Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Deflategate Post: Postmodernism, Politics, and Swearing

As anyone who has been unfortunate enough to spend time with me over the last few months knows, my partner especially, I am unnaturally entertained by Deflategate. I can't quite put my finger on it, but everything (well, nearly everything) about it just amuses me to no end. The incompetent power structures, the total lack of institutional oversight, the paranoia, the investigation with its numerous but somehow insufficient annotations, the dueling sets of scientific proof, the “balls” press conference (my god the BALLS PRESS CONFERENCE!), the official double-speak (“more probable than not” “generally aware”), the dueling conspiracy theories, and now, the punishment far in excess of any other team that has been caught doing anything similar and far in excess of all the players suspected or proven to have committed violence against women (Ray Rice only got two games when it was “more probably than not” he punched his fiance. Oh, and hi, Ben Roethlisberger and your three game suspension!), all for maybe doing something that has been empirically proven to have had absolutely no consequences. (One wonders how many fewer passes Jerry Rice would have caught without that stickum.) With all due respect to Gravity's Rainbow, Underworld, and I, Hotel, Deflategate is America's greatest post-modern novel.

There's a lot that I could talk about, and yes, much of it would involve the swearing I've got planned, but instead, I'm going to swear about politics. (Also, the NFL said in their fucking statement that the Belichick and the Patriots were not to blame, so why the fuck the fine and the draft picks?) Here we go. If you are a conservative laissez-faire Republican, who believes that the government should get out of the way of the economy, that taxes “punish” success, who got all up in arms over the “You didn't build that,” moment AND that Tom Brady and the Patriots deserve to be punished for Deflategate because they have besmirched the integrity of professional football, you have the self-awareness of a concussed newt.

Bill Belichik, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots have done nothing that is not done by every corporation that uses every single nook and granny, every flexible clause, every bend and twist in the law to avoid paying taxes, paying their workers fair wages, keeping them safe, and incurring the apparently catastrophic overhead of not totally fucking the planet for everybody else. Just as the Patriots are better at reading the rules than everybody else, so is GE. Just as the Patriots, in their efforts to win at all cost, get very close to or step over the legally delineated line of conduct, so does nearly every bank, every hedge fund, and every major corporation. If you celebrate those corporations as “job creators” and you are celebrating the NFL's punishment of Brady and the Patriots as some form of justice, you are a fucking hypocrite. You have no idea what you believe or why you believe it and you are almost certainly a primary reason why we cannot have nice things, like paid parental leave, renewable energy, a living wage, fully funded education system, universal health care...

The Win-At-All-Costs Patriots, are, within their own system, ethically no different whatsoever from the Profit-At-All-Costs corporations that you somehow think are the fucking cornerstone of civilization. Sure, the Patriots beat your team over and over and over and over (Jets & Colts fans, feel free to just keep going), and you feel bad about that, but there are plenty of “losers” in the game of capitalism as well, and, from what I can tell, you don't give a fuck about the villages who lost their water supplies, the working poor who can't afford to make ends meet while having full-time employment, the people who get sick from pollution, future generations who will struggle with the effects of climate change, children in third world countries who end up working essentially slave labor, etc. If you had any idea what you actually thought and felt about these things, you'd realize that Rex Ryan is just the betamax of football.

Of course, you might argue that I'm talking about two totally different things; that it doesn't make sense to compare Goldman Sachs with the New England Patriots, but that is kind of my fucking point. The Patriots play football. Goldman Sachs and their buddies nearly destroyed the economy of the entire world. If you can get mad at Tom Brady for something that, despite their best efforts, no one was able to actually prove he did, but think Gary Cohn or Jamie Dimon are just doin' what they got to do and the pocket change fines they've paid are meaningful, then either you haven't really put a lot of thought into your belief structure, which, you know, I can see how that would happen to reasonable, well-meaning, intelligent people, or you are a fucking sociopath.

Yes. Economics, sports, and politics are very different human systems, and yes I am having a bit of a fun here, while venting a wide range of empty-the-liquor-cabinet frustrations, and yes, there are ways in which my comparison falls apart, but the point remains that humans are capable, and sometimes with beautiful results, of concurrently holding mutually exclusive belief systems. We are also capable, sometimes with catastrophic results, of passionately acting on our beliefs without ever examining or even really understanding what those beliefs are or mean. For me, with whatever is going on in my brain, Deflategate was an unnervingly entertaining way for me to grapple with this very troubling idea, (especially when I think that there is a real possibility the long term fallout from all of this could shatter the NFL as an organization. Seriously, just imagine if Brady's appeal reveals calculated intent to tarnish the Patriots.) but, that has always been a factor of the most successful post-modern novels. Yes, at their core a relentless heart of hopelessness beats, but you enjoy the story so much, you don't mind the absence of a satisfying answer to the posed questions.

Actually, wait, there is one other difference between the Patriots and the corporations you worship. The Patriots did not stand in the way when a member of their organization deserved to go to jail.