Sunday, September 28, 2014

Political Ads Today

Starting with the infamous Willie Horton ad political operative Lee Atwater used to help George Bush comeback to win the Presidency from George Dukakis, political advertising campaigns have disavowed any dedication to accuracy or truth. While democrats are certainly involved in their own rhetorical strategies to convince voters, it is the GOP that has stretched the truth to the point where it is hard to tell the difference between it and pure fiction. Among the worst perpetrators of this misinformation campaign (or creating “necessary illusions,” as Noam Chomsky would put it) is Karl Rove and his acolytes. In recent weeks, he has again reversed the politicians position of his opponents, used inaccurate statistics to attack them and simply misrepresented the truth (see here, here, here and here). Some political cartoons deconstructing political ads …

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arsenal Draw 1-1 with Tottenham

Arsenal fell behind to Tottenham in the 56th minute, when a strange Szczesny throw out to Mertesacker led to an error by Flamini and a Spurs goal. But in the 74th minute, Ox tied it up with a nice pass to the roof of the net from close in, after some good work from Alexis Sanchez. The Gunners appeared poised to take the game from here, but were unable to unlock a solid Tottenham defense and ultimately settled for yet another draw, their fourth in the first six games of the season. While Arsenal dominated possession and had 14 corners and several free kicks, they did little with any of them and some fine saves from Hugo Lloris ensured that Tottenham earned a well-deserved point. Three thoughts on the game, all related to questions surrounding Arsene Wenger and whether the Gunners will ever compete for the title while he is still in charge …

1. Tactics: Ozil again started away from his favored #10 spot, as Wenger appeared to set the team up in a 4-1-4-1, with Sanchez on the bench. The Gunners did dominate the game, but often found themselves rushing back to stop counters that could easily have led to goals but for poor final balls from the Spurs attackers. Ozil was solid with his passing, and Wilshere was bright at times, but the Gunners had trouble creating any real scoring chances. Welbeck looked largely isolated ahead of a game that was played more in the midfield. It was an odd North London Derby overall, with Pochettino apparently convinced that the only way to compete with a more technically gifted team was to essentially “park the bus” and play on the counter. He is known for pushing his players to press high up the pitch, but doesn’t seem to have the personnel to do that at the moment. Instead the Spurs sat back for long spells of the game and Arsenal had trouble finding the necessary space. When they did, Younes Kaboul and Hugo Lloris combined to stop the threat on all but one occasion. The two should probably share player of the match for their performances. But the question becomes why Wenger didn’t replicate the formation from the Villa game, where Ozil dominated and created many chances. Ozil looked bright throughout, and had several crosses that could have led to goals. But he was better in the second half surge, playing more centrally. Wenger needs to move him back and trust in his best player.

2. Flamini Flaming Out: Arsenal brought in a new trainer, but appear to be suffering through the same problem that has plagued them for years – too many injuries undermining team chemistry and showing the lack of strength in depth beyond the offensive side of the ball. Arteta went out early with a knock, replaced by Flamini, whose error helped Tottenham score the opening goal. It wasn’t his fault alone, but when a ball comes to you that close to goal, you can’t dawdle on the ball, and he did just that. Flamini was a feel good story last season, coming back to the club on a free and playing well as the Gunners rose to lead the league for most of the first three quarters of the season. But his form has dipped considerably, and Arteta seems slower as well. Neither can dominate the defensive midfield at the moment and it thus restores the question of why Wenger has failed to sign a world class DM for seven long years now. Song did the job adequately in his final season, but was then sold and has never been replaced. This is the kind of ineptitude by a manager that would generally get them sacked, but Wenger now claims he will make Diaby into a DM, even as the Frenchman can’t seem to put together more than two or three games without another career-threatening injury. Will Wenger finally sign a player in the winter? Probably, just in time to secure fourth place yet again.

