers/Pistons imbroglio over and over again.

I had stomachache, heartache, headache ... you name it, it ached.

I pulled a Homer Simpson, failing as usual to be the exemplary dad of my dreams. I called my younger son - a Pacers fan - into the TV room so he could watch the Hard Copy-slo-mo versions of the clips, ad nauseum. I hollered for my older son - who cares not a lick for sports, televised or otherwise - and bade him to watch as well.

I kept waiting for a "teaching moment," an opportunity to tell my sons about the necessity of seeking peaceful means to conflict resolution. Every time I thought of something nifty and lasting to impart upon my progeny, however, I was shocked-and-awed by yet one more repetition of a particularly horrific right hook.

Largely unimpressed, my sons soon drifted from the room, while I remained, rooted in helplessness, mumbling to the tube. A Phillip Glass soundtrack might have helped the medicine go down.

Ads at the urinal

For me, professional sports are first and foremost a delivery system for advertising. Whether I'm at Conseco Fieldhouse or home, the game is replete with commercials. That's why I keep my visits to actual, live Pacers games to a minimum: once a year, maybe twice. Call me a dweeb, but I'd rather sit home and watch the game on television. At least when the commercials appear I can get a load of laundry into the washing machine.

At Conseco, there is no such escape, unless I want to climb over my row-mates every single second to flee the unceasing drone of product placement. Even the bathrooms, though, have advertising placed in front of each urinal.

In addition to being a guy who likes to think up names for stomach medicines, a rotten father and a stay-at-home dweeb, I'm a playwright.

What was the greatest single violation by the Pacers?

They broke the fourth wall, that imaginary boundary between performer and audience. That's fine for an avant-garde performance or, as I understand, the remake of Alfie, wherein Jude Law speaks directly to the camera, but for sports ...

Ron Artest, sprinting into the stands, broke the fourth wall, sucking his fellow players and a good many fans into the vortex.

Throw me a T-shirt!

One perfectly acceptable way to break the fourth wall at sporting events is with T-shirts. This feeling was reinforced at the And1 basketball contest at Conseco last spring. I took my sports-loving son, but I was bored watching the two teams, awaiting a spectacular slam-dunk, one I could describe to my friends and maybe even mimic for them in Hard Copy-slo-mo.

In the absence of such legendary gymnastics, however, I found myself looking around the stadium, eyeing my fellow audience members. Something was wrong, something I couldn't quite put my finger on ... and then I had it: They were bored, too!

They sat without animation, staring at the proceedings on the floor - as if they were watching television. But wait! They grew excited when the man with the T-shirts came onto the floor, ready to hurl the clothing into the audience. We stood; we cheered, emerging from our zombie states. We waved our arms, wanting to be noticed. Chuck a shirt here! Here!

Some of the lucky ones left Conseco with a souvenir.

Souvenir: It means to remember.

Always remember to never forget

"Never forget." That's what the commemorative Sept. 11 yard signs said this past September.


Or was it "Always remember"?

I guess that's my point. On some level we know that in a 24/7 culture, inundated with entertainment, stimulation, narrowcasting and polling, we're in danger of forgetting ... anything and everything.

It takes the clip-loop to imprint an otherwise forgettable experience into long-term memory storage. In the absence of that - or in addition to it - an event has to be anointed the "worst" thing that's ever happened in that particular category.

I won't speculate on Ron Artest's mental state, but I do know this culture is insane. Violence is integral to our entertainment products, yet the government doesn't want us to see caskets of dead soldiers. In the tumult of everyday pain and death and poverty, it becomes difficult to distinguish what really matters.

I've got an idea: Show us a 48-hour clip-fest of an American soldier blown away in Falluja, over and over. Show us an old woman or child in Baghdad, eviscerated by gunfire, over and over. Show us a river we can't swim in because of toxins, a dumpster overflowing with perfectly edible food.

Make sure, though, we've got plenty of Koyaanisqatsi on hand.


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