News & Analysis
More than Ever the NFL Reflects the Dysfunction of US
Miami Dolphins prepare for Tim Tebow but are puzzled by 'Tebowmania' ... Tim Tebow has not gotten much playing time this season but Dolphins players are wary of the former UF star and the hype he attracts. Gird yourselves, Miami. Hurricane Tebow is on its way. Tim Tebow, the one-man circus, returns to town Sunday. Just without the pomp and circumstance as his last visit to Sun Life Stadium. For one, he's not the Jets starting quarterback (at least not yet). And two, the organization isn't throwing a party in his college team's honor this time. But even if he's merely the Jets' backup QB and punt protector, Tebow can expect plenty of true-blue fans in the stands. Just think of the excitement if he actually gets on the field. – Miami Herald
Dominant Social Theme: The NFL is an exciting place to play football.
Free-Market Analysis: We are not quite sure why the NFL seems to provide us with a kind of US Passion play but it does.
We've explored this subject in the past because of the NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow. Just search the 'Net for "Tebow" and "Daily Bell."
We return to it because the NFL is in full swing and this trend continues to deepen and broaden.
More than baseball, more than individual sports, football increasingly reflects the US's militaristic and empire-driven culture. It is not, we believe, an entirely conscious process but one driven by cultural conditions as well as elite dominant social themes.
The power elite we report on certainly does utilize sports as one of the tools designed to promote its goal of world government. Sports are used as an opiate but also as an object lesson. People have a good deal of trouble distinguishing between what happens between white lines and what happens in real life.
People assume that the football field is a logical metaphor when it's not. People – especially men – watch a football game and may accept the action and subsequent regulation as a reality-based paradigm.
In a football game, players are constantly charging downfield. Some attack and some defend. This is just like life.
And as the action swirls, referees intently observe it, looking for infractions. We are given to understand that this little, square, emerald patch represents the boundaries of existence.
But, no ... here's how life really works ....
In real life someone, sometime, would just walk off the field and abandon the game entirely!
Who knows what this person would accomplish? Maybe he would be a great failure or a wonderful success. Maybe he would become impoverished ... or realize how to become rich.
But he would leave. He would step outside the squared circle. This is called "original thinking." The point is that life is not like a football game. It's far more complicated than that. It is not played on a bright, square field with refs watching.
This is the way the elites want you to perceive the world.
In fact, these elites seem to want you to visualize the problems of society within this context. And that's what makes football so fascinating for those who want to track dominant social themes.
Men – they are predominantly men – watch football because they bet on it. But they also identify with the players and their triumphs and tragedies.
They may not even know exactly what attracts them to football. Or why they find it so compelling. Here's some more from the article:
"Don't make more of it than it is; please don't," linebacker Kevin Burnett pleaded. "Tebow's going to come in for about five [plays]."
Sorry, Kevin. Everything Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner and evangelical hero, does is overhyped. GQ magazine put him on the cover of its football preview edition. NFL.com has a webpage dedicated solely to his highlights, entitled – appropriately enough – the TebowZone.
There's no way around it. Tebow – who has even fielded questions about his post-career political aspirations (he has them) – has moved beyond simply being an athlete.
Love him or hate him, he's an icon. But count Jared Odrick and Brian Hartline among the many who simply don't understand why.
"You don't want my real answer to that," Odrick said, when asked to explain the nation's infatuation with Tebow, the Florida Gator great. "I'd be on the front page of every newspaper. And I'd definitely be on Deadspin."
This is a most interesting answer. Does Odrick really understand why Tebow is the center of US attention these days?
It is not because he is a good – or bad – quarterback but because of his religious affiliation. He prays after touchdowns and this rubs some people the wrong way.
If Tebow plays quarterback and wins, participants in the US culture wars will be afflicted with – or comforted by – the idea that Fundamental Christianity has "won."
The same sort of projection follows Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick around. He is seen as a street thug for having gone to jail for beating and killing dogs as part of a dog-fighting and gambling ring.
But others see Vick as a misunderstood victim of culture and race. He is even seen as a victim of white justice.
This season, the regular refs are striking and replacement refs are working. The replacement refs are terrible. Some try to declare penalties on literally every play.
This is just like US society, too. The laws are so voluminous they could be applied to everyone, turning the US finally into the vast Gulag it is seemingly headed for anyway.
But while there is an undercurrent of grumbling, the NFL has not come out publicly and admonished the refs for calling too many penalties. Nor will it. To do so would be to contravene the larger metaphor.
Leviathan, on which the NFL is modeled, does not admonish its lawmakers for passing too many statutes nor its officers of the peace for "taking down" citizens and putting them in jail.
When asked if he understood 'Tebowmania', Burnett said no. "It's a case of, you've got a good PR guy," Burnett added. "I need to call him up, find out who he is."
