Category: News

Bread and Circus: So Long, NFL


Full disclosure: (1) I know some NFL players. One of them grew up across the street from me. Another was a customer of a business I owned. (2) My uncle was an All-American football player. (3) An athlete from my hometown won the Heisman trophy. (4) I am an athletically-challenged female who was born in the US before Title IX of the Civil Rights Act became law.

My participation in most sports was as a spectator and at that I excelled. Since my father was an umpire at the local Little League Baseball games. I learned how to score a game when I was still in grade school. I was one of those geeks in the marching band in high school, so I attended every football game. I wrote skits for the pep rallies for the basketball and football teams.

They won more games than they lost. Sometimes they were league champions. There was an innocent, fun sense of community at all those games.

It was fun until it wasn’t.

I still remember that cold, damp September evening when a popular football player tackled an opponent. He lowered his head just before they made contact. It resulted in his permanently damaging his spinal cord in the process. He never walked again.

In college, women could participate in a few intramural sports such as field hockey, but we all knew that sports–the real sports–were for the men. Given how women excel at so many sports today, it’s difficult to understand the mindset of that time.

My attitude started to change when I saw what rock star status the college football players enjoyed. I questioned why they, who just kept repeating a course until the professor finally passed them, were attending college on scholarship. Why did these largely dim-witted men get to go to school for free? Where were the academic scholarships for women such as myself who would actually graduate and earn a degree?

I was still naive. I did not yet realize that it was all about the money. But I did realize that the National Football League had somehow tricked American colleges into becoming the de facto minor league for the NFL. The schools bought talented athletes with scholarship money, which translated into exciting football teams, which translated into increased alumni donations and, better yet, televised football games and the millions of dollars associated with that.

I used to look forward to the Fall months because it meant the start of football season. I watched the games but I ignored the enthusiastic female cheerleaders because I knew they were there just for the television cameras. Besides, they made less money than the vendors hawking popcorn. It was all about the players and their multi-million dollar salaries.

Why? I wondered. These men have not cured cancer, or devised a way to bring safe drinking water to the world. They have not negotiated lasting peace treaties among warring nations. No, they can run deftly or catch a football and, as difficult as that may be, those skills should not be worth much more than what those cheerleaders are earning. Except that they are, at least to the people writing the checks, because it is all about the money.

Then I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly about how the NFL fleeces taxpayers. It turns out that the teams are tax-exempt. They, who amass unfathomable profits, are listed as non-profit organizations under the US tax code. No wonder they can charge hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a single game. No wonder they can pay their players obscene amounts of money. They bribe cities to build new stadiums for them. They threaten to leave town if they don’t get their way. The late and much-hated Art Modell did, in fact, have a little hissy fit with the city and surreptitiously move the beloved Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, where they became, ironically, the Baltimore Ravens.

Which brings us to the Baltimore Ravens–and Ray Rice and Roger Goodell.

I have watched the videos of the player knocking his wife unconscious in the elevator. More alarmingly, I have watch the women attending the last Raven’s game wearing the Ray Rice jerseys and saying that the problem was Mrs. Rices’ because, after all, she spit on her husband so he was entitled to knock her unconscious and drag her part way from the elevator. Hey, it’s the woman’s fault. Isn’t it always the woman’s fault?

No, it isn’t.

The most appalling scene in last week’s NFL games, was the troubling number of women who chose to wear their Ray Rice jerseys to the Raven’s game. In interviews, they explained that they supported Ray Rice and that his now-wife was at fault for the altercation. Most alarmingly, she expressed her apology for her role in the  event. They were apparently drunk. She spit; he hit. So to these female fans, she is at fault.

Shame on you and shame on the PR machine that allows you to think this way.

There is more, much more that I could say. I will say this:

Shame on you NFL. I am done with you and your anti-female message. More importantly, shame on you for letting the colleges crank these football players through the system. Apparently, no one owns the responsibility for training them in what counts as a moral code. It is not alright for a man to hit a woman. It is not alright for a man to knock his wife unconscious or to hit his children with a switch. It is not right and I hold you, NFL responsible. You sign this raw talent and leave it raw.

Your entire business model is an insult to women and to these young men who aspire to be NFL players. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get to this point but I am done with you. I won’t be watching another professional football game. I won’t be checking out the standings.

For you, it is all about the money. Let’s state the obvious: You have no use for women. And this woman, from this point forward, will have nothing more to do with you.

Five things I know today

American Flag

  1. It’s Primary Election Day in Massachusetts. After much thought, it is time to toss out my current member of the House of Representatives and vote for someone who I hope will be more relevant. Hope is the operative word here. As for the other races, I hope I’m not making a mistake, but at least I’m making what I hope is an informed decision. (There’s that word hope again. It does pop up a lot, doesn’t it?)
  2. I ignore robo calls prior to elections. Do these actually sway voters’ opinions?
  3. Not that anyone has asked, but my suggestion for a Constitutional amendment would be to limit every elected official’s time in office to one term, although they could seek re-election after sitting out a term. Increase the presidential term to 6 years; reduce the Senate term to 4 years; increase the congressional term to 3 years. This way officials wouldn’t spend the majority of their time in office courting donors, which brings us to point 4.
  4. Fund elections solely by a single pool of money. The money goes into the pool based on the voluntary contribution check box on one’s income tax form. If you don’t pay taxes, you don’t get to contribute your dollar to the election campaign pool. This will put a lot of campaign advisors and advertising firms out of business,but since they are for a free market economy, we expect no whining from any of them. 
  5. Never miss an opportunity to vote.The bad guys are counting on you not voting.

