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Football Under the Trump Administration
Everybody who watched the 2019 Super Bowl can clap themselves on the back: you just witnessed the worst modern era Super Bowl (and I'd bet good money the worst one ever played). We are ants in its afterbirth. There is no God and we are his prophets.
If you didn't watch it, here's what you need to know: nobody scored anything other than a field goal until the final quarter of the game. Even if you don't understand football, what you need to know is the ball didn't go into anybody's hands that often. Even the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, likely the best player in NFL history, played like shit: ever so often, you'd see the camera focus on his placenta-injected face with a pout so big you could serve a buffet on his bottom lip. Jared Goff, who looks like a beefed up Ryan Gosling, was so shook all game he had the same affect as every single one of Gosling's Nicolas Winding Refn directed characters. Todd Gurley, one of the top five running backs in the league, didn't do a damn thing and was outsnapped by new dad bod icon CJ Anderson. It was like a peewee football game played by giant toddlers and coached by two drunk dads: offensive wunderkind Rams Coach Sean McVay doing everything but offensive wunderkindness, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, of the Winston Churchill and Trumpian jowls and scowls getting a ring with something much as the same effect as winning a heavy weight title fight because your opponent tried to hit you with a hook and knocked himself out, on some cartoon shit. Did the Patriots play good defense? Yes. Did it feel like they did? Hell no.
Speaking of Trump: every Super Bowl is now about him and has been since he mobilized an entire army of corn-fed narcissists that fart like bulldogs to vote for him, largely thanks to his use of culture war staples. Ever since Trump was elected, football hasn't been football but a battleground. If Chairman Mao's proclamation that politics is war without bloodshed is true (and for all my issues with the Immortal Scientist, I think he was right on that account), then the 2019 Super Bowl was war without politics. Or at least it was until Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, took his knee. Then it just became what war is: politics with blood.
But what set the politicization of the 2019 Super Bowl into overdrive was also the ties between Trump and the Patriots, to the point Tom Brady was spied with a MAGA hat in his locker, Belichick writing an endorsement letter, and Pats owner Robert Kraft donating an insane amount of money to Trump's inauguration. Since Trump's been in office, the Patriots have been in the Super Bowl every year. It's a bit of a cliché now, isn't it? As long as the Patriots wind up in a Super Bowl, think pieces will come out: The Patriots represent a certain brand of American evil, they're also the greatest team in NFL history, they're the MAGA team, etc. It doesn't stop it from being true, however. This doesn't even get into the fact the Patriots have totally cheated before, but that's a whole different essay.
But this is all old news. Every time the Patriots play a team, that team gets welcomed to The Resistance, no matter whose pockets their play lines. In fact, this year's newest inductee is owned by Rugrat toupeed Stan Kroenke, who threw a temper tantrum to move the St. Louis Rams to one of the most football apathetic towns in existence and who found it in his heart to donate $100,000 to Hillary's victory fund and then $1 million to Donald Trump's. Seeing as the entirety of the NFL is founded on a bloody game with players running smack into each other until their brains have the consistency of Grape Nuts while a reptile sits in the stands and reaps the benefits...lionizing any team is a fool's errand.
But despite me knowing that, I still watched the Super Bowel. You may ask: Why watch if you know the forces in opposition are closely related in just how bad they might be?
My answer is simple: I need the possibility of a slightly better world, always. I will always take the slight betterment of the world by seeing a group of blue bloods embarrassed by a slightly more likable group of blue bloods. It's good that there's no real material stakes in watching the Patriots win another Super Bowl. The pain of seeing their owner Robert Kraft stumble onto a field to jump around with a group of people whose lives he holds in balance is only symbolically important for the hoi polloi. If there were true material stakes, the event might not be bearable.
Last Sunday, it was barely bearable anyway. If you need to look to how diseased this Super Bowl felt, you need to look no further than the half-time show.
The half time show is always an up and down proposition. In my lifetime, there's been only one transcendent Super Bowl show (Prince's). Other than that, you understand whomever plays is going to be a truncated version of what makes you like that band. The Who and Springsteen's epics felt quaint, the Rolling Stones looked like the grandpas they are. Every half time show ends with the same question: What's the big deal with that band? Everything you need to know about the half time show is Imagine Dragons were reverse engineered in a lab under the Taj Mahal to one day play it.
That's still better than Maroon 5's performance. What I saw and heard was a limp display of R&B-flavored rock music. Maroon 5 is INXS for stock brokers. As Adam Levine walked through the crowd and fans tried to touch the hem of his garment, it was never more apparent that the people on the field are actors. Adam Levine tried to do a little dance during "Moves Like Jagger" and it felt more like trying to be seduced via dance by Elaine Benes. When he lost his shirt, he proved that there's nothing less sexy than someone trying to be sexy. It felt like a karaoke night at a Chippendales. You could almost smell the magarita mix. Even Big Boi, one of the greatest rappers of all time, couldn't save the show, though watching Adam Levine pretend to sing during "The Way You Move" with Sleepy Brown was pretty amusing.
The way I'm describing this Super Bowl makes it sound like a trainwreck of epic proportions. But it never felt that way. It just felt like the low and slow hum of our terrible current moment, a moment where the news is glacial until the full monstrous comes into effect and we see how quickly we were moving all along. Like sitting in a subway train, you don't realize it until you're there in five minutes. The game ended as soon as it began and it felt like watching our news cycle. Two undeserving parties fighting over how they'll give resources to the rich, with one at least offering scraps to the everyday people. In a world that sucks, the Super Bowl, the supposed best game of the year, couldn't even show the possibility of something better.
At the end of the game, my Super Bowl party ended. The room was gutted. Goodbyes were said quickly. The feeling in the room was the feeling that once again we were drug underfoot the big machine moving ever forward. I drove home listening to "A Pair of Brown Eyes" by the Pogues. In the song, a young drunk listens to an old war vet tell him how he spent all of the war thinking of a certain woman, only to come back from the war and find she hadn't been waiting for him. At first, the song's narrator feels disgusted with the old man for harboring that hope and rambling at him about it. That's sort of how the Super Bowl party ended.
It'd be fine if not ideal if the Patriots won an actual good game. Instead they got a team intent on beating themselves. You can't put an asterisk but my memory of the game will always be not a game won but a game one team loss less. And for all my posturing that I don't care, I'm still mad the Patriots won. Enjoy your hamburgers, assholes.
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