Thursday, January 22, 2015

State of the Football Union

Even if you don’t care about football, the newest scandal matters. The England Patriots stand accused of deflating their footballs in last week’s playoff game. It made their footballs easier to pass and catch than the ones they supplied to the Baltimore Ravens. It’s cheating. When Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked about it, he giggled. Which is worse than cheating. Brady’s giggle is bad for America.

Football is a game and a game is nothing but a set of rules. You have four tries to move a ball 10 yards. Move it one hundred yards and you get six points. The team with the most points wins. Rules. There is simply no game without them. That the rules are minor or frivolous or technical doesn’t matter. They are the structure. The purpose is not to get around the rules. The praise, if any is to be deserved, is from achieving despite the rules.

The National Football League doesn’t share this believe. The fine for tampering with game balls is $25 grand, which is like asking me for $3. To gain a little advantage in a playoff game I would’ve paid $6 up front. Maybe even $9.

The NFL is also dumb and short-sighted. Poor referees, criminals on the field, a disregard for the very make-up of the game – football is number one in America right now, but each degradation threatens that perch. If you don’t believe go ask someone at the boxing commission.

All of which is bad for America. Because a nation is nothing but a set of rules, too. You’ve got to respect the little rules if you don’t want a culture that ignores the big ones.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

To those who will kill cartoonists

Attacking cartoonists with guns? Really? I didn’t want to write about this, but it keeps reentering my brain space. It’s too stupid. I’m glad others have called the slaughter of staff at Charlie Hebdo heinous and barbaric. It is those things. It’s also dumb and counterproductive and I wish I could explain that to extremists before they’re gunned down.

I understand the Quran says those who insult Islam shall be seized and slain without mercy. (33:61) Aside from the fact that it was 1,000 years ago and the world was different –  and skipping over the fact that these morons forgot to seize before the slaying – you’ve still got to define the insult. That is neither easy, nor full proof. Satire is both irreverent AND elevating. Any celebrity will tell you, you know you’ve made when you’re being made fun of.

What did the extremists accomplish? Killing, in the end, leaves you not with new converts, but new enemies. So it’s not a good growth strategy. As far as image goes, gunning down unarmed jokesters makes you look pathetic. “We have avenged the Prophet,” they shouted. What arrogance. To think Muhammad ever needed the help of these cowards.

They made hate out of people who made jokes.