On losing the Super Bowl

I don’t quite understand the significance of a winner-take-all one-game playoff for the championship of the National Football League. After watching over forty of these things, none of them deliver the drama of the hype that is built up before the big game which turns out to be extremely anticlimactic. Even the exciting, close games are anti-climactic. Yesterday’s game was no different. Some great plays were mixed in with a few awful mistakes, and the Ravens won by three. So, on this given Sunday, the team from Baltimore won by three, which is not to say they were better, it just says that they won. Time finally ran out. The final grains of sand trickled through the hour glass, and the team from San Francisco came up three points short. I’m just not convinced that it means anything. The simulacra of battle, a non-lethal version of “take-the-hill”, is played out on a grid of one hundred yards with each team defending their “hill” at each end of the field, harkening back to the eighteenth century when the English and the French faced off on different battlefields across Europe. What is it about human beings, males in particular, that they must fight to prove dominance, to elect a winner. Why are we hardwired for violence? Granted, football is incredibly violent, but protections are built in to make it very painful, but generally non-lethal. Players are wounded in the simulacra of war, but they aren’t killed. Football is the ultimate simulacra of war with rules in place so that a winner might emerge and vanquish the loser. The losers are destined not only to the shame of defeat, but because they are not destroyed, they must live with their defeat. The worst aspect to their defeat may not be the humiliation of watching the victors pick up their trophy, but perhaps it is the dark shadow of losing which will descend on them, erasing them and their excellent season from the collective memories of all who saw them lose. No one remembers the losers–no fame, no glory, the taste of blood and dirt in their mouths as they lie beaten and sore on the ground, the sound of the winners shouting out their victory. The losers lost only by three points in this case, which makes their loss all the more bitter and painful. Was it a question of luck, of skill, of the stars, of predestination, of cowardly behavior, of bad planning, of poor execution, or perhaps it was a combination of many of those things. Now, it is all over, and planning for the next season is already underway. The fans will remember their heroes, and the vanquished have been swept into the shadows of sports history inhabited by the unlucky second-place finishers. Other than a little excitement when the lights went out, or when the losing side almost caught up to their destroyers, the game was a humdrum affair. Ironically, more people will remember the new advertisements that were displayed during breaks than will remember the actual game, which was pedestrian at best, totally forgettable at worst. So Audi, M & M Mars, Volkswagen, Anhauser-Busch, and Dodge had great games displaying their latest marketing strategies for selling their products. Perhaps playing the Super Bowl is less about deciding which team is best and more about a lollapalooza canon-sized salute to our hyper-consumer capitalistic society, obsessed with selling/buying the next big thing. The game is only a pretext to selling us more stuff.

On Chuck Norris

Where do you start with a guy who is not a guy but a very strange caricature of a guy? There is a whole sub-genre of Chuck Norris jokes: Chuck Norris is so tough he makes onions cry. (I didn’t say they were good jokes.) I mean, I don’t doubt his sincerity as a person, but thinking that just brute force and a black and white ethic about good and evil in the world will serve you in all situations is a little disingenuous. I have always wondered if he actually believes the stuff he says or if he takes himself seriously. Don’t get me wrong, his movies are really entertaining if you aren’t worried about plot, story, verisimilitude, acting, or reality, and the only thing you care about is watching Chuck kick some evil-doer’s ass. Yet, since all of his movies are the same, and even his television series is all the same, after awhile, he is not only predictable, he’s boring. But I’m not here to insult or diss Chuck Norris. He is the one with the millions of dollars, a thirty year career, and enough star power to make whatever movies he would ever care to make. His formula for hop’n chop flicks is almost infallible. Sometimes an audience does not want subtlety, a complicated plot line, artistic cinematography, incredible dialogue which discusses existential issues of human philosophy, or complex character development. Sometimes an audience just wants to see the bad guys suffer, the evil-doers foiled, the good guy get the girl, and there are no ironic, melancholy, or tragic plot twists which make everyone cry at the end. In his movies, the good guy wears a white hat, he defeats the bad guy in spite of a few set backs, and justice is served, the order of the world is restored. Yet, I wonder if such a manicheistic view of the world is necessarily a completely healthy way to live. In spite of what Chuck Norris might believe about how the world works, or how good and evil are portrayed in his movies, the world is a much more subtle place to live than he or his movies would have you believe. First, movies are not the real world–they are art and artifice, one hundred per cent, creative work that may comment on reality, but is not reality at all. Chuck Norris is an actor, of sorts, so it is his job to invent simulacra about daily life which is or can be entertaining, according to your own point of view. In the end, point-of-view is about all anyone has. Chuck’s points of view are different than mine, no doubt, but he’s the rich one, not me. His talents for making entertaining movies are multiple and varied. Gifted athletically, he can kick and punch and hit and fight in a special movie sort of way, believable but fake, a simulacrum of fighting that is not fighting or even hitting, but mostly pretending, and almost entirely phony, which is especially obvious if one were forced to watch as they filmed the scenes. He never really hits anyone at all. His stuntmen are trained to “take-a-punch” and make it seem real. So the paradox of a Chuck Norris film is palpable: he would have you think that his black and white world of good and evil may be mastered vis-a-vis his fists and feet, but it’s really all a hoax–he never really hits anyone at all. It’s all movie magic. And we all know that magic is about illusion, not telling the truth, deceiving people, dissimulating, and tricking the viewers into thinking that violence is the answer, that the evil are vanquished, that bad people do not flourish but get their just desserts. None of which is true in this complicated terrible world. Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.