Monday, January 27, 2020

Of Politics and Football

Annamaria on Monday

This coming week, a huge percentage the United States population will be obsessed with these two subjects.  If you have been hiding in a cave from the news of the world (perhaps the sanest possible behavior these days), let me fill you in: this week’s American fixations stem from the coming Super Bowl of American football next Sunday and the on-going impeachment of the President.  For those of you who live in other cultures, allow me an audacious attempt at analyzing these peculiar forms of insanity.

 Caveat: I used to kinda like football and was preoccupied with following politics.  Now I can’t stand to watch either.  Why?  Because they have both turned into blood sports.  And my intolerance of violence makes me shudder on a cellular level.

The parallels between these two forms of mud wrestling are many.  Both are played to win, of course, but both also involve nefarious strategies.  Tempting the opponent to make fatal mistakes, for instance.  Or famously (infamously?) to injure a key player of the opposition so that he has to drop out of the game.  Both involve a strategist in a leadership role.  Both have enormous payoffs in money and fame.

The most successful politicians and football players end up multi-multi millionaires.  Even the minor players are pretty much guaranteed easy, well-paying jobs, if only as glad-handers, after they leave the field.  And both depend HEAVILY on television to attract adherents.

’Twas not ever thus in sport or elections in the USA.  Time was when people cared about the outcomes of elections and football games, and their expectations were that the people who played the game would play to win.  But not for blood.  In these endeavors, players used to be admired for their sportsmanship or patriotism.

On the football field, the strategy used to be to block or intercept the ball, not to sack the quarterback in such a way as to deal him a disabling blow.  Fans did not demand and then cheer the sight of the opposing star player lying on the field writhing in pain or being carried off on a stretcher.

In politics, oh there was some—mostly minor league—cheating by political bosses on local levels.  But by and large, the worst thing political candidates did was make promises they knew they couldn’t keep.  Then along came Karl Rove, who showed his party how they could tear off subsets of voters by turning them into one-factor decision makers.  Ramp up the anger of Catholics against the availability of abortions.   Convince the gun owners that the second amendment to the Constitution entitled them to own weapons for mass killings and to shoot cop-killer bullets with them.  And that anyone who said different was taking away their inalienable rights.  Also, tell the hyper wealthy that taxes are not, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “what we pay for a civilized society.”  Tell them taxes are the most despicable form of robbery.

Once an election was over, it used to be that those in office would attempt to do what was good for the country, not to declare—for instance—that their “job for the next four year is the make Obama a one-term President.”

 I could go on, but I am getting nauseous describing how these strategies shredded the fabric of American society.

The weapons used to win both in football and in politics used to be skill, capability, and using the rules to one’s advantage.  Now they are money and television.

 In football, they use that money to buy the best players with annual salaries roughly equal to the total budget for public education in a small city.  The teams earn the money back with fees from television contracts.  The TV stations charge more per second of Super Bowl advertising than the average U.S. elementary school teacher earns in 3.7 YEARS.  Having a rabid fan base to watch that advertising really pays off. 

In politics, rabid party adherents provide the cash directly.  The angrier the parties can make their followers, the more money they can collect.  More money means more TV advertising time, and the conventional wisdom is that TV ads win elections.  The elected officials will end up rich.  The citizens will get… I was going to say bupkes, but they do have the chance to live in a country where football is now the most popular sport.

You might think all of this is useless blather, but—

The rending of American society has turned us into a nation that puts children in cages.

And Super Bowl Sunday gives my country its highest daily incidence of violence against women.

Breaks my heart. 


  1. The chummy relationship between politicians and radio/television has long troubled me, Sis. Broadcasters receive licenses from the Federal government for relative peanuts, and the government shows little -- if any-- interest in cutting into what the broadcasters make during each election cycle. Let's be real--the major fundraising efforts so polluting our system (thank you Citizens United) are all tied into buying broadcast time...largely TV. In exchange, the politicians in power get "free" face time on TV as interviewees on friendly stations and networks.

    It's all about the money folks.

    As for football, I'm lucky I'm a Steelers fan, where everything my team does is for the betterment of mankind.

  2. Maybe we need to change the game: set aside half of the budget which would then go directly into the pockets of whoever won the election, and the loser of the election would get to run the government with the other half of the money. That way, at least, a quarter of the money might go to good causes, which would be an improvement over the current situation, and we might have an improved chance of things actually getting done.

    No, sorry, nothing's going to straighten out this mess until there's a 15-20 year world-wide disaster to re-align everyone's priorities. Other than that, I'm 100% an optimist.

    1. EvKa, or alternatively, we could just give the political contributions directly to the TV stations and let them endlessly run all the episodes of West Wing, instead of our having to look at the sour pusses telling us lies. I would like that much better. Think of how much more peaceful Thanksgiving dinners would become. How easy it would be to arrange the relatives at tables at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs with out all that political hatred being sold to us. It would be a whole closer to Peace on Earth than the current system.

  3. My Brother, I am sure you are right about the Steelers’ intentions. But the supposedly cute name they have makes them sound like a bunch of crooks. Speaking of which, then there is what happened to politics since Citizens United. Here is what I think about the decision of the Supremes, based on the free speech rights of corporations. If corporations are people, and we still have a Federal death penalty option, when a corporation is responsible for a death, I think the corporation should be executed: put out of existence. I don’t mean the executives, I mean the entity. It’s assets seized for the public coffers and the logo scraped off the building. I think if that were part of the interpretation of the Citizens United decision (and it logically is), the moguls would be paying their lawyers to get it reversed.

    But logic, I fear, has gone the way of truth.

  4. Just had to jump in with a fact check: "Super Bowl Sunday gives my country its highest daily incidence of violence against women" is in fact a myth. has an article about it here:

    1. Thank you, Sue, for this correction. I heard the same in an email today from Stan Trollip. I was willing to believe the myth because I know that a great deal of domestic violence is caused by excessive drinking, and I know drinking is an integral part of Super Bowl Sunday. Drinking while watching and in the aftermath. Some people are celebrating and some are drowning their disappointment. And it all starts in the daytime. So it seemed plausible that there were more people drunk on that day than on most days.

      Somehow, plausible doesn’t work in a lot of ways these days. But I stand corrected. And I am glad of it. I can hate football a tiny bit less.

  5. Over here, there still is a huge correlation of domestic violence and football ( soccer). The police and the A&E units knew what they were in for when the Old Firm played ( rangers and celtic). New laws to reduce drunkenness at the game, banning alcohol, banning alcohol in the street, no entry if drunk and moving the kick off to 12 noon instead of 3pm have all helped. Maybe that's where the fact/fiction is being blurred. It's one of the few forms of tribalism left.

  6. Thank you, Caro. That is exactly the scenario I imagined to be happening here, but we have passed no laws to limit domestic violence in such ways. In fact, in every place that sells or serves alcohol, there are warning signs, saying that pregnant women who drink are putting their unborn children in danger of fetal alcohol syndrome if they drink. American expectant mothers are afraid to take a single sip of champagne on their wedding anniversaries. But NO WHERE are there warnings that men who drink may then become a danger to their wives (pregnant or not) or to their already-born children. Fetal alcohol syndrome is unlikely even if the woman in question has a glass fo wine with her dinner (as I did) every night while pregnant. Domestic violence on the other hand is rampant across socio-economic and ethnic groups. I would say, “Go Figure, but no amount of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing would add any sense to this.