Sunday, February 04, 2007

$uper Bowl

Today was SuperBowl …. In fact, it just finished a few moments ago. Fittingly, for a fairly mediocre game, if finished as it started, in pouring rain more reminiscent of Manchester than Miami.

For the record, Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears by 29 to 17.

Super Bowl this year is memorable for rather more than the game itself. As I already mentioned, the actual football can hardly be described as a classis encounter. On the other hand, as often is the case with sporting finals, the result is rather more important than the game; so tonight the Colts are happy. Incidentally, we all will now be spared the plaintive wails about Peyton Manning never having been to Super Bowl.

Two things stand out, for me, about this year’s event.

The first is that, for the first time ever, a black coach has lead a Super Bowl team. In fact, both head coaches were black this year. This ought to be a cause for celebration. Indeed it is, but the celebration is marred somewhat by asking one simple question: Why the hell did it take so long?

The unappetizing answer is *Racism*. The facts are clear. Seventy percent of NFL players are black. Twenty five percent of NFL coaching staff is black. So, either black players aren’t intelligent or ambitious enough to become coaches, or someone is refusing advancement in favour of lesser-talented, but lighter coloured applicants.

My belief is that racism (or to give it its more palatable name *institutional racism*) is alive and well in the NFL. Let’s not get too carried away by the NFL either. In our kid’s school, seventy percent of the student role is black or Hispanic; substantially greater, in percentage terms, than the headcount of the teaching staff.

Now I don’t pretend for a moment that the Principal of our children’s school is racist, nor that the majority of senior staff at NFL teams is either. However, the procedures for training, recruitment, employment and promotion are all still conspiring to prevent the reasonable opportunities for many.

These issues run very deep here. Only this week, a senior politician (Joe Biden) voiced, in a manner Freud would have recognized, the belief that blacks really aren’t generally in a position to make important choices and decisions. When asked about Senator Barack Obama as a potential Presidential candidate he made remarks about …. At last, a decent, clean, mainstream black candidate. I paraphrase, but the patronizing mis-beliefs were obvious. He seems to have forgotten Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, and Rosa Parkes …. Oh yes ….. Colin Powell!!!

Incidents and events like this say much about how far we have come, but rather more about how far we still have to go.

The second, and equally remarkable incident describes just how far America has allowed *Corporate America* to set the standard. Corporate America is not very nice. It is greedy, grasping, swift to retribution and callous. If there is a dollar, or cent to be made, they simply have to have it in their own pockets, and there is no room at all for much in the way of human decency. There are notable exceptions to this. Gap, Body Shop and Dove all spring to mind. The NFL does not!.

The NFL this week threatened a Church with legal action if they went ahead with their planned screening of Super Bowl, in church, on their projector screen. This caused many churches, probably thousands, across America to cancel, or hastily revise the plans they had made for today. Apparently there is an NFL rule that prohibits the public screening of NFL matches on screens larger than 55”. Oh, except if you are a bar, then the sky’s the limit. My cynical mind wonders if this has anything to do with Budweiser being the largest sponsor of the NFL. The excuse offered by the NFL was that it was *common practice* for bars to show sporting events on larger screens. My response isn’t printable, but involves the extension of rather fewer than my full compliment of digits in their direction; but, more reasonably, to suggest to the NFL that Churches, when they display any events, do so on the screen they have and is, thus, *common practice*.

My brother-in-law told me that his church was having to move the projector closer to the screen to reduce the picture size. I suggested they should show what they wanted and say *so sue us*. He replied that that was the suggestion of his sensible fifteen-year-old daughter, but that the church couldn’t expose itself like that.

When will someone here cry *FOUL*? Yellow flags should be raining down on NFL headquarters from Churches and other concerned bodies across the land.

All week, on TV and radio, I have been hearing about the stature of Super Bowl here in The USA. Even Katie Couric said that the event was right at the heart of American culture. As such, it is an event of National significance, and not simply a cash-cow for the NFL. No one, least of all me, would deny the custodians of this spectacle a reasonable profit. This petty restriction was not reasonable, and now not tested in court, unfortunately. The NFL tries to restrict all images of their games to its own peculiar set of rules. Their demands and strictures even suggest that using small, relevant excerpts is a breach of their terms and conditions. As far as I can work out this flies directly in the face of *fair use* laws. While the NFL may indeed put themselves above God, they cannot impose terms that breach Federal laws.

My suggestion is two-fold. American advertisers (for it is all about advertising) should pull the ads. One major company doing so would send shockwaves through Corporate America that would reverberate for years. Ironically, it would also garner millions of dollars of free advertising for the sponsor concerned.

Failing that, America should simply switch off. Just once, one year, go out and do something more useful instead. Turn off the TV, don’t watch it, tell the greedy, the uncharitable and the unconcerned that this time they went too far. One Super Bowl, no audience, job done.

This year, you wouldn’t have missed much.

No comments: