Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Knee Thing

When Mr. Kapernapunk first did his knee thing, it accomplished what I think he wanted. What I think he was seeking was to slap us in the face with our own white privilege and make a statement about his view of society. While such a viewpoint of society doesn’t quite match up to my perception of reality, I respect that he has a different viewpoint, and he can express that viewpoint however he feels is appropriate. I have that same freedom, as does virtually every physical object occupying space in the universe. 

There is a scientific principle that applies here. Specifically an old guy named Newton postulated that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Basically that means that for every interaction there are a pair of forces, and the size of the force on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object when they interact. You hit a nail with a hammer it tries to go into a block of wood or your finger. You push a ball, it rolls away.

Obviously old man Newton knew nothing about football or a black guy with pigs on his socks doing inappropriate things while a band played an old song written by a white guy who probably walked by a slave market every day without a thought about the evilness of that institution. No, Newton was an apple lover who probably had his slaves pick apples or maybe knew someone who had slaves that picked apples. It’s safe to say that he knew nothing about football or kneeling. Mostly. He probably knew quite a lot about the physics involved in a football’s flight through the air or the force necessary to propel the football through a goalpost when kicked by a foot. He was knighted by the Queen in 1705. I’m sure he had to kneel for that, so I’d say he also had a passing familiarity with kneeling. A black guy with pigs on his socks? Not so much.

Regardless, it is my own conjecture that this scientific principle leads to the conclusion that actions, no matter how tiny or stupid, always have consequences. For my proof I point to the plethora of videos of cats caught doing stupid things on the internet. They almost always start with the cat doing something, then that something causing something else to happen, which is inevitably either disastrous, funny, cute, or all three.  So yes, Mr. Kapernapunk and the kneeling NFL have a lot to learn from cat videos and Newton.

I say all that to say that when it happened, I really could have cared less what happened to Mr. Kapernapunk when he did his kneeling thing. I thought that when he was effectively benched and blackballed that was a just outcome. He was just suffering the consequences of his bad judgment: the fact that he was a marginal quarterback may also have played into woes. I know from what I speak. I have watched marginal quarterbacks do their marginal thing for years while rooting for the Redskins. I strongly suspect that since the NFL has become a theater for the absurd, his little protest was most probably an attempt to draw attention away from his marginal capabilities and keep that sweet NFL money flowing into his pocket. I’m not sure how well that worked out for him.

The kicker here is what happened this year. Mr. Kapernapunk’s little stunt went mainstream. The thugs and punks who are now seem to make up the majority of the gentleman who play the game professionally decided that Mr. Kapernapunk protest made sense to them. They decided that they too needed to push back against what they perceived as injustice in the same manner. I respect that they have a viewpoint, and, as noted above, they certainly can take any action. It is the nature of the universe that things take action. It is also the nature of the universe that there are reactions.

For me as a veteran this action was perhaps one of the most offensive things they could have done. Allow me to quantify that. If they had all dropped trowel and collectively mooned the stadiums they play act in with ‘COPS SUCK’ painted on their derrieres in day glow colors it would have been less offensive. I understand they don’t get my way of thinking. Most of the time I don’t believe that most people get how I think. It does appear that a great many people who used to watch football and buy stuff the advertisers advertise on any given Sunday have feelings similar to me. It’s not a statement that just means ‘cops are unfair’ to us. It’s a statement that this country, this beacon of freedom to the world, is a crappy place and everything I personally have done to try to make it a great place to live in is an absurd endeavor. 

My reaction to this goes deeper than just the sting of a momentary slap in the face. They actually accomplished what they intended with me. I did some long thinking about the thing they were trying to say. I tried to understand because I really like watching football and I didn’t want to give it up just because I couldn’t see and agree with the way they protested. This is an admittedly selfish reason. So I pondered it, and the conclusion was a bit unexpected.

My conclusion was that not only did I disagree with their flawed premise, not only did I find their protest personally hurtful and demeaning, but for them to take such action, their ethos and egos were such that I literally have nothing in common with them. To wit, they threw me off their team. I no longer feel like I, by accident or geography or family experience, share a common goal or purpose with them. I have no motivation to watch what they do on the gridiron every Sunday. It would be like an American watching a cricket match: intellectually interesting but not as entertaining as catching up on Game of Thrones on Netfix. 

