Monday, September 05, 2016

Kaepernick and the Art of Media Manipulation

I’m not going to link to any of the idiotic stories regarding San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the playing of The National Anthem before each football game this pre-season.

Why?  Because not once have I read anything remotely near the truth of the situation.  It’s all been political grandstanding of one form or another, the author eager to impose his inviolable political views on the reader.  As usual, the sportswriters of America show their asses, exposing themselves as the mediocre, cowardly hacks so many of them are.  Ditto, their editors.

What is the truth?  Football is a team sport.  It relies on dozens of moving parts operating in unison to create a victory over an opposing team, as many times as possible.  From the coaches, to the starting players, to the substitutes, to the trainers and staff, to the front office, to the fans.  In and of itself, it’s a beautiful thing when it’s running properly and the team is winning.  That’s what everyone craves: that sense of belonging to something larger than himself, that has a history and mythology, that implies he’s playing some role in this dynasty, this ongoing affirmation that at least this one thing in his life is working out fine, something to look forward to.  The sport ceases to exist on that level when fans don’t want to invest their money, time and personal well beings into this entity that affirms their existence.

When things happen that draw attention away from the unifying process?  It’s awful.  Witness the recent Penn State/Paterno/Sandusky meltdown that I’ve written about many times.  Even this nonsensical Tom Brady “deflategate” imbroglio.  Historically, these sort of distractions in football usually imply a few things: flaming asshole players, drugs, sex, spousal abuse, celebrity egos, money issues, etc.  In short, this non-football issue draws attention away from the real issue: the sport itself and the fans’ and team’s desire to win.

(But what a minute.  Shouldn’t we take this opportunity to engage in the larger reality of our every-day lives?  To use this sport, and this situation as a microcosm of the larger world from which we can learn something more complex?  In a word: NO!  The beauty of sports is that it represents a self-contained universe that allows us to escape the reality of our lives.  No one, and I mean no one, watches a football game to gain greater insight to politics, or sociology, or the human condition.  You think I’m wrong?  Then do yourself a favor and become a politician, or a sociologist, or a psychiatrist … you’ll be divining much more truth and substance from the world doing these things directly, as opposed to half-assedly applying them to a child’s game that grown men are playing for lots of money.  And grown men follow to tap into those lost senses of camaraderie and bonding that were more powerful in their childhoods.)

I’d file Kaepernick away under the “flaming asshole” category.  Not for his beliefs or opinions, all of which are irrelevant to me, and should be to you, too.  We probably agree and disagree on lots of things, like any other human beings, like every player and every coach on every team, like every referee at each game, like every hot dog vendor, like every fan in the stadium, like every fan watching on TV.  He’s a flaming asshole simply for diverting attention away from his team and onto himself.  His importance in the world is to get on the football field and help his team win; he’s not being paid millions of dollars for his socio-political stances.  As a team leader, every time he takes the field he should understand this implicitly and imbue his fellow players following him with this sense.  With no other sense.  He does not dictate to anyone how they should think or feel about anything, save using his skills, mentally and physically, to win football games.  (While on the field … off the field, he could run for political office, for all I care.)

The real culprit here is coach Chip Kelly … whom I already sort of despise for screwing up my team, the Philadelphia Eagles, with his numb-nut, Dr. Mengele-style theories that are destined to rain shit on San Francisco fans now.  Kelly should have immediately recognized this situation for what it was: an immature player drawing attention to himself and away from the team – in essence, damaging and separating the team by placing his personal, non-football beliefs above this implicit understanding that “team is all” in professional sports.  It’s Coach Kelly’s job to sit him down after the first time and say, “Don’t do this again, you’re damaging our team with your antics.”  After the second time, to tell him, “This ends now.  I’m glad you hold such powerful political beliefs.  They’ll serve you well in your new occupation as social activist.  There’s the door.  Hurry now, the world needs you to change it.  Don’t waste another second playing this children’s game for millions of dollars!”

The next real culprit is the media.  Social, and otherwise.  The real media, the one that should be reporting this accurately, are so cowed by the “Black Lives Matter” crowd and the stranglehold liberalism has on mainstream media that it’s impossible to get a straight read on this story by their so-called reporting of it.  I read three stories online about the game in San Diego last week, which happened to be military appreciation night, in a town that’s heavily geared to supporting the navy via the various bases around that city.  I couldn’t tell what the reception to Kaepernick taking the field and not standing again was.  Apparently, he was booed mercilessly from the get-go, probably lucky not to have been struck by any thrown objects or physically attacked by the crowd.  I had to get on youtube and watch smartphone videos taken by fans to learn this – no news story reported it as such.

Social media?  I can’t begin to fathom the counterfeit weight that real media grants to this echo chamber of oblivion.  Twitter and Facebook are notorious sounding boards for overgrown children with too much time on their hands.  To use anything anyone writes on social media as some “finger in the wind” arbiter of truth is a severe misunderstanding of reality.  Someone in a position to refute this, someone being made a target of clannish, agenda-obsessed buffoons on Twitter, needs to step up and say, “Social media can go fuck itself.”  It’s as if the moon-faced townspeople in the Carpathian countryside, bearing their pitchforks and torches in the night, have taken over Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, save they have no clue what to do because they’re imbeciles.

