Sharks Gameday: Deconstruction

Jacques Derrida: pretentious, confusing, creepy.

As I've mentioned from time to time, I have an English degree. Exciting, no?

Spending four years studying English does more than simply make it difficult for you to get a good job: it fills your head with all sorts of crazy crap about how to write, what to read, and the details of the strange world of "literary criticism," which is basically different schools of thought about HOW you are supposed to read things - what elements you should focus on, how you should determine meaning, whether author intent matters*, etc.

Many essays and books have been written about literary criticism, and the vast majority of them are complete intellectual whack-off BS. And of all the navel-gazing, self-important, self-indulgent, black-turtleneck-wearing schools of philosophy that make up the maddening jumble of literary criticism, the method known as "deconstruction" is by far the most irritating. Seriously, it is so damn annoying.

Just defining "deconstruction" can be an infuriating exercise, since most of its leading proponents insist on keeping it vague and cloaked behind obfuscating layers of jargon. Here's the definition provided by the Simple English Wikipedia:

Deconstruction is a way of understanding how something was created, usually things like art, books, poems and other writing. Deconstruction is breaking something down into smaller parts. Deconstruction looks at the smaller parts that were used to create an object. The smaller parts are usually ideas.

Sometimes deconstruction looks at how an author can imply things he does not mean. It says that because words are not precise, we can never know what an author meant.

Sometimes deconstruction looks at the things the author did not say because he made assumptions.

One thing it pays attention to is how opposites work. (It calls them "binary oppositions.") It says that two opposites like "good" and "bad" are not really different things. "Good" only makes sense when someone compares it to "bad," and "bad" only makes sense when someone compares it to "good." And so even when someone talks about "good," they are still talking about "bad." But this is just one thing it does.

Got that? If so, good. If not, then you should be ashamed of yourself - that's from the Simple English Wikipedia, after all.

Anyways, let's deconstruct the hell out of the San Jose Sharks.

What follows are some quotes from Sharks players from David Pollak's recent post on Working the Corners, with fancy-pants deconstructionist criticism following each quote.

DAN BOYLE: "The last two games, with all due respect to the teams we’re playing, there’s no reason we shouldn’t come out of those two games with four points.  Both nights. It’s not like they’re taking it to us. We left them both hanging around late in the third and didn’t get that next goal we needed to get."

The most intriguing phrase here is "with all due respect." It seems that Boyle intended the phrase to be polite, but of course it also carries with it the implication that the teams he is referring to, the Panthers and the Devils, may not always be shown the respect that they are "due." However, if the teams are really "due" that respect then why would it be necessary to mention that fact specifically? Nobody ever says "with all due respect" when referring to the Red Wings, for example. So even though on one level Boyle is showing respect to the two teams, he is simultaneously insulting the teams by virtue of the fact that he deems it necessary to be clear that he is showing them the due amount of respect.

Does it feel like your brain is trying to disappear up its own ass? That's the power of deconstruction, baby!

KENT HUSKINS on the danger of the two losses undoing what had been accomplished lately: "You can’t come unglued. We’ve done a lot of good things the last two or three games…. They’re pretty similar games, the last two games. I think we’ve just got to bear down that little extra."

Huskins says that the Sharks shouldn't come "unglued," which raises the question of whether the team was ever really "glued" in the first place. Sure they went on a 9-0-1 stretch, but few of those games were decisive victories: most were close, hard-fought affairs that the Sharks found a way to win. The team looked good for most of the stretch, even excellent at certain times, but they also had prolonged stretches of lazy, sloppy play.

The game in Anaheim in the middle of the streak was, for me, a good example of how the team has performed overall during this recent run. The Sharks were amazing for the first period, built up a lead, and then fell back on their heels. They relied on Antti Niemi to keep them ahead, and only managed to hold on to victory by a slim margin, as much due to luck as skill. Is this the best performance that the Sharks have in them? Is this what they look like when they are "glued?" If so, the word fails to imply any sort of security or stability, instead referring to a state of constant near-disaster, bereft of any ability to inspire confidence or pride.

JOE THORNTON: "We just had a couple dumb plays and that was it. Just a couple stupid errors that cost us the game."

Can "a couple dumb plays" really mean the difference between victory and defeat? Some may say that it can, and that it only takes one mental lapse to change the outcome of a game, but this line of thinking necessarily brings us to the question: what was happening during the rest of the game? If the rest of the game aside from the "stupid errors" was satisfactory to captain Joe Thornton, then why weren't the Sharks leading by more than a goal? Was the team really pleased with their quality of play when it only had them tied or leading by one goal against teams that aren't currently in playoff position (and, in the case of the Panthers, haven't been for years)?

ANTTI NIEMI on the two third-period goals: "I was able to see both of them. The first one, I think I was expecting a shot just a second before. I was almost going down and then I didn’t go down and then it came and it was too late to get down**.  The last one, it just went through me."

I think Niemi just deconstructed himself there. My work is done!


Prediction: It is impossible for us to truly know what "winning" means, as the word can only be defined in relation to its opposite, "losing," a word which in turn only exists as part of a binary opposition with "winning." The terms thus serve to annihilate one another, and we are left with a contest in which two teams strive in blind idiocy against one another for an unattainable, indefinable goal.

Therefore the Sharks win 5-3, with goals from Couture, Boyle, Marleau, Thornton, and Vlasic.


* = author intent is actually one of the most interesting parts of literary criticism, in my opinion. For example: if I write a blog post that you see as a perfect metaphor for the Jewish experience in the early years of Hollywood, but I didn't actually intend for my post to be read that way at all, is it still "correct" to discuss that aspect of the post? Is that secondary meaning really there in the text at all, or are you just seeing that because of something internal to you? These aren't rhetorical questions: I'm asking you, specifically, spade. This is part of your ongoing English class.


** = this part of Niemi's quote totally sounds like song lyrics. Is there video of him saying this anywhere? Was he talking to the press on camera? Someone could do an awesome auto-tune video of Niemi saying "I was almost going down and then I didn’t go down and then it came and it was too late to get down."

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