Thus, for me, and I think I lot of former fans, they have killed the idea of professional football for the masses. That really is a sad thing. Even the Europeans have their football where the masses identify with a team – say Manchester United or Chelsea to name a couple of British teams. I am not worldly enough to know more than that, but you get my gist. 

So now we are going to lose that, as least in professional football, which filled a unique niche. Let me break that down. For grouping masses of people together professional football is unique. What other venues are available to Americans for fandom? Well, first you start out with high school football. This is still a thing for a lot of small towns where the whole town turns out on crisp fall Friday nights to watch ‘their boys’ do battle with the guys from down the road. That works for small towns. For larger suburbs and cities, not so much. Busing to enforce an equality of education experience pretty much destroyed the high school team experience in the 80’s suburbs, or at least it did where I grew up. High schools in the cities and suburbs were populated with strangers and the sense of community that enjoined beyond the school house doors was also destroyed. When everywhere was the village, there were no more villages.

The next level is the college teams. Unfortunately, not everyone goes to college. In fact, only about 40% of Americans have a 2 year college degree, and about 70% of Americans don’t have the 4 year experience to align them to a particular college. In cities or suburbs with one or two major colleges there is of course the chance to be geographically attracted to a particular team. I don’t think that most people create that kind of bond. Most rabid college fans are 4 year folks who tend to be a bit older who were active in their college life back in the day. So of the 30%, I’d say that fewer than 10% of those of developed into lifelong college football fan.

You might think that veterans would gravitate towards those academy teams associated with their respective branches. My experience is that while there is some affinity, it generally rarely reaches the point of real fandom. I say this with some authority as the one time painter of the fence surrounding the Army mule retirement pen at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. Despite this, I never developed much an affinity for the Army team as the gap between officers and enlisted is necessarily wide.The few academy graduates (ring knockers) I knew, tended to be just a little crazy and, if possible, avoided by the enlisted folks. I can’t say that was true for all services (cough – Marines are special – cough), but for me and my corner of the Army, that was the case. 

Then there is baseball. I was never any good at baseball. It takes quite a bit of work to be really good at it, and thus possibly develop an affinity for watching it and becoming a fan. For a lot of millennials, baseball is a game for old guys to watch. It’s the kind of thing you would expect fat Uncle Willard to fall asleep watching from his easy chair. So, for an active fan, baseball just doesn’t inspire fan development – unless you have a team that gets to the World Series, then it’s exciting. Being a Nat’s fan, I have no practical knowledge of that. 

Finally there are the other (American, or seriously engaged in in America) sports that in my opinion just don’t quite make it. Here’s my not so comprehensive list:

  • Hockey: a northern sport at best since there is no ice in the south.
  • Golf: rich men’s game – good to watch when you need to get a nap
  • Fishing: dumb to watch – also good for napping
  • Racing (NASCAR and other vehicles): not a sport: i.e. not physical – the athletes are sitting down, fun to watch for crashes.
  • Skiing: rich man’s sport, fun to watch, mostly to see people crash
  • Horse Racing: again, rich man thing, only interesting if you can bet on it. Crashes are really scary and depressing.
  • WWF: fake – not a real sport
  • Boxing: definitely a sport, but singular – not a team thing.. no one really says ‘we knocked him out’
  • TV Endurance things like ‘American Ninja’: See Boxing above
  • Rugby: definitely a sport, and cool to watch. No professional teams, so the whole geography thing doesn’t work
  • Beach Volleyball: It’s a sport, but that’s not why men watch it

My larger point here is nothing fills the niche that professional football filled. Its demise is the destruction of a bond that pulls us together. That more than anything makes its loss a truly tragic thing.

So how can they fix this? I’m not sure they can. I suppose if every player that took a knee publicly apologized for his actions and appeared remorseful, I would reconsider. The chances of the bloated egos now playing in the NFL doing that are slim and none. I also suppose that the owners could categorically fire or suspend for a few years all those players that kneeled. That would do it, but again, those same owners allowed this happen and universally have shown a lack spine. There is very little chance they will do anything like that.

Finally, there is the very real possibility that once the players get this out of their system, they will go back to standing and everyone will just pretend that it didn’t happen. I think that is both the most likely and the most depressing option. That means that the kind of behavior they engaged in is nothing to the majority of fans. It would say a lot about the demise of our culture and out sense of ourselves. I don’t think I’ll ever watch another game. That’s my knee to the groin of these professional babies: an opposite and equal reaction.

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