Not long after “Big Old Goal” went live to the world, an in-depth, academic analysis of the video arrived in my inbox. It’s exactly as absurd as it sounds, but it’s also downright incredible. Like the song and video it’s deconstructing, part of its humour comes from how outwardly seriously it appears to be.
After nearly laughing myself to death, I decided it would be criminal for me to keep it to myself. Please, do yourself a favour and take a moment to read this remarkable essay.
“This whole ordeal has gone completely out of hand,” begins the first line of ‘Big Old Goal’, the third release of singer and hockey blog writer, Harrison Mooney. Teaming up once again with Daniel Wagner and Bryan Binnema, and paralleling 1985’s supergroup USA for Africa, the song pleads with Canucks goalie, Roberto Luongo to forgive fans and management alike for their ill-treatment of him following the trade of Cory Schneider. Filmed and re-mastered in the recording space of James and business partner A. J. Buckley and with a choir comprising of Mooney himself, Jordan Bowman and Wyatt Arndt of the Legion of Blog, Alix Wright of Canucks Hockey Blog, Aidan Brand of Smug Nation, Ryan Mance, Steve May, Don Falconer, Christopher Reynolds, and James Wood of Knock on Wood Studios, ‘Big Old Goal’ is a song that begs Lu to find the strength to carry on in the face of “sucky contract hell” that insists upon his presence in a city he has mentally already bid farewell to.
Far from the simple song that it claims to be, ‘Big Old Goal’ in fact draws on a remarkable array of intertexts in its message to the viewer. Primarily, in being a recreation of ‘We Are the World’, the song has the tried and true combination of first person lyrics and repetitive chant, geared toward the internalisation of guilt and in parallel with the hockey ethos of fans chanting for their teams. The rationale for the song itself remains clear as both songs do what they can to reassert a need to rally round, both on the part of the viewer and on Lu’s own. The presentation of this assertion and plea as a group video simultaneously highlights the assumption that this is a larger stance on the part of Canucks fans, and makes it harder for Luongo to dismiss out of hand given its undercurrent of implied guilt and obligation on the part of any viewer.
The music video – far less multicultural than the one depicted in ‘We Are the World’ and made up almost exclusively of men, highlighting mainstream hockey’s problematic bias against female fans – goes beyond the simplicity of a parallel to ‘We Are the World’ despite the clear intention of parallels, to encompass further cultural intertexts. The opening cuts between a technician playing with the sound levels in concert with the opening keyboard notes of the song, the camera pans across a mike in watery background (perhaps suggesting the uneven nature of the musical voices involved), the front of an amplifier, before beginning with a grammatically incorrect phrase. The immediate suggestion of professionalism is thus undercut, distancing the song from the big budget production of USA for Africa and its initial critique of drawing funds away from true intent, while making Mooney’s own plea that much stronger.
Additionally, the viewer is led to reflect on the specific choice to use “gone” instead of “gotten”. It is possible to suggest that the word choice is intended to present distance from Lu’s previous situation, that it is “gone” rather than ongoing, the past perfect reflecting this more clearly than the past continuous. This reading is supported by the fact that the finality of this opening verse is then backed by an almost Yoda-like understanding in the first line of the second verse which states that Lu’s choice to leave – “understandable, it was”. The finality of events therefore suggests both reason and wisdom on the part of the singers who suggest that Lu should use the force (in their goal) as he is now invaluable, and that the only solution on both sides is to stage the Return of the Jedi. Essentially, Lu(ke) cannot complete his journey until he accepts that Cory Schneider is Han Solo and a new contract is his sister and thus they can never truly be together. But troublingly, Mooney and his stable of singers haven’t accounted for the fact that the Canucks at this time are essentially the Death Star and aiming a beam for the hole/goal is what Lu(ke)’s fans around the world have been waiting for as a signal of the end of the evil empire. In essence, the force is with Lu and we are mere spirits watching over this final confrontation.
Two further intertexts exist within the song’s video. Firstly, the Horatio Crane-like image of Harrison Mooney looking disconsolately out at the viewer before he puts his glasses on. Despite the wittiness of the song, its lack of overt puns and the lack of forensic measures mean that the conventional triumphant “yeah” cannot follow despite what is largely the murder of Lu’s soul. The assertion underlying this is not that Mooney is no Horatio Crane, but rather that Horatio Crane himself would be unable to resolve this contract mess in a satisfactory manner, regardless of his familiarity with implausible plots and strained narrative structure. Secondly, and perhaps more evocatively, is the parallel to Ghost, both by the narrative itself and also by the view of overlapped hands moving erotically over the soundboard while a keyboard plays. Lu’s phantom presence and absence on the Canuck’s team echoes Sam Wheat’s. As viewers, we’d come to believe that Lu while present currently, was going to move on to a better place, a happier place. Instead the parallel continues with Lu/Wheat stuck on the subway platform trying to grab for cans in a desperate attempt to reclaim agency. And despite Lu’s renewed visibility, both in the media in the conclusion of the video itself, and briefly present option of agency – the ability to have an effect upon the world (of hockey) – the fact is that he inhabits an interstitial space; neither present with the Canucks, nor present without them.
Perhaps most importantly, the inclusion of Lu himself at the close of the song suggests a doubled reading. On the surface, this inclusion suggests an attempt at legitimacy, wherein the viewer is assured that Luongo has in fact heard this plea and is not averse to its contents or format. His eyes follow the screen and the swaying motion of his head in rhythm with the song itself (which continues in the background) suggests a willing reception; his body language remains open and relaxed. Indeed, Mooney himself asserts that the song “totally worked” and provides the video itself as proof. However, as Thomas Drance from TheScore.com notes, Luongo is wearing a Texas Rangers shirt in the video itself, a sight that destabilises any claims to Lu’s willingness to place himself squarely within the Canuck’s goal regardless of his willingness to hear his fans out. The grand conclusion to this narrative falters despite its many intertexts asserting a renewal of trust. In fact, one could raise the possible assertion that the intertext overpowers the text itself: like Molly Jensen, the Canucks need to come to terms with the fact that Sam Wheat is gone. And regardless of how hard Mooney works to create a bridge by being our own Oda Mae Brown, Mike Gillis was Carl Brunner and shot Lu’s career and now, ghost-like, Lu forms a space of simultaneous presence and absence within the Canuck ethos. The facts remain that nothing in this situation is resolved, that Mike Gillis is a ruiner, and that Ghost is an everlasting classic and treasure trove of similes. Also, that including Bobby Lu in anything is to have the time of your life, but this in itself is a separate issue.
Beautiful stories of damaged love aside, a second and deeper reading of Luongo’s participation suggests the troubling exclusion of the viewer; an act of passivity rather than engagement. That is, despite the illusion of involvement created by having Luongo directly facing the screen and presumed to be mirroring the viewer’s own experience, it remains that the video forms a closed circle wherein this cavalcade of singers serenades Luongo and he responds to them. The viewer informs no part of this experience, is left on the outside to press up against the screen and emit a soft, sustained “Loo” sound; their own homage to Luongo drawn from his well known collection of poems. And sadly, an homage that he does not hear.
At its conclusion, Mooney asserts, “When you can’t find the strength to carry on/ Just find the strength to carry on,” perfectly encompassing this riddle of situations, the complex impossibility of possessing what you cannot possess. Like all the great stories of our time – CSI Miami’s love of threadbare plots and terrible acting, the terrible heartbreak of the impossibility of physical resolution in Ghost, and the inevitable destruction of the Canucks Death Star to free Lu – ‘Big Old Goal’ tells us that all we can do is wait and see what the next chapter brings.Tags: Guest Post