The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1213 Thursday, 1 July 1999.
Date: Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 00:26:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Sports and Shakespeare
NPR sports commentator Frank DeFord recently mused on the effect of
sports "highlights" on the appreciation of athletics and worked his way
around to an interesting observation about Shakespeare. I quote it for
"Boring." The one word that everyone in sports fears, and hears.
"That's boring." "That's really boring." "Soccer is boring." "Running
the football is boring." "Pete Sampras is so boring." Nothing else
matters if the fans, especially the young fans, find it "boring." Tony
Gwyn was trying to explain to me the other day why so few
African-Americans play baseball anymore. He said baseball is perceived
as boring. That's all. Tony Gwyn himself is the greatest hitter of our
time, plus he's a gentleman of the first order, He shook is head.
"I'm boring," he sighed.
But on the other hand because Mike Tyson's a total loose cannon he's not
boring. He can't box, but promoters were lined up to vie for his next
fight as soon as Iron Mike got out of jail the other day. Wrestling is
scripted so it is never boring and setting rating records by the day.
Neither is Shaquille O'Neill boring He plays the Jolly Green Giant on
the court with slam dunks that are always called "awesome." All season
long NBC showed Shaq's Laker team to the exclusion of all others. But
free throws are boring. Practicing free throws is even more boring. So
Shaq's team got whipped by the San Antonio Spurs whose stars, Tim Duncan
and David Robinson are complete, solid, team-oriented players. Boring.
Nobody wants to see them just win games.
I am convinced that a large reason for this burgeoning attitude is the
"highlights" on TV which fill up the local sports reports and the
network roundups. "Highlights" consist of holes-in-one, hockey fights,
automobile race crashes, and desperation basketball shots taken from
half court that go in, in slow motion. Naturally if you grow up
watching game "highlights" actual games are "boring."
Well unfortunately I'm afraid this is also starting to become true for
other aspects of our existence. Life follows sports: the "highlighting"
of America. If you notice the main thing we hear about the presidential
candidates is simply that they are boring. Except of course president
Clinton isn't. Like the Shaq and wrestling he's always had good
highlights. That's the key. I'm sorry but the real world does not have
And whereas everybody said that the Academy award winning show
"Shakespeare in Love" proved that everyone adored the bard, "Shakespeare
in Love" was basically just a Shakespeare "highlights" film. Of course
nobody's going to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" now. It's not as good
as the Shakespeare highlights. In "Shakespeare in Love" you didn't have
to sit through all of the "boring" stuff. You just got the good
quotes, like "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou?" and a sword fight.
You also got to see Shakespeare's girlfriend rolling around in bed
naked. Stupid Shakespeare never once had Portia, or Ophelia, or Lady
Macbeth naked. I'm telling you, as a Shakespeare "highlight" film,
"Shakespeare in Love" is the worst thing that could ever happen to the
real Shakespeare. Now his plays will forever be "boring." . . .
Tom Dale Keever
Graduate Fellow - Columbia University