The nation’s third-largest state is currently engulfed by 17 separate wildfires, with more than a dozen people dead and additional 100 in the hospital. More than 80 percent of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is still without electricity after Hurricane Maria devastated the island three weeks ago, and more than a third of the island’s population does not have access to drinking water. But the President of the United States, after throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans, is tweeting vindictively about a cable television host he dislikes.
ESPN did not say exactly which of Hill’s tweets prompted her suspension, but it appears to stem from several tweets after Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said that players who don’t stand for the national anthem — “disrespects the flag,” in his words — will not be allowed to play.
Before we go any further, here are some things to know about Jerry Jones. Read more…
We’ll always be fascinated with sports; it’s a constant. There will always be a sizable percentage of the population that cares about the NBA trade deadline, what the New York Yankees accomplished during winter meetings, and whether Dak Prescott is in fact the real deal. Part of our collective human nature is marveling at what only just a few can do better than anyone else alive.
But if you’ve watched an NBA game and waited 10 minutes for the final minute and a half to play out, or if you’ve sat through a 20-pitch at-bat only to watch a player pop up, you might be understandably underwhelmed. There is something to be said for sports lacking the requisite amount of drama and intensity to keep people interested at all times. Again, this is all understandable. But for millennials, and we assume subsequent generations, it’s also a cause for concern.
The industry term for or a blockbuster movie franchise is a “tentpole”—it’s the asset that holds the whole operation up. At the height of mass culture, in the second half of the 20th century, it was enough to be on television to command an audience in the tens of millions. But as channels multiplied, the difference between those properties that could command such audiences and those that merely gathered under the shelter they provided began to fall into relief. Tentpoles are harder and harder to find in the movie business today, and those that do exist are as frequently a result of 3D ticket prices as they are of any organic appeal. In music, too, a few big stars give life enough for a universe of micro-ecologies where many artists barely make a living. Against this backdrop the NFL stands out as the last fortress of mass culture. Today, nothing is watched by everybody, but the thing that comes closest is the NFL.
This power was on display in its demand that this year’s Super Bowl halftime performer pay the NFL for the privilege, in the form of cash now and a percentage of tour revenues later. All three of the finalists—Rihanna, Coldplay and Katy Perry—refused, and apparently Perry was chosen anyway. But the message was clear: No show is bigger than the NFL, not the biggest pop star, nothing.
Mark Leibovich, in the New York Times, gets a rare look inside the life of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who’s now 37 in a league where few play past the age of 40. The result is some obsessive habits about caring for his body and the food he eats:
Every morning in the Bahamas, Brady undertook an intense regimen that included resistance drills, exercises with rubber bands and stretches designed to foster muscular flexibility. While traditional training in football emphasizes the building of muscle strength, [Body coach Alex] Guerrero also focuses on pliability, which Brady equates to sponginess and elasticity. “If there’s so much pressure, just constant tugging on your tendons and ligaments, you’re going to get hurt,” Brady told me. “Like with a kid, when they fall, they don’t get hurt. Their muscles are soft. When you get older, you lose that.”
After his vacation workouts, Brady joined his family for a late breakfast that — for him — consisted mainly of a protein shake that was also high in electrolytes and included greens like kale and collards. (Brady also likes to add blueberries to his concoctions, but some other berries are off limits because they are thought to promote inflammation.) I asked Guerrero at one point if Brady is ever allowed to eat a cheeseburger. “Yes, we have treats,” he said. “We make them.” Like what? “Usually raw desserts, like raw macaroons.” Ice cream made from avocado is another favorite, Guerrero said.
“Sometimes we’ll go over to Tom and Gisele’s house for dinner,” Brady’s father, also named Tom, told me. “And then I’ll say afterward, ‘Where are we going for dinner?’ ”
He sometimes barks when asked to bend his principles, the ones he learned from his late father, a U.S. senator. He gets enraged when someone, even an owner, tarnishes the integrity of the game or challenges his judgment. Many players and union leaders talk about his failure of accountability. “Right now the league office and commissioner Goodell have little to no credibility with players,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in December. Sixty-one percent of active players said they disapprove of the overall job Goodell is doing, according to a January USA Today poll of 300 players.