3. Sanchez Benched: Alexis Sanchez has been in good form over the past month or so, scoring the opener against Leicester, the go ahead goal against Man City and the opener in the losing effort Tuesday in the Capital One Cup against Southampton, where he scored a sublime free kick. And yet he found himself on the bench, alongside Cazorla, at the start of the game. Cazorla later came on for an injured Ramsey, who looks set to miss a spell with a hamstring problem, and Sanchez came on for Wilshere in the 62nd minute. From the moment he stepped on the pitch, the Gunner attack seemed to come to life and they were level a little over ten minutes later, largely because of his patience in the box. The Gunners kept threatening from here, but were unable to get past a stalwart defensive effort from the Spurs. One wonders if Sanchez had started and Ozil played in his preferred #10 from the start, whether the Gunners could have secured all three points, as most expected.

And so Wenger and Arsenal seem poised to again struggle to win the “trophy” of fourth place, to maybe squeak out of their group in the Champions League in second place, before losing in the first knock out round and hopefully to make a run in the FA Cup (since the Capital One Cup is already gone). Is this really acceptable to fans? Wenger has finally opened the purse strings and brought in some world class talent, in Sanchez and Ozil, surrounded by young players that could really grow to that level themselves (Ramsey, Wilshere, Welbeck, Gibbs, Ox and Chambers) and a back line that is relatively solid (Mertesacker and Koscielny, and Debuchy when he returns). But his failure to make those two final moves – for a DM and CB cover – has already cost them several points this year. And it’s not like he didn’t know about these needs from the start of the summer, particularly after he sanctioned the sale of Vermaelen. One wonders whether it is obstinacy, senility or some combination therein – but I, for one, cannot wait until the day he retires.

Looking at the season so far, one could argue that the Gunners have shown character in several games – coming back from 1-0 down to take all three points in their opener, going from 1-0 down to take the lead against City, coming back from 2-0 down to draw even with Everton and scoring the equalizer today. On the other hand, one could also look at the fact that they conceded an equalizer against City that cost them two points, an equalizer against Leicester City that cost them the same, two goals against Southampton after leading to exit the Capital One Cup and failed to finish off teams that looked ready to wilt, in Everton and Tottenham. The Gunners are still undefeated, but four draws in six games is nothing to cause great cheer in North London. Next up is Chelsea, and the Gunners really need to at least get a draw there if they want to stay relevant in the title race. First up is Galatasaray on Wednesday though, a necessary win if they are to get out of the group and restore some faith that they have not taken a step backwards from last term. COYG!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Money in Politics

"It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced." Teddy Roosevelt

What do we do when these laws are gone?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Arsenal Rebound Well, Win 3-0

Arsenal headed into their game against Aston Villa Saturday with some serious concerns. They look short on the defensive end, had just blown two one-goal leads in the league and got thumped by Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener. But history was on their side, even against a surprisingly hot Villains, having been unbeaten in their past 15 visits to Villa Park. And that historical trend continued, as Arsenal used three first half goals in 3:13 to pull ahead and win easily.

Things didn’t look as positive early though, as Arsenal were on their heals right from the kickoff, with a bad kick out from Szczesny in the third minute almost leading to a Delph score, though the Polish keeper came to his own rescue with a fine save. Slopping passing from Ramsey and Ox kept the pressure on the back four from here, with Kos saving another chance in the 13th minute with a last second intervention. Villa should have been ahead in the 22nd minute, when a poor challenge from Chambers led to a free kick that ended up at the far post for Clark, with Sz again coming to the rescue on a header that could have been a little better. Heading into the 30 minute mark, Arsenal continued to look terrible, spraying passes, losing possession and lucky to still find themselves in the game.

And then, in the 32nd minute, a great counter started with an incisive Mertesacker pass to Ramsey who one touched it to Ox, ahead to Welbeck and then into the path of a charging Ozil, who got behind Villa’s defense and finished coolly one on one with the keeper. It was a much-needed confidence boost for Ozil, who went from scorer to distributor 79 seconds later sending a perfectly weighted pass across goal to Welbeck, who pounded his first goal for the Gunners into the roof of the net from a yard out. A minute later it was three, as Gibbs finished some nice dribbling with a dangerous cross headed to Ox at the far post, before Cissokho intervened to mistakenly put the ball in his own net. A few minutes later, the Gunners ended up two-on-two defensively, leaving many, including me, to wonder if there really is only one tactical setup Wenger utilizes any more.

