Saturday, September 30, 2017

A STANDING QUESTION


Full disclosure:

I am not a sports fan.  I have never been a sports fan.  The last football game I attended was in college (more from curiosity than Oregon Ducks loyalty) and my last baseball game was circa 1986 with a huge Padres fan.

So: with the current flail about NFL players breaking league rules about decorum, behavior, and patriotism—and the so-called leadership ignoring those rules—what might a flat-footed asthmatic have to add to the discussion?

Well, read on.

It’s always seemed peculiar that we Americans attach so much significance to anything as trivial as a ball game.  I assumed that it’s a residual of WW II when President Franklin Roosevelt decreed that The Boys of Summer would continue playing, though many baseballers entered the service, voluntarily or otherwise. 

Not true.

According to ESPN, the national anthem was inserted into the national pastime on an impromptu basis, during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One during the 1918 Cubs-Red Sox World Series.  Typical of those days, and maybe due to the Great War, a band it struck of The Star-Spangled Banner, prompting fans to render traditional honors. The Sox took the series in six games, but the greater significance endures. 
        
Some intriguing facts have emerged from the shadows of the politically-induced protests among multi-millionaires who think that a sporting event has any relevance to national policy.  The results reveal feckless management, owners and coaches, to industrial-grade hypocrisy.

What does the national anthem have to do with the NFL's alleged motivation of protesting police brutality?

Nothing.

However, the NFL knows a lot about both the police and brutality.  On average one player is arrested a week, on charges including murder, assault and battery (women feature prominently), substance abuse, and weapons charges.

Where’s the outrage?

The players and coaches who “take a knee” blather out of both sides of their mouths, insisting that their disrespectful (and prohibited) behavior represents some sort of social-justice statement while claiming to Support The Troops.

Batguano.

If in fact the NFL ath-a-letes (as a high school coache pronounced it) need to get their own house in order before presuming to instruct the rest of us on anything.

Here’s info from the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics:

The leading cause of death among young black males is…young black males, around 90 percent.  Two years ago blacks killed about 6,000 other blacks.  Police killed 258, and it’s certain that not all of those were racially motivated.

Drug use and sales, addiction, casual violence (remember The Knockout Game?), criminal career paths, all are part of the African-American environment.  And guess what: neither the police nor The Man are instigators.  Black America has self-selected for endemic crime and cultural disintegration.  As black economist Thomas Sowell noted, before the 1960s most black children grew up in two-parent families.  In this decade, nearly three-fourths of black babies are born to single mothers, versus about 15 percent for whites.  Absent male parents and guidance, young blacks are set adrift in the urban jungle.

However, looking for white guilt produces at least one significant hit: Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.”  Whether due to na├»ve optimism or calculated cynicism (LBJ feared that Republicans would get “the nigger vote”), white liberals created the welfare state that plagues millions of black citizens trying to create a life amid chaos.

Where from here?

It turns out that the National Basketball Association also has requirements for decent behavior during pregame ceremonies.  More than that, the NBA (which has even more black players than the NFL) enforces its rules.  Evidently there’s little if any tendency among basketball players or coaches to “take a knee.”

That’s because the NBA, unlike the NFL, has mature, principled leadership.

NFL’s hypocrisy is eye-watering.  Players are prohibited from professing their religiosity; from showing support for slain police officers; and even from dancing-prancing in the end zone.  But Colin Kaepernick was famously photographed in a scrimmage wearing cops-are-pigs socks.  Nothing happened.

Kapernick was born to an unmarried nineteen-year-old, never knew his biological father, and grew up amid White Privilege as an adoptive third son.

Radio host Dennis Praeger has a description for such people:

Ingrates.

How the flail may affect game attendance remains to be seen.  But for now, many fans are fed up.  Facebook pages contain ads for cut-rate prices on remaining season tickets, and others show fans burning team banners and jerseys.

According to a Rasmussen poll this month, one-third of American adults are less likely to watch professional football.  Meanwhile, 12 percent say they’re more likely, leaving half unaffected.

Final analysis: the NFL’s 1,500 or so players are blessed with physical gifts that few of us will ever know.
But professional football is among the worst organizations to tell the rest of us how to think or behave.  Aside from decades of accepting routine criminality, many of its members lack the emotional equivalency of their on-field prowess, and I’ll go so far as to say that the ath-a-letes in my college dorm seemed to wear their IQs on their jerseys.  Some of them had no business in college—they were in essence professional players supported by the alumni, since the football program paid off big time.  Want womens’ sports?  Want new band uniforms?  Want a new chemistry lab?

Football, baby, football.

Meanwhile, consider the all-time college and NFL poster child:

Orenthal James Simpson.

Meanwhile, this month by far the best-selling NFL jersey is Steelers lineman Alejandro Villaneuva’s.  He stood alone during last week’s national anthem because, unlike the huge majority of footballers, he’s not only an Army veteran but he survived three tours in Afghanistan.

Which reminds me:

Here in Arizona I’m still asked if I’m related to Cardinals player Pat Tillman, who left a lucrative career to become an Army Ranger.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 under still-mysterious circumstances.  I don’t know that I’m related to Pat (we both had Ohio connections) but I certainly relate to his choice of nation over self, though he came to question the war. 
Another connection to football is much closer.  My late-great friend Joe Foss, a WW II Medal of Honor aviator, became governor of South Dakota and launched into other public arenas.  In 1959 he founded the American Football League, and remained until the dawn of the Super Bowl era in 1966.
Joe’s memoir was titled A Proud American, and as a combat veteran he would be appalled at what became of professional football.    

Despite what Joe brought to the NFL, the organization never returned the sentiment.  When Joe died in 2003 there was talk of dedicating the next Super Bowl halftime to his memory.

It never happened.


Which, considering the counter-culture emphasis of The Big Show, may be just as well.