But it was Manning’s older brother Cooper who put his neck injury in the proper context and cured him of any self-pity. Cooper had been an athlete equal to anyone in the family, an all-state wide receiver with a scholarship to Ole Miss, when he began experiencing numbness and atrophy in his right bicep. The Mannings flew to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where tests showed dangerous degeneration in his spine. He underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord, and complications set in. After weeks in a wheelchair, he had to walk with a cane. All of which Manning had witnessed up close, even as his own development was climaxing.
“I’ve never taken it for granted, ever since Cooper’s career was taken from him just like that,” Manning says. “So I always had it in perspective, and I didn’t need a year off to remind me how lucky I was to play.”
He and Cooper talked, comparing their conditions — but in truth, Manning realized, there was no comparison. He had gotten a career, and Cooper hadn’t. “Maybe this was my not-picture-perfect-neck catching up with me finally,” Manning says. “I just thought, wow, I got almost 20 years out of this neck. Boy, I’m grateful for the time I’ve had.”
I was a high school junior when I first met him. I got pulled out of class unexpectedly to see him waiting in the hallway—Pete Carroll, national championship-winning head coach. We stood and talked there by the lockers for a few minutes. I’ll never forget that—USC’s head coach coming to recruit me at Dominguez High School in Compton in 2004. At the time, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
He said, “you’ve got the perfect size to be a lock-up corner.” I’d never heard that before: “lock-up” corner. I made ‘lockup2006’ my email address and used it until I got to college. I didn’t end up going to USC, because my mind was already made up to go to Stanford, and there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to get a Stanford education, but I could tell then there was something that separated Carroll from others coaches who recruited me. You could feel the positive energy, how upbeat he was and how much he believed in what he was saying. He had a different aura to him.
As society has reached a consensus that there’s no way to control everything children see, the number of indecency complaints has decreased significantly. When Miley Cyrus twerked at the Video Music Awards last summer, the FCC received only 161 complaints (of course, as a cable channel, MTV doesn’t answer to the commission anyway). The moment became fodder for celebrity bloggers and morning show chatterboxes but was never treated as a problem that needed to be legislated away. The PTC dutifully issued a statement denouncing MTV for “sexually exploiting young women,” but no national outcry resulted. Perhaps not coincidentally, CBS never actually paid a fine in connection with Nipplegate—an appeals court ruled in 2008 and again in 2011 that CBS could not be held liable for the actions of contracted performing artists and that the FCC had acted arbitrarily in enforcing indecency policies. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2012.
So for [former Chairman of the FCC Michael] Powell, the halftime show represents “the last great moment” of a TV broadcast becoming a national controversy—the last primal scream of a public marching inexorably toward a new digital existence: “It might have been essentially the last gasp. Maybe that was why there was so much energy around it. The Internet was coming into being, it was intensifying. People wanted one last stand at the wall. It was going to break anyway. I think it broke.
“Is that all good? Probably not, but it’s not changeable either. We live in a new world, and that’s the way it is.
“They said the same thing when books became printed, right? They said it was the end of the world.
After retiring from the NFL, a large percentage football players find adjusting to real life a struggle:
Terrell Owens hasn’t officially retired yet, and he already has blown the $80 million he earned during his career. Warren Sapp recently filed for bankruptcy. Former first-round picks Michael Bennett and William Joseph currently face federal charges of tax fraud and identity theft. Not every player falls into these traps, but a 2009 Sports Illustrated study said that 78 percent of NFL retirees have ‘gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce’ within two years of their careers ending. ‘You’re talking about an identity crisis,’ said NFL vice president of player engagement and former Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent. ‘Every athlete has to face the same question when they’re done: “Who am I?”’