The Victorious Giants in the Canyon of Heroes
On Football, War and American Society
Among the many splendid insights the brilliant and prescient Trinidadian revolutionary activists, political theorist and intellectual polymath CLR James provided to those of us who are trying to understand the riddle of human life, is his recognition of the role of sport in society. According to the distinguished Barbadian professor of British Diplomatic history Keith Sandiford James taught historians that “it is impossible to understand the Victorians without understanding the role of sport.”
Hence when CLR James tells us in his seminal book on Cricket – the quintessential Victorian upper class game – “He knows not Cricket who only Cricket Knows,” we are alerted to the deeper meanings of the game in British society through his interrogation of the value system that determine the rules of the game.
The same can be said of football. It is a war game that organizes it players like combat squads, and the language of the game is strictly military, with talk of ‘Field Generals,” “penetration of lines,” “throwing the bomb” and the like. It is the perfect game for the most warmongering society on earth.
The game’s terminology goes perfectly with the war song that is our national anthem, which speaks of “bombs bursting in air.” The perfect background sound for the vicious bird of prey, the Bald Eagle, which is our national symbol. But a strange thing has happened: The game of football is being used to take people’s minds of the real wars and internal strife that plague or nation.
Eric Williams Came from Australia for the Party
A Happy Camper!
The Room Erupted in Joy!!
When the Giants took the Patriots Down!
Our Host: Brother Zach
The Thrilling Giant’s Victory even put a Smile on the face of a Raven’s Fan!
I didn’t give these issues a thought as I cheered the Giants at Super Bowl Party hosted by Zach Husser, a community organizer in Hackensack New Jersey who routinely mobilizes people to take collective action in defense of the public interests. And I think of these things all the time.
Like all other football fans, I too was caught up in the combination of grace, elegance and physical prowess displayed by the great athletes out on the football field. During my boyhood in Florida football had been a civic religion; and I had measured my manhood by the game. So I was as bewitched by the spectacle of the Super Bowl as anyone.
But as I looked at the pictures I took of the enthusiastic crowd the day after, reveling in the scrumptious culinary delights while heightening the euphoria sipping vintage spirits, I wondered if Zach could command an enthusiastic crowd such as this to protest the looming invasion of Iran. And I remembered the slogan advanced by the Emperor Diocletian in the dying days of the Roman Empire: “Panen et Circenses!” Give the untutored mob “bread and circuses” and they won’t notice the empire is falling apart.
That’s why Americans would rather throw a ticker tape parade in the “Canyon of Heroes”- located in the financial center of the American empire- for football players, make believe warriors, grown men playing a boys game, rather than our real warriors. The young men and women we sent to hell and back on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan – the cream of the working class and some of the bravest and most honorable of our fellow Americans who voluntarily answered the nation’s call to service – are ignored.
That’s got to be a big part of the reason the suicide and homeless rate is so high among veterans of these wars. They want a parade too, one that acknowledges their supreme sacrifices on our behalf: A chance to bask in the nation’s gratitude in a national healing ritual that celebrates their service to the nation. I’m down with them….and until they get a parade I’m not going to any more parades for pampered, highly paid and over praised, athletes whose work is their common pleasure!
Mambo Yo Yo!
Victor Cruz Salsa Dancing in the End Zone!
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 7, 2012