Yesterday’s post brought something I was previously unaware of to my attention. It appears that I write more passionately about sports than I do about show business.
This is understandable. In show business, I have been behind the curtain. I have seen a comic genius sitting with his shirt off, calmly getting his armpits shaved. I walked in on him – actually, I knocked on the door, and he said, “Come in” – and there he was, bare-chested – and what a powerful, John-Henry-the-steel-driving-man chest it was – with the “Hair and Makeup” woman going at his creamily-slathered underarms with a razor. I felt like an intruder at a bikini wax session. The comedian was amused by my discomfort.
An armpit de-follicling. That’ll take the shine off the idolatry.
Overall, when you know how the sausages are made, even a glamour profession like the entertainment business loses a considerable portion of its allure. I’ve never – make that “I’ve rarely” – been behind the scenes in the sports world, so my fantasy about it persists. Exception: I once visited the Toronto Argonauts’ dressing room after a game, where my exposure to the physiques of unclothed football players made me want to sell every mirror I own. The cliché requires, “smash every mirror I own”, but why smash them when you can sell them?
Adulation for athletes can turn show biz celebrities into hero-worshipping children. I vividly recall attending an Emmy Awards ceremony, where virtually every star of the small screen came parading across the stage, to varying levels of “Hooray.” Then, for some reason I can’t remember, Willie Mays was introduced. And the crowd, many of whose punims had graced the cover of TV Guide, went absolutely nuts, rising instantly to their feet, whooping and whistling, like we’d just witnessed his legendary catch against the Indians in ’54.
I ponder this phenomenon: “Why do I write so passionately about sports?” In time, the picture begins to sharpen. It’s not sports per se that inflames my enthusiasm. I have no interest in the mundane components: The sticky floors in the locker rooms, the all-night plane rides, the confidence-sapping slumps, career-threatening injuries, getting your outright release three thousand miles from home.
My excitement about sports concerns those once-in-a-lifetime peak moments. Consider my posts on the subject: The seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA clincher for the championship, and yesterday, a celebrated ballplayer’s euphoria on being promoted to manager.
Peak moments. When it all comes gloriously together. Though never an athlete, I identify with those moments. Toiling in television’s major leagues, I experienced them myself.
The little peak moments that resonate: There’s a door outside the soundstage marked, “Unauthorized Entry Prohibited”, and you walk right in, ‘cause you’re “authorized.”
The medium-sized moments, accompanied by “butterflies”: It’s “show night” and you’re too nervous to eat. (And it’s free food!)
And then there’s the big ones:
The line you thought was funny when you came up with it turns out to be hilarious.
The episode’s climactic moment the studio begged you not to do works like a charm, garnering peals of laughter and spontaneous applause.
The show you had faith in brings onstage for an award.
Touchdown! Home run! Three pointer at the buzzer! “He shoots; he scores!”
The secret is out, my friends. I identify with athletes. I too have felt the adrenaline rush of delivering in the clutch, the exultation of succeeding when the smart money was betting I would fail. I thrill at the athletes’ accomplishments, but, in some way, it’s personal as well. When I celebrate their peak moments, I am paying an unconscious homage my own.
What am I saying? I’m saying that, at those heart-stoppingly decisive, make or break, it’s all in the balance, “now or never” moments,
Athletes and comedy writers are the same.
The only difference is, they don’t sell trading cards for comedy writers.
Hey, there’s a moneymaker.