20 / CHRONICLESntion a sign of cultural rot, but in their own way they paynhomage to the human need for regeneration throughnself-transcendence, if only in the form of an avengingndiscovery of our common victimization. The demonstrationnthat there is enough honesty and courage around tonmake such an experience possible is itself a comfort: At thenvery least it promises more of the same.nThis promise is common in the literature about Hollywoodnthat tells it honestiy and courageously like it is.nKenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon U, published aboutnthe same time as Cosell’s book, is a good example. Anger isnas entertainingly undeceived about the likes of TallulahnBankhead, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, JohnnBelushi, and Busby Berkeley as Cosell is about ReggienJackson, Herschel Walker, Carol Rosenbloom, Sonny Liston,nCasey Stengel, and Pete Rozelle. Since his book is anromance of corruption, it is no more likely to discouragenmoviegoing and star worship than I Never Played the Gamenis likely to discourage fans from watching Monday nightnfootball. For all its moralism, it can be read as catering tonthe public’s need to admire an elite of privileged souls,nwhether movie stars or rock stars, that is courageous andnhonest enough not to accept restraints on its appetites.nOne might say that Cosell’s and Anger’s books tell us lessnabout the way the world is than the way it can appear in ancurrently favored perspective that promotes negative busking.nNevertheless, in the books of each there is the imprintnof another more traditional, even conservative, perspective:nThe disillusionment is measured against an implied idealnstate of affairs, as it must be if the disillusionment is to havenboth nostalgic enrichment and critical bite. For Anger it isnwhat Hollywood would be if its most favorable vision ofnitself were taken straight: a place where beautiful people livenbeautiful lives in circumstances where there is no distinctionnbetween ethics and aesthetics. Since such a bedazzlingnplace exists only in our duped imaginations, it deserves anvengeful and liberating trashing. For Cosell it is a goldenntime when games were played purely for fun and werenun-self-conscious displays of manly virtue for civilized andnadmiring spectators—a time analogous with what Rousseaunimagined nascent civilization to have been before thingsnbegan to go downhill. Burt L. Standish’s Frank Merriwellnplayed grandly for Fardale Prep and Yale in such a time.nOnce for Yale, in a spirit of utter self-transcendence,nMerriwell hit a game-winning home run that would havenmade Reggie Jackson’s famous tape-measure blast in then1971 All-Star Game look like a Texas Leaguer. But that wasnlong ago, before the rot set in.nFor Cosell, as for many others, the rot becomes apparentnto the degree that the once civilized and admiring spectatorsnbecome possessed by the ” ‘fan’ kind of thinking.” This kindnof thinking, in Cosell, is a fanaticism that “results from thendisproportionate emphasis placed upon sports in America”nand is connected with our proneness to assassinationnattempts. The subject, he concedes, “is deeply psychologicalnand complex”—hardly to be explained, as he says laternin Like It Is, by too much beer-drinking in the stands.nJeffrey Richards has much to say about the complexity ofnthis subject in “The Hooligan Culture” [Encounter, Novembern1985), an analysis of the barbarous and often lethalnnnconduct of British soccer fans. Richards put Cosell’s “fannkind of thinking” in a broad cultural context, seeing it as anbreakdown of value systems that put a premium on goodnmanners and self-discipline. But the value systems to whichnRichards refers (and their counterparts in American culturento which he might have referred) encourage good mannersnand self-discipline because they assume a structuring ordernof virtue that inspires faith in the “slow” virtues of charitynand prudence and at the same time makes it hard to reducengood manners to hypocrisy and self-discipline to a cravennfear of one’s ereaturely self This is a hard faith, constantlynput to the test in the recurring crisis of the humanncondition, in which honesty and courage become thenvirtues of desperation.nThe fan kind of thinking always goes with the bonus of anneasy self-transcendence in circumstances where to face upnto the complexity of motivation and multiplicity of optionsnis to risk boredom, frustration, or anomie. It is therefore anmorale-raising response to the demoralizing reductions ofnexpose revisionism, just as Harlequin and Candlelightnromances are morale-raising responses to a demoralizingnskepticism about the possibility of self-transcendencenthrough passionate love. One of the ironies of imprudentnand uncharitable truth-telling, therefore, is the ease withnwhich, by virtue of its own impassioned and often vengefulnsimplifications, it can create a faith-vacuum into whichnrush even more passionate simplifications. The demystifier,nhaving failed to take into account the human uneasinessnwith disillusioning reductions, becomes an accomplice tonremystification—which seems to have been the fate ofnAlbert Goldman, despite his efforts in Elvis to deflate thenlegend of Elvis Presley.nBut if the fan kind of thinking is a form of mystification,nit is at the same time perfectionist in its implied commitmentnto a state of affairs so manifestly and securely just thatnit would no longer need the support of fanatic effort.nWhether we see it acted out in the sports arena or in thenviolent buskings of IRA bombers and Shiite terrorists, itnanticipates as its justification a world so utopianly structurednby the old order of virtue that both heroes and antiheroesncould be decently retired. Indeed, those who put the fastnvirtues of desperation first must often enough, in theninterests of their own morale, find a way to defer to thenpriority of charity. Thus Rambo, speaking for himself asnwell as his duped and victimized comrades in arms, wantsn”our country to love us as we love it.” So his M-15 survivalnknife (replicas of which are available commercially forn$4.00) is just as much a charitable instrument as a Jacobinnguillotine, a Shiite jihad, or a Soviet gulag.nApparently it is not always easy to deny our charitablenimpulses, no matter how the virtues are reordered. Perhapsneven Flaubert should be given a charitable benefit of thendoubt. Suppose that somewhere deep in his cantankerousnand bored soul there flickered a hope that the buckets of shitnhe longed to empty on the heads of the hated bourgeoisnwould in the long run turn out to be fertilizer for a vigorousnand utterly inoffensive new life. Nevertheless, prudencen(which must always stay close to charity to protect it fromndangerous transvaluations) suggests that he was the kind ofnrot-detector for whom such an eventuality would have beennthe worst kind of good news.n