Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I'm A Thought Criminal Did You Think I Wouldn't Diss Football?

First, people get killed playing American football, they sustain long term and sometimes terminal brain damage, permanent injury and, lest anyone not notice THEY ALSO INTENTIONALLY DO WHAT KILLS, PARALYZES, CAUSES DEMENTIA, ETC.  American football, kills the body AND THE SOUL.  The audience participates in that slow motion homicide, they are an integral part of it. There is no way to honestly ignore or deny those aspects of football, if you do ignore or deny them, you are lying in a way that covers up obvious immorality.  As a nominal Catholic, it disgusted me when a relative told me the priest included praying for the friggin' Patriots to win in his sermon on Sunday, it disgusts me that such great Catholic universities and colleges as Notre Dame and Boston College are football factories.  You wonder how their graduates could be so superficial as to value football more than the education those places provide.  But, then, friggin' Cardinal Dolan gave his clueless "grasping what pleases you" prayer at the installation of the "grab her pussy" American Mussolini the other day, too.  But don't get me started on the low quality of the bishops and cardinals named by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  The American ones are some of the worst, there has never been a worse collection in the US Catholic Conference of Bishops than in the wake of those two popes.

On a less important but still important level, I have never had anyone be able to explain to me why I should care that a bunch of guys or gals is able to get a ball to the end of a field past the people who are trying to stop them.  No one has ever been able to explain why I should be happy that half of the people doing that fail to do it more often than the ones who win, no one has ever been able to tell me why I should feel happy about half of the people watching being unhappy and half of the people watching the stupid carnage are happy about such an awful thing.   And that's not even getting to the repulsive immorality that goes along with it, the misogyny, the sense of entitlement, the more generalized violence it encourages, etc.

Other games at least theoretically lack the worst features of American football.  Hockey's violence isn't intrinsic to the game, Basketball can be played without any violence.  Baseball injuries from getting hit by a ball or from slamming into someone are not intrinsic to the game.  But a lot of the other problems, especially those involving macho posturing and deification are.  And no one has been able to tell me why I should care who wins those either.

And, really, is there anything more attention deficiency producing than watching American football? At least soccer and basketball they keep moving.  Even baseball which you have to pay attention to is less of a chore to watch.  I think if they didn't wear those raunchy spandex pants they wouldn't get much of an audience.  As one of my gay friends said to me when I said I couldn't believe he could watch the stuff,  "It's all about ass".  Um,  no thanks.  I'm not an ass man, myself.


  1. " I have never had anyone be able to explain to me why I should care that a bunch of guys or gals is able to get a ball to the end of a field past the people who are trying to stop them. No one has ever been able to explain why I should be happy that half of the people doing that fail to do it more often than the ones who win, no one has ever been able to tell me why I should feel happy about half of the people watching being unhappy"

    Jeebus fuck, Sparky, just read THE BOYS OF SUMMER. Swear to god, you look up the word "prig" in the dictionary and there's a picture of you.

    1. So which is it Simps, you never read the book and so are unaware THAT IT'S A BOOK ABOUT BASEBALL! Or is it that you don't know enough about baseball to understand that in baseball you aren't trying to get a ball to one end of a field or another?

      I wonder all of that sappy, sentimentalized, nostalgic devotion to the Dodges in the book didn't go with them when the fat cat who owned the team moved it to LA, maybe because it wasn't real and wasn't there to start with. If that book had been written about, say, a baseball team in Des Moines it would be entirely forgotten. Ball Four was far more interesting, though it still didn't explain why I was supposed to care about the game.

      I wonder, if all of those things I listed are important why they are not as important when it's curling or some minor sport that the devotees of the criminal insanity that American football sometimes mock are the subject. Only I don't because none of it involves any thought at all.

      I'd rather watch Dicey Reilly and Checkercycle play checkers, especially when the game is called in the poetry of Profound Moves. Maybe I'll post the Youtube. It has the virtue of not eating up a lot of time and that the people involved don't figure they're entitled to rape women on the basis of their playing the game.

