Monday, July 27, 2009
This repost is necessitated by two happenings - Mike Vick got reinstated today, which makes sense, under the way the NFL discipline process goes, and Mike Florio, of profootballtalk.com, said on KNBR that he doesn't think any political disconnect between the lefty culture of San Francisco and a 49er (speculative) decision to sign Vick would be an issue as he thinks those are decidedly different populations.
A couple of years ago there was a piece written for espn.com (don't feel like finding a link - I'm also not going to link to the SI site, but you've got to check out the current issue; without any sense of irony the magazine begins by blasting ARod, then deifying Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods, then aiding in the rehabilitation of Jason Giambi. The sports media doesn't have the slightest idea what it's doing.
Oh, and yeah, I assume Tiger's taken PEDs. Yup. And LeBron. And Jordan. And every other damn superstar athlete for the last 20 years. Any "ageless wonder", "workout warrior", "look how he's chiseled in stone, he's a physical freak" any of them. Hanley Ramirez is up 25 pounds since last year, we hear uncritically reported from the Grapefruit League. Okay. How about Ray Lewis recovering from a multi-year slide last season? Or Shaq? Brett Favre and Cal Ripken never missing a game? Hey, I'll throw one of my guys under the bus for fun - Jerry Rice. Boom.
I don't know. I don't care. Not even a little bit. But good god does the sports media not have the slightest idea what it's doing.)
Anyway, there was this piece at espn.com ripping Giants fants who continued to support Bonds as being beneath the cosmopolitan, socially aware station of the city of San Francisco. The premise was that in (insert cold weather flyover city here) they swallow whatever their local sports star serves up, but San Franciscans were too bright to act similarly.
It wasn't a badly written piece.
It was wrong, however, on at least two fronts. The political analysis was faulty; a city that tilts as left as does San Francisco contains a hefty percentage of people for whom the war on drugs propaganda hasn't taken hold. It could be that San Franciscans reject the almost purely artificial constructs we make separating "good drugs" (nicotine, alcohol, Viagra, anti-depressants, painkillers) from "bad drugs" (pot, steroids, street drugs), that a good, upstanding member of society can be medicated all day long in every aspect of his life - professionals can use adderal to keep their focus sharp (I sort of want Obama on adderal, right? I mean, let's decide that in 2009 we need a President working to full capacity, don't you want him to take full advantage of whatever science there might be to aid him?) musicians can be pumped full of beta blockers
and every man over the age of (how old am I again..let's make this one year older than me..) 38 is required to pop Cialis before making the sex. Uppers to get going in the morning, Downers to unwind at night. One pill makes you bigger, one pill makes you small.
Pharmaceutic is the grease that lubricates the machinery of western civilization.
And that goes double for athletes - cortisone, epidurals, Lasik, sewing their ankle tendons to their socks - constant, lifelong medical treatment as part and parcel of the sport itself - but if you take the wrong drug - the "bad" drug - then you are a cheater, a bad, evil person, on par with OJ Simpson and you'd better apologize the right way and you'll never go to the Hall of Fame and we'll lock you up if we can catchya lying to us!
Rooting for Barry Bonds might have been a socially conscious act. It sure felt that way when he got taunted by 45,000 fans of the all white Houston Astros (hey Houston - one word - Bagwell).
I mean, whose side do you want to be on? Lupica's?
But the second fault of the piece is that a San Francisco Giants fan and a Cincinnati Reds fan might have very little in common, except for the most important thing - they root for their guys, 'cause that's how it works.
I'm a good San Francisco lefty. Anti-corporate power. Pro high marginal tax rates. Pro gay and anti gun.
And I'm a sports fan.
And not a "let's bounce the hacky sack and pass the granola from the left hand side" sports fan - I'm a lifelong fan of the machine, big time, full on corporatized, establishmentarian - pregame prayer, there's no I in team, defer to the captain, the coach, the owner and then the Big Man upstairs sports fan.
Giants baseball. Niners football. The god awful Golden St. Warriors. And even USC sports.
USC! The University of Spoiled Children - where John Wayne played. Yup. True story.
To borrow a line from another endeavor, a lefty who is invested in big time American sports is like a chicken cheering for Colonel Sanders. I recognize that virtually every value I hold is rejected by virtually every member of every organization I've devoted so much passion toward. Dave Dravecky was in, like the John Birch Society. Garrison Hearst was homophobic. Sleepy Floyd may have eaten babies, but that's just a rumor I made up right now.