An Open Father’s Day Letter to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld

American Flag


Father’s Day is this Sunday. I’m sure you will be gathering with your children to celebrate this special day.

Good for you.

However, there is a problem in Iraq. Do you remember Iraq? That was the country that you insisted we invade.

It was over a decade ago and I know you are getting on in age, so it might have slipped your mind. You told us that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”, whatever those might be. It was, of course, a lie. But what do lies matter to you?

I, for one, never believed your lies, but now we all know now that it was not about Saddam. It was about the oil in the ground; oil that you old oilmen thought was yours.

It was not.

You fanned the flames. You beat the drums. You hoodwinked people who should have known better into authorizing an invasion.

In short, you lied.

I’ve read the news reports this morning about the crisis in Iraq. It seems that insurgents are about to overrun the very cities that we have spent over a decade trying to liberate.

Billions of dollars lost. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives lost. How many service men and women killed or grievously wounded in the conflict?

And for what?

For nothing. For a lie.

I have friends who will commemorate this Father’s Day without their son or daughter because their child was killed by an IED or a sniper in Iraq. I have friends who served in the battlefield hospitals who said that yes, they saved a soldier’s life because they had the technology to do so, but they questioned if it was the right thing to do. They were sending those soldiers home to a life of permanent disability, some so brain damaged that they can never survive without perpetual care. Their parents, who had once diapered them and taught them to walk and talk as infants, must do so again.

These are your soldiers. The men and women you sent into war.

So go back to your book tours and television interviews and cheesy paintings. Go back to your lives totally detached from reality. Open your gifts as the innocent citizens of Iraq try to raise their children in what is still a war zone. So much lost; nothing gained.

Your children might call you Dad, or Father, or Poppy. Why should the rest of us not call you war criminals?

Enjoy your day, as your soldiers suffer. Enjoy your day as Baghdad might again fall.











The Politics of Hate


How to start a revolution:

  1. Find a group of oppressed people, or people who perceive themselves to be oppressed.
  2. Declare yourself their leader and unite them against a common enemy.
  3. Toss gasoline on the fire and stand back.

The reason most revolutions fail, however, is that the leader was no leader and the oppressed were just played like a $3 fiddle.

How to lead a revolution:


  1. Speak to and for the truly oppressed.
  2. Have truth on your side.
  3. Don’t back down.


Makers and Takers: I pitch a new reality TV series


As a one-time minimum wage earner in America–even with a college degree, I’ve been listening to the comments pro and con on the topic with a sense of bemusement. President Obama wants to increase it to $10.10 an hour and, according to those opposed to it, it will lead to less work for all.

I’m not sure how they arrived at this factoid; all I know is that I earned roughly the equivalent of the proposed amount in 1985 and it wasn’t very much money even then. I had to live at home.

Then I found a job that paid $650 a month (before taxes) and we all celebrated, but this is what I dealt with every month:

  • $200 rent
  • $30 heat and electric
  • One weekly tank of gas for the car: $20.00 x 4 = $80
  • $100 health insurance

So long, groceries. Maybe I’ll see you next month. I couldn’t have survived without my parents.

Now, take the $10.10 amount and plug your monthly expenses into the budget. Where I live, the average rent for an apartment is about $1000 per bedroom per month.

But I’m not here to argue the point. Instead, I’d like to suggest a fun reality show based on the minimum wage. That last sentence would be cruel except for who I want as contestants: members of the United States Congress. How much fun would that be?

The rules are simple:

  1. Each contestant is given $200 cash, a pair of jeans, a pair of chinos, 2 shirts, a jacket, and a pair of shoes.
  2. In the first episode, contestants are given new identities and a high school diploma. They must surrender their cell phones and any access to their previous lives. They are warned that they will lose $20 for each infraction of the rules.
  3. Contestants are then blindfolded and driven to a small town in America where they are dropped off and told they will be picked up in 90 days.

Then gather the family around the television and watch the fun as our camera crews follow  “John from Ohio” and “Paul from Wisconsin” as they try to find food, shelter, and work.

John might get an early start hitchhiking to Wal-Mart the next morning because he overheard a conversation in the Dollar Store (where he went for underwear and a toothbrush) that they are hiring.

Paul heads right over to Denny’s restaurant where he hopes to parlay his experience as a dishwasher into a job.

Hopes are raised; hopes are dashed. And the money is running out. How will this end?

Someone gives John the address for the welfare department, which he keeps in his new vinyl wallet. Paul just heard about a men’s shelter outside of town but he doesn’t have a car and the county did away with public transportation during the Reagan administration. John thinks of seeing if there is work at the local Post Office, which he helped to name. He loses $20 of his cash when he tries to tell the Postmaster who he really is.

John and Paul might consider pooling their resources except for the most fun rule of all: the winner is the contestant with the most cash after 90 days. The winner is flown home to his or her old life and the loser is taken to another small town where he or she must compete against a new contestant for another 90 days.

Who might it be? Maybe “Eric from Virginia” or “Ted from Texas.”

I, for one, will be glued to my television all season long.

In the meantime, if you are a producer, have your people call my people (that would be me, actually).