    2. Oh, and I don't know if you're an ass man but you are a man-ass. And I'm not into those, either.

  2. Good fucking grief. Do you not actually read the stuff you post? You were talking about sports in general with that "how can people root for other people to lose" crap.

    My god, you're a fucking moron.

    1. Good fucking grief, didn't you see a. I made a distinction between football and baseball b. the part you chose to clip didn't describe baseball.

      So, why is it, Simps, why is it I'm supposed to care about any of that? Tell me. Why. And if your master race, New Yorkers cared about the friggin' Dodgers when they were in Brooklyn why didn't they care just as passionately about them when they got moved to LA?

      "You were talking about sports in general with that "how can people root for other people to lose" crap." So, why should I be happy when some people lose and why should that matter to me as opposed to who wins? Go on, tell me why. You obviously have the answer to that, even if you, apparently, don't know how the game is played.

      "The Boys of Summer" Maybe that has something to do with why I don't care, I don't like boys who just turn into old guys who used to get paid to play little boys' games, I prefer boys who grow up to be adults. Which is one of the many reasons I don't fancy you.

  3. BTW, "The Boys of Summer" is a brilliantly written and profound book, and vastly better than anything by your beloved Marilynne Robinson. Who only WISHES she could write as well as Roger Kahn,

    1. A. you've never read anything by Marilynne Robinson, I've read The Boys of Summer, B. the book is sentimental mush on an unimportant topic. C. you haven't answered my questions because you can't. I'm not surprised, everyone I've asked that question of is smarter than you and less addicted to lying than you and far less damaged by thinking only in cliches than you and they couldn't answer them either.

    2. Oh, and let me also ask you, in which of her books did Marilynne Robinson write about baseball? I ask knowing you might google to find the answer to that but I'm probably not in danger of you giving the answer because you're such a lazy-assed-man-ass.

  4. "Oh, and let me also ask you, in which of her books did Marilynne Robinson write about baseball?"

    If you genuinely think that's a pertinent question on this topic you are completely fucking insane.

    Seriously -- I've told you this before, Sparky, but seek help.

    1. In other words, you've never read a book by Marilynne Robinson and I was right.

      You're the one who brought Marilynne Robinson into the discussion. And, for the record, Roger Kahn isn't worthy to fill her mechanical pencil. Who are you going to compare her unfavorably to next? Robert James Waller?

  5. "why I should feel happy about half of the people watching being unhappy."

    I hate to agree with Brian Griffin, but thinking people watch sports as a means to see some other people feel unhappy is a failure to understand the spirit and purpose of the contest.

    It's almost as obnoxious and ignorant as people go to the Van Cliburn International to hear the losers play worse than the winner.

    1. But they do, certainly if someone is happy about their team winning, they're happy about the other team losing and the fans of that team being unhappy. And certainly that's how most of the players feel, I would guess virtually all of them. If there are other reasons to watch it, to witness athletic skill, for example, they would want both of the teams to play well and all of the individuals to and would be just as happy whoever won. And they would feel the same way about all sports which involve athletic skill. I think what you've described is a sports fan who is so rare that they might not exist. I don't know where the "spirit and purpose of the contest is supposed to reside if it's not in the participants and the fans.

      Someone might accuse me of overthinking it but, other than to point out things like the consequences of things like American football and the personal behavior and cultural, social and even political impact of sports, there is the idea that, as Foghorn Leghorn said, there is supposed to be something wrong with you if you don't like sports. Fandom is also a means of enforcing conformity of a kind which is, to an extent, also enforced by popular culture but which is generally absent from the arts to a large extent. I'd say the extent to which it is absent is a good measure as to the health of an art. Bartok said contests are for race horses, not for artists.

  6. Bud Grant, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings:

    Q: Do you feel more pride in having reached four Super Bowls, or ignominy for having lost them all?

    A: We got paid. We won. We came back, and we won again and again. But you have to remember one thing: Football is entertainment; it’s not life or death. Once the game is over, you’re already talking about next year and the draft. It’s just entertainment. It’s like going to a play: When it’s over, you walk out the door and it’s over. There are no residuals to it. You’ve got to start all over again. If winning or losing is going to define your life, you’re on a rough road.