The second half was a languid supplication by Villa, who allowed Arsenal to pass the ball around for 20 or 30 passes at a time, rarely making forays into the box. But it was an important win for the Gunners, maintaining their undefeated start to the season (only Chelsea and Arsenal have not lost after five games), moving them into fourth place, and picking up points on almost all of their rivals. Chelsea and City played to a 1-1 draw, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and United all lost and the Gunners thus sit only four points away from Chelsea heading into the first North London derby of the year. Some thoughts on the game and the weekend …

1. Ozil Redemption: I believe the criticism of Ozil has been somewhat overwrought, though not surprising given the English press’ penchant for making every game a narrative unto itself. Yet it is clear that the missed penalty against Bayern in the first leg of the UCL Round of 16 last season saw a marked decline in his form, even as he went on to win the World Cup creating more chances than anyone else in the tournament (though many argued he had a bad WC). When one looks at the statistics, things are not as alarming as some make them out to be. First one should mention that the worst stretch of last season, when the Gunners lost the title, was when Ozil was out. Since his return, Arsenal have only lost one competitive match, the 2-0 drubbing they took at the hands of Dortmund Tuesday. Heading to Arsenal last term, he led all of Europe in the previous five seasons, with 72 assists, offering a key pass every 22.1 minutes (finishing with 9 goals and 13 assists in 23 league games that last season). In 2013-14, counting games with Real, Arsenal and the German national team (51 in all, with 44 starts), he had 11 goals and 20 assists. For Arsenal, in 40 appearances in all competitions, he had 7 goals and 14 assists. Not incredible numbers, but he led all of the EPL in key passes per game, with 2.8 and was tied for sixth in assists, while missing a stretch of games with an “injury.” This game was a return to form for the German, though, as his passing was sublime, he finished his one chance and contributed to the other goal. Once Sanchez and Walcott line up on the wings and Welbeck becomes more adapted to the Gunner’s tactical game, we could see a rejuvenated Ozil again leading Europe in chances and assists. The most obvious takeaway of the game though, is that he has to play through the middle, as he just doesn’t seem to perform on the wings as well as he does for a stacked German squad.

2. Rambo Needs Some Juice?: it was an impressive team performance from the Gunners after the jittery start, but one player who will be shaking his head is Aaron Ramsey, after another subpar performance. Ramsey did contribute passes to the first two scoring drives, but was otherwise terrible, losing the ball at least ten times, according to my tally. He seems a little lost the past couple weeks, after a purple patch stretching back to last season seems to have quickly dissipated. He still runs harder and farther than any other player on the pitch, but appears to need to calm down a little, as he is too apt to go for the hard shot or try too difficult a pass at the moment. I’m sure he will get back in form quickly, but given the improvement in Wilshere in the past few games, his position could be in jeopardy if he plays like this against Tottenham next week.

3. Undefeated: Even with all of Arsenal’s early season struggles, they now sit in fourth place, within striking distance of Chelsea, while United continues to languish, Everton sit in 14th place, Liverpool have lost three of five and Tottenham are in 9th. Next week is an important test, as they need to get three points from a Tottenham team that has been up and down so far this season, but they are the only other undefeated team in the league and sit on 9 points, with Southampton and Aston Villa between them and Chelsea. One assumes the middle teams will start to move back toward the middle of the table and this thus puts Arsenal in a strong position, if they can start winning the games they have been drawing too often in the early going.

4. Defensive Woes: While Arsenal secured their first clean sheet of the of young season, others were scratching their heads at the defensive lapses. Up a man and a goal, Chelsea saw their old hero Lampard equalize in the 89th minute, after City had given up a late goal to drop all three points against Bayern four days earlier. But these are the two title favorites and they can generally score enough to allow for the occasional lapse. The record of those around them is much worse, beyond the surprising Southampton (only three in five), Aston Villa (four in five), and Burley (four in five, though they are in 19th place). Liverpool came within a Gerrard first half slip of winning the league last year and Everton pushed Arsenal for the coveted fourth place, before a late season drop in form and results saw the Gunners restore their usual spot. Now both Meyerside teams must be wondering what happened to their defenses. Liverpool knew life would be hard after Suarez left, and even harder with Sturridge on the sideline, but have been shipping goals at an alarming rate, with 8 in five games (and a -1 goal difference). Things are substantially more alarming for Roberto Martinez, with Everton sitting in 14th place (on five points) and having given up 13 goals in five (the most in the league by two). Both lost winnable games this weekend and know that they must turn things around quickly if they are to compete for the Top Four this term. United might also be wondering what happened to their defense and wishing they had spent a little more on that side of the pitch, as an impressive 3-1 lead was squandered late when the impressive Leicester City scoring four straight to upset the biggest spending team in Europe this summer (the first time United have lost a two goal lead in over 20 years). There tend to be more goals earlier in the season as teams build into their formational discipline and go for games and three points more often, but many of the teams competing for the Top 4 must be worried about their leaky defenses.

