Friday, January 23, 2015

It's been a deflating week in the news

     Let's mix politics, sports and movies today, and I'll begin by saying it's been a week of contentiousness. I'm seeing and hearing lots of anger out there, and I never like that.
     I especially don't like it from myself, and this week we had to endure debates about underinflated footballs -- how stupid a subject -- and the State of the Union address and a movie about a sniper.
     That leads to me writing this blog piece because I can say -- enough already.
Leave it to the New York Daily News' clever 
headline writers for the right touch

     I also must admit, I have paid little attention to any of it, haven't read stories on any of the subjects or stopped to listen to the TV "experts" ... and don't really care that much. I'm just in my own world, right?
     But my world includes Facebook and Twitter, and so I do see people's rants/criticisms. That unavoidable ... and also a good reason why I should leave social media for a week or two. Except I do like the updates on the teams I follow and I like to know when there's actual news out there.
     However, all these opinions, all this bull ... I'm trying to ignore it and not be angry about it.
     Excuse me, but I don't like the NFL -- National Foolish League -- at all these days. I root, as I always have, for the Dallas Cowboys (but not their owner), but I don't watch the games live. I record them and watch later ... less stress that way.
     I am one of the millions who will not be watching the Super Bowl. (When I told a friend that, he corrected "millions" to "hundreds.") I have not watched the Super Bowl, or any other NFL game, for the past two seasons.
     I have had a half dozen friends ask my opinion of "Deflategate" in the NFL, and then offer their opinion. Quickly, I will say: This is one of the most overblown stories of several football seasons. Underinflated/overblown. (I will return to the issue in a moment.)
     You can put the State of the Union address in the same "overblown" category. I stopped watching that about three Presidents ago. But I do like watching the President's entry into the House of Representatives chamber and the civility/pomp displayed as he makes his way down the aisle, shaking hands and hugging admirers and the constant applause, and once the speech begins ... forget it.  All civility ends.
     Members of the President's party applaud everything they can, jump to their feet and cheer; members of the other party often just look grim-faced, especially if -- as President Obama proved Tuesday -- he makes a remark that zings the opposition.
     When he's done, the pundits and the critics take over and here's my view: The State of the Union accomplishes nothing except stir up the rancor. Many proposals have little or no chance; the possible "compromise" issues are rarely compromised.
     It is pointless, but it's tradition. So if you choose to watch or choose to comment, go for it. I think it's foolish.
     Look, I don't like writing about politics here. It is not my field of expertise (I know a little more about sports subjects). But I just find it laughable to read that I live in a socialist society and that the President is a "liar." Maybe he twisted the facts, as his opponents claim, or he's "giving away the store" to Cuba, or he'd be a fool to use his veto to stop the other party's approved bills.
     I just keep thinking, didn't some of us feel the same way about the previous President and his top people
     I see these statements and "debates" from both sides of the aisle and my feeling is that no one ever changes anyone else's mind. My friends who have opposite political views from mine sure as heck don't change my mind, and I'm not trying to change theirs.
     So much for politics. Let's go to the movies.
     American Sniper is getting much attention and very-liberal moviemaker Michael Moore used the word "cowards" in a general comment about snipers, not per se about the movie's hero, the late Chris Kyle. Of course, that set off a mountain of critical remarks about Moore and a spirited defense of Kyle and the movie's director, the legendary Clint Eastwood.
     Obviously, Eastwood has starred in and directed/produced many great films. I've even enjoyed a few.
     Honestly, though, I've never been much of an Eastwood fan -- not even when he was Rowdy Yates on Rawhide when we first saw him five decades ago -- and I'm not much of a movie goer. Movies about guns and wars don't interest me at all.
     You can debate the role of snipers all you want. Maybe they're heroic; that's for certain when the other side also is firing live bullets. I see it as a necessary evil, just as wars are necessary evils.
     I'm not as pro-military as many folks, but I appreciate what the military does and what it stands for. I would not agree with the "coward" view; I'd never go that far. And I see Michael Moore -- even though I slant toward liberal views -- as an American crackpot, as an opportunist and self-promoter.
     But Clint Eastwood's "performance" at the Republican Party convention in 2012 was about the worst political theater I've seen. Even the Republicans were embarrassed at his impromptu act.
     So if you ask me, a Michael Moore vs. Clint Eastwood debate is two empty chairs going at each other. But it might draw better ratings than the State of the Union address did.
     Now, about "Deflategate" ... the talk, the stories are everywhere -- from the White House to the network news shows to the late-night talk-show comics having at it.
     This is about as stupid as "Spygate" several years ago. Leave it to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. If the rules can be bent, they can do it.
      If they can deflate the footballs -- who knows who did that exactly? -- then they could twist the rules on salaries and the salary cap, on injuries, on drug testing, practice time, uniform regulations ... pick something.
      It's clear that Belichick -- in my opinion, the most successful NFL coach in history as a defensive coordinator and head coach (just look at his record) -- also is the biggest coaching "cheater" since the Cowboys' best friend, George Allen, all those years ago.
      It's also clear that no matter how the footballs felt, that 45-7 score in last week's AFC Championship Game meant the Patriots were a little better than the Indianapolis Colts. As a friend, a former NFL player, pointed out, underinflated footballs can be caught much easier by receivers ... that's the big advantage, even more than Tom Brady throwing them.
      But you have to wonder about the NFL, how it can let the separate teams be in charge of inflating the football? Why don't the game officials take charge of that, and why did they not notice how those underinflated balls felt during a game?
      It's just another in a bunch of "black eyes" for the NFL lately -- the growing evidence of players' brain damage leading to suicides, the Ray Rice female-abuse case and others like it, the "stomping" by he-man linemen, the "football move" controversy of a catch/no-catch by Dez Bryant that took care of the Cowboys' playoff chances.
      The NFL, I think, might be the most overrated, overwatched sports entity today. I'm sure my NFL writer friends will tell me it's not as overrated as World Cup soccer.
      (Incidentally, there is an NFL game Sunday -- the Pro Bowl in Phoenix. Those who watch that really don't have anything else to do. What a waste of time. If you care about that one, I feel sorry for you.)
      One more observation about "Deflategate": Belichick was fined $500,000 by the NFL for "Spygate" when he had the New York Jets' defensive coaches' signals videotaped in 2007. That was the largest fine for a coach in NFL history at the time, part of a package of punishment for the team.
      Of course, penalties were even more severe for the New Orleans Saints and coach Sean Payton (a year's suspension) after the bounty scandal -- bonuses paid for players for injuring opposing players during the 2009-11 seasons.
      I think, after the Patriots' previous transgressions, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should suspend Belichick from coaching in this Super Bowl game, and he could suspend Brady from playing, too. That would serve them right.
      Won't happen; too much money at stake, too big an advantage for the Seattle Seahawks. But maybe they should make the Patriots play with overinflated footballs, or -- as other people have suggested -- with bricks or big bars of soap.
      And as my friend O.K. "Buddy" Davis suggested, if Belichick -- known for his ho-hum (sloppy) sideline garb -- is allowed to coach, they at least should make him dress in a suit and nice dress hat, like my favorite coach of all, the classy Tom Landry.
      Nah, classy and Bill Belichick don't go together.
      They should make him debate Michael Moore and Clint Eastwood about snipers and inflated footballs. Or have him give the State of the Union address. He's used to the criticism.


