Blowin’ smoke on Super Sunday

I was sitting on the porch with Swamp Rabbit, trying to nail down the silliest Super Bowl moment. Was it Budweiser’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” commercial or the halftime performance by Maroon 5?

“Ain’t nothin’ silly about ‘Blowin’ In the Wind,'” the rabbit said. “The song plays and you see a beer wagon pulled by them big horses with them wind turbines in the background and them words on the screen: ‘Now brewed with wind power for a better tomorrow.’ It’s a good message.”

“Budweiser is blowing smoke,” I replied. “They’re hooked up with two of the worst right-wing organizations in the country — the American Legislative Exchange Council, called ALEC, and the Chamber of Commerce. No way ALEC will go for clean energy. Climate deniers care about today, not tomorrow.”

The rabbit lit a cigarette and blew smoke at the porch’s tar paper roof. “Budweiser is using wind power, and that helps the environment,” he said. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Odd Man.”

I told him wind energy is part of Anheuser-Busch’s campaign to make people believe their beer is more “natural” and “organic” than other beers. It’s a propaganda stunt to mislead beer drinkers, a huge demographic that’s easy to fool.

I said, “Next you’ll be telling me Maroon 5 is a great band instead of a third-rate boy band that was hired because a lot of name acts turned against the NFL after they banned Colin Kaepernick for protesting racism.”

The rabbit looked at me and said, “Of course they’re a great band. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be at the Super Bowl.”

He was putting me on, I think. We jawed about the game itself — a mostly dull affair in which the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 — and about how the Super Bowl disappoints most years because of the gulf between the hype and the reality. I told him the vulgarity of the spectacle is no longer funny once you realize the team owners have the mentality of slave owners.

“If you think it’s that bad, why’d you watch part of the game?” the rabbit said.

I had to think about that. “It’s the dead of winter,” I replied. “I had nothing better to complain about.”

Footnote: Speaking of vulgarity, I worked at an auto show on the day of the Super Bowl. On my way into the PA Convention Center, I passed a guy hawking stuff on the street corner. “Pretzels!” he shouted. “Candy! Cotton Candy! Super Bowl rings!”

There were no takers.

Buncha weinies

Seahawks questioned Kaepernick's National Anthem intentions

Of course, the word I want to use isn’t “weinies”:

NFL owners all but agreed they were blackballing Colin Kaepernick to appease President Donald Trump, according to newly released audio recordings.

About 30 owners, players and NFL executives met for nearly three hours in October to discuss the president’s public attacks on the league and its players over silent racism protests during the national anthem, reported the New York Times.
According to the leaked audio, players wanted to know why Kaepernick remained unsigned, despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl and 2014 NFC Championship game.

“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” said Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long at the meeting, adding that he wouldn’t “lecture” teams on which quarterback to sign. “We all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster.”

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Shut up already about Colin Kaepernick

Abdul-Jabbar: Insulting Colin Kaepernick says more about our patriotism than his

(Photo: Flikr)

I’m so done with this Colin Kaepernick “controversy.”

1) This is his First Amendment right. Get over yourselves if you want to deny him. People have died for our right to free speech. How dare you diminish that sacrifice for you not to feel uncomfortable? It doesn’t mean that he’s immune from criticism, but there’s something incredibly ironic to hear people complain about Kaepernick using his stature to take a stand.  Would anyone care if Colin, your local Starbucks barista, sat down during the Star Spangled Banner?  Does the money in his bank make him less a Person of Color?

2) He sat down during the playing of the National Anthem. That hurt exactly ZERO people. Where was the outrage for NFL players who beat their wives/girlfriends senseless, raped fans, got into car accidents while intoxicated, held vicious dog fights and killed puppies, or expressed racism, homophobia, sexism or other abject and un-American stupidities?

3) Do not for a moment think that it’s been missed within the African American community that standing up and protesting for equality has been criticized as being too confrontational.  As has performing in public, come to that.  But Kaepernick sits down quietly and that’s just as egregious?  Make up your damn minds.  Or could it be that the most important thing is to never make white people uncomfortable about their privilege?

While I’m on the subject of consistency, it also hasn’t passed anyone’s notice that the ones who are most offended by Kaepernick calling attention to things not being great in this country if you’re a Person of Color are the same people cheering on the privileged white guy whose entire presidential campaign is built on the country not being great for white people.

