I like finding people who care intensely about (fairly) non-trivial things I care zero about. It is pleasing in a cultural fire break sort of way to have these people out there, keeping the flaming front from advancing by their presence.
I’ll give you two examples.
First, there is basketball, and, more specifically, Bill Simmons’ podcast fixation with basketball. To be completely clear here, I think Bill Simmons is unfairly great podcast hosts: charming, discursive, direct, intelligent, etc. He has his flaws, but he makes me listen to things I care zero about, which brings me to basketball.
Dribble. Dribble. Dribble. Fake. Dribble. Shoot.
…and on its chest were the dreaded runes, Villanova.
“Aieee! A Ballhog!”
– Bored of the Rings (1969)
I care zero about basketball. It’s the 28.8 baud modem of sports: a click whhhh rrrr bzzzz of sports-related noise that, I’ve always felt, can be fairly safely ignored. Its practitioners are incredible athletes, but the sports itself is weirdly hermetic and repetitive. Like the Ballhog in Bored of the Rings, kind of an anticlimax when you were expecting, I dunno, giants. But the people who love it, love it, and that keeps me feeling safe, so I listen: Tell me more about the Celtics, whoever they are.
My other example is Greil Marcus, the longtime music critic who now writes for the Los Angeles Review of Books. I love his columns So Much. They are listy things, with ten-is books ’n’ songs ’n’ cultural bits that caught his eye, sometimes for obvious reasons, but mostly for Greil-ish reasons of his own. Check the excerpt below and you’ll get a sense of His Things, with ruminations on Amazon Prime series that no-one but Marcus knew existed, books that I won’t ever add to my wish list to ignoramus’s but like that someone else will. I love every dot-numbered paragraph of it, and love that he is out there keeping me safe.