5. The Merchant of North London: Arsene Wenger has been famed for his miserly ways for some time now, only amplified this summer as he refused to fill two obvious holes in the team (at DM and CB -- as I’ve written about extensively over the past month). It was thus rather troubling to learn that Arsenal have 177 million pounds in cash reserves at present. Couldn’t 30 or 40 million of that have been spent on filling those voids, strengthening their chances of winning the title as he nears an almost inevitable departure in the next three years or so? Only Wenger will understand why it didn’t happen and we can only hope the necessary reinforcements are brought in in January.

The Gunners are back at it Tuesday, in a Capital One Cup game with Southampton where one assumes the youngsters will get a chance to shine. Then comes the critical North London derby against Tottenham at the Emirates, with Tottenham sitting only two points behind the Gunners, followed by a key home UCL match against Galatasaray and then a trip to Stamford Bridge four days later before a rematch with Hull City. It is a tough couple of weeks for the Gunners, but could put them right into the heart of the title race and in a more comfortable spot in the Champions League Group. COYG!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Violence in Football ... and America

Football long ago surpassed baseball as America’s pastime. It is the most popular professional sport in the country, even at only 16 regular season games and four rounds of playoffs, the most watched and has college football and fantasy leagues to amplify that popularity. Even as it suffers through bad press on top of bad press, ratings for Thursday night football were over double the opener from last year and Sunday night football was the top ranked program of the week. At its heart, football is a sport that exemplifies anachronistic notions of masculinity and patriotism better than even the arenas of boxing and octane-infused action films. It is the embodiment of the conservative dream of an idealized American past, where women knew their place, men were judged by their physical prowess and hard work was rewarded. Yet at its heart, football is little more than an exercise in aesthetically-infused violence.

So it should come as little surprise that the league is finally getting its comeuppance for the cost of its popularity and profits (over $9 billion a year at last counting, with Goodall pushing for $25 billion by 2025) to players and their families. A recent study found that one in three players will suffer Alzheimer’s or dementia in the future, given all the head trauma they sustain. Many already suffer from almost or fully debilitating pain and injury and the incidents of murder and suicide among current and former players like popular Junior Seau shows the very real possibility of dangerous brain damage. Just today, a Texas University quarterback with a bright future quit the game for good, after being unable to recover from a series of concussions over his 50+ starts. And on top of this is the rather obvious series of incidents of violence that have come to light in recent weeks. Beyond Ray Rice, we have the cases of Peterson and Hardy together with past high profile (but unpunished) Midlebrooks, Samari Rolle, Brad Hopkins, Kevin Williams and a host of others (read this excellent article in Grantland for a more elaborated argument on these incidents). And potential rapist Jameis Winston was at it again in college football, screaming sexist chants at fellow students on the FSU campus just today (leading to a one half suspension – what a punishment!). And it should also be noted that men engage in more violence with each other and their partners right after watching football.

