Someone help me out. Here's David Brooks, the upmarket Jeff Foxworthy, writing about "The ESPN Man" in today's New York Times:
Normally, presidents look weak during periods of economic stagnation, overwhelmed by events. But Obama has displayed a kind of ESPN masculinity: postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent.
What's he on about? "ESPN masculinity"? Is he talking about ESPN's audience, which is postfeminist only in the sense that no one watches the WNBA? Is he talking about the network itself? If he is, we'll spot him the "hypercompetitive" and the "not given to self-doubt"—ESPN wouldn't know self-doubt if it had René Descartes anchoring the 11 p.m. SportsCenter—but the Worldwide Leader left its restraint somewhere in the pocket of Lee Leonard's blazer. And "rarely self-indulgent" would be a fun one to think about while sitting on the Budweiser Hot Seat.
I really, truly have no idea what Brooks is talking about, and I don't think Brooks does, either. (Why, it's almost as if "ESPN Man" were an ad hoc faux-populist, faux-sociological category invented by David Brooks as an indirect means of mewling about baby boomers and the '60s.) If I were to start yammering about how the cool restraint of Obama's managerial style is an expression of his Gong Show masculinity, you'd call for the fellows with the butterfly nets, right?
There really is nothing funnier in journalism than David Brooks writing about television. It's the best. He watches TV the way Margaret Mead watched the Samoans.