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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.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and with it the blessed gravy boat.

But why should this beacon of gastronomic goodness be relegated to brief appearances at holidays? Why not make the gravy boat a staple of every meal?

Consider the expression “it’s all gravy.” Meaning “an abundance of good things in a given circumstance,” it’s a key pillar in the practice of SuperOptimism. We take it to mean embracing each and every circumstance as a fortunate occurrence — no matter how screwed up, off-putting, or painful — since the mere fact of being alive (as opposed to the reverse) is a miracle in itself!

None of us are promised another day, much less another government holiday, long weekend, or winter break.  So why not celebrate the good fortune of being conscious and functioning today with a deep and abiding gratitude. And gravy!

You have our permission to pull that gravy boat back out of deep storage, place it in the center of your dining table, and fill it to the brim with the following recipe. And if you’re thinking we want you to soak up a high fat, high chemical concoction until your heart stops on a dime, take note: the following contains no gluten, grains, corn starch, flour, or filler of any kind. We invite you to pour generously at every meal. Breakfast included.*

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 cloves peeled garlic
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, unsalted butter, or coconut oil

Start by dumping the broth, onions, garlic, and thyme into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on high.  Then lower the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the onions and garlic are really soft. At this point, taste for seasonings and added salt, pepper, and coconut aminos.

Then pour everything into a blender, add 2 tablespoons of ghee, and blitz everything until it is uniform.  Voila!

*But lay off the biscuits. Those things are like edible hand grenades for your body. Reach for some pineapple instead.

Whereby we examine why some people don’t vote, and offer remedies for this situation, including one utilized by none other than the first president of the United States.

While the cable news networks argue that the coming midterm elections are “the most crucial in our lifetime,” it’s still likely that a vast swath of registered voters won’t bother to show up. This despite a plethora of well-meaning public service announcements, editorials, cold calls, and celebrity tweets. Even if the turnout is high for a midterm, we can anticipate 40% of the electorate missing in action.

For those of us who will cast a ballot on November 6th, it’s easy to feel morally superior to the no-shows (especially if their votes could help our favorite candidates emerge victorious). But rather than look down our nose at our fellow citizens, perhaps we should examine why so many people fail to exercise their constitutional right — and then do something to improve this situation.

First off, election day isn’t a holiday, but it should be While white collar urban professionals need only walk a few blocks from their doorman buildings to their polling places, many of the working poor must travel a good distance to cast their ballot.  When you consider that many are working more than one job to feed their families, taking a few hours out of a day is not an option.

This is on top of the costs associated with voter ID requirements. A study from Harvard Law School estimates that when everything is tallied up, the cost of voting can run between $75 and $400.  Free country, you say?  Not for the 99%.

How can we rectify the injustices of our current election system?  Perhaps we should take a cue from our founding fathers and mothers. In the early days of our democracy, they respected the effort it took for farmers, laborers and townspeople to trek to the ballot boxes.  Political candidates would offer voters food and drink, evenhandedly giving “treats” to opponents as well as supporters.  A barrel of flour or a live pig could also used as an enticement.

Perhaps you believe such “pay to play” activity is morally wrong. Certainly George Washington did when he refused to supply free booze during his first run for office. But after he lost his bid for a state seat in Virginia, he earmarked a tidy sum for refreshments for his followup campaign.  Needless to say, he was more successful the second time around.

Another option is to take the grog out of the hands of the candidates, and put it into the restaurants of the people. Again, back in the 1700s, quite a few polling places were located inside saloons. And why not? Showing up to a cold, cavernous public school, library or town hall doesn’t exactly send the spirit soaring.  We could just as easily tap our local pizza establishments and barbeque joints to host election day.  Simply produce your ballot stub and the first pulled pork sandwich is on the government!

If offering sustenance to voters still makes you uneasy, how about combining the act of voting with the chance to win a large cash prize? Say, institute a national lottery which offers every voter who casts a ballot the opportunity to win a few million bucks. It’s not as outrageous as you think; this very notion was on one state’s ballot in 2006. The “Arizona Voter Reward Act” proposed that one lucky voter would claim the grand prize every time there was a major election. Proposition 200 would have provided the money by transferring unclaimed lottery winnings into a separate Voter Reward Fund, to be overseen by the Arizona State Lottery Commission.

Alas, the measure was defeated, 67% to 33%, thanks to the naysayers who wished to protect “the integrity of our elections.”  They argue that inducements such as lotteries and giveaways would get more people who are ill-informed to participate in our elections. But ill-informed according to whom? Sean Hannity?  Rachel Maddow? A law professor from ASU? And what of the large sums of cash given directly to candidates by the well-heeled, the corporations and their lobbyists? Are we to assume that’s a fair way of buying an election, but a free meatball hero at the polling station is verboten?

Let’s sidestep the sanctimony, and put the fun back into fundamentals of democracy.  If we start the campaign now, we can look forward to a 90% turnout in 2020!

*At the very least, making it less onerous to vote would be a step in the right direction.  Many countries, including Sweden, Germany, and Chile, make voter registration automatic for every citizen.  Take the time and expense of travel out of voting would also be welcome. Oregon, Colorado and Washington have instituted vote by mail systems and in the last midterms, turnout in these three states was 65.7%, vs. 48% nationally. (They also save their taxpayers millions of dollars by doing it this way. Which could be put towards the lottery idea.  Just saying.)

 

Many birds actually enjoy bowling. You don’t see them at the local lanes much, because the owners of American bowling facilities don’t rent bowling shoes in sizes that small.  The key idea is this: no matter what rules or limitations are imposed on you, there’s an inventive way around that blockage to get some satisfaction, 99.9% of the time. Everybody should be able to engage in the kind of fun they want. But you might have to be willing to compromise, and participate without shoes. A refreshing change that airs out your feet. Win-win.