Surreal Saturday: The Wire and The Fight

The Wire

Well I’d say this has been the first run of days where I failed to meet my self-imposed goals for writing. I last posted on Wednesday, and since then I have had a couple days where I was writing for school, but I have also had a couple days where I made the decision to not write. So boo on me. But now we’re back at it.

Saturday was a surreal experience for me.

I spent the day watching stuff. That’s about it. It started with Everton losing on the road at Aston Villa. It continued with six episodes of The Wire (that’s a little under six hours, for those keeping score at home). It resumed with the second half of Spurs/Clippers, and concluded with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

Everton was a disappointment.

Spurs/Clippers was a thriller.

The other two events are the only things that really mattered.

The Wire is some of the best television I have ever seen. It’s on the shortlist of my most favorite shows (along with Breaking Bad, The Office, Band of Brothers, Modern Family, 24, Avatar, and Spongebob). Right now I’m in the middle of Season 3, and I hope the rest of Season 3 (and 4, and 5…) doesn’t hinder me from finishing the school year strong.

But what made that marathon on Saturday such a trip was more than that reality-blurring high we get when we binge-watch a great show. Instead, it was the show’s relevance considering current events that made the experience so unusual. The Wire, made between 2002 and 2008, follows the stories of criminals and law enforcement in….. Baltimore.

And, in this fictional TV show, so many of the issues raised in these days of the Baltimore Uprising are so prevalent. The sordid conditions of Baltimore street life, the lawlessness of the wild west drug trade, the insolence and hostility of criminals, police being a little physical out of frustration and fear for their lives, police being a little physical for lack of self-control, dirty and/or incompetent officials at all levels and of all colors, the criminals with good hearts, the anger simmering among the urban poor, the ineffectiveness of government reforms. The police don’t always follow the rules. There’s an exchange where one official makes a snide comment about black violence and then rolls his eyes when a politician interested in real change rebukes him. It’s all there. And now, seven years after the last episode of the show ever aired, the world that The Wire takes place in has caught the attention of the nation and the actions of its people have come under intense scrutiny. Two things become abundantly clear. The first is that these issues are always so much more complicated than people want to make them. I firmly believe that the death of Freddie Gray and others is intrinsically connected to racial issues, and in some cases there is a precise cause-effect relationship. However, watching The Wire reminds me of the extremely tough world that law enforcement work in. Of course that doesn’t give them the right to use deadly force when de-escalating a situation or non-lethal force is an option, and they should be ready to lay down their lives to avoid taking another’s, but the fact remains that enforcing the law in an extremely troubled city like Baltimore is a nearly impossible task. The other issue brought forth by my hours-long venture into the world of The Wire is that the way the media and much of America has received the events in Baltimore is disgustingly ignorant and unkind. There is always crime in Baltimore, and it didn’t take the death of a man in custody to reveal that the city has its struggles. But when crime is redirected into a grieving process, outsiders lose their minds. When using a baseball bat to run off a rival gang turns into using a bat to break a car window, outsiders call out crime and thuggery. Why don’t those people care about what happens when the media isn’t there? Ironically, when so many white apologists try to excuse racism and downplay race issues with the black-on-black violence argument, they are also exposing the fact that they themselves only care when the violence is interracial; the same people who say blacks should focus more on violence in their own communities are content to just ignore that same violence. It’s like they are saying Stop the killing. But, if you can’t, just make sure it stays within your community. So please, before you pass judgments on the actions of the people of Baltimore, consider where your own heart is at.

Anyway, it was surreal watching The Wire and seeing all these issues in a television drama years before anyone really cared. And the show is just outstanding.

As for The Fight, I had a sports-viewing experience unlike any other I have ever had. What you have heard is true: the boxing match itself was not a thriller. Floyd Mayweather proved how masterful he is at not getting punched, and the threat of his right-counter kept Manny Pacquiao from really going after him.

Oh well. I know many people are disappointed that the fight was not a 12 round back-and-forth or that Pacquiao didn’t knock Mayweather out with a crushing left hook. But the experience, for me, was nearly mystical. I’m young enough that I have never really had the opportunity to watch a fight this meaningful before. After years in the making I finally got to see what might be the last boxing match of its kind.

It almost didn’t seem real at times. I almost had an out of body experience as I realized that they were really in there fighting. I felt something like the holy spirit of sports pass through me when the crowd chanted “Manny! Manny! Manny!” Those things that I have only ever seen in some movies were actually happening. As an added bonus, Manny hit Floyd with one of the hardest punches Floyd has ever taken, Floyd shook his head and said “no” repeatedly as Manny stepped back from a flurry of punches, and the whole thing came after an intro video that featured Manny kneeling to pray in a church.

Was the fight a little too methodical, predictable, tactical, and slow? Yes. But the things I experienced while finally seeing The Fight of the Century were worth those minor grievances.

It was quite the weekend. I watched some sports, binge-watched a top shelf program, spent quality time with family and friends, and even smoked a cigar that, although it had a harsh, hot, tasteless beginning, turned to a smooth and flavorful smoke in the middle, giving a rather satisfying session of cigarring.

And I got to ponder and experience the surreal.

Not bad.

Soli Deo Gloria


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