    This man spent his life playing football, so if he was only about winning and making the other guy unhappy, he sucked at his job. And let me say I know some Vikings fans, and if you think they are only happy when the other team loses, you'd wonder why any of them smile, ever.

    Winning and losing are part of the game, yes, but as a musician, you have been to auditions, yes? So part of your career involved competing with others for the ability to perform, and if you were selected to join an ensemble ahead of others, you likely left a lot more than half the people involved disappointed and unhappy. It doesn't mean that's ALL you were about.

    I'm not trying to be a smartass but I've never heard Foghorn Leghorn cited as a voice of reason, even ironically. I think there certainly are some macho shitheads who think that way, but I can't speak for them, and I think the purpose of that cartoon was to mock, not celebrate, their views.

    I disagree about fandom of the arts enforcing conformity - the political and social lines are drawn rather clearly, and the attempts to mock, discredit and dismiss even criticism based on the work are often attached with caveats about various "isms." Look no further than the 'Ghostbusters' remake hubbub. I saw the film. It was a monstrously mediocre waste of a very talented cast, who seemed to think the very premise (Girl Ghostbusters!) was enough to warrant a lack of risk and edginess in the film, which were the exact things that made the original so funny.

    But nope, if you didn't like it, you were just an Eisenhower era misogynist who thought women belonged in the kitchen.

    1. But football is life or death for those players who a. almost every year die in practice, b. those players who die while playing, c. those players who die as a result of being encouraged and forced into gaining a dangerous and abnormal amount of weight, d. those players who take steroids and other drugs (not to mention the violence to others associated with that), e. players whose lives are destroyed and shortened due to brain damage which, through the rule of the game, are intrinsic to it and no matter how the NFL wants to weep it under the rug that can't be changed without entirely changing the violent nature of the game. f. those whose lives are shortened by the paralysis that are also a certain result of how the game is played. And you don't have to play at a professsional level or as an adult for those to effect you. I left out suicide, such as one I read about last year of a college aged player who was already suffering the effects of brain damage and steroid use under the pressure of his father and uncle in a family with a tradition of playing football.

      It is the death, the brain damage, the often criminal and anti-social, anti-woman, anti-gay behavior that is an intrinsic part of the playing and culture of football that are the major problems with it. It is by any measure of Christian and Jewish morality, a moral atrocity bound to corrupt even those shining exceptions who are sterling character outside of the game. They shine because they are exceptions and to consider them as such you have to ignore the hours of their life when they are engaged in actions that are harmful to the players, the players families, and society at large which are encouraged to overlook what's wrong with the entire thing.

      When I wrote that piece yesterday I considered including the Vince Lombardi line, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," and decided it had been used too much. But a little known aspect of his, um, illustrious coaching career is that he was reputed to be the only coach who didn't put up with anti-gay invective in his presence and for hiring a gay assistant. And that was way back in the olden days when discrimination was not only nearly universally legal, it was common practice. He stood out because he was unusual for the culture of football. I don't know how he enforced respect for women but the culture of football certainly doesn't encourage that, either.

      Happily, as a pianist, the only time I had to audition was to get into the music program at the university I attended and that was to prove sufficient competence to enter the program, it wasn't a competition. I, like Bartok, think music competitions is a really awful idea and they've produced some really weird results with people winning who went on to have really mediocre careers playing competition style pieces while those who lost went on to have very respectable careers playing music.

      Anyone who could cite Foghorn Leghorn, a character who is obviously there as a figure of mockery, representing ignorant blowhards just didn't get it. I do think the line about "something just "ugh" about a boy who doesn't like baseball" was one of his few straight lines, he was speaking for the dominant culture which equated sports with morality and male heterosexual identity. Simps would say I'm over thinking it but I'd rather think about things in detail than in cartoon non specificity and cliche. I knew nice guys who played sports, though football players of that kind were fewer than those who played baseball or basketball or even hockey (I never met a Canadian hockey player in college who wasn't a nice guy, though perhaps that was because I wasn't a woman). But I think, mostly sports built character, only, in refutation of the cliche, it was generally bad character.

