Chuck Klosterman Is A Friend Of Mine: A Review of One Chapter In “Eating The Dinosaur”
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Chuck Klosterman since 2003 when his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifest erupted. I bought this book in the New York City subway and read it in a week worth of A train rides. I felt his comments on “fake love”, The Sims, and the 1980’s rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics were obvious. However, I concede that his theories on The Empire Strikes Back as precursor to the teenage way of life in the 1990’s is nothing short of dazzling. Over the years I have come to love his articles on Britney Spears and Val Kilmer, but hated his articles on the TV show Lost, and Bono. I’ve viewed Klosterman as that new and mysterious transfer student dating my ex-girlfriend in high school. He’s cooler than me, probably knows more about The Pixies, reads more comic books, and he has hair. As a pop culture nut job I’ve always thought Chuck Klosterman was a rival, and we could never be friends.
That is until I read Klosterman’s new book, Eating The Dinosaur ($25.00 from Scribner) in which my pop culture brother touches on subjects ranging from a criticism of Garth Brooks’ alter ego project, Chris Gaines, an analysis of irony and literalism in the media, and an essay on the power of ABBA. Most importantly, Chuck (if I may call him that), gives a piece about conservatism and progressive ideologies in American football. Klosterman goes into splendid detail on the mythology that the beloved game of football has never been served by conservative ideas, but rather freethinking and liberal idioms. He starts by diagramming the single-wing offense the Michigan Wolverines use under head coach Rich Rodriguez, and includes a note that this design is the basis behind the wildcat formation popularized by the Miami Dolphins. He then dives into the history of the forward pass, the demand for rule changes from President Theodore Roosevelt after eighteen college players were killed in 1905, and comments on basic NFL economics as Marxist (something I’ve always wanted to say, but feared I would be lynched in the state of Texas if I did so).
Klosterman uses boyish glee in describing how Bill Walsh used a combination of mathematics and psychology to build the famous west coast offense; how Sam Wyche was the principle innovator of the no-huddle offense as we know it (which the Buffalo Bills stole to reach four straight Super Bowls); how Mike Martz asked wide receivers to run downfield in curved patterns; and he adds a plethora of observations on Sid Gillman, Dick LaBeau, Don Coryell, and a bored high school coach named Steve Humphries who exploited a loophole in the rulebook that allowed every player on the field to become a receiver on kicks. Sadly, Eating The Dinosaur was first published in October and Klosterman didn’t have an opportunity to edit a section on former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach as the most interesting coach in the contemporary college game. Leach is now unemployed after abusive allegations.
There are glorious bonuses to this book, such as an examination of journalistic interviews with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, and NPR’s Ira Glass, but in one single chapter devoted to football Klosterman explains the countries fascination with the game, it’s myth, it’s ethos, and how it reaches to both our conservative neighbors with a Woody Hayes running game, or our liberal friends with an onside kick. In this one chapter on football Klosterman explains he sees something both personal and universal in football. The game allows the intellectual in us to evolve, while our emotions stay unchanged. And with that one chapter, I have dropped my hate for Klosterman and embraced the love. He might know more about music, art, culture, and has more hair, but Chuck Klosterman is a friend of mine.