Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Now That Football Season Is Over, I Need a New Drug

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi destroying a copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as the speech concluded. | Credit: youtube.com | Bloomberg Poltics

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Now more than ever, I need a new drug. Football season is over. Kaput. However morally indefensible, the game functioned as the bedsheet I’ve needed to pull over myself in recent months to keep reality at bay. In the months ahead, that need will become even more desperately urgent. The Super Bowl could not have been more satisfying. It was a genuinely great game in which the so-called good guys won. I say that as an erstwhile 49ers fan, obviously even more fair-weather than I am fickle. Looking at the teams through the compressed lens of political correctitude and historical revisionism, I had no choice but to root for the Chiefs. After all, the Gold Rush of ’49 ​— ​after which the California team is named ​— ​brought with it a tsunami of genocidal greed that overwhelmed California’s native tribes with even greater pestilential violence than all the Father Junipero Serras and all the syphilitic Spanish conquistadores combined. 

The Chiefs, by contrast, are burdened mostly by the embarrassing spectacle of the tomahawk chop. Okay, I get it. They also have the most joyous quarterback to play the game since Slinging Sammy Baugh, who played for the Washington Redskins ​— ​so explicitly racist, by the way, that it required the determined intervention of Robert Kennedy (then the nation’s Attorney General) to force the team’s integration. (When Bobby Mitchell ​— ​the first black man to play for the Redskins ​— ​first showed up to training camp, team owner George Preston Marshall forced him to sing a few rousing bars of the song “Dixie,” then the national anthem of the South. Marshall may not have belonged to the Klan, but it was joked that his laundry empire kept the Klan supplied with sparkling sheets.)

In this context, it’s worth noting that the forward pass, one of America’s most enduring contributions to world culture, was invented by Native American football players with the Carlisle Indian School way back in 1903 under the coaching of the Pop Warner, the legendary figure after whom so many Pee Wee leagues are now named. The pass was designed to overcome the massive size disadvantage under which Carlisle players labored when going up against the oversized mastiffs playing for West Point. The rest, as they say, is history, except of course, no one knew anything about it until Sally Jenkins came along and dredged it up in her book The Real All Americans. Jenkins, I might add, would have been a far more deserving recipient of theMedal of Freedom than the professional bigot to whom Trump bestowed it at his State of the Union speech, Rush Limbaugh. Anyone, of course, would. Limbaugh, it must be acknowledged, ranks as a genuine pioneer in the field of hate speech, so that counts for something. Limbaugh was also a pain-pill junkie long before it became all the rage and middle-aged white people started killing themselves left and right. That he did so before America’s doctors really got in the act as accomplices makes this achievement even more impressive. But if memory serves, Limbaugh had his maid, Wilma Cline, go out and buy his drugs for him. Eventually, Cline would testify she would meet Limbaugh in various back alley parking lots, delivering unto him more than 30,000 pills. That was 17 years ago, back when Rush ​— ​then the reigning minister of hate ​— ​argued that people who did what he did should be “sent up the river.” The moral of that story, of course, is “You can’t get good help these days.” 

As yet another tangential aside, Willie Wood of the Green Bay Packers, one of the great safeties ever to play the game, died this past week at age 83. Among his many stellar accomplishments, Wood was the very first black man to play quarterback for USC. That was in 1959, back before black people had become endowed with the “intelligence” required to play that position. Before playing for USC, Wood got his start with a junior college out of Coalinga. When that team spent the night in Santa Maria, the sheriff reportedly ordered Wood “quarantined” in his hotel as a preemptive measure to keep the peace. 

By the way, did I say Happy Black History Month? 

Returning momentarily to the subject of the Super Bowl, President Trump blasted a tweet congratulating the Chiefs and “the Great State of Kansas” for their victory. But as any football fan ​— ​and every connoisseur of political corruption ​— ​full well knows, the great metropolis of Kansas City is located in the “Show Me” state of Missouri. The fact that Trump doesn’t know this, I would argue, qualifies as perhaps the most compelling ground for impeachment yet. We can only hope this gaffe may cause some discomfort for Trump’s more abject supporters among Senate Republicans; clearly nothing else has.

I missed most of the speech. I caught the beginning when Trump pulled his hand back from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, refusing to shake. And later, I also saw Pelosi rip in half her copy of Trump’s speech afterward. The rest was kind of a blur. I spoke with Congressmember Salud Carbajal and Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh ​— ​whom Carbajal invited to sit with him ​— ​afterward to find out what I missed. They said a lot of things. I scribbled down lots of notes. Looking back at them this morning, two comments jumped out. “Lies, lies, lies,” said Carbajal. Tosh was more subdued. “It was just sad,” she said. “Sad.”

Both said considerably more than that. 

Like I say, I need a new drug. 

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