    2. No doubt football is dangerous, as are the extremes some people take to gain competitive advantages, but I think the problem is cultural and not strictly athletic. If you wish to talk about the overcommercialization of sports, I wouldn’t disagree that is a problem. Nor would I deny the corruptive mechanics of the NFLs governing body. But what I most objected to in your argument is that you are only happy as an athlete if you make other people unhappy, and I don’t think that is remotely true.

      The suicide story is a tragedy, but that seems as much the result of shitty parenting and nurturing as the game itself.

      But overt commercialization often not only permits but encourages extreme behavior, no matter the occupation. Football is just a more obvious example.

      Lombardi himself didn’t much care for that line nor that it was attributed to him. He was a determined, hard-driving taskmaster, no doubt, but what he wanted most from his players was effort and attention. There is ample testimony to his progressive views, and it’s tragic his behavior was ever considered that instead of the norm. I should add that his career was indeed illustrious; he literally put the city of Green Bay on the map. As per “respect for women,” I must insist the lack thereof is pretty ubiquitous in American culture, with or without sports. And frankly, the ideas about respect are so nebulous I still have no idea what anyone means when they say the word. I mentioned the ‘Ghostbusters’ remake, and I’d argue that shows no one is on the same page about anything.

      But that’s the point – I don’t think all pianists approach their instrument thusly, nor do I feel that’s all competitions are good for. Some failed and mediocre professional athletes have gone on to lead exemplary lives off the field, whereas some stars find coping with the fading lights unbearable. Again, rampant commercialization. Sensationalism over substance. Sports are not immune to them nor do they possess a monopoly on them.

      I can’t speak for the writers or their intent, but if I recall that episode correctly, doesn’t he try to get the boy to play baseball in order to win over the boy’s mother, whom he wants to marry for her money? And doesn’t the boy basically end up putting him hospital due to his clumsiness? Foghorn Leghorn’s an idiot. A funny, amusing idiot, but viewed today, I think it’s safe to say most people would view him and his comments as archaic buffoonery. Not think, “Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day!” Ahead of their time or just a happy accident? I don’t know, but I do know even as a child I laughed at, never with, him.

      I would argue sports build character, but power corrupts. Think Bob Mitchum in ‘Night of the Hunter.’

    3. "But what I most objected to in your argument is that you are only happy as an athlete if you make other people unhappy, and I don’t think that is remotely true."

      That's not what I said, what I said was, "But they do, certainly if someone is happy about their team winning, they're happy about the other team losing and the fans of that team being unhappy. And certainly that's how most of the players feel, I would guess virtually all of them."

      First, I didn't say that you are only happy as an athlete if you make other people unhappy, I'm sure there are other things that make them happy as an athlete. Though I've seen athletes when they lose and I've seen athletes when they won and there is a decided difference in their level of happiness when they beat the other team. To deny that is the major goal of sports is simply dishonest. And it is certainly as true of the coaching staff, the owners of teams, the fans of teams, etc.

      I think it's not generally as bad as it used to be for those of us who were indifferent or who dislike sports, though there are exceptions. I think when they made that movie Foghorn Leghorn was certainly speaking for the men who produced the cartoon and a very large percentage of its audience. And baseball culture was no where near as coercive and insisting on conformity as football is.

      There is no way to ignore that the violence inherent in football is not only an intrinsic part of the game and one of the goals of playing it but also one of the main attractions of it for audiences. If that were not the case touch football would be as popular and far less expensive and probably far less obnoxious. Football was a game that started in the violence of elite university culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it literally was a blood sport from its inception and it has remained one. I believe it was "reformed" early in its existence because too many college boys were getting killed playing it but even as reformed it still causes death, quick in some cases, slow and terrible in far more. I am rather fascinated at how you can avoid that central issue, would you claim the same things about boxing?

