Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Celebrity Opinions

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim took advantage of the media attention for his 900th win to give us his views on gun control in view of the recent school shooting. It’s not as if he’s made a particular study of this – that much was clear from his remarks – or has any reason to be trusted as an authority on any subject other than coaching basketball.  I understand that if people give you the opportunity to express your favorite opinion to a wide audience, it is likely hard to turn away.  But how does one not have the sense of perspective to realise you are rather a fraud to be offering an opinion at all?

It is similar to Christian athletes and Grammy winners taking the opportunity to give all the praise and glory to My Lord Jesus.  That’s terrible theology unless one bends the meanings of words significantly, but at least in that situation, they are not just giving their opinion about God in general, but as it specifically relates to their work and success. Had Boeheim blathered on evangelising about some remarkable meditation technique that allowed him to focus better on the task at hand, that would at least relate to his expertise and the moment.

We listen to them because we like famous people and think they must know something we don’t. Even more, we believe that success in one area has some spillover effect that people understand a lot of other stuff, too.  I recall an irate comment during Iran-Contra in the 80’s to the effect that “Who would you rather have leading you into battle, Oliver North or Ted Kennedy?”  That’s pretty clearly going to go in Ollie’s favor, but it’s not the right question.  I trust North to lead troops more than I trust my dentist, too, but that doesn’t mean I want the colonel working on my teeth.

They believe they are worth listening to for different reasons.  They have succeeded at fairly arbitrary, largely symbolic endeavors.  Double the size of a basketball court or halve the size of the ball and over time, different players and coaches succeed at it.  There would be some overlap, because athletic and management skills have some transfer.  But in all likelihood, Coach Boeheim is in a different profession, managing different people with less dramatic success and some other guy is getting 900 wins.  There are general skills of music or acting, but styles and trends have enormous variability – change the game and different bands and actresses become famous.

Therefore, they are used to inhabiting spaces of symbolic importance for somewhat arbitrary reasons.  They are six-foot people operating sixty-foot animatronic figues already.  What’s a few more feet?

This is a good spot to check over at ESPN and see what Rick Reilly has been writing, seeing that he now fancies himself an expert on social events.  Ah, a football player has lost two teammates to suicide, and wants answers why.  Yeah, that’s going to be illuminating.  Young quarterback intermittently thinking about other young men’s depression, sportswriter explaining that to us

No comments: