Posts

The following is a special wild-card weekend editorial.

Ask any citizen of the United States and their answer will be the same: our country is in big trouble. Whether it’s white nationalists raising holy hell based on their latest conspiracy theories, billionaire technocrats deciding where to draw the line on free speech, or the gaping inequality between rich and poor growing more grotesque by the paycheck, our current situation looks grim indeed.

Nowhere is this disintegration of humanity more in evidence than in our nation’s capitol, stoked by a professional class of elected leaders too fearful of losing office to protect our democracy (recent post-riot speeches excepted). Given the lack of willingness to compromise displayed by party leaders and the ideological rift between the two dominant parties, some experts say America is heading towards a second civil war — quite possibly before the next presidential election.

So is there a more positive way for Washington to govern, for red and blue states to agree on the fundamentals, and for the populace to rally around their leaders for the good of all?  We say yes! And it involves the most American of objects, an oblong leather-bound ball with laces that unites the nation every Sunday (and in the case of wild card playoffs, Saturday as well).

Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green… whatever their party affiliation, Americans can’t get enough of football. We sacrifice things like better schools and public libraries to build massive stadiums to honor our local teams, and the high price of NFL game attendance — tickets average around $150 — doesn’t stop all classes of people from rubbing shoulders as they fill these fishbowls to near capacity each Sunday (not counting Covid season).

So how can we marry the much-adored game of football with the unwieldy, uncooperative workings of Washington? Simple. Form teams from the three branches of government along party lines. The winner of a game of football between D.C. Democrats and Republicans could decide if a bill winds up in the trash can or enshrined as a law. It could determine if the Supreme Court hears an argument against Arctic Drilling, or leaves it in the lower courts.  Even allowing for a few hours for the losing side to complain about the refereeing, the fate of any important issue could be decided in just a day or two!  

If laws were decided through football, the American people would be more engaged in civic processes than ever. For one thing, it would make the process of governing fun to follow. As much as we talk, text and tweet our opinions about politics, the day-to-day activities of each branch are extremely boring and nearly unwatchable. It feels like divine intervention when CSPAN leaves a poorly-attended House debate to cover a Presidential motorcade, but that’s not saying much. Now consider the audience for a show that combines sports talk with political commentary. Through the roof!

Right now, fans act like game day is a matter of life or death when all that’s at stake is their parlay bet on DraftKings. Think of how much they’ll care when their actual lives are on the line. “TOUCHDOWN! THAT MEANS MORE IMMIGRANTS, BABY! TAKE THAT, REPUBLICANS!”  They’ll be cheering for teams representing their city or state with an even greater passion, and with football as the focus, the American people would write and call their representatives more readily with complaints about their play-calling and performance, and show up en masse on election days to ensure their team has the best possible players. 

Football would also be a healthier outlet for our heightened aggression, the gridiron providing the perfect location to settle simmering feuds among our elected officials. Imagine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the trenches against Ted Yoho, the Republican who called her a “f***ing bitch,” ready to unleash a pancake block when the ball is snapped. Or “Mean Mitch” McConnell responding to Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon’s smear of the right with an open-field tackle to prevent a certain score. Just because the play has been whistled dead doesn’t mean the vendetta is settled. Who could resist watching Rashida Tlaib lay a late, cheap hit on Texas Republican Bill Flores, incurring a penalty of lower taxes and increased defense spending in the process? 

As more and more Congressional leaders age into dementia while holding on to their seats, football would also nudge the country to send younger, fresher talent to D.C. While the jobs of any of the three branches of government are demanding, they tend to exercise the brain a lot more than the body. With legislative business determined by playing smashmouth football, there would be need for field generals to exhibit strength in their quads and hamstrings, not just their ability to raise piles of PAC cash. So if players from the greatest generation can’t shape up, they’d quickly lose re-election to new blood that could ram their party’s legislative agenda into the end zone.  Meanwhile, the power players throwing, catching and running the ball would be freshmen representatives or baby-faced SCOTUS clerks. 

Given America’s insatiable appetite for the sport, football can bring the country together at a crucial time, fusing our love of scrambling quarterbacks and defensive schemes with the process of governing that will be embraced by conservatives and liberals alike. And then? We export our pigskin politics to the rest of the world — so our conflicts in the Middle East and our stalemates with Russia and China can all be solved peacefully on the gridiron, rather than the battlefield. 

Governance through football: May it lead us forward as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and slant patterns for all!

Special thanks to University of Michigan sports writer Jack Whitten for co-authoring this editorial.

Democrats, take heart.

Sure, you’ve had a lousy week (to go with a lousy three years), with the Senate acquittal of your most hated foe coupled with the Iowa caucus debacle making you look like the political equivalent of the New York Knicks.

One might argue that this week we hit extreme Republicanism, with the Donald’s triumphant victory lap contrasted by Nancy Pelosi “tearing up” at the conclusion of Tuesday’s State of the Union.

So why is this great news for every blue stater out there? Take a moment to consider the “pendulum effect.” Also called the pendulum law, it was discovered by Galileo in 1602 and describes the regular, swinging motion of a pendulum by the action of gravity and acquired momentum. 

Much like Signor Galilei’s pendulum experiments, trends in politics have swung back and forth between opposite extremes for the last few decades. From George H.W Bush to Bill Clinton. From Clinton to George W. Bush. From W. to Barrack Obama. And from Barry to Don.  Man, that pendulum swings more than Benny Goodman ever did.

While we can’t predict the exact moment the pendulum will swing past the median point and deliver a victory for the left, the move away from DJT very well could have begun yesterday. It will only be in hindsight that our political scholars will pinpoint the timing exactly.
But we can posit based on the latest Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient,  our next president will be as liberal as Rush Limbaugh is conservative.
As for swings of momentum in your own life, it helps to have a physical object to be reminded of the power of physics to revise your own course on a regular basis. It also can act as a soothing escape during moments of stress and tension.*
*For those with heavy stress over the current political situation, a life-sized outdoor pendulum might be required.

One could argue that Martin Luther King was the most important political activist in modern American history.

He was certainly the most hated man in America during the 1960s, for railing against the inequities suffered by African-Americans at the hands of whites, advocating for a guaranteed basic income for all people (60 years before Andrew Yang) and stumping for a redistribution of wealth (beating Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren to the punch).

In other words, the guy was a stone-cold radical who shook up a country coming out of the “Happy Days” of the 1950s.

So you might think that Martin was a dour sort. After all, when he wasn’t exhorting millions to rise up and claim their share of the American Dream, he was busy protesting the Vietnam War and fighting consumer exploitation by industry.

But did you know, five minutes before James Earl Ray gunned him down, Dr. King was busy having a pillow fight? This according to Andrew Young, who was with him that day in Memphis.

As all SuperOptimists know, it’s important to let off steam by hitting one of your trusted personal advisors with a hammer blow of feathers when they least expect it.

King was also known for laughing at his posse for jumping in front of him in crowds, ostensibly to protect him but, in King’s eyes, more likely trying to get their pictures in the paper.

May we continue to humanize the people we venerate as saints, while not judging their mirthful side as being at odds with the seriousness of their purpose.