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Thursday, September 28, 2017

The writing is on the wall for pro football

When institutions lose their way, they turn to politics

I don't recall ever having watched an entire NFL game, so, regarding the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to demonstrate how much they hate America, you might think my attitude would be: Frankly madame, I don't give a deer!

But on this particular issue, I give a great many deer, and a buck as well. Maybe not so much for the NFL—I've been hearing for thirty years from blue-collar guys how pro football is boring and predictable, and college football is better—but because it's a sign of something deeper.

Not even round

My theory is that when Kaepernick says he's “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” it tells Americans all they need to know about him and about the grim future of the NFL, and a lot about our future as a country.

Pick any of America's failing institutions: Hollywood, the universities, major league football. What they all have in common is that they've all gone political. The question is: are they failing because they turned political or have they turned political because they're failing? Or is there a common factor that causes both?

One thing they have in common is that they've lost sight of their purpose and they're trying to do each other's jobs. Universities are now entertainment corporations, while Hollywood tries to lecture. From listening to former football fans, I gather that NFL football lost its ability to entertain years ago, but jocks were never any good at teaching, so all that's left is to use it as a political stage.

When an institution loses its original reason for existing, people try to use its decaying remains for their own ends. That applies whether it's a football team, an ice cream company, an Internet search engine, or a country.

Maybe that's why “Make America Great Again” was such a great slogan. People realized that turning birthday cakes and pizzas into political statements was more than just pandering to the easily offended. It was a symptom of our educated and managerial class indulging in class warfare so they can feast on the resulting decay.

Football diagram
Football strategic diagram

Maybe the managers see politics as a way of retrieving past glory, on the theory that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Or maybe they think if the game is getting old and predictable, a little political hatred will pack 'em in. So far, it's not working: fans are talking about a boycott.

George Carlin famously said baseball reflected our rural, stem-of-grass-in-the-mouth pastoral heritage, while football represented a twentieth century technological struggle.

Commentator Steve Sailer put a neocon context on it: “American football is beloved by Americans because it is a war game in which teams defend their home turf and methodically invade their opponents' territory.”

During the Cold War, football made sense: there were two evenly matched squads, complicated strategic diagrams, and the potential for sudden death. Those diagrams resemble nothing more than Feynman diagrams of nuclear reactions, with gamma rays and neutrons shooting out randomly and particles and anti-particles annihilating each other. Football is the sports equivalent of nuclear fission.

It was not only technological, but almost scientific. Some of the smartest kids in my high school used to sit in the back in math class creating football plays instead of learning math.

In a post-techno post-Cold War world, that worldview is increasingly obsolete. Perhaps we need a new kind of sport that would appeal to today's undereducated elites. Something more along the lines of windmills, solar panels, and global warming:

Or maybe we could change our national anthem to something they'd be more comfortable with. Maybe they'd prefer some other country's anthem, like China's, which sounds remarkably Trumpian:

Up, you refuse to be slaves of our bodies and blood! Create a new Great Wall! The [insert name of country] people are at a very important moment, and all of them should offend their hatred! Arise! Arise! Arise!

Well, maybe it loses something in the computer translation. But arising to show respect for one's country, even if it has faults, is not a bad idea. If not China, how about Iceland's:

We come from the land of the ice and snow. We'll drive our ships to new lands to fight the horde, and sing and cry Valhalla, I am coming! Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh!

Oh wait, those might be the lyrics from Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. Whatever it is, it would be a great national anthem for somebody.

For the athletes it doesn't matter whether it's the national anthem or a Led Zeppelin tune. All that matters is if they're going to pretend to represent a geographical region, they have to have a little professionalism and show some respect for it.

sep 28, 2017; last edited sep 30, 2017, 4:46 am

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