We’re No. 1!

United States crush Japan for first WWC title since 1999 United States crush Japan for first WWC title since 1999 The United States dominated defending champion Japan 5-2 for their first Women’s World Cup title since 1999 in the high

U.S. Women’s soccer team wins the World Cup:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The United States defeated Japan, 5-2, in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, winning in stunningly dominant fashion for its first Cup title since 1999 and denying Japan a second straight championship.

The Americans relied on stalwart defense throughout their run to the final, allowing just one goal in their first six games. But in the final at BC Place Stadium, they scored four goals in the first 16 minutes, an outburst capped by Carli Lloyd’s audacious strike from near midfield.

That goal gave Lloyd a hat trick in the game, and she finished with six goals in the tournament, tied with Celia Sasic of Germany for the highest tally.

Yuki Ogimi scored in the 27th minute for Japan to make it 4-1, but by then a United States victory seemed assured. The lead was briefly narrowed in the second half when U.S. defender Julie Johnston put the ball in her own net off a free kick in the 52nd minute, but Tobin Heath extended the lead two minutes later off a corner kick.

The United States, which had reached at least the semifinals in the last three tournaments, claimed its third Women’s World Cup title over all, the most of any country.

Hemingway does the Super Bowl, files late


This year there were many victories. The Patriots captured the big town beyond the frozen lakes where the Vikings sail and there was a victory over the Chiefs on a great plain and the Pats went back East and crossed the bay to a fort with a field of false grass near a large building with a restaurant on many floors in a village called Foxborough. The town was very nice and the fort was very fine. There were more victories and the townies toasted the Pats in the cafes and bawdy houses.

The leaves fell and a cloud rolled off the bay and suddenly the Pats were in it and it was snow. The winter took hold and the town was different. The war was changed too. The Pats broke camp and flew south and west to a bawdy house in the desert for the final battle. The day was clean and cool and the night was even better. The Pats and Seahawks fought till they were weary and left the field.

I watched the second half on a flat screen at a galleria and ate spicy Doritas and drank Asti with Miss Barkley. “Call me Catherine,” she said. The galleria was very nice and Catherine was very fine. We held hands. Katy Perry lip-synced “Firework” and sailed around the field on a boom crane and shouted “God bless America.”

The troops fell into line and trotted back onto the field. The Seahawks brought up trench mortars and blew a big hole in the Pats’ front line. The Pats regrouped and counterattacked. The Seahawks held the line and attempted a coup de main. It failed and the Pats prevailed.

I was on assignment but the night was young. I told Catherine her hair was very beautiful. We drove for hours and jumped into a boat and rowed to a hotel in Switzerland. “And you’ll always love me, won’t you?” Catherine said.

In the morning I rolled out of bed to write my story. I stared at the blank page until I remembered the details of the game. The players wore splendid uniforms and butted heads often and were very brave. In a few weeks I won’t even remember who played. I filed my story and put on my coat and walked out into the rain.

Editor’s note: Last year I sent Virginia Woolf to cover the game, but she made a mess of it. It was a boring affair, so she left early and filed something about a lighthouse.

‘Deflategate’ a bigger story than SOTU


I was on the porch at the shack with Swamp Rabbit, critiquing Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address. Obama turned out to be the embodiment of magical thinking on the part of American liberals, I told the rabbit. It long ago became clear he is the consummate insider, good buddies with Jamie Dimon and other elite fraudsters, but put him onstage and he still sounds like a crusader against income inequality:

It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

I noted that the questions Obama posed have been answered many times since the Reagan years, when the income gap between the rich and poor began to widen. But our silver-tongued leader obviously enjoys re-asking it, especially now that both the Senate and House are in Republican hands and his opportunity to fight income inequality has come and gone.

“The man is a lame duck,” the rabbit said. “Don’t matter what he says or what you say. How ’bout you git down off that soapbox? There’s real news goin’ on out there.”

I pointed out to him that I was standing on his case of Wild Turkey, not on a soapbox. “What’s the real news?” I said.

It was “Deflategate.” Someone from the New England Patriots, prior to the team’s game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, may have let some of the air out of the footballs the Patriots would use. Slightly deflated balls are easier to throw and catch, so the balls may have been a factor in the Patriots’ lopsided victory. In other words, the Patriots have been accused of cheating. Stop the presses!

