Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hey, I have something to say about basketball, rap, and poetry! (So They Made A Song About Sports)



As you probably don't know because you only come to this blog to eye up scantily-clad cheerleader photos, I like poetry, and post, on many Fridays, a poem on my blog Thinking The Lions. (A listing of all such poems ever posted is right here, and to appeal to readers of this blog, I'll note that almost every one of those poems has a picture of pictures of some Hot Actress alongside them.)

I have on occasion actually written the poem that was posted, and I am an award-winning poet, having been awarded the prestigious States Viar Poetry Award for 1986 for a sonnet I wrote. (I was not especially popular in high school.)

I am also currently at work on a poem, an ode to McDonald's Cheeseburgers, but I haven't posted that yet because I want this poem to rhyme, because anyone can write non-rhyming poetry. Free verse is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is think up something you want to talk about and then say it in a poetical way, like by including an obscure color or perhaps by messing with the order of words.

Consider, for example, Jeremy Lin, the subject of today's post, kind of. I woke up this morning after sleeping in my easy chair because I had a coughing attack in the middle of the night that came out of nowhere and didn't go away until I sat upright (and also drained most of a bottle of Benadryl, so to be honest, I can't be sure it did go away; I might have just fallen asleep while coughing, because Benadryl is powerful stuff.)

Anyway, I woke up this morning and heard about Jeremy Lin, who is a New York Knick and who briefly was the front page massive headline on Huffington Post, and who, I gather, is something of a rockstar right now in the NBA, a sport I don't usually pay attention to until it is crammed down my throat like Jeremy Lin is being today.

Jeremy Lin is sort of the exact opposite of Tiquan Underwood, the Patriots* player who was cut 24 hours before the Super Bowl and thus missed out on getting cussed out by Gisele Bundchen and an all-expenses paid trip to Aruba, a vacation destination that decided it would be better known for serving as a consolation prize to losers than the place where college students can be murdered without any fear of punishment and so offered the Patriots* a free trip to that land of beauty and astonishingly ineffective judicial systems.

Whereas Underwood is left looking for a job and hitching back from Indianapolis, Jeremy Lin is inspiring the kind of fervor that we previously reserved only for quarterbacks who wear so much religion on their sleeve that it interferes with a proper throwing motion.

Lin is, as probably everyone knows by now, the previously-unheralded (except that he was very much heralded in college) basketball player who this week took the (pro) basketball world by storm by scoring more points in his first three starts than any other player in modern NBA history, and by doing for for New York, which helps spur him to greater fame because of the media focus on New York, and also by doing all that in the week after the Super Bowl, when people were already sick of talking about Gisele ripping Wes Welker and were looking for something new to briefly obsess over.

Hence, "The Harvard Hurricane," and his slow-news-cycle filling temporary fame that has inspired, already, rhapsodic and poetic pieces in fora as nonsportsy as The Wall Street Journal:

When The Garden is full and the right moment hits, it sounds like a riverbed canyon during spring thaw. The roar is deafening, and it rebounds from wall to wall, off the rafters, and into your face with tangible force.

The first time you felt that sonic boom was a few minutes into last night’s program, when No. 17, Jeremy Lin — the man of the hour, the evening and just maybe the season — trotted into the strobing lights of the world’s most famous arena for the first time this evening. As every screen in the house lit up with his picture, the packed crowd let loose with an ear-splitting cacophony: Shrieks and hoots and applause and shouts of “MVP” and behind it all, the roar, that thunderous roar that some call the Knicks’ secret weapon, at least when the Knicks aren’t being utterly terrible. You know, like they were B.L. — Before Linsanity.

The Wall Street Journal has to cover sports, I suppose, so that the stock brokers who read it will get to feel even more like they still exist in the world of Wall Street where men slick back their hair and wear suits to go out at night and can chest bump about basketball without feeling weird about it.

Jeremy Lin is so famous, right now, in fact, that his Wikipedia page -- which previously had 50,000 page views as a high-water mark back on January 15, 2012 -- has been viewed 400,000 times in the past two days, with (I'm sure) 90% of those views being people like me thinking "who is Jeremy Lin?"

The answer to that question is: Jeremy Lin is whom people are talking about today, including me, although I am Jeremymandering this post into something that is more to my interests than basketball: poetry, and how easy it is to write a rap song.

