Monday, January 16, 2012
Occupy Green Bay
Sometimes you can beat the invincible home team. Honest.
PACKERS BEAT GIANTS. I know some of you think tomorrow is important. It isn't. Not as important as what happened yesterday. And I promise to explain why.
Yeah, there's another presidential primary coming up, and the result is likely to please very few in the anti-Obama camp. We don't like the anticipated standard-bearer much. But come August we will nominate him, and come November we will vote for him, because the alternative is indescribably worse. All that needs to be said about the South Carolina primary.
On to a subject that is much more interesting and illuminating: The 9-7 New York Giants against the 15-1 Green Bay Packers. It was just a football game but sports has always been a metaphor for deeper tides, and while I don't want to overdraw the symbolism, it is striking enough to draw your attention to.
New York an underdog? Really? Consider mass media treatment of the Occupy Wall Street fiasco. It's easy to hate the New Yorkers. I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan, veteran of countless NFC East battles and the bitter rivalries they've created. Yup. New York is everybody's natural villain: if they win, they bought it; if they lose, they're a laughingstock. Of course, they're going to lose. Isn't that what we mean by the term 'social justice'?
And it's so easy to sympathize with the small-town team that sits just outside rust-belt Milwaukee, home of breweries and dead manufacturing plants whose loss has made government the chief employer of people who cling to unions and other notions of collectivism the way Obama thinks most of us cling to God and guns. I mean, what do the Packers really symbolize? Green Bay is famous for the worst stock ownership plan in history. You buy a share in the team, you get a certificate to hang on the wall, and you never realize a cent of profit from hundreds of millions in ticket sales, TV revenue, or merchandise revenue provided in large part by the very same people who are supposedly owners of the team. The Packers look like democratic capitalism, but in reality they're a religion that demands a tithe paid only to its high pagan priests. There's even an ancient pagan God, named Lombardi, worshipped for a degree of ruthless devotion to his own fanatical need to dominate that recalls no one so much as... (oh, you fill in the blank. I dare you.) This is capitalism only in the way Hugo Chavez might define it; we control all the resources, we spend all the profits ostensibly on your behalf, and you get to cheer us for our intangible largesse.
In any other NFL city, Bret Favre would have been exposed as a juvenile, selfish, lecherous, contemptible sonofabitch long before he became the icon his cultists made him. The ESPNs and other national sports media tend to accept the myths at face value and present them as truth. Ironically, however, the local sports press in the cities whose political reporters are the worst streetwalkers of journalism is still practicing the most diminished of the professions in the coverage of their sports teams. If there's a chink in the personal armor of the sports heroes of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago, or Los Angeles, the beat reporters and radio talkers will hunt it down, document it, and splatter it all over the headlines.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I was -- and, I'm betting, a lot of other fans -- rooting like hell for the New York Giants yesterday. For example, I hate the Giants. I hate their choleric coach, their habitually dirty play, their public trash talking, their self-serving tweets, their whining when they lose, their narcissistic fascination with their own mass media images, and, well, practically everything about them. But when they're playing a Packer team that sits on a town like a crown and expects to win a championship because they're the anointed ones, obvious heirs of a tradition long expired, I get all NFC-Easty and start relishing the controversy and scrappiness of a team that knows what it's like to lose six in a row, to get embarrassed, even humiliated, and then gets back off the canvas with a confidence that amounts to fury. I know from personal experience that that's exactly the kind of history which makes you dangerous when the stakes are high.
I wasn't at all surprised by the Giants' demolition of the Packers. Aaron Rodgers, the greatest quarterback in NFL history by many accounts, never once had to come from behind to win this season. The team barely trailed in any of its 16 regular season games, despite having the worst defense in the NFL. If you don't know the depths, the heights may be unavailable to you when you really need them. Even when the refs turn your opponents' victories into defeats, it might not be enough to overcome the deficits in your own character when the crisis is upon you. If you've never been to the wall, the wall may crush you.
As I said, I don't want to overdo the analogy. But the home field of Lambeau and its own uncritical mythology of its unbeatable super team reminds me more than somewhat of the Obama administration. According to an admiring press, it never loses, even though it ranks dead last in the league in an indispensable aspect of the game (i.e., governing).
I do wish we had an Eli Manning on our side. But I take some comfort from the fact that their Aaron Rodgers looked sullen, even uninterested, on the sideline during the closing minutes, and his post-game press conference was as graceless and self-absorbed as I'd expect from our own Commander-in-Chief in the event of his being tossed out of office next year. That's what happens when you read your own excessively laudatory press clippings and think nobody who's ever lost could possibly be as good as you.
Green Bay. Consider it occupied.
Go Giants. Go Ravens. Go Niners. Go Patriots (No, not the NFL ones, the VOTING ones).