Is Football a Metaphor for Political Culture? | Public Seminar

This post was originally published at Public Seminar on January 24, 2018.

Dear Frank Bruni,

You and I have a lot in common. We are both gay. We are both white. We are both card-carrying members of the well-educated, Northeastern, liberal elite. We both voted for Hillary Clinton (OK, my politics are to the left of yours and I voted for Bernie Sanders first, but then I voted for Hillary Clinton.) We both wept when Hillary lost. We both love professional football, despite strong evidence that it is a troubled, exploitative, racist and homophobic sport. We both live with that contradiction and others: being queer, for example, is excellent preparation for giving in a contemporary political climate, where the pieces don’t quite fit together.

But this morning you let me down. Today’s column is graphic evidence of why large swaths of the United States think that New Yorkers like us have contempt for them (and perhaps evidence of why someone should actually be editing the opinion writers at The New York Times.) In “The Existential Hell of This Year’s Super Bowl” (New York Times, January 24 2018), you take a giant, inexplicable whizz, not on the exploitative football industry itself, but on two teams and — more importantly — hundreds of thousands of Patriots and Eagles fans who are still glowing from Sunday’s games. It was a great day, Frank. The New England Patriots came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20, and the Philadelphia Eagles demolished the Minnesota Vikings number one defense in a 38-7 win. We are looking forward to the Super Bowl.

So why is the Super Bowl “an existential hell?” Because it is just an extension of Trump’s America. According to you, it will be boring because the Patriots are so good that they are always in it: you describe their come from behind victory as “about as surprising as sesame seeds on a bun.” More importantly, you don’t want them in the Super Bowl at all because prominent members of the Patriots organization — owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and QB1 Tom Brady, and some members of the team — are vocal Trump supporters.

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