The National Football League has done a magnificent job these last few decades conflating patriotism with its product; a product, by the way, run by despots, played by a disturbing number of criminals, and whose chief purpose now is to keep everyone from recognizing that their sport causes brain damage. Its play is sub-par, its rules a joke, and the team that wins all of its championships cheats constantly. But give the NFL a few moments to roll out a giant American flag that covers a 100-yard field, march out some uniformed people to salute it, and fly a bunch of fancy jet planes over head while someone butchers a horribly written song about bombing shit, and you will forgive them.
And this carefully concocted ruse is what makes people go nuts when someone, in this case a few players, decide to take the opposite tact and reject it wholesale in a fairly sincere, albeit clumsy, attempt at protest.
It is this cynical marketing ploy that makes people nearly topple over with shock and dismay when I tell them I no longer watch pro football. Sure, it was my favorite sport when I was a kid and for most of my life, but there are plenty of things I liked to do when I was younger that I no longer do. But when I casually mention this to family and friends they react as if I have renounced my citizenship. “Why it’s downright un-American to do anything on a Sunday in the autumn but watch football like some dead-eyed man-child with an acute case of arrested development. You have to wear a jersey and show up to tailgate for six-hours or attend ten-hour fantasy football drafts and sing along with whatever crap they play at the top of whatever network falderal is carrying the latest slice of Americana.”
It is a clever con, but then the other “knee” dropped.
This past week nearly the entire league – players, coaches, owners, the guys who help the Patriots cheat by deflating footballs and spy on other teams – responded to our Game Show president’s demands that teams begin firing “sons of bitches” for practicing their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution (the one he purportedly swore to uphold), because five or so players protested violence against African Americans by not standing for the aforementioned shitty song about bombs.
Some people with a preponderance of time on their hands that I can hardly conceive of, and apparently faced with very little in the way of actual things to be appalled by, had a fit.
Their reasons are as follows; the national anthem and the flag represent our military and what they have done to fight for our right to protest (the one Donald Trump clearly doesn’t understand or believe in); the players protesting are rich and famous and so they should shut-up and give up this right (similar to what most people who voted for the president think about gays and marriage); and finally, sports should just be about sports and not all this annoying free speechifying, or what we have come to discuss: the playing field is no place for politics.
Except that the NFL has been a recruiting base for the military for decades and has used pre-games and half-times to conflate this idea that pro football is some kind nationalistic cornerstone of our culture, strike that, our very being and nature. NFL equals America. This includes bringing the players (the actual product) into it, for it has only become in recent years a thing for players to even be on the field for the anthem. Why? So we can forget that nearly every player at the top of every draft have records for abusing and assaulting women, random gun-play, drug busts, etc. So if this is how the NFL wants it, then their football field is the perfect place in which to express your displeasure with the country at large.
If NFL equals America, and the first tenant of the nation is the right to peacefully protest and freely speak out against (you name it), then what is the issue here?
The NFL’s military fetish – not only ceremonious rituals and support of wars (the worst of this is during the first Gulf War when the yellow-ribbon, giant flag stupidity reached its puke-inducing apex with the late Whitney Houston’s lip-synching of the crappy song about bombs that became a big hit – is also why people, for some weird reason, only equate this idea of standing for the national anthem as some kind of salute to the military, when the flag represents every walk of life, profession and blah blah blah).
And this is why simpletons like Trump think that the league should expunge those who besmirch this great game and its spiritual connection to our flag and our military.
The NFL created this monster, which is now equally being exploited by its players and the president, whose entire administration has to retain council and whose approval ratings are at record lows. The players see a way to get the reaction they want, which is what they got (thank you, America) and El Douche gets you to argue about a piece of cloth and a badly written song with more octave shenanigans than can be stomached on one listening and lyrics that sound like a fifth-grade poetry assignment gone terribly wrong.
So to save everyone the trouble, I simply call for there to be no mention of the flag or the playing of the awful “Star Spangled Banner” before sporting events again. None of this has to do with football. I agree, let’s keep the sport to the sport and stop trying to cash in on people’s emotional connections to symbolism – a fine tact used by every fascist movement since the dawn of civilization.
By the by, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” should be the national anthem; a beautifully written folk song with fine lyrical stanzas about all the things this country is supposed represent beyond killing things and football. Best of all, it was written by a communist, as was the Pledge of Allegiance, so that actually works. You might not know any of this because you’re busy arguing over a child’s game, a piece of cloth and a shitty song.
Meanwhile, as a postscript; the man who started all this as a simple protest, Colin Kaepernick, who has given a million of his own dollars and has raised millions more for charities and African American groups, is being blackballed by the league. And maybe in the end this is why the NFL and the president has made this whole goofy thing such a big deal. Let’s forget that black men are being slaughtered by cops and not going to jail for it on an almost weekly basis.
I say let’s sing a song about that.