As green versus yellow fire spit across the nation this month, renewing long-forgotten divergent styles of shit-talk, the pertinent dialogue for a moment turned to “cultural rivalries.”
Glancing through an assortment of articles and snippets on the subject in the Boston Globe one slow morning at work, I was reminded of how strange of a chasm still sometimes sits between pop-culture and the counter- or sub-, the mainstream media and the underground-/ arts-media… and how well the idea of this sort of “cultural rivalry” can sometimes demonstrate this. What seems pertinent and obvious within one lifeblood can often fall irrelevant on deaf and confused ears within the context of another.
The articles in the Globe (and, as I’ve noticed since, most other mainstream sources that covered the “broader” implications of the basketball playoffs) seemed to want to insist (with a suggestion that, to the readership, it would be a given, an obvious assumption, something only briefly worth mentioning as an afterthought for those of us living most extremely under a cultural rock) that the rivalry between Boston and Los Angeles, culturally, as cities, was forgotten since the days of Bird and Magic, and completely dominated by sports over all other elements, paling in comparison to the Boston versus New York rivalry, which is driven (obviously) by the same sort of sports-first cultural tunnel-vision. Duh.
There are those of us, however, within the varied readership of these mainstream publications who most definitely do not live under cultural rocks, yet were still a bit surprised by these supposedly “obvious” assumptions.
For those of us who grew up and live daily within various facets of an art-driven “counter-culture” ( I use that term hesitantly, but am unable to come up with a succinct replacement that better conveys the idea), the pertinent rivalry has always been Boston vs. L.A.
The “forgotten rivalry,” huh? I assure the staffers at the Globe, to musicians and artists in the Boston area, the bad blood with the city of angels has never completely left our minds, while the feud with New York has always seemed more like a fairly good-natured (albeit violent) sparring about sports among “friends.” Hell, with the distance separation being as small as it is, holding legitimate grudges between Boston and New York would be incredibly creatively and culturally limiting for artists and musicians. We trade shows and gallery-appearances on a weekly basis; our cultures and tastes are similar enough any sort of “real” rivalry would be self-defeating. Whether the team-flag-waving fanatic is willing to understand or not, for the sub-culture there is a daily, pragmatic need for us to leave the Red Sox vs. Yankees grudges in the pubs and on the fields.
If the mentions of rivalry in the media-coverage was limited to sports-fanaticisms, I would concede the cultural over-looks as aspects of a suburban-mainstream American culture outside of my realm of most-adequate experience. Unfortunately, license has been taken to translate “sports” and “culture” into interchangeable terms, and translate the entirety of one into the limited scope of the other. “Cultures” were contrasted, in ways that had nothing besides context to do with sports.
The arts scenes in both New England and Southern California have been acutely aware of a “cultural” chasm separating them for quite a long time. Having worked as a musician extensively in both parts of the country, I can assure you that this separation is far more fundamentally life-style-based than any assumptions that a mere sports rivalry can caricature during a play-off period pitting one commentator’s accent against the next, or compiled lists of celebrities residing in one locale over another (which reminds me that I should point out for those in my readership that are bound to quip that I’m not even “from” Boston [the city proper] or a citizen of the commonwealth of Massachusetts that EVERY of the articles to which I’m referring that boasts of Beantown’s celebrity roster lists Adam Sandler, who has largely touted his allegiance to the neighborhood that he’s from mere blocks away from where I grew up and currently reside [once again] in the Queen City of the Granite State… not to mention Aerosmith, who’s members hail from a rather rural area even further north in New Hampshire [and I would prefer not to even mention the rednecks from Godsmack, as I consider them a bit of a disgrace to the state]…)
Flipping stations on a car-ride during the playoffs, I caught an afternoon DJ on WBCN spinning The Freeze’s “This is Boston, Not LA” as a rallying-cry for Celtics fans prior to the evening’s game. Great song, great compilation… and I promise, it spoke to so much more than basketball, and still does, to New England punk fans. When I got home, I cued up The Showcase Showdown’s classic Boston anti-Cali-anthem “213.”
I promise, for artists and musicians, this rivalry has nothing to do with basketball. I am disappointed that “credible” and well-staffed publications such as the Boston Globe and the LA Times, who operate in cities whose “dominant” cultures are more dominated (possibly ironically) by the “sub”-cultures than most others in America, seem to be completely and naively oblivious to this.