Conferences and Bloodied Noses...

... and an update in which there is (luckily) no overlap between the two.

No sooner had I finished and turned in my latest dissertation chapter (Huzzah! And thanks for the support, everyone!) then I rushed south to give a conference paper. The conference itself was much friendlier than the last I went to, and I met many people who seemed primarily motivated by a joy in knowledge and inquiry, so all in all it was a refreshing experience.

I must admit to being delighted by it right off the bat, when I wandered into the hotel to find that we were sharing the conference spaces with another group (and I may be slightly off on the name here) - the Order of the Sons of St. Patrick. Before I could register I had to wade through a friendly ocean of vivid green sports coats and an abundance of free beer. It held out the promise that these sorts of gatherings did not (by their very nature) having to be claustrophobic, droning events serving primarily as professional pissing contests. So thank you, Sons of St. Patrick. Because of you, I approached the whole experience differently. Sadly, today, my Irish friends were replaced by a less exuberant (but probably no less fun, once you get to know them) gathering, whose banners declared them to be mutually obsessed by "Nutrient Removal."

My paper was at the crack of dawn this morning (the last day of the conference), and I am glad to return to the land of free time, reading (I was so exhausted last night that I stopped reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road ten pages from the end. TEN PAGES!!! I will be done and reviewing soon, patient fellow NYT Notable Booksers!), and, most importantly, college basketball.

I rushed home today to see my beloved basketball teams, lights of my alma mater, apples of my eye every December through March - the North Carolina Tar Heels - play two tremendous basketball games. The women (led by the irrepressibly energetic and clever Ivory Latta) played for the ACC Tournament Title. I haven't always been as loyal a supporter of women's college athletics as I would like to be, and am only really a few games into getting to know this time (too too late, considering Latta is a senior) - I blame lackluster coverage in my northern outpost - but already I know that this is a team of phenomenal personalities, like Rashanda McCants (whose parents must have very strong genes - she looks exactly like her brother, Rashad, who was on the most recent UNC Championship team) and Erlana Larkins. A highly entertaining game - I will be following the NCAA Women's Tournament closely. Phew - feminist chops redeemed.

But then came another cause of anxiety: the second men's Duke-Carolina game of the season. For those of you who don't find college basketball tremendously interesting, I will say this by way of context for the Duke-Carolina rivalry. If there was a season in which Carolina lost every single game, except for the two it played against Duke, there would be a lot of Tar Heel fans (myself included) who would say "Well... that wasn't such a bad year," and swallow the hurt and ignominy of the rest of the season.

So this game was high tension. And it was a phenomenal game, marked by a valiant opposition from Duke and a Carolina team playing (mercifully) better than it had in recent games. Then, in the final seconds, with Carolina in possession of a double-digit lead, a Duke player named Henderson who had otherwise played admirably and cleanly for the rest of the game fouled our star player (the exhaustingly industrious Tyler Hansbrough) HARD. So hard that poor Tyler (maternal instincts burst from my every pore) lay for some time on the ground, blood gushing from his face, before rising up in a rage and being rushed off the court by staff. I don't want to get into too much detail about this melodramatic turn of events (which has assumed a strangely central importance in my life -- I am pulling hard against its rip tide intensity), because Henderson is a student and a non-professional, learning his craft and prone to impulsive lapses of judgment, and I am sure he feels intense remorse about causing his fellow player such gruesome harm and thus overshadowing his unusually strong play at tonight game (a few minutes before the foul he had been named the Duke player of the game by whatever corporate body sponsors that sort of thing; now he is suspended for the first game of the ACC tournament). Furthermore, it is this culture of rabid blaming, which Duke's coach seems all too eager to perpetuate*, that creates the sense on the players' part that NOTHING (including dignity, ethics, morality, respect for the opponent) is as important as winning the game or the rivalry of reputations.

So it was a long afternoon of heart-wrenching basketball. I will be back with more literary and cinematic posts soon, I promise...

*If you read this article, you should listen to the recordings of the coaches' press conferences. Take my advice and avoid the "Comments" section, however: some of the opinions expressed there are so totally consumed by rivalries and school hatreds that they have forfeited their sense of empathy and humanity utterly.

3 Responses so far.

  1. kookie says:

    You must have completely exhausted to stop 10 pages from the end of 'The Road'. (hee....end of the road.) Best to finish it fully rested, I guess.

  2. Do you often find that many of the people you meet in grad school don't seem to be enamored of learning for the joy of knowledge? I only ask because lately I feel that I'm going into grad school programs with an overly naive set of expectations, as I'm always a bit disappointed when I find that the majority of people in my various departments seem more interested in complaining about "having" to learn than actually "wanting" to learn. Or perhaps it's just the programs I've been picking.... congrats on the conference, though!

  3. Kookiejar - I have since finished it and can't wait to discuss the ending with you, since it (to speak in vague, unspoilerish terms) seemed so utterly different from the rest of the book. I will work on my review on the train home tomorrow....

    Loose Baggy Monster- Even worse than those who seem reluctant to be pushed into learning are those whose ego has foreclosed any possibility for enjoying ideas that are different from their own (or come from somebody else's mind/pen). Maybe I too am naive, but I really don't understand what could justify some of the cruelty I see at academic events when so many people are drawn to the field by a love of the subject and the creative exchange of ideas. Sigh.

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