  7. Yes, the purpose of a competition is to defeat one’s opponent. But that hardly means you want them to lose in the way you want to win. I go to job interview hoping to be offered the position, not thinking, “I hope everyone else being considered doesn’t!” Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, talked a whole bunch of nonsense before the Super Bowl with the Patriots two years ago, but when the Pats won, who was the first player to walk up to Tom Brady, shake his hand, and say, “Good game?”

    Per Mr. Leghorn, yes, he’s a fool of a character, and as I can’t gauge intent, I can’t argue that the writers were making fun of him with that comment as well. I just laugh at him as I do the rest of the jokes in the cartoon.

    Conformity is a human problem. It is hardly monopolized by sports. And, frankly, I know a few people involved in music and you’re hardly a “Thought Criminal” for your views on football in your field. I attended a banquet organized by my best friend’s wife to raise funds for her projects (she is a drama/musical teacher) and wore my Patriots tie. Want to guess an over/under on the people who asked and rolled their eyes about my apparel? I’ll give you a hint: I heard the term “barbaric” twice that evening. One of those ladies actually commented that I didn’t “act” like someone who enjoyed football. I imagine because I didn’t…I don’t know, actually, but I let the aside pass.

    No, I have problems with football, especially played on the professional level, and yes, I consider NCAA athletics as professional as the NFL. But I still enjoy and appreciate the game as it is played. I have nothing to do with the university system of the 19th century and even less to do with how football was played back then. I am a fan of boxing, but again, there are elements in the sport I find objectionable.

    1. To say there are aspects of boxing that are objectionable makes me wonder which aspects of it aren't. Almost the same with football.

      That people like something is hardly a confirmation of its moral acceptability. The Roman gladiatorial games are known to have been very popular as are dog and cock fighting, as were bear baiting and the kind of badger hunt described in John Clare's horrific poem.

      I don't think those things that make those sports and "sports" objectionable can be overcome by any alleged virtues they also have.

      When I go hear people perform music or a play I don't want any of them to do badly, I want all of them to do well and all of the people participating in the performance, including the audience, to be happy with the results. That is unless there is something intrinsically depraved about the material, such as Toby Keith's song advocating lynching. When I do come across morally objectionable content in a performance, I'm as likely to point that out as I am the morally objectionable content of sports. But there is other music, there are other plays, those objectionable aspects are not intrinsic to music or theater. You can't say the same about sports whose very ground rules contain violence, you can say them about those sports I noted didn't have violence built into the rules of the game. That is a real difference and the results in real peoples' lives is as real as can be.

      I was thinking of writing about the rape and sex scandal at Baylor and I might, that's not officially a part of football but it is certainly part of the culture those participating in it have created around it.

  8. Writers far superior than me have done a decent job of exploring the complexity web of virtues and vices that sports are a part of. I doubt I can convince you. I would recommend you read Nate Jackson’s ‘Slow Getting Up,’ about a role playing NFL vet and his life at, as he describes it, “the bottom of the pile.” I think, if you read it with an open mind, you’ll understand why people play the game despite the physical and mental toll it takes. There is more to the game than violence.

    And if you don’t think that, I wouldn’t tell you that you must. But neither have you convinced me there is a moral imperative to not playing football.

    Wanting one team to win does not mean I want the other to “do badly.” On the contrary, I watch for entertainment, so I would like to be entertained. Not witness an epic fail. In the end, you play the game, win or lose, and shake your opponent’s hand. If you can’t, you’re not much of an athlete, or a fan. I am aware there are athletes and fans who don’t abide by that, but I can’t speak for them, as I don’t agree with them.

    See above. I believe most participants are involved of their own volition. Today, especially, they have been warned. Don’t forget – there are players who retire before they’ve lost the ability because they don’t want to end up punch drunk. Sandy Koufax retired at 30, and here’s his explanation: "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with the complete use of my body.” Most athletes don’t think that far ahead, unfortunately.

