Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's possible to care about more than one thing

On my previous post, which was about football, I received this comment:

People are rioting in the streets demanding justice. Children are hungry and homeless this Thanksgiving. We just bombed Syria....again. But this. Yes. Priorities. Good to have in your 30's.

Of course, I have no idea who wrote this. I don't know if it's one of the many trolls I've attracted over the years, or an all-new troll, or someone I know who feels like I needed to read this without confronting me directly. In any case, it's a pretty hostile dig.

But that isn't what bothers me about it. The attitude behind it does, and has for years.

Many people — most of whom I wouldn't argue with in principle — operate under a notion that if you're not talking at every moment about the gravest ill in society, then you are foolish and part of the problem. That because a person can care only about one thing (apparently), it had better be the Most Important One at all times.

They seem to think every problem in the world would vanish if people would just step away from the sports for a few minutes — or any other distraction created by puppetmasters solely for the purpose of enslaving people or whatever such self-righteous nonsense.

These people hijack all sorts of posts and conversations, purportedly making a point about someone's sense of perspective but mainly saying, "Look at me, I see more clearly than you do."

(I suppose we'd call this "righteousjacking" if that weren't such an unwieldy term.) 

The perspective argument has its time and place, but it too requires perspective. If someone is forever dwelling on welfare, for example, it's right to set them straight about what really gobbles the most governmental spending. Priorities, as the above commenter would say.

Random zero-sum scolding such as, "You should care about world hunger, not Sons of Anarchy," on the other hand, accomplishes nothing.

A blog post about the Saints — part of a weekly series I've been writing all season long, no less — is not evidence I don't care about more pressing issues. I think the 10 1/2 years I've been writing this blog is pretty clear proof of that. That fact is even more evident offline, where my sister saw me watching MSNBC last year and asked, "Do you ever watch anything fun?" (And she works in the U.S. Congress, arguably not a hotbed of wackiness.) Of course I do. In fact, I'm a pretty silly person most of the time. Not because I haven't seen or been through any hardship in my life, but because I have. Every time I joke about something, or get irrationally passionate about trivial things, it's a way of coping with the real problems out there that would be overwhelming to try to shoulder.

There's nothing noble about being miserable every moment, nor does such an outlook facilitate lasting change. That hyperserious perspective isn't any less skewed than being blasé about everything. It certainly doesn't make anyone pleasant to be around.

I lived in Missouri for years, so I've seen its particular strain of racial tension firsthand. (Indeed, I recently unfriended a Missouri acquaintance on Facebook because she referred to a man as "colored." She's 22.) So when the grand jury's decision in Ferguson was announced, I cried. In the middle of a shitty Saints game, I suddenly cared a lot less about the shitty Saints game. I didn't tweet or write much about Ferguson for a variety of reasons. But the main ones were that 1) it was simply too sad in a real way and 2) I had nothing profound to add to the conversation. It's a terrible situation all around with no winners or positive outcome even in the best scenario. That seems to me too obvious to express with much more than quiet tears. (In other cases, conversation or good works do the trick. One size of expression does not fit all issues.)

At times, I've been exactly the kind of person I'm decrying here; I own up to that. But over time, I've learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. Deep down, I believe most people have a sharp sense of empathy and a desire for justice to be done. So I don't judge them harshly for caring about something superfluous, be it sports or the Kardashians. Because we all have that level of something, whether or not we admit it. That doesn't keep me from trying to be a better person every day and refusing to put up with ignorance wherever it rears its head in my presence.

While driving to work on Tuesday afternoon, I tuned to a sports-talk jock who said something to the effect of, "If you're upset that your football team isn't doing as well as you thought it would despite its talent, if that's what you're mad about, then you're doing pretty good. Because it's ultimately something that isn't important." 

Words of wisdom.

I keep that perspective in mind, even when it reads like I don't. Don't mistake that for apathy where it counts. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Revised Saints prediction, part IX


(Last week: 6-10)

Once again, I'm writing this before the game is over. Because, really, it's all over.

This Saints team won't win another game this year. With everything that's happened to them, I almost believe it's divine intervention at the hand of a particularly cruel deity.

