Ivan’s Second (Third?) Thoughts on Week 3
Photo via Steelers.com
By Ivan Cole
I really didn’t want to say anything about this week because my thoughts were complex, veered into larger issues and might have stepped on some toes (and besides I was busy with other things on Monday). But now believe I can stimulate some thinking that isn’t just playing into the negativity that has been inevitable with the confluence of political controversy, married to laying an egg competitively.
About the game
I resist taking the easy route and suggest strangling the offensive coordinator. I would ask a larger and more intriguing question: after week three is anyone certain who is good and who isn’t in the NFL?
I have been talking about September football. Robert Klemko of SI.com tackled how the CBA has contributed not only to the inconsistent, and just plain bad football we are subjected to early in the season, but how it has negatively influenced personnel practices that adversely effects the mid-career prospects of all but a handful of superstar level talents in the league in favor of emphasizing young, cheap, inexperienced players.
How bad was the Steelers’ loss to Chicago? It depends on whether you believe which Bears team represents them best, the one that took the Atlanta Falcons to the wall in Week One, or the one who stunk out the joint in Tampa. And speaking of the Bucs, they fell flat against the same Vikings squad with the substitute quarterback that the Steelers handled in Week Two. Who were the real Jaguars? The team that took out the Houston Texans in Houston, or fell to the Titans, or blasted the Ravens? And what about Baltimore, who ran roughshod over Ohio, but got run out of London. Or how about the Raiders? The Redskins? Who would have thought the only team in New York with a win would be the Jets? The Patriots, allegedly the best team in football, came tantalizingly close to being 0-2 at home. How about those Panthers? Rams? Seahawks? Packers? Colts? Cowboys?
Right now, I believe it’s dangerous to trust anything you’re seeing.
And the controversy
I see three things: complexity, hypocrisy and unintended consequences.
The best embodiment of the complexity was the baseball player for the Oakland As. He knelt during the playing of the anthem while reverently facing the flag with his hand over his heart. I think many people have a hard time with the nature of these protests because they insist upon applying a binary template to something far more complicated. We want black and white in a world that is unrelentingly grey. We also often want problems solved without change, which is both understandable and nonsensical.
Part of the difficulty is the misremembering of history. Two examples should suffice. If you are too young to have lived through those times, you could be forgiven if you believe that Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammed Ali have always been universally beloved figures. In fact, both were criticized and even despised for their principled stands. I would further point out that the displeasure that was directed toward them crossed racial lines. As a friend of mine was often fond of saying, everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. Why do these people push us out of our comfort zones in their protest? Because when they conducted themselves ‘reasonably’ they were either ignored, ridiculed or dismissed.
For far too many Americans the extra-judicial killings of a class of citizen for ‘crimes’ such as having a busted taillight or changing lanes without signaling are unfortunate, but not particularly important or urgent matters. For others (and I include myself based upon having some personal experience with this form of pathology, as well as legitimate concern for members of my family in this regard) this pattern is unacceptable. Full stop.
Does the fact that Kaepernick is disliked and can’t find work prove that he is doing the wrong thing? Ali’s stand cost him his title and the best years of his professional career. King was murdered. I don’t recall Curt Flood ever working again when he stood up for players’ rights. Might it be that persecution is par for the course? It might also be noted that many of the protestors have family either in the military or police, while the President personally avoided military service and, like many others, seems to have a sense of patriotism that appears to begin and end at standing for the anthem or waving a flag.
One would hope that there be an understanding that this issue needs to addressed in a serious manner before increasingly unreasonable behavior manifests.
I don’t recall anyone rushing to arrive early for an athletic contest in order to be certain that they don’t miss the national anthem. I don’t recall anyone at a sports bar interrupting their revelry to stand (not sit), remove their hats, or sing along with the anthem. I don’t recall there being any complaints about the anthem being ignored (unless it serves a PR purpose or as a platform for entertainers) in favor of inane commentary of the upcoming contest. This begs the question, by the way, how we would even know about the protests without the media stepping outside their common practice to do so, and for what purpose? More about that below. I don’t recall reading in the Constitution that we would have an anthem that placed regard for the military, police and first responders above that of the citizenry at large. Wouldn’t a kindergarten class be at least as appropriate as fighter planes and country western stars? I could go on. [Mike Tomlin noted in his Tuesday press conference that it wasn’t until 9-11 that players were even on the field during the anthem. They ran onto the field after it was over. That’s how important it was, I guess…Ed.]
One thing the President understands and manipulates well is drama. He also understands that the media works on that level too (this speaks to how this whole kneeling business got inflated in the first place), which is why, at least in theory his attack on the NFL, no matter how vulgar, divisive and unprincipled, has the potential of being a winning play for him. So, even though I agree with Homer that this move serves to both energize and expand his base, it also has the unintended consequence of energizing the opposition as well. And, unlike the past, when these sort of tactics were put into play, the opposition is larger, has strong resources and is more battle hardened.
Backlash has become a duel edged sword. Cutting to the core of things, when you pick a fight with black athletes you are pushing against the legacy of Jackie Robinson, John Carlos and Tommy Smith, Ali, Flood. He could have only done worse if he had attacked the WNBA. Those women are serious. The league is experiencing a level of unity and sympathy from the public that would have seemed unlikely mere hours ago. Kaepernick has gotten exposure that he couldn’t have possibly achieved on his own steam. They might even have to give him a job. And if this Russia thing turns out to not be fake news there will be no compassion.
And speaking of unintended consequences, that N word comment directed at Tomlin may bring some things into the open that we have been dancing around for a long time. (Here’s a link if you hadn’t heard about this.) UPDATE: The fire chief who did this has now resigned.