    You want to be a real thought criminal? Write about Baylor in parallel with the Duke Lacrosse scandal. One is a situation in which crimes went unattended, the other one in which non-crimes destroyed reputations and careers. Both, I would argue, endured because they fit the narrative of those promoting them. One of the reasons I no longer classify myself as a liberal was the double-speak I heard from people about how the facts of the case weren’t as important as how they described “the culture.” I heard the same nonsense about the University of Virginia, the student at Columbia who carried around the mattress, etc. Sensationalism does no one good. But crimes like these don't encourage reasoned, skeptical investigation.

    1. My thought crime is, or so I was repeatedly told over the years, the product of me seeing through the orthodoxy of alleged liberalism, I'd seen through the orthodoxy of corporate American culture more than fifty years earlier and through heterosexual orthodoxy before that.

      I don't "want to be a real thought criminal" I want to be honest.

      I looked at an online excerpt from the book you recommend and I don't think I'll be reading it. It looks pretty awful. I notice the guy who write it is 37, let's see how he feels if he starts suffering the effects of brain injury or how his family feels.

      I don't know why you keep bringing baseball and baseball players into it, as I have repeatedly said I make a distinction between games in which violence is not an intrinsic part of the game and those for which violence, even deadly violence, is intrinsic to it and written into the way the game is to be played according to the rules. If you disregard that fact about football and that it gives it quite a different moral character than baseball or basketball or hockey all of which have had violence inserted against the rules instead of as an essential part of the game, I really doubt you're going to understand my point.

      People who like to watch boxing or football or rugby or mixed martial "arts" or cage matches, etc. obviously like the violence that is part of it and don't especially mind that people playing the game will be injured, suffer dementia, are paralyzed and die from playing the games they like to watch. I think that Walter Brueggemann got it exactly right about American football, it is the liturgy of the corporate-consumer state which has destroyed the working class, is increasingly unequal and which increasingly funnels wealth into an ever smaller circle of fat cats. Some of whom own football and run it for their profit and the further distraction and corruption of those who watch it.

    2. I used Koufax because I was assumed you would know who he is. I guess I could have brought up people like Troy Polamalu or Marshawn Lynch, who retired before their bodies gave out for similar reasons. I could list more but would it matter? The point is plenty of athletes in all sports play beyond their abilities ignoring pain and obvious signs of damage for the thrill of it all. I wouldn't, but there are a lot of things I wouldn't do.

      No, I understand you think football is innately corrupt because of the violence in the game, I just disagree. And Mr. Brueggemann's comments about the corporate-consumer state can be bled into virtually every part of our culture, especially the arts. Which have less and less to do with aesthetics and more to do with consumption. In the same way I don't think Britney Spears makes Ella Fitzgerald part of the corporate-consumer complex, I don't think the negative areas of football make the entire practice immoral. No, I don't think blocking, tackling, running and throwing are in and of themselves "violent" in the way I mean the term. For crying out loud, there are loonies on the Net insisting calling someone by the wrong pronoun is an act of "violence." Orwell would not approve. You are free to disagree, as you do, but you have not demonstrated, objectively, that this is so.

    3. I think something which is intentionally violent, especially in the face of players being killed, being brain damaged, etc. is blatantly corrupt. Especially as it is done and managed for profit, for money.

      Anyone who denies that blocking and tackling are violent is merely spinning the definition of words to deny what they are. They are violent acts by any honest use of language. They knowingly risk and inevitably cause injury. Sometimes to both of the fat guys who are bashing into each other.

      How would you propose playing American football taking the injury, the permanent injury, the death out of it? How would you take the violence out of it? Give me details.

      I would deny that Britney Spears is an artist, certainly not on the same level as Ella Fitzgerald. I think your analogy is not apt, in the least. You can sing without it being damaging to anyone, or degrading or abusive or profitable You can sing without any violence, whatsoever. You can't play football or box that way. Walter Brueggemann's three aspects of the NFL that led him to call it the liturgy of corporate-consumer culture were violence, sex and money. He also added in their slogan "We own Sunday" to emphasize its supplanting of religion on the most widely observed Sabbath day in the United States. Considering the role that music and the arts play in religious observance, to engage and enhance the liturgy of churches, your analogy entirely misses the point.