Even with the astounding amount of injuries, I thought they had a shot against the Ravens. After all, Drew Brees had a chance to beat the last team he hasn't beaten, and it was Monday Night Football, and milestones and prime time are two of his best motivators. Alas, Baltimore had them beat in every phase, in a way that infuriated me. It's always infuriating to see the ones you support completely dominated, especially when it's by swaggering jerks.

To say nothing of the Saints' ineptitude in general. And don't even get me started on the bent officiating. Or that the terrible Ferguson decision was issued during the game. What a miserable night. Not that the two events are even remotely equivalent, but my faith in just about everything died a little more tonight. 

The worst part, football-wise, is that there are several weeks left in the season. After three straight losses at home, I don't think there's anything the Saints can do right. Like I said early in the season, there's something wrong with this team that's deeper than what's happening on the field. I'm not sure what the answer is, apart from a lot of turnover in the offseason.

It's only through the bizarre ineptitude of the entire NFC South that the Saints weren't eliminated from playoff contention long ago. But they will be soon enough. There's nothing left. 

What a shame. What a waste.

Other NFL divisions

NFC Midwest

The perennial winner? Casserole.

AFC Deep South

Blames the NFC Deep South for all of its problems.

NFC Pacific Northwest

The uniforms are breathtaking, but the play is depressing.

AFC New England

Its teams came over on Mayflower trucks.

NFC New York

It’s proud to kick your division’s ass, at least theoretically.

AFC North Dakota

Work is work.

NFC South Carolina

Flies a Redskins flag specifically to offend.

AFC Least

Gives other teams teams to beat.

NFC West Coast

Where games don’t start way too early, ahem!

AFC Middle East

Still a less-hazardous locale than any football field.

NFC Siberia

Every game is rescheduled to Detroit every week.

AFC Insufferable

Consists of the respective fan bases of the Patriots, the Cowboys, the Eagles and the Seahawks (the latter subbing in until the Raiders stop being sad).

NFC Hipster

Insists the NFL hasn’t been cool since facemasks became a thing.

AFC Obama

Mocked relentlessly by the NFC No.

NFC More Butts

Winner of the “Fan names a division” contest on Twitter.

AFC Extra Crispy

It’s only a matter of time before the league gets this corporate.

North & South on AMC

A classic miniseries starring Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trailer review: Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas stars Kirk Cameron as Kirk Cameron, and also stars a man named Christian (Darren Doane), who isn’t sure he likes what Christmas has become. While hosting a party in his massive, mall-like mansion, Christian decries the materialism of Christmas and all the holiday trappings that everyone is having the time of their lives enjoying.

“This ... is not ... what Christmas is all about,” Christian laments to Kirk Cameron, after both have retired to Christian’s car, because apparently that’s more Christmas.

Christian then rattles off several true facts about the pagan origins of many Christmas symbols, and why those facts bum him out so much.

“Newsflash! Not in the Bible!” he says, either about his car or about Christmas trees.

Kirk Cameron then sets Christian straight — not on how cool it is that all major religions and nonreligions have observances during the winter solstice, so maybe we’re all one and the same after all, but on how all of that is garbage and everything is all Christianity, even if it doesn't seem like it and isn't.

A slow-motion vignette about the nativity follows, where nothing gets said and baby Jesus is represented by a cloth, and it totally works, you guys. Christian is SO rapturously convinced that he immediately becomes the life of the party, happy to see his family, friends, tree, presents and (presumably) peppermint bark through the aperture of Kirk Cameron's Jesus. A montage of dancing follows. Christmas has been saved. All in two minutes and three seconds. A holiday miracle for our times.

The trailer hints at a longer movie, raising the possibility that the trailer didn’t spoil it entirely. Perhaps what we see in the preview is the first act, and that the real conflict arises when Christian wakes up on Christmas morning realizing that everything Kirk Cameron told him is not only razor-flimsy, but also kind of awful. Maybe Christian comes to terms with the cultural melding that is Christmas, accepting the fact that people celebrate it in many different, personal ways, and that’s OK. Perhaps Christian thinks it over for the next 12 days, and on Jan. 6, has his epiphany. Talk about saving Christmas!

But, more likely, the longer film is simply the preview’s story arc with a lot more Kirk Cameron proselytizing and Christian dad-dancing. You might come away from this trailer thinking you want two minutes of your life back, but you’ll have to see the full movie to want 80 minutes of your life back.

Unrated; 2 minutes, 3 seconds; now playing on the Internet.