A View From Above
A View From Above is a lecture performance on the statistical and sexual mythology of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain. He was a lover and a fighter.
On March 2, 1962 he scored 100 points in a single NBA game, a record that still stands. He was a larger than life character, shattering basketball records and forcing rule changes to quell his is dominance. His remarkable life is probably best remembered by most for his claim in his 1992 auto-biography, from which this performance takes its name, that he slept with over 20,000 women.
I read this book when I was 12 years old, and I have wondered about those two numbers since then: 100 and 20,000. I was a skinny kid growing up in Canada with hoop dreams. When I read the book I was on the cusp of manhood, and this was a curious bit of hubris. For the performance I revisit a letter that I wrote to Wilt immediately after I finished his book. Surely he could offer some advice to an awkward boy who was trying to get girls to pay attention to him? I return to the perspective of that boy throughout the performance, a sense of awe and disgust intermingled. Is this what it means to be a man?
The first portion of the performance is dedicated to that mythological night in 1962. There is a purity to how that game is remembered, only in still images and only with a radio broadcast, this being before NBA games were broadcast on TV. The second half tackles the brass tacks of his sexual claims. For instance, how frequent were Wilt’s encounters to accumulate his 20,000? How long would each encounter last? How many gallons of bodily fluid are we talking about here? I break down the numbers in the present. A book of charts helps to digest this information.
A View From Above is a critique, using laughter and absurdity, of the enculturation of young men. On the surface the numbers are insurmountable, bombastic, mythological. How do us mere mortals measure up to a figure like Wilt Chamberlain? At the end of the day, does Wilt the man measure up to the myth?