To think that actual, real-life organizations are quaking in fear over any opinion stated on social media is just ludicrous, but read it and weep, this is how things work now.  I’ve seen how the internet works, from its inception, and I know the smoke screen social media represents, saw it growing from day one, saw the real media lose its grasp on the power it should have, giving it away like a frightened child forfeiting his lunch money to a flagrant bully.  To the point now where every celebrity athlete puts forth like Moses carrying his stone tablets down from the mountain to his waiting followers.  People who have been the objects of attention all their lives and only understand the world through the disjointed prism of their own celebrity. The people following these jackasses not fully grasping that they have much better, more grounded takes on reality.

I’m not kidding myself about football.  There’s a lot of bullshit surrounding it, I’ve picked up on this at any job I’ve held in my adult life, managers attaching football/sport strategies to their agendas and treating the work place as if we were one big sports team.  Problem being, we’re not throwing balls in a hoop, or hitting a ball with a stick, or kicking a ball through some posts.  There are so many complex variables in every-day workplaces, including the biggest X factor – women coworkers, most not imbued with this weekend-warrior culture – that the concept of applying all these asinine, macho sports clichés to our real lives just rings hollow.  Our lives aren’t childhood games predominately played by boys, although they’re often reduced to such measures.

The whole “patriotic” aspect of football rings false, too.  What it has to do with the military, I don’t know.  It’s not the military.  I guess because it’s a violent sports featuring men attacking each other?  Because of The National Anthem?  The act of playing the anthem before a game didn’t even exist before World War II.  Just as the act of playing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch of baseball games didn’t become a tradition until after 9/11.  Does it bother me?  Not that much.  I can see that these large gatherings in public are being used to convey this sense of patriotism: it’s mass manipulation for what’s perceived as a common good.  Harmful?  Hardly.  A nice reminder of where we live, and a shared moment to salute it.  Got problems with this country?  Buddy, we all do, it’s the nature of being complex human beings who hold countless beliefs and opinions that are often contradictory and confusing.

I don’t follow sports for these reasons and wouldn’t blink twice if these minor salutes to patriotism were removed from sporting events.  (Obviously, this is never going to happen.  But why isn’t The National Anthem played before concerts … similarly large public gatherings?)  Football games are not political rallies, thank God, which is another reason why I reject Kaepernick’s grandstanding for his own political beliefs in an inappropriate forum.  Having just watched the summer Olympics, I understand why national anthems are played there: these athletes are representing their countries.  Football players aren’t.  They’re representing their various team cities.  These days, they’re representing only themselves, their own egos and financial interests, far more than any team or city.

But I’m enough of a fan to know that this doesn’t sit well with your average football fan, that the whole effect of The National Anthem being played is to tie in some loosely defined definitions of patriotism and America with this sport, in some sense to honor heroic acts in any respect, which is the great myth of all sports.  Would I boo Kaepernick?  Hell, no.  But I’d surely mutter “what an asshole” under my breath and shake my head.  Then I’d get over it.  Consider this piece a more illustrated example of that succinct act.

Post Script:  While buying groceries today in the supermarket, I couldn’t help but notice the music playing over the P.A. system.  In the past I’ve noticed how great the song selection has become over the past decade or so.  Today’s big hit:  “Five to One” by The Doors.  Next to “Land Ho” probably my favorite Doors song.  I imagined Jim Morrison, a week or two after cutting the song, getting into a time machine in 1968 and being transported to a supermarket in Queens in 2016, only to hear his song being played as background music while people from all walks of life filled their shopping carts with groceries.  Food for thought with similar 60’s themes that Kapernick’s protest mirrors.

1 comment:

Andy S. said...

To me, the Kaepernick story isn't so much about him, his ego, his immaturity, or the distraction he is creating for his football team (and ironically, as of now he's the second-string QB for the 49ers, which means he'll be doing a lot more sitting than he planned this season). The story for me is the obscene over-reaction of the media and the public, a reaction that is grotesquely out of proportion to the perceived offense. What has Kaepernick done to warrant this feeding frenzy? Did he beat up his girlfriend in view of a security camera? Did he carry a gun into a nightclub and shoot himself in the foot? Did he stand on an Olympic medal podium and raise his fist in a Black Power salute, the way some athletes did in 1968? Okay, the socks were bad form, but really, what has he done to deserve this level of attention? Even the President of the United States has been compelled to comment on Kaepernick's actions. More of his merchandise has been sold in the last week than in the previous eight months. (An editorial cartoon in some of today's papers depicts a couple having their Labor Day barbecue. The wife says to the husband: "Honey, the fire's dying. Throw another Kaepernick jersey on it.") Maybe the whole thing is just a shrewd marketing gimmick.

It's as though some kind of collective insanity is running loose in the land, and this is the latest symptom. It's fed by the internet and the insatiable beast that is social media, but there's more to it than that. All you have to do is follow the presidential campaigns to see just how nuts the collective consciousness of this country is getting. How else do you explain the way a guy like Kaepernick, whose worst offense seems to be immaturity and an overactive ego fueled by sports stardom, is being vilified? I almost can't wait for Donald Trump's next idiotic tweet to take the heat off this ridiculous story.