Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lockout to Blackout

2012 NFL Season as Harbinger of Nation’s Troubles

If the NFL is a microcosm of America, then the recently concluded season reveals with stunning clarity the fissures and crises afflicting this nation.

The season began with a referee strike and lockout. The referees, lowest paid and least glamorous of football’s public hierarchy, sought to protect their pensions from the owners’ greedy claws. Rather than give in to the peasant’s demands, the owners brought in scab referees. I remember reading about a prick owner—likely a billionaire—shedding crocodile tears that even he didn’t have a pension, so why should the referees? Nevermind that he could sell one of his beach houses and retire with greater security than most pensioners. Within seconds of their first appearance, the scabs lost control of the game, blew calls, allowed the sport's simmering violence to boil over into fist fights, and eventually cost the Green Bay Packers a victory by flubbing an end-zone call that even a child could see was an incomplete pass and offensive pass interference. Soon after that blown call, the owners relented, but not without the referees giving in to some awful demands and having to move eventually to a less-secure 401k rather than a fixed pension.

The season was also marred by off-field violence. In May 2012, shortly before the season began, beloved linebacker Junior Seau took his own life by shooting himself in the chest. He was later found to have “debilitating brain disease.” And Seau was not the first former NFL player to shoot himself in the chest in order to preserve his battered brain for scientific study into concussions. Also, drunken KC Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before killing himself in the presence of his coach. When announcer Bob Costas took the opportunity of Belcher’s death to talk about common-sense gun policies, the right-wing mediasphere lit up with furious glory. Not long thereafter, Adam Lanza, armed with high-powered weaponry he stole from his prepper mother after murdering her, broke into the Sandy Hook Elementary school and annihilated twenty children.

(Read Garry Wills “Our Moloch” for an insightful and spiritual analysis of what is wrong with our gun culture.)

Super Bowl XLVII itself was an exciting game in which the Baltimore Ravens gained a nearly insurmountable lead, only to nearly give it all away to the hungry San Francisco 49ers. It was a game in which an antler-spray addict accused of double murder became the spiritual center of the Super Bowl–winning Ravens after claiming “he was told by God to lay hands on Jacoby Jones, who scored two break-the-game-open touchdowns.”

But fans will remember this game for the blackout. Shortly after a 109-yard kickoff return for a Ravens' touchdown, the power went out in the recently refurbished Mercedes-Benz Superdome. We all remember the Superdome as the site of horrendous suffering, violence, and terror when refugees from Hurricane Katrina found themselves trapped in the crumbling sporting arena. We also remember that when some of those refugees found their way to the equally uncomfortable Houston Astrodome, former first lady Barbara Bush commented, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. . . so this is working very well for them." Now with New Orleans' triumphant return to the national stage, they suffered the most infamous blackout since 1977. As our nation continues to frack, to demolish mountain tops, to drain tar sands, and to spread our military around the world in order to maintain open shipping lanes for oil, our aging electricity infrastructure crumbles. In terminal decline, America can't even keep the lights on during its nationalistic orgy of violence.

Is it any wonder that a poetically foreboding symbol of death, the Ravens, won this game so shortly after the Mayan Calendar ended?