But deep down Burnett probably DOES understand the reason for the Tebow controversy. As it becomes more and more difficult for people to express themselves freely in the US, the Passion play that football provides becomes more and more compelling.
People are attracted to football, especially men, because rooting for or against certain players has become a form of self-expression!
Conclusion: There is surely an index here for an entrepreneur. Call it a freedom/football index. The amount of attention paid to certain organized sports is inverse to the nation's misery and self-censorship.
Posted by dwstoian on 09/22/12 04:26 PM
Incredibly silly article. I guess sometimes you can read things so analytically that you create straw-men everywhere. Stop, take a deep breath and see the forest for the trees. ITS JUST A SPORT!
Reply from The Daily Bell
Of course it's not just "a sport" anymore ....
Google "Tim Tebow" ...
About 16,700,000 results (0.20 seconds)
Posted by auldhickory on 09/20/12 08:27 PM
Good perspective piece! The NFL, and FIFA its counterpart outside the US and Canada, now makes me think of the 1975 movie "Rollerball". By the year 2018, the world is under corporate rule after the failure of nation-states. It is a world with no hunger, want, or freedom. Rollerball is a violent game used as a diversion from the empty, soulless society (portrayed in several scenes). It allows people to cheer for their city and its owning corporation ("Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand for the playing of our corporate anthem!).
The details of this society are interesting. One character speaks of additional privileges on his leisure card. There is a scene where a historian explains that they've lost the entire 13th Century ("Poor 13th Century!"). Looking at the state of the world today, there is an eerie prescience to this forty year-old movie.
The real star of the movie is John Houseman, who portrays Mr. Bartholomew the CEO of the Energy Corporate. He brilliantly brings a "banal face of evil" to the character! His chief line is: "Rollerball was meant to demonstrate the futility of resistence, no man was ever intended to become bigger than the game."
If you've watched this movie, you'll probably understand what I mean.
Posted by Danny B on 09/20/12 07:43 PM
Don't say that I never add any humor to the Bell.
"Football combines the two worst activities of modern man,, meetings and violence"
Posted by TimurTheLame on 09/20/12 06:41 PM
Great perspective in the article.
"My name is Timur, and I used to be an (NFL) addict".
AA audience "hello Timur"
"My story is sad but common. At one point in my life I ran with the crowd. Life was good, business was good but there was an emptiness inside me. I found that I could only find happiness through escapism, not through any sense of accomplishment as a tradesman might for you see I was a businessman. I made lots of money but it was with phone-calls, information and connections. My life seemed to be going nowhere. I tried alcohol, various drugs, meaningless relationships but always woke up feeling empty.
Then the NFL entered my life. At first it was great enjoyment, great comradeship, exciting pub nights. I soon saw that the less learned of my comrades who I had previously considered 'obtuse' had this great capacity to remember statistics, biographies, scandals and possessed fantastic opinions on certain outcomes. I had misread them. They were in fact great intellects and spoke with Clintonian eloquence. I deferred to them... but then one day the game turned on me"
Been there, done that and can't believe how stupid I was at one point in my life when at the same time leading what seemed to be a 'normal' existence. Serious sports fans could logically be considered some form of drug addicts.
I suppose pulling out of this comes when a person realizes that it is just a game. Maybe when one sees retards with painted faces, shirtless in 30 degree below zero temperature screaming their heads off that a disassociation takes place. Maybe when a hot conflict is happening or is in the works and the NFL pre-game features various military bands and standards marched around with the inevitable orgiastic fighter jet flyby that an awareness comes about that there is a connection with the game being gamed.
Like any stimulant, sports in moderation is probably a good release. But like on cigarette packages or various anti-drug or alcohol campaigns there seems to be no warning label on football. I recall reading years ago that most spousal assaults take place on Super Bowl Sunday. Where are the do-gooders there?
Driving through rural New Jersey years back in September I was astounded by all the high school fields full of football practices taking place with the gender equivalent of cheerleading practices ( but thats another story, think Jon Benet-Ramsey). Football as a game seems to represent the patriotic notion of American exceptionalism added to aggressive military metaphors.
Iran? Never heard of them, who's their quarterback?
Posted by IndyLyn on 09/20/12 06:24 PM
LOL Judging from the low average rating, the DB elves struck a nerve! Great job, you cute little smarties! :-)
Posted by ccuthbert on 09/20/12 06:14 PM
You might add a anthropological aspect to football. In our culture, we have no rite of passage for our boys to become men. I think that many young men--and old men, for that matter--cling to the military and it's metaphor, football, for the meaning they desperately need from a rite of passage.
Posted by Jeanna on 09/20/12 04:16 PM
I think this is exactly why I enjoy shoot-em-up movies. Only in the movies do the good guys win. Entertainment seems to be the only place left where we can obtain a sense of justice.