American Culture

Why the Football Gods smiled on Seattle

John Elway and Peyton Manning are Republicans. The Football Gods are Democrats.

As a Patriots fan, I initially had no real reason to root for either Seattle or Denver in yesterday’s Super Bowl. Seattle has never won one, so I was slightly inclined to root for them, but I have friends (and fellow bloggers) who live in Denver and root for the Broncos, so what the heck, why not root for the Broncos? I expected a close and exciting game, and if that’s what it was going to be, I’m fine with that. In fact, since the game doesn’t usually start until nearly midnight here in London, the prospect of staying up to three or four in the morning isn’t all that tempting, unless the Pats are involved, and, of course, they’re not this year. So I was going to watch a bit of the first quarter, and then hit the sack.

But two things had happened. The first was the alleged controversy over some comments by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman after the NFC title game that he was the best cornerback in the game. Well, “comments” probably mischaracterizes the manner in which Sherman expressed himself—a “rant” might be a more appropriate term. The pushback, and not just from the right, here was frankly a bit astonishing. Sherman, who attended and graduated from Stanford University (and is currently working towards a Masters degree there), is not known for his reticence. He has referred to himself as Optimus Prime. He taunted Tom Brady back in 2012, as well as New England fans, which should not endear him to New England fans like myself, but the reaction in New England was more laid back than you would expect. New England fans can be obnoxious, but they’re generally grown-ups. In fact, Sherman says lots of inflammatory things. So he either has a significant personality defect, which is theoretically possible but generally belied by the evidence, or a genuine understanding of the true nature of modern American football—that’s it purely for entertainment, and razzamatazz sells. Yeah, he can act like a jerk, but he’s young. So could Ray Nitzschke, who was a jerk even to his teammates, and he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But it didn’t take long for the usual loons to go after Sherman in a big time way, generally referring to him as a “thug.” Who called Sherman a “thug?” A surprisingly large number of people. As Amy Davidson of The New Yorker pointed out, this all took on a racial tone nearly immediately after the interview in which Sherman yelled “I’m the best cornerback in the game” at blond Erin Andrews of Fox Sports. Khaled Beydoun over at Aljazeera writes,

Black and boisterous, dread-locked and deviant. This is how much of America saw Richard Sherman. The standout Seattle Seahawk defender was branded a “hood”, a “hooligan”, and a “thug” after his post-game interview with Erin Andrews. It was as if Sherman trespassed into every American’s living room on Sunday, January 19, and threatened the safety of the millions that tuned in to watch the NFC Championship game.

Sherman was lucky to be on the football field instead of the streets of his native Compton minutes after making the game-clinching play that secured his team’s place in Super Bowl XLVIII. Indeed, the racially-charged slurs aimed at Sherman through social and conventional media were those routinely used to profile, stop-and-frisk, and prosecute black and brown men in Los Angeles, New York City and every city and town in between.

Sherman then responded with an essay in Sports Illustrated, and also gave an extended interview in which he said the following:

“The only reason [the word ‘thug’] bothers me is that it seems to be the accepted way of calling somebody the ‘n-word’ now, and they say, ‘Oh, that’s fine.’ And that’s where it kind of takes me aback. It’s disappointing, because they know — what’s the definition of a thug, really? Can a guy on a football field, just talking to people on a football field, be a thug? Maybe I’m talking loudly and talking like I’m not supposed to, but there are hockey players … there was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey — they just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that, and I’m just saying, ‘Aw man — and I’m the thug? What’s going on here?”

For a thug, Sherman seems pretty sharp to me. (And here’s the Kermit/Miss Piggy version of the Erin Andrews interview)

Second, to no one’s surprise, probably, former (and legendary) Denver quarterback John Elway turns out to be a Republican. Well, that might not be so bad, except Elway elaborated on his reason for being a Republican—“I don’t believe in safety nets…” Jeez. Now, to be fair, it’s probably appropriate to give the full sentence here: “I don’t believe in safety nets — obviously, we have to have some kind of safety nets — but I think my philosophy is when given the opportunity to go take advantage of that,” by which I think he means when given the opportunity to get rid of them, that’s what you should do.

Elway follows up with this: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in business,” said Elway. “I’m one of those that believes you have to give a little to get some, and so I’d like to see us be able to free up Congress a little bit and say we need to give up a little bit to get a little bit.” This is mostly gibberish, clearly, but what I think Elway, who also attended and graduated from Stanford University, is trying to say is that he has some sort of deep understanding of the world, informed by his business experience. Of course, Elway’s current business activity is “Executive Vice President of Football Operations” for the Denver Broncos, a Professional Football team that is not actually part of a business—the National Football League is a charity, and enjoys tax-exempt status. In fact, both Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz (who may or may not believe in safety nets) and Senators Tom Coburn (Republican) and Angus King (Independent) are proposing legislation to strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status.