  1. From Frank Bright: On the point of changing minds, Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, has written a book entitled The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which I really liked. There was a review of it a few years ago in The New York Times, and also one in the Wall Street Journal.

  2. From Tommy Canterbury: Get 20 balls, fill them with air at whatever level. BOTH teams use the SAME balls, as in baseball and other sports.. Move on. This is much made about nothing. Score now: Press 40, Fans 3.
    Oh, I ain't a New England fan, just a no-factor.

  3. From Joe Ferguson: This may be the best article you've ever written. Not a false word anywhere. As far as deflate-gate, the media should be totally embarrassed that they have nothing more important to talk about, because there is definitely a lot of serious issues out there.
    Now, we need to all about your liberalism ...

  4. From Tommy Henry: Sadly some people cheat in sports -- even when not necessarily organized and not that competitive -- like golf (bigtime in golf!) and in youth sports, middle school sports, prep sports, college sports and even in the pros (like doctoring baseballs and bats -- and footballs, and don't think for one minute that the Patriots invented this practice. Kickers have been doing this for ages and probably QBs on many teams.)
    And during my tenure with the LHSAA we have had coaches cheat in a variety of ways.
    So -- it's sad but true -- coaches will cheat and sometimes (but not always) cheaters will win.

  5. From Yale Youngblood: I echo many of the sentiments in your column. I don't know if there are more politics than ever, but there are certainly more political forums than ever with TV and the Internet expanding options by the day. And I do believe that over the
    past two presidencies the overall respect for the office has waned to frightening levels.
    And how is deflating a football any different than throwing a spitter in baseball? Yet someone caught doctoring a baseball is rarely the lead story on ESPN, much less CBS, NBC and ABC (and never that for an entire week).
    My main beef with both politics and sports centers not on those arenas but on the coverage of those arenas. 24/7 news/commentary/whatever the Internet represents is skewing perspective -- and likely reality.
    Alas, it's the world in which we live. Bottom line of all this: Good blog.

  6. From Jimmy Russell: I tend to agree with your blog with most of the things your wrote Low-on-air footballs ... you would think this is vital to U.S. survival without enough air in the footballs. We certainly have enough to be concerned about and the NFL is not one of them I think I watched three games this year. I cannot pull for the Cowboys. The truth is they have been mediocre over the past several years except for this year. Dez Bryant, while being a gifted athlete, appears to have no character. State of the Union, I listened sometimes but did not even see it this year.

  7. From Jim Shaw: "Nico, nice touch" or should I say, "Nico, nice touché."

  8. From Tim Looney: Well said. Though we differ in our political leanings, you are right on here.

  9. From Jim Robinson: Great blog as usual. The funniest, even most laughable, part of all the Deflate-gate is the precise wording that Tom Brady, and even Bill Belichick used. Brady used very chosen wording that he would not have to deny later. He said he did not do it. He did not say whether he knew it was being done. The political and legal term is "Plausible Deniability."