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.
“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.