Saturday, September 17, 2011

An American Malady

It's Tuesday as I begin this writing process and the weekend is over. Why wait until Tuesday to declare an end to the weekend? Because Monday night football is done for another week. For a significant percentage of America, the weekend begins and ends with the first and last football games on the schedule. That used to mean Friday nights for high school, Saturday for college and Sunday for the NFL. The NFL never scheduled on days when colleges were playing. Nowadays that line has become so blurred as to be downright invisible. You can find college and pro football on Thursdays (as well as the occasional high school game), Fridays and Saturdays. That means that you can get your football fix four days out of the week. You can use the three non-football days to talk about what went right and what went wrong with your favorite teams on the other four days. Then there's fantasy football, which is another story altogether.

Really, do we need fantasy football to fill in the small gaps in our American pigskin panacea? Face it, if your fantasies are about football, you're not doing it right.

As we got closer and closer to the opening of the spectacle that is American football, something strange happened to me. It's never really happened before and I'm not sure how to handle it. Perhaps I should see a doctor or a counselor. At the least, I may need the help of a support group. Somewhere in the process, I realized that I was suffering from Football Overload, a sub-category of something called Sports Saturation. I knew that if I sat through one more analysis of the college Top 25 and whether or not Texas A&M would somehow relocate to the Southeast Conference or heard another story about Peyton Manning or even heard the name Brett Favre, I would begin screaming and possibly projectile vomiting. It's not a pretty image, but it describes the syndrome pretty well.

Being the detective that I am, I decided to evaluate my condition and try to determine it's origin and thereby figure out a cure. After all, can this be normal? What could have led to my unfortunate situation? After hours of painstaking research and experimentation (don't ask), I hit upon it. It's not complex or hard to understand. It's not a bizarre confluence of events. It's actually something very simple. I'm suffering from the continuous football hype that inundates the airwaves continuously. The various networks have decided that what America needs today is not jobs, clean energy or a climate of honest debate instead of jingoistic attempts to take the public hostage to a political viewpoint.

No, my friends. What America needs is to be force fed a diet of football bowl projections, NFL salary information and continuous dirty laundry from the personal lives of players and coaches. We apparently need it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Relax and let the Purveyors of Hyperbole take us to a better place. We'll all feel better about ourselves and won't have the chance to think about real life.

I suppose we must lay the blame somewhere. I suggest that a certain sports-oriented network that shall remain nameless but whose initials are ESPN are keeping the public mesmerized with a dizzying array of colorful graphics and meaningless numbers delivered with the gravity and seriousness of a Baptist preacher confronting an empty collection plate. It boggles the mind. Do we really need to know where some NFL quarterback went on vacation? Are we really interested in how many coaches are on the “hot seat?” I think that when we're honest, the answer to both questions is “no.” Still the Nameless Network (initials ESPN) tells us that we should be interested, so we make ourselves keep up with such stuff.

It's gotten to the point where a friend of mine was called “un-American” when she wanted to watch the U.S. Open tennis match instead of football. Really? The United States Open is un-American? We've come to a sorry pass indeed if that's the case. We've become victims of a huge conspiracy. We've become a populace that is misled, misguided and mistaken in its priorities. We're buying the lie of the people who tell us that they know better than we what is important. We are dumbed down and done in by our quiet acquiescence to the well-groomed, well-spoken personalities that keep us pacified while they call it keeping us informed.

Sadly – no tragically – this is not merely a sports phenomenon. This “sports is life” attitude is just a symptom of the larger issue. Americans have become a poorly informed society. We are content to let the attractive people on cable news networks and talk shows tell us what we should be concerned with and outraged about. They tell us what our priorities should be and how we should respond. They brazenly try to think for us and like so many herd animals we accept it, grateful that we don't have go to all the trouble to think for ourselves. After all, thinking is hard and we're happier when someone else does it.

Oh, we try to give the appearance of thinking for ourselves. We can quote our favorite politician's 10-second sound bite. We can deliver the party line and join a bandwagon or tea party and feel good about it. Honestly, is that the best we can do? So far, the answer seems to be in the affirmative. Until more of us have finally had enough and decide that we do indeed have functioning brains, these Sultans of Self-Importance will continue to tell us what to think and when to think it. They will still give us our opinions when they want us to have them.

It's time for a new type of American Revolution. Not a violent revolution, mind you. We've a violent society already and the last thing we need is more of that. I'm not asking anyone to “take back America” like some of the politicians want us to. What they want is to take America for their party or special interest group. The time has come for us to do something incredibly radical. We're not used to it and it may be a bit painful at first, but it's time. I'm talking about a revolution of thought. The time has come for Americans everywhere to take the bold step of being thoughtful people. Whether we're thinking about something as ultimately meaningless as sports or as important as how we choose to relate to one another and the world, we have do it for ourselves. It's not up to the TV personalities and pundits to determine our opinions and how we translate those opinions into action. It's up to you and me to do that. Don't wait for some pronouncement from the denizens of the Vast Wasteland. Don't wait for a panel of pundits. Think. Now.

The revolution will not be televised.