That's where I began, remember: poetry, like the poetry that Lin inspires in so many people, including Spike Lee, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for that Lin piece:

Lee proceeded to spend the next ten minutes rattling off new handles for Lin, slam poetry style, that he’d invented or received from his vast Twitter following, waving away cameras and other fans: “Jeremy, moves so sick, they need insu-Lin.” “Jeremy, hang my jersey from the cei-Lin’.” “Jeremy, the Lakers, you better be double-Lin.” Lee, he knew who this kid was.
See? Slam poetry -- a/k/a free verse a/k/a "stuff anyone can write without even trying"-- is simple enough for kids on Twitter to do it, and for Spike Lee to then quote them.

Which is why I discount both free verse and rap as poetry and music respectively: it's not that they don't have their merits, it's just that both are bottom-of-the-barrel artistic endeavors, pretty easy to do in a competent way.

Consider music: Writing a symphony, say, would be incredibly difficult. Writing one of the complicated songs that bands like The New Pornographers





Is slightly less difficult, and so on downto rap, where, yeah, you have to rhyme and have rhythm and I'm not saying I could do it, but I couldn't not do it, because even nerdy guys can rap:





And not just that one guy:





So it's not like rapping is any more difficult than free verse. Rapping is, after all, just couplets with a bit of rhythm, and that, too, is no more difficult than free verse is for any half-wit writer like me.

Let me demonstrate by off the top of my head coming up with a free verse poem about Jeremy Lin:

Once passed over
Now passing fancy--
Then surpassing expectations,
Boards pitch beneath his feet,
Orbs commanded by his will float
as he does--
through the air on brilliant trajectories
that mirror the arc of
his fame--
his fame presaging
the arc of his brilliance.
He is in our eyes--
Our hearts
Our minds--
Our headlines
For now.


I did that in 48 seconds, and I bet I could get it published in The New Yorker, especially with those Dickinsonesque dashes in there.

So, back to how easy rap is: Couplets, remember, set to a rhythmic beat. And to prove how that can be done, let me take Linsanity, the poem, and recast it as couplets. Start the clock!

They once passed you over
But like a four-leaf clover
Your name came back
On a flying attack.

Now you're in the news
And you're getting page views
Twitters all yours
Fame's opening doors

They didn't know how good
You'd be on the wood
Passing, dribbling, dunking ball
The Harvard man has got it all

Spike's got your name on his lips
And you're on Kobe's hips
Contracts signing, stars aligning
Even nonsports blogs are rhyming
Your name
Your game
Your fame is insane 'cause you're on another plane.

One minute, 40 seconds.

Not the best work, but give me a little more time and a beat to set it to and I'll have a hit single, which is what finally leads me to the Song About Sports,





A rap in honor of Jeremy Lin written by "teacher/rapper Mega Ran". That's what one sports site called Mega Ran, anyway; his Twitter calls him a TeacherRapperHero whose bio on his website is short on listings of heroic acts but long on references to his prior raps, most of which appear to be about video games.

Mega Ran saw Jeremy Lin as a "teachable moment," according to his website, and wrote the rap about it, he says to teach kids something about something.

But it seems to me more likely that Mega Ran is perhaps hoping to take advantage of a white hot flash in the pan who is so suddenly famous that Harvard is now known as "Jeremy Lin's college" to promote his own upcoming tour. Ran's site, after all, mentions that his video has been on ESPN, in a blog post that mentions the tour, too. In case you were wondering.

Which, if that's the case, that Ran is using Lin to jumpstart his own career (Ran's Twitter icon is a picture of Jeremy Lin), then more power to him -- I'm certainly not going to down someone for noticing Jeremy Lin and jumping on that bandwagon. Although Mega Ran went about it the wrong way. Sure, a rap song will get you noticed, but you know what gets page views?



And that's even easier than writing a rap.

Here's a question for you: Will we still be talking about Jeremy Lin next year at this time? My guess is, no.

10 comments:

Grumpy Bulldog, Media Mogul said...

Will we still be talking about Lin in March? Probably not. How desperate were the Knicks that a couple of good games makes him a superstar? Of course if he had been on the Pistons or Bucks or some midwestern city no one would care about him still.

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