The question becomes why we suddenly care about something that has been a part of the game for many years? Is it the visual evidence of a 220-pound man knocking his wife out and then pulling her out of the elevator? Is it simply the fact that it has entered the sensationalized spectacle, pushing people to pay attention to something they would rather ignore? A full 60 percent of Americans call themselves football fans and while they can certainly ignore politics and embrace ignorance with equal aplomb in many cases, they might finally be forced to ask themselves the rather obvious question about their favorite sport – are they essentially watching the slow murder of the men they call heroes by allowing them to play a game that WILL cause them permanent damage in most cases; on top of all the residual violence it appears to illicit? If this is the case, does the future of the NFL have a half life, or are we moving back toward Roman times and the bloody spectacle of public violence and sacrifice for pleasure? Boxing has been grappling with these issues for at least two decades, but it is no longer the sport it once was and many have turned their backs on the corruption and butchery of humanity that is at its core. With football, one bad story seems to follow another at the moment and one wonders how long it will take before the league actually, excuse the metaphor, tackles these issues? Will it take another few murder/suicides? A player that beats his girlfriend, wife or child to death on video? The loss of tax-free status if the Redskins fiasco isn’t resolved? While one hopes something can be done to stem the tide of violent ramifications on and off the field, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the media spectacle move on to some other story in a few weeks or months and for us to watch the sport as if we are ignorant of the short and long-term costs of the game. Can’t the same be said of corporate America and our love for the CEOs wrecking the economy for their personal pleasure and profit? Only the future will tell …

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arsenal Lose UCL Opener 2-0 to Dortmund

Arsenal have shown both their best and their worst in the past two games. First they fell behind Man City at home on Sunday 1-0, before storming back to take a 2-1 lead. With time running out, Mathieu Debuchy went off with an injury, that will see him out for at least two months, and they soon conceded an equalizer by failing to mark a defender on a corner. The game ended 2-2, resulting in their third draw in four games this season. Then they headed to Borussia for the Champions League opener tonight, already facing the defensive crisis many, including me, thought they might face this term.

They were outrun in the first half, almost always second to a 50/50 ball and lucky to find themselves heading into the break still at nil-nil. But right on the strike of halftime, an errant thrown-in led to Ciro Immobile collecting the ball deep in his own half and running past five Arsenal defenders on his way to a beautiful goal. Yet it was a score that shouldn’t have happened, but for a troubling tendency by Arsenal to give up soft goals this season. The second half started as the first ended and Dortmund were soon 2-0 up, when Pierre Aubameyang slid around Szczesny before shooting past a diving Koscielny. The Gunners started finding some possession but were unable to find a way through and lucky only to ship two goals in the end. In composite, the game was a microcosm of all that is wrong with the team in recent years and why serious questions persist about Wenger’s ability to take this team back to the top of England, much less Europe. Some quick thoughts:

1. Finishing Touch? Many were happy to see Wenger finally sign a striker as the transfer window came to a close. And yet there were certainly questions about Welbeck’s finishing touch, which have been exposed in the past two games. He had a great chance to open up scoring against City on Saturday, but fluffed the chance before missing three great chances in this game. The first came about half way through the first half, when a ball was bundled to him a few feet away from the goal, only for him to get it caught in his feet and ultimately snatched away. A confident striker would have pounded it into the net. The next came in the 41st minute, when Ramsey’s clever work sent him free on the right one-on-one with Weidenfeller, but he sent his shot weakly wide of the mark. A third chance came in the second half, blown again. There was hopes the young striker would take the momentum from a brace for England in their Euro qualifier forward, but it appears he still needs some work.

2. Defensive Mid: this is becoming a tired refrain, but Arteta looked like a clown tonight, unable to do anything to stop a relentless Dortmund attack. One could ask a series of questions of Wenger, but let’s stick with two. The first is why he didn’t sign a DM in the window when everyone said he should (he could even have gotten Song back for, well, a song). That extra layer of defense is key to top teams and the reason Real look somewhat lost in the early season so far (even after an impressive 5-1 win tonight). The second is why he seems to never learn from his previous tactical errors against top teams on the road – allowing his fullbacks to maraud forward leaving the back line exposed. It was particularly baffling in this game, given that Mert and Kos looked tired after the City game four days earlier, Bellerin was making his first competitive start ever and Gibbs has just come back from injury. Bayern had 23 shots, 7 on target and obviously 2 that went in. Arsenal avoided two potential penalties in the first half and were lucky not to lose four or six to zero. It is beyond sanity and one wonders if he will address the issue in the winter window.

3. Defensive Woes: not surprisingly, given the issues in midfield, Arsenal have been shipping goals at an alarming rate in this young season. Since beating Man City to the Community Shield 3-0, the Gunners have only kept two clean sheets – both in the UCL qualifying tie against Besiktas. They gave up one to Crystal in their first game, two early to Everton before the comeback for a draw in their second, an equalizer to Leicester only two minutes after scoring the opener, one in the first half and then late against City and then two in the contest today. For those counting, that’s 8 goals in 5.

4. Starless: Arsenal signed Alexis Sanchez to inject pace and finishing into the attack, a year after bringing in Ozil to supply service to those around him. While Sanchez has been impressive at times, and already has two important goals for the team, he looked off the pace for much of the match, losing the ball on far too many occasions. And while Ozil showed a few examples of his immense talent, he just can’t dominate games the way other top players do and was subbed off with about 30 minutes to play. Beyond these two, there is Cazorla, who some believe should be playing ahead of Ozil, Ramsey, who doesn’t seem to be quite the same player in the early season, the up and down Wilshere and then a group of players that are very good while not being great. Potential is there, with Ox, Walcott, Gibbs, Chambers and Welbeck, but it must be realized or the team becomes little more than a promise unfulfilled.

5. Wenger Swan Song: fans must be wondering how much longer we will be compelled to support a manager whose best days seem to be behind him. For years now we have watched Arsenal consistently underperform while staying in the top four and the competition that seems to be more of a revenue generator than one we can actually compete for silverware in. They too often fail to perform in the top games, always seem between one and three players short of a good transfer window, have serious tactical rigidity that consistently hurts them and just can’t seem to put together a campaign from beginning to end. Wenger finally got off the snide with his come from behind FA Cup victory, but will more follow this term? Based on the early season performances, they will be lucky to stay in the top four or get out of their UCL group. Many professors grow jaded near the end of their careers and one wonders if it isn’t time for Le Professeur to start considering a final move to finish his career.

Looking around the rest of the games, Liverpool were lucky to escape with a 2-1 win, after conceding an equalizer to minnows Ludogorets Razgard before a late penalty converted by Gerrard saved them. Real pummeled FC Basel 5-1, Juve got past Malmo 2-0 and Zenit continued their early season form with a 2-0 victory at Benfica. The big surprises came from Monaco, who took down Bayern Leverkusen 1-0, and Olympiakos, who beat Atletico Madrid 3-2. Arsenal next face Galatasaray (who drew 1-1 with Anderlecht) at the Emirates and must get all three points to get themselves back into position to advance out of the group. They will certainly be happy that their nemesis Drogba has moved on, though the fact he is back at league leader Chelsea provides another headache to consider. COYG!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Urban Outfitters Making American Apparel Look Good

In the battle of selling hip to young consumers by any means necessary, American Apparel has more often won the gag award over Urban Outfitters, but only by slim margins. The victor started out as a company selling the idea that clothes could still be made in America, thus bucking the trend of the industry using sweatshops workers from Third World countries. But they soon became just as famous for their revealing billboards and magazine ads, often featuring Lolita-like, nymphs in revealing poses (AA Photo-shoots). Numerous allegations quickly began surfacing that CEO Dov Charney was involved in sexual harassment, or maybe simply sex, with some of his young, female employees. And there was criticism of the actual working conditions at the Los Angeles factory, even as he continued to tout their ethical work practices (Huff Post) In June of this year, Charney was fired, after refusing to take a package that stripped him of his title but gave him a golden parachute (Huff Post) as the company tries to put his checkered past behind them.

Urban Outfitters doesn’t play at being ethical or socially-responsible in any way, and thus it is not surprising that they often push the envelope of taste to its outer limits, though generally in “funny” racist, anti-Semitic and sexist ways. This past weekend the company briefly made a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt” splattered with fake blood available on its website for $130. The sweatshirt is now listed as “Sold Out,” but one wonders how the death of four students at the hands of the National Guard back in 1970 could ever be considered in good taste? (Slate) Yet this is just the latest example of their very clever attempts at ironic humor: 1. In 2003, they sold a board game called “Ghettopoly” including a card rewarding players for the achievement of “you got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack.” 2. In 2004, they sold a “Jewish Girls” t-shirt that was covered in dollar signs. 3. And in 2010, they sold an “Eat Less” t-shirt, to make sure we could all outwardly enjoy the eating disorders one in four female college students now suffer from.

