A major newspaper demands Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady answer for his support of President Trump. Lady Gaga will use her halftime show to sing about “equality” and “inclusion.” The insufferable and polarizing cast of “Hamilton” will sing “America the Beautiful.” There will be not one but two ads hectoring us over the issue of immigration.
All of this is happening, not during the Oscars or the next hour of CNN, but during that only time of year when Americans of every political stripe were once allowed to come together for a 5 hour oasis away from politics and the culture wars … the Super Bowl.
Because, as the saying goes, liberals eventually ruin everything, the politicization of sports was inevitable. That is not to say sports were always a politics-free oasis. We have had our share of Muhammad Alis and Jackie Robinsons and Billie Jean Kings. These transformative figures were, however, exceptions. They also stood for something that transcended the game.
Anyone who has watched even a snippet of ESPN over the last few years knows that there is now a relentless push to politicize everything about almost every sporting event. Whereas a Muhammad Ali strode into the spotlight, bringing with him an outsized personality (and talent) that overshadowed the sport of boxing and disrupted America at-large, today’s social justice warriors (SJWs) transcend nothing. From crybaby Colin Kaepernick to the brutalization of practicing-Christian Tim Tebow, it is only about obnoxious, partisan point-scoring. Or as Ben Domenech articulates so well in his New York Times op-ed:
….lessen[ing] something important entertainment provides: a break from the ardent and all-encompassing politics that have left Americans feeling divided, anxious and angry.
When you “stick to sports,” you are doing more than confining yourself to the field and the court. You are providing a way for people who may have diametrically opposed politics to share a beer at a bar discussing quarterbacks instead of executive orders.
Domenech also points out, quite correctly, that Fox News is not helping. With the network’s now-regular feature of having Bill O’Reilly host a pre-game interview with the sitting American president (Trump is set to appear), the entire event is launched in a way that clear-cuts the oasis.
Way back in 2002, the writing was on the wall for the politicization of football, most especially the Super Bowl. Thankfully I inherited my father’s total and complete disinterest in sports, so I have no real skin in this game, but when I saw how patriotic that year’s Super Bowl was, I remember telling my wife (an avid Green Bay Packers fan) that the Left will not allow this to stand.
The Super Bowl is by far our country’s biggest annual cultural event (the Oscars don’t even come close), and it reeks of thematic (not partisan) conservatism. Masculinity, patriotism, the reading of the Declaration of Independence, a winner and a loser, the pursuit of excellence, men of all races competing in an environment where skin color isn’t an issue… There was just no way the Left could allow this to go on. Better than anyone, they understand how important it is to hijack the culture.
I’m not sure, though, that this is as effective as it once was. In the parlance of the modern-day SJW, throughout the awful Obama-era, Middle America got “woke.” Thanks to alternative news outlets and social media, the Left’s long-held tactic of manufacturing an alternate reality, of using their news media and cultural monopolies as a means to make the rest of us feel isolated and alone, as a means to wear us down, no longer — look at all that red! — appears to work.
In fact, if you add up the collapse of the Democrat Party with the television ratings for post-SJW ESPN and the post-Kaepernick NFL, this tactic appears to be backfiring. The obnoxious and boorish politicization of absolutely everything no longer results in converts to the cause, but rather brand damage and our mass media no longer being so mass.
This extremely healthy balkanization of our culture (and news media) is possible now that we live in a world filled with so many alternatives. What a blessing that we are no longer held captive to the Left’s programming.
Nevertheless, that reality won’t stop the Left.
If they can no longer convert us to the cause, they have belligerently decided that intruding into, childishly stomping on, and just plain ruining everything that once meant relaxation and coming together as a country, is a perfectly fine second place prize.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC.