The Great Dispute
Revealing sad Truths about American Values
Although people who listen to my commentary may find it hard to believe, I am not necessarily a contrarian. Even so, I often find myself marching to a different drummer. Hence I disagree with the howling mob who wants to hang the referee’s whose controversial call gave the Seattle Sea Hawk’s a victory over the Green Bay Packers, in last Monday night’s football game.
The out roar became so loud it was echoed by hard news reporters on nationally televised news shows. The controversy even found its way into the presidential campaign. To the casual observer with either a cavalier interest in football, or is indifferent to game, all the hoopla must appear an absurdity. “How can adults get so bent out of shape by a missed call in a kid’s game?” they ask.
Well, as the Trinidadian historian and political philosopher CLR James warned in the opening of his seminal text Beyond a Boundary: “He knows not Cricket who only cricket knows.” And he shows us how the game of cricket reflected the values of the Victorian upper class. The same can be said of football, which reflects the values of American civilization. It is the perfect game for a warlike people whose national anthem is a war song and national symbol a vicious bird of prey. Football is literally “America’s game.”
The importance of the game in American culture is reflected in the fact that it has been referenced by both President Obama and Mitt Romney on the stump. And the character of the candidates was exposed in their statements. President Obama is pro-union and routinely stands with the workers in their demands for fair wages and benefits, which is why they turn out and work for him come election time. Hence the president’s support for the refs comes as no surprise.
But when Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney called upon the owners to settle the lock out and get the “real refs back on the field,” which meant successfully bargaining with their union over wages and benefits, they were completely out of character. Their hypocrisy was shameless. Paul Ryan comes from Wisconsin, a state where the governor has curtailed the rights of public sector unions. And Lyin Ryan has backed his play.
But Wisconsin is also the home of the Green Bay Packers, in fact the team is owned by the citizens of the town, who hold shares in the organization. So it was an act of opportunism by a man whose allegiance to principle is determined by expedience. Thus while Ryan is quite prepared to deny bargaining rights to teachers, nurses, fireman, and cops, he insists that the demands of NFL referee’s be met because the home team lost.
He and Mitt could even be heard arguing that the “real refs” should be adequately compensated for their expertise. Hence by kick off time tonight the “real referees” will be back on the field. The contract they settled will pay the over $200,000 a year and generous benefits including healthcare and a pension, for a part time job a few months a year, Good for them. Yet No teacher, nurse or cop anywhere in America is so well compensated.
Republican apologists for this blatant hypocrisy – in which the demands of vital public servants for fair compensation are scoffed at while they demand that the National Football League give the referees what they want – argue that the refs are different from teachers and nurses because they are not being paid from the public till.
Yet everywhere in America hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent in the construction of lavish sports arenas in order to seduce the owners of sports teams into locating in their city. Hence this kerfuffle over a football game further exposes the duplicity, and twisted values, of the Republican ticket.
They all went for the ball
And started a fight that reverberated around the nation
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
September 27, 2012