And so the battle rages on, wondering who can embarrass themselves more on the road to selling to the kids too lazy to make a trip to the local vintage or second hand clothing shop. I’m sure American Apparel will feel slighted by falling out of the headlines and find their own way to lower the bar quite soon. Stay tuned …

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Collective Statement from NFL Domestic Abusers

Women have certainly come a long way over the past five decades, moving from being largely resigned to a life of domesticity or menial work to having opportunities in the world of work, sports and politics. It was actually 50 years after black men were given the right to vote than women achieved that end in America, but the second wave of feminism has certainly taken us a lot farther along the path to gender parity. Women now outnumber men in the workforce, outperform boys and men by almost every measure in education (except participation in the most lucrative majors of math, science, engineering and technology), have a real shot at winning the Presidency in two years and are slowly moving up the corporate ladder. And yet we still live in a world that is dominated by patriarchy at the highest levels. The United States was tied for 86th in female representation in the legislature in 2013 (18.2%), the worst by far among any advanced industrialized country in the world, has never had a female executive, only counts 24 female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies (4.8 percent) and is ranked 16th overall by the World Economic Forum in Gender Equality. The media and world of advertising are still dominated by white males as well, and it shows. The “male gaze” Laura Mulvey wrote about in 1974, which involves the objectification of female bodies for male pleasure and narratives that always center on heterosexual men, continues to dominate popular culture even as more empowering roles pop up with increased frequency.

Most troubling may be the continued violence women suffer at the hands of men in this country. Looking at the numbers, 51.9 percent of women claim they have suffered physical violence in their lifetime (versus 25 percent in Sweden), almost a quarter at the hands of an intimate partner (in fact 7 of 10 assaults are perpetrated by one), one in 13 murder victims are killed by their husband or boyfriend, 10 percent of women have a head or spinal cord injury as a result of a physical assault, most assault victims don’t seek medical care (less than 40 percent for assault and/or rape) and 18.3 percent of women claim they have been raped (with a sense this number is underreported). Making matters worse is the way our culture handled violence against women, of a sexual or nonsexual nature. Ray Rice is just the latest example in a long line of professional athletes who have assaulted, raped or murdered women that stretches from Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather. While Rice has finally been condemned, how many other athletes, like Florida State’s Jameis Winston, seemingly get a pass?

In the spirit of supporting women across the country and globe, I thought I would write a fictitious speech from the collective gang of NFL abusers upon winning the big game on Sunday.

“I’d first like to thank God for allowing me to win this weekend. I know there are millions of people starving across the globe, violence against children and women, girls who are not allowed to go to school, terrorism, AIDS, ridiculous inequality, and natural and unnatural disasters every day, but I’m glad He took some time off to chose me and my teammates over the clearly undeserving opponents we played today. I’d like to thank him for getting me that latest contract that will leave me with enough money for the rest of my life, as long as I don’t get injured or blow it, particularly since the NFL seems to have little interest in ensuring I act responsibly during or after my career. Sure I might not be able to get out of bed in ten years, after the beating my body has taken, but what a bed it will be! It is also true I might end up killing myself or someone else because of the brain damage I suffered taking so many hits, but at least I was rooted for on Sundays and made my owners boatloads full of cash.

Speaking of those owners, I’d like to thank them, the NFL, my team and the media for largely condoning the mistakes I’ve made in the past and, hopefully, the ones I’ll make in the future, as long as there is not a pesky video camera around to capture my “error in judgment.” I’d like to thank the league, my coach and Roger Goodall, in particular, for criticizing my behavior and then allowing me to play on Sunday anyway as the courts figure out if I’m guilty – even letting me play on a winning Super Bowl team a couple of years ago. I understand that I have been blessed with incredible talent and want to thank the doctors who give me the drugs to allow that talent to grow and flourish, even if it does make me a little more aggressive and violent. I know I am a role model to kids, but all that really matters is that I help the team win, right? Women should be respected, sure, unless they piss me off. Then I am within my rights to beat and abuse them until they understand who rules the house. So thank you God, thank you coach and thank you to the NFL for choosing money and greed over women, over the kids watching and over any sense of moral righteousness. I appreciate your continued support and will do my best to continue to represent the league with dignity and faith."