Seeing Red, Fade to Black

12 October, 2006 at 3:16 pm (benjamin, dear diary)

No real stories from Dimitri’s wedding, but I am forced to revise my previous estimate that a hotel room is a hotel room, no matter how much one pays for it. My previous position was based upon a few hotel experiences and a growing sincere belief that one can dress it up, and buy different cleansing perfume, but that a hotel room still remained a box with an immobile bed whether it cost $35 a night or $100. Having just stayed in a $125 room, well, I’m ready to admit that maybe there are levels. It still had terrible construction and typical furnishings, and the headboard was hilariously broken and badly repaired, but the room had a better feel to it, a nicer sense of occupancy that didn’t drive one from its confines.

Noah Webster's Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, 1806Also, the four hour drive from Connecticut convinced me that I would not have the fortitude to drive back and forth to Amherst this evening for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This event sounds hella nerdy, and the draw is unmistakable. I have no real idea on what sort of basis the event would stand: would it be social, conversational, a lecture, a presentation? What sort of people would show up? What happens when bibliophiles, graphomaniacs, and librarians clash over cocktails? The answers to these questions should be compelling enough, but the idea of driving home between 9:10pm and midnight is simply no longer feasible. My ability to string coherent thought together expires each evening at 9:30pm, and the night from there becomes a sparkly, glistening enterprise of unusual word associations, heavy eyelids, and raucous laughter. Terrifically amusing to me and my flatmate, but not the optimal state for driving twisty back-country highways. So no Noah Webster for me, I’m afraid.

Instead, I shall have to comfort myself with color theory. I recently learned that the school district that employs me did not see fit to have a consistent color scheme across its school athletic teams. So while the middle school wears blue, the high school players sport red. Now, I went to a combined middle/high school, so I lack the perspective and experience to know if this is normal. However, it feels odd. It feels like we have competing teams in the same system. And while I enjoy the classy black and red warm-up jackets that are worn about campus on game days or simply autumnal days, the actual red uniforms don’t do much for me. So I was amused to hear Sports Illustrated editor Frank Deford, on his weekly column on NPR go off on a torrent against too many teams that use red as their color. It’s a marvelously verbal essay, full of thesaurus listings and alliteration that would make Stan Lee envious.

There is too much of it, and I am asking for a bloody moratorium. OK, maybe—maybe—I can live with your darker hues, your maroon, your garnet or your burgundy, but the ripe reds running riot, row upon row, in stadiums and arenas, is becoming, as Chester A. Riley used to lament, a “revolting development.”

…Understand, I’ve got nothing against red. Hey, you’re listening to a man who named his daughter Scarlet. I’m just the fashion policeman trying to help all you cinnamon-clad crimson creatures, you puce people, you magenta masses, you vermilion millions. Everybody’s doing it now. Wearing red to games is tacky. It’s passé. It’s so yesterday. Red flag it.

—Frank Deford, “At Games across the land, seeing red

So marvelously wordy, but interestingly issueless. I like Deford. He does for sports what PRI’s Marketplace does for money: Marketplace charmingly makes money matters accessible and contextual for those who are not financiers, and Deford he talks sorts in a manner that’s jocular but not jock-specific. But while I think he’s been a clear voice of reason about many sports issues, it must be difficult to come up with something substantive each week, and this tract is a soft lob. Which is perhaps why the vocabulary is so lush: he had to fill the column-inches somehow. Enjoyable, but mildly disappointing that he didn’t speculate on the purpose of the power color, the cultural reasons why red is so preferred by players and fans alike. After all, if studies show that those wearing black uniforms attract more penalty calls and demerits thank those wearing non-black uniforms, then color and competition clearly collaborate in some psychological manner. Is it true or is it an urban myth that red cars are pulled over by the police more frequently than any other hued vehicle? Do we associate red with speed, with daring in the way that Mark G. Frank and Thomas Gilovich’s study indicates we associate black with violence?

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