In 2004 there was a breakdown of what candidates received donations from sports figures - then Giants Owner Peter Magowan gave the maximum to Bush - Dodgers owner Frank McCourt gave the maximum to Kerry.
Virtually every athlete for my entire life has professed either political disinsterest or complete support for American wars and tax cuts. Sports arenas are havens for suppression of dissent, rejection of personal liberties, forced compliance with jingoistic values. There's really never been a second in my conscious life where I thought the teams and athletes I most loved would give me the slightest time of day; never a moment where I didn't get that, in my "real" life almost certainly everyone I cheered for would want nothing to do with me, and I'd almost certainly feel the exact same way about all of them.
Sure, I could root for Steve Nash and Etan Thomas. But I don't. Giants. Niners. Warriors. Trojans.
Forever. No matter what.
Except for this.
Mike Vick got out of jail today. His house arrest will be over prior to the next NFL season.
There's been talk recently of where he might land. Most of that speculation has been about San Francisco.
Now, I don't think this will ever happen. I don't think Vick's going to play this year. I don't think he'll ever play quarterback in the NFL again, at least not as a starter. I don't think the Niners are looking for a veteran QB; we have lots of needs (pass rusher, right tackle, safety, fullback, running back, wide receiver) that all have to be filled before we look to replace Shaun Hill.
But more than that - I think where the espn.com piece was wrong about Bonds - I think the premise is stronger about Vick.
And if I'm conflating my own views to speak about the city of San Francisco, well then, I'll do it this way.
There is no circumstance I will ever root for Michael Vick. None. If he is leading the Niners down the field to win their 6th Super Bowl, I will not be cheering and it won't be a difficult decision. I'm a Niner fan to the bone. Through thick and thin - and there have been a lot of skinny, skinny days the past decade.
Dump Bill Walsh. Trade Joe Montana. Cut Jerry Rice.
I'll stay. It's sports. It's what we do.
But no Mike Vick. Never. Never, ever, ever.
I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that.
I've written about Mike Vick before, here's an excerpt:
Real quick – I have zero sympathy for Michael Vick, imprisoned for dog fighting. I’m just glad he’s not one of my guys.
Except…not for nothing, but I eat pork.
And in terms of measurable brain activity, the only difference between dogs and pigs is pigs are smarter.
So – we torture a dog and call it prison.
We torture a pig and call it breakfast.
(I don’t want to walk down the road with you regarding how pigs are raised and treated on their way to slaughter, but it’s bad, sister, b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-ad.)
Maybe there’s some small difference between the two things, some small difference that one could point to between torturing dogs and torturing pigs.
But probably not enough difference to justify the difference in treatment.
One is prison. One is breakfast.
Don’t misunderstand, I do it too. Not only wouldn’t I torture a dog, I’ve stopped kids from being cruel to animals in a way I’d never stop someone from being cruel to a, you know, person. If you were to tell me “yup, I regularly kill and eat kittens for the meat” there is literally zero chance I would ever speak civilly to you regardless of what level of beaver worship you promised me.
But I eat pork.
And I have no moral justification for it. None.
If it turns out that I’m wrong, and above us isn’t only sky, and someone is there at the pearly gates after I’m dead to say I’m not allowed in because I didn’t pray to Mecca five times a day or I didn’t confess my sins to a guy in a robe or I never had my head dunked in a lake to be born again –
Well, you know, okay.
That stuff is so antithetical to the way I view the world, that if the world actually works that way, it would seem incomprehensible to me that this was the result. I wouldn’t want to be a member of that club. I’ll go somewhere else, thanks.
But if St. Peter is actually a giant bear sized beaver, and he says I’m going to hell for all the bacon I ate.
I’d have absolutely no defense.
So, I'm not saying he should never be allowed to play football again; not saying that his crime should be viewed by the league as unforgivable; I get that the ethics of the situation are harder than "Jim Jividen good, Mike Vick bad."
I get that. I'm not a cartoon. Bobby Jindal can use his grown up voice when he talks to me.
But I'm not going there with Michael Vick. I'm just not.
I love my Niners.
But I won't do that.