Everyone has heard the term “slipped through the cracks.” Denoting a waste, or loss of moments, things, or people, a wistfulness is conjured upon the listener. Every human soul has a few of these moments of oft-tranquil realization. Where did he/she wind up? How could those resources have been put to better use? How could this have been enjoyed? More often than not, there are few clear answers without delving deeply.
The racket strikes the ball.
The ball strikes the net.
Verily! Had life given us the ability to catch everything, to allow nothing to pass through itself. When recognition arrives that all the universe carries space within it, that our very fingers typing are whirling atoms, as distant unto themselves in scale as the space between the planets, things can be seen differently, and for what they are. Our supposedly concrete notions of the universe are less clear than they very well may be.
Thus so, we distill our fears and uncertainties with godlike precision into sport. Sport allows us to make sense of things around us; to direct the ebb and flow of a moment in time, and to judge and justify right and wrong. Sport is religious, for it carries our most basic, primal desire to have a world directed and concrete by a Guiding Hand, or Guiding Rules.
The player waits, judging his opponent.
My conversation with Mr. Denton was enlightening. Denton is a competitor on the clay, giving little quarter to his adversary. Deciding to work our talk into a sport was revitalizing; the parries and serves made an exacting metaphor for our strong, but friendly conversation. Alpha males do not merely reside in species of wolves, I thought, engaging another serve of his with an overpowering return. The clay made my legs felt nimbler than usual. It was obvious this match would help decide the course of our time together, and could help my chances- if I didn’t allow my opportunity to slip through the cracks. I briefly studied my racket, breathing a silent prayer of thanks that it would not allow a ball to slip away.
I cannot regale you, the reader, with the full details of Nick and I’s conversations. He respectfully asked that I not provide a transcript along with my piece, and I deemed this acceptable. Nick intoned that he did not want fragments of his statements to leap out and be taken out of context by some embittered rival, and judging from the quality of his media work and moral conduct, I felt it was only right to return the kindness.
We initially met at the bagel shop at JFK. I had chosen to take a flight into NY, rather than drive my Sable all the way down from Maine, and Nick was kind enough to meet me within a couple hours of my arrival. I immediately sensed, upon gripping his hand firmly, that this was the initial moment of the match- the veritable ball in the air, hovering before the opening strike.
The player steps into the swing.
Most sports, especially ones that relegate themselves to mano-a-mano affairs, involve an initial period of both opponents feeling each other out. The introduction of an opponent into an environment causes a palpable change in the sense of one’s climate, no matter how familiar one may be with it. One must regain balance on the court once an adversary steps in, be it a new place or an old stomping ground. The oft-used “alpha male” trope is again put to good use: who’s territory is this? Many films glorify a man-to-man combat scenario where a neutral ground is chosen. Denton and I recognized immediately that neither of our personalities were given to this kind of softening. This was winner-take-all, and every advantage deemed useful by either of us would be employed with reckless abandon. I took in my bagel quickly, preparing myself for the question that I knew awaited me.
“So, shall we hit the court?”
The racket strikes the ball.
Guiding Hands, or Guiding Rules for people of some persuasions, are not things to adhere to with zealous passion for some, but the elastic boundaries meant to be tested by the able man. Nick Denton recognizes this, on and off the court. Where some choose to allow the laws of nature to push them down the current of life with impunity, others seek to find the places where a strong will can push back upstream, finally finding the high and dry ground of command. Sport is a place where this can be done with true zeal; games exist to clarify the struggles of life. Games give us perspective. And perspective was necessary when beginning this dance with Nick Denton.
May the opportunity not slip away.
Bush Farthong is formerly from Harper’s. He initially served as the long-form contributor for CLOWNFISTER under Drew Magary. New work will be posted here at Sidespin weekly. Due to Nick and Gawker Media’s helpful flow of keeping articles short and not too time-consuming, Farthong’s piece will be split into 20 sections over this winter and spring. You can contact the author at @RealBFarthong or BushFarthong@gmail.com.