Elway’s other business experience seems to be owning a bunch of auto dealerships with his name attached, about which I am going to chortle a bit, because so what?; two tony Denver restaurants also with his name attached; and was a partial owner of the Arena football team the Colorado Crush, which, along with the rest of the league, “suspended operations” in 2009, an enterprise that, so far as I know, did not have John Elway’s name attached. Now, I think it’s actually a good thing to know how to meet a payroll—it doesn’t appear that there are many Republican (or Democratic, for that matter) officeholders around these days with that sort of experience. But still, Elway’s business experience replies on the name recognition that comes from his football career—which I will hasten to point out was a distinguished one. Still, “running a business” with the name of one of the most successful quarterbacks of the modern era attached is a bit different from just running a business. John, you’re probably a good guy, but what you really are is a celebrity whose name is attached to things.

So I am now assuming that the football gods, at least this year, are Democrats. Seattle didn’t just win yesterday—they clobbered Denver, just stomped them, 43-8, and believe it or not, it wasn’t that close. You don’t often see football played as well as Seattle played yesterday. And I enjoyed every minute of it, even if I did stay up too late.

17 replies »

  1. Mud stomped was my first impression Wufnik, whatever descriptive adjective comes after fugly, that’s what it was. I could give a rat’s ass about pro sports when there are so many more important things in this world but my wife loves the Broncos (it annoys her when I call them the Donkeys) so I hung decorations and filled football helmet shaped helium balloons and 15 of our friends and neighbors came over in their orange jerseys to eat drink and be merry while we watched a game that Vegas had promised to be very very close.

    And then from the first play forward we took a fugly mudstomping and everyone went home with tears in the eyes. As far as the racist republican overtones, I didn’t witness any of that although it did look like one of our guys broke Sherman’s foot so who knows. Peyton Manning certainly _seems_ to be a lot more human and less of an ass than Elway.

    And there’s always next year.

  2. btw, does this make wilson second black qb to win?

    i know, i know, blackish. (dawkins has an interstig disc of this in book im reading)

  3. Every time I hear the word “fugly” I spend the day chuckling to myself (to do it out loud would bring too many weird looks). I worked at an all girl’s school years ago and someone used the word around an administrator who was a former nun (and still acted like one). For the rest of the evening she went around muttering “Fugly” and then giggled herself silly. Someone finally said, “Should we tell her what it means?” “Nah, let her enjoy herself.”

  4. “Former Nun” begets more questions than it answers Cat. There’s an interesting story in there I’ll bet. At the risk of thread jacking, we used to have an outside accountant named Hermina Goldfarb, a mountain of a woman, built strong like bull, but with a face that time and gravity had not been kind to. For some nefarious reason I started referring to her as Hermugly Goldfat and it caught on around the office. So much so that occasionally one or the other of my bosses (my uncle and his partner) would let it slip to her face but she never skipped a beat.

    I grew to admire her over time even though she failed the CPA test several times and let my Uncle talk her into some dubious accounting that got us in trouble with the IRS back in the 80’s. But she was always pleasant and raised several grandchildren by herself. She passed away a few years ago in her late 90’s but like fugly to you, thinking about Hermugly always brings a smile 8^)

  5. charming anecdote frank, with nice threads woven through out.

    my middle name is ivey and of course i heard poison ivey in school. i’d guess you’ve heard “dial a tush” a time or two?

  6. You just made my day Otherwise, what a kind thing to say!

    The name indeed…Dilalush, Suckatash, Billadouche, Dilatrash…I’ve seen and heard so many variations I don’t even catalog them anymore. The funny thing, I was born Frank Baker but my mother, a Juris Doctor, math whiz, and Senior IBM Systems Engineer had the most abysmal taste in men. She liked the dark exciting ones who also made horrible fathers.

    So after she divorced my dad for having one too many girlfriends in 1956, a time when divorce was unusual and carried a social stigma not found today, she married a Spaniard named Jose Garcia who was teaching at CU in Boulder. They had my sister Margaret Garcia. Then after she’s had enough of his catting around she divorced him and took back her maiden name Dilatush.

    And can you imagine in 1960 or so explaining to the whitebread public school administrators why she was Dilatush, her son was Baker, and her daughter was Garcia. After one or two of their brains exploded she thought “Screw this noise” and went to court and had us all renamed “Dilatush”.

    And that is the convoluted tale of how I became Franky Dilaschmuckatash. If that was too much information you should have stopped me a couple paragraphs ago 8^)

  7. thats an even better story. cool.

    next time i’m in colorado will buy you a starbucks.


    • I would love to meet you sir, bring a copy of your book and I’ll trade you an aged Colorado Black Angus steak dinner for it. We can also compare notes on Sam, his sister Marty has loaded me up on back story (G)

  8. a copy of which book? the two published novels, the three published non-fiction, the four unpublished novels or one of the dozen or so anthologies to which i’ve contributed? 🙂

    • Well since I don’t know your name you’ll just have to surprise me. Something with some grit and gusto if you have it. We have a butcher shop here in Arvada, family run by some crazy Italians, “Tonali’s” is the name and they provision some of the best steak houses in Denver,

      Not just aged, they call it heritage and brother, if you’re a carnivore that stuff will melt in your mouth. Show up when it’s not -7F out, we’ll grill a couple of bone in cowboy cut ribeyes up.and see if we can solve some of the world’s problems.