Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Strength in America

This weekend, as I sit at home, unemployed, and watch football, a thought comes to me, something that I heard Rush Limbaugh say a week or so ago.  When times are tough, when disaster strikes and the courage of people is tested, it is sports, specifically Football, that we turn to as a method of escape.  When Brett Farve lost his father suddenly, he turned to his Green Bay team and produced what, to me, was the greatest individual performance I have ever seen on that field.  Michael Jordan did the same thing when he was with the Bulls.  And I think there's something more to it than just escape, but first I'll include Rush's transcript of that program:
 RL: Sunday Night Football had their best opening night ratings-wise in 15 years, a series high for Sunday Night Football last night. // Thursday night, the opener was near record highs for NBC on the season opener of the NFL. Tonight the Republicans have a debate up against Monday Night Football, and the game they are going up against is the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. Now, I'm gonna tell you, there's a reason why these numbers for football are so high. Look, Obama clearly has people hungering for an escape. But television's on every night. And television's not drawing these kinds of numbers every night. But the National Football League is, and I think, A, it's new, it's not a rerun, it's drama, it's unscripted, it's genuine reality TV. Everything on television's fake and fraud and phony now. Even reality TV is scripted.

But sports, whether it be football or baseball, it's unknown, it's drama, and the only people that can screw it up are the announce crews. But in the case of football, what is the thing about football? It is power. It is strength. I believe that watching football is nostalgic for people. I believe that it helps people remember what America is. It helps people remember what America was. There's nothing different about football this year than from last year and in previous years. We have had some rule changes, the number of superstars spread out the league and so forth. I think there's a mad desire to escape from what this country has become, and the horror each and every day of having to live through whatever policy or plan President Obama has for people. There is a genuine unsettledness or worse, and sports has always been an escape, but never more so than now, and in the case of football, power, strength and a nostalgic reminder of what the country is.

 We've lost what was strong in this country.  We see glimpses of it, every now and again, when Captain Scully lands his plane in the Hudson River, or when Seal Team Six takes out Bin Laden deep into Pakistan.  There are times when we are reminded of the things that makes America such a fantastic place to live in.  But I don't think its necessarily heroes that bring us strength.  I mentioned an advertisement a while back,


from Jeep, that I immediately loved, because it had to do with the strength of American workers, building, making. Artists have sculpted that strength, poets have written about it, authors have written words that soak the skin with sweat and desire to see the glowing beam of steel out of the fire and watch it molded into something that we will use. And while there have been magnificent works of mankind made all throughout time and countries, only here in America should those things me made by all of us, with our dreams made real by our drive to succeed. There should be no government to regulate who realizes our dreams, and who must wait in line for meager livings. And yet, there are people who sit atop the skyscrapers which have been constructed from our minds, and they make millions of dollars simply by flicking a switch on a computer, guaranteeing loans that were never there, driving the lot of us bankrupt, whose vices are greed without self-regulation. Or there are people who, instead of using their time and effort into making this country better, would protest outside of buildings in an action that will clearly make no difference other than give the media something to spread throughout the world at how unstable America is. Let the masses linger in the streets and undo the very thing that they are protesting for. Let them go back to their homes, and educate themselves, through colleges and trade centers, to produce something, to make America what it was once so long ago. Walt Whitman:

The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife at the stall in the
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and breakdown.
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge . . . . they are all out . . . . there is a great heat in the fire.

From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers roll—overhand so slow—overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses . . . . the block swags underneath
on its tied-over chain,
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stoneyard . . . . steady and tall he stands
poised on one leg on the stringpiece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over his hipband,
His glance is calm and commanding . . . . he tosses the slouch of his hat away from
his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and moustache . . . . falls on the black of his polish'd
and perfect limbs.

I behold the picturesque giant and love him . . . . and I do not stop there,
I go with the team also.

Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the shade, what is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life. (from, page 20)

Should strength lie only in the hammer and the frame, in the chrome outlinings of automobiles and the laden steel of tracks on which the trains run across the fields? I doubt that, for the strength that America has also remains in the hearts of its people, in the families that live together, striving to make it one meal to the next. But that too is slipping. When men leave and women neglect and suddenly the children are left to themselves, without the guidance of those that brought them into the world, where is the strength then? We must look to those who have it, those who are seen on the television every night performing acts of sheer will and determination. We see it in the quarterback who defiantly throws the football into the hands of the Wide Receiver even though he knows a Defensive Lineman is coming towards him. (And while were on the subject, that is the job he is paid millions of dollars to do, to provide that semblance of steadfastness in the face of getting knocked unconscious. To complain about the referees afterwards at the press meetings, like Mike Vick has done, and others have mentioned in recent weeks, is the downfall of the sport. It relegates the sport of football to the hideous realm of politicians standing outside the Capitol whining about not getting anything done. Find the clip of then Marshall QB Leftwich being carried down the field as he cannot walk to complete a game winning drive when the season was on the line. Or Tony Romo, just this year, playing with a fractured rib and a punctured lung, to come back and win against the 49ers. People are flocking to NFL games because it provides people with something that the other television shows on now cannot. The reality shows and the sit-coms provide us with weak fathers who would rather drink at bars or be incompetent, or men who would rather double-cross or whine at a camera about how unfair the reality game is. May they get voted out first. The tribe has called, they want warriors. This is why the NFL is so successful every night. It is also why Romo is so criticized when he does the stupid things he often does to lose games.

I see people walking Pit Bulls down the street almost daily, and I wonder, what makes that breed so special above all the other breeds? I've realized that, even accepting the violent behaviors that come with Pit Bulls, and the maulings that are often shown by the media, those dogs are the symbol of strength to a lot of people. We seek strength in everything that we own, in all that we do, we search for those things that we can rely upon. Those things that make us safe at night, no matter how dangerous it might be. A neighborhood gang? A gun in the drawer beside the bed? A Pit Bull sleeping in the hallway? Any of those things might be risky, but all of them provide a certain sense of comfort, knowing that they are there. It is the sense a lover has when the comforting arms of his or her partner are enclosed around them at night. And we would seek for that protection no matter what the cost or risk. To be safe, to find strength in those things around us, that is what America is searching for, and unfortunately, human beings find that strength in exactly the wrong places.

Post World War I, with the economy in collapse and the destruction widespread, the people of Germany looked for a leader to bring them back to European prominence. And while the sudden rise of Hitler is the most extreme example, it is certainly true that hanging onto those with strength, even at the risk of getting hurt, is a very bad idea. The strength should come from within, with ones own hands and minds. We must rely on ourselves to see us through the hard times, so that when the lighter times come, we should be stronger for it. We then will throw the touchdown, or construct the buildings that will tower above cities. Then we will solve the worlds problems, from the mysteries of space travel to the exploration of the tiniest bodies and dimensions. Should we be kept from this, I know of nothing that will keep us from continuing our slide towards mediocrity. When all the courage we can muster is to check our bank accounts every morning and then watch football at night, that's pretty bad. The n our roads would turn to dust, our train tracks rust away, and the buildings that we had once so handily constructed be turned into dust as well, leaving those cherished memories and people to pass away.

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