“That’s crazy,” I said. “Everybody knew the Patriots were going to win that game. You’re just angry because you didn’t have the money to bet on them, and because you lost money on them the week before. How come the Patriots are news but Obama isn’t?”

The rabbit twitched his nose and spat in the swamp. “Because nobody knows yet how the Patriots story is gonna turn out. That’s more than you can say for the Obama story.”

Ivan Klima covers the NFL playoffs


Swamp Rabbit and I were hungry, so we took a two-day job — strictly commission, unfortunately — peddling magical electricity in a suburban mall. There were flat-screen TVs and football fans all over the place. We caught some of the New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens playoff game as we worked. The rabbit had bet on the Patriots to win by seven points, but they only won by four, so he lost his bet and was in no mood to join the Patriots fans as they cheered.

But the fans quickly shut up and went back to gawking at the shiny toys in the mall. Tom Brady is a great QB, I told the rabbit, but who really cares about the Patriots where we live, in Philadelphia Eagles country? In fact, who cares about the Eagles? They’re done. Show me the next distraction, please.

“In the end, it’s all garbage,” I added.

No one was looking to consume magical electricity, so I pulled from my backpack a dog-eared copy of Czech novelist Ivan Klima’s Love and Garbage and read to the rabbit a relevant passage about consumers:

They fill the streets, the squares, the stadiums and the department stores. When they burst into cheers over a winning goal, a successful pop song or a revolution, it seems as if that roar would go on forever, but it is followed at once by the deathly silence of emptiness and oblivion.

“Don’t give me no high-falutin’ lectures, I ain’t in the mood,” the rabbit replied. “I just lost fifty bucks on them freakin’ Patriots. Now I gotta stand here and watch these here consumers consume all them toys I can’t afford.”

I told him all is good, the toys won’t make the consumers any happier than he is, not for more than a few minutes. “What these people need, they can’t buy at the mall,” I said.

I added. “You’re just looking to fill the void inside you where your soul should be.”

“You got that right, Odd Man. Any liquor stores in this dump?”

We folded up our table and left the mall, still hungry. On the way back to the swamp I stole some wieners at the SuperFridge and a liter of Wild Turkey at Tinicum Beer & Spirits.

“Here you go, rabbit,” I said, handing him the Wild Turkey back at the shack. “But this garbage won’t fill the void.”

He guzzled straight from the bottle and said, “Maybe not, but at least it’ll stop the shakes.”

Virginia Woolf almost does the Super Bowl

So dismayed by the Broncos, she didn't even file a story
Dismayed by the Broncos, she retreated to Bloomsbury without filing a story

Most years, I persuade a famous novelist to write a 500-word recap of the Super BowlDostoyevski and Faulkner, among others, have donned their sportswriters’ caps to appear in this space — but this year Virginia Woolf phoned at halftime to say she was backing out, the Seahawks were up 22-zip. “Stick a fork in the Broncos, they’re done,” Virginia sniffed. “I’m boarding the next steamer back to Bloomsbury.”

I was devastated but hunkered down in my swamp shack to finish watching the game on my laptop and record my own impressions. Swamp Rabbit reluctantly continued to watch with me. Our eyes glazed over. The Seahawks ran hard, passed the ball well, intercepted and generally kicked ass. The second half was a boring brainless route. Peyton Manning looked like he might cry.

The rabbit started drinking early and can only remember that the guys wearing orange kept getting knocked sideways. That and the halftime show, a frantic splash of song and dance, the musical equivalent of throwing paint at a canvas.

Today he said, “I recall some little feller named Bruno Mars imitatin’ James Brown and gettin’ mobbed by a buncha nekked yahoos called the Red Hot Chile Peppers. Or was that just a bad dream?”

“That was the real deal,” I told him. “Those are some big-name, A-list acts, you dumb rodent.”

“I seen high school marchin’ bands was more original,” the rabbit said, reaching for the last slice of Super Bowl cake I stole at the Super Fridge before the game.

“Don’t be a snark,” I said, “The halftime show had cute kids, soldier videos, power ballads, fireworks, apple pie. What you got against those things? Remember what Virginia Woolf said: ‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life.'”

“I ain’t avoidin’ life,” the rabbit replied. “Just tryin’ to avoid football fans.”

Footnote: The only interesting musician who turned up was Bob Dylan, and that was just for a stupid-ass car commercial.