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Life and Fate

Life and Fate

By Vasily Grossman; Robert Chandler (Introduction by)

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Who, Us Bloodthirsty?

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Posted on Jan 31, 2011
AP / Mike Roemer

By Mark Heisler

The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Colosseum.
     —Sen. Gracchus, in “Gladiator”


Now for a great Super Bowl!

If only.

All Super Bowls are called great, from the actually great like III (Joe Namath guarantees, delivers first AFC victory) to yawners like XL (or 40 for those not fluent in Roman numerals, Steelers dispatching Seahawks in Detroit’s Ford Field).

Super Bowls are like inaugurations or State of the Union addresses, emblematic of our way of life, if only ceremonially.

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Of course, we all know it’s just a game and all the faux Roman pageantry is a facade, like the layout at Caesars Palace or the knockoff Doric columns ringing Jack Kent Cooke’s Fabulous Forum.

You can see the progress we’ve made in human history. Combatants no longer fight to the death or are fed to wild beasts.

Aside from that. ...

As the blood in the sand of the Colosseum, Rome’s state-funded, state-of-the-art arena with luxury suites built by the Emperor Vespasian in the year 72, 116 years after Julius Caesar’s death, was said to embody Rome, so the Super Bowl embodies Western society in so many ways. 

Want to know how the economy’s going?

In actual dollars, the Super Bowl is an infinitesimal piece of a massive gross national product.

In fact, it serves as a showcase, showing not only how the economy is performing as a whole, but what sectors are driving it, what companies no one knew existed (Go Daddy?) are on the make and how creative and indulgent sponsors and ad agencies feel. 

This season’s ad rates for 30 seconds go to $3 million, up from last year’s $2.8 million in a soft ad environment, prompting Intel, Papa John’s and KGB to drop out.

If you missed KGB’s spot with a sumo wrestler wiping out a skinny guy wearing the traditional mawashi, or as we would call it, thong, who’s trying to find “I surrender” in Japanese on his handheld via Google, it’s a search engine—not the dreaded Russian intelligence service.

It’s a mistake anyone could make, such as USA Today, which links this KGB to previous stories on the other KGB.

The other KGB, of course, isn’t likely to buy a Super Bowl spot ... at least in the immediate future, say, before LV (55).

It’s hard to remember where we are on the Roman calendar, but from III to this year’s XLV (45), the song remains the same.

Unfortunately, it’s preceded by two weeks of hype so momentous the game would have a hard time living up to it if it had The Second Coming at halftime.

This year it’s only the Black Eyed Peas with the NFL once again secure enough to go without superstars such as Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (2004), Paul McCartney (2005), Prince (2006), the Rolling Stones (2007), Tom Petty (2008), Bruce Springsteen (2009) and The Who (2010).

Besides, rock divas are even wackier than football divas, pulling stunts such as Jackson’s breast-baring, nation-horrifying “wardrobe malfunction.”

Two years later, Prince played an oddly shaped guitar with a long appendage curling upward from its body so that when they dropped a sheer curtain, it looked as though he was masturbating in silhouette.

Cue Middle America for the usual horrified reaction.

To quote Hank Williams Jr., the famed rowdy who nonetheless stood up for the values candidates in the last presidential election, “Are you ready for some football?”

(New generations are a pain, all around. Hank Jr. wrote a song telling Hank III, his even-farther-out son, “Take the old man’s advice, be nice and lose the F word.”)

Happily, aside from all this Social Significance, there’s a game involved, or there will be eventually.

This involves those iconic franchises, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, a dream matchup.

OK, a good matchup.

All right, it’s better than Steelers vs. Seahawks.

The dream matchup would have pitted the Chicago Bears, whose first owner, George Halas, all but invented the NFL, against the New York Jets, princes of the Johnny Come Lately American Football League, who slew the Baltimore Colts in III, elevating it from ceremonial mismatch to marquee event overnight.

Pittsburgh is a small big city and Green Bay a hamlet you might never have heard of if it hadn’t somehow hung on to its team in the American Professional Football Association, while those such as the Decatur (Ill.) Staleys, the A.E. Staley Food Starch Co.’s team, moved to the city and became the Bears.

New York, of course, is the market of markets, pulling in fans from all over, if only to root against its teams.

Chicago is the No. 3 market but drips soul, as demonstrated by its fans who set about deconstructing quarterback Steve Bartman, er, Jay Cutler after Da Bears’ loss to Green Bay.

Cutler had been a vast improvement over recent Bear quarterbacks, which still leaves a lot of room between him and Tom Brady, but was ineffective before being forced out with a knee injury.

After that, when TV cameras showed him on the sidelines, he didn’t demonstrate enthusiasm, or undergo surgery on the spot, or even an MRI so everyone could see he was hurt.

NFL players from all over tweeted insults that would set off riots if voiced about teammates in their own locker rooms.


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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, February 8, 2011 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

The Big Game has come & gone as I write this but it delivered what I expected - the same as it does every year now.

It’s nothing more than an obscene, jingoistic display of military-masturbation. You can’t watch 2 minutes without being assaulted by arrested adolescents standing in front of their fighter jet or on the deck of their phallic-shaped aircraft carrier.

One minute it’s a big-budget Pentagon recruiting commercial with sissy-boys wielding a joystick to rain down death two-thousand miles away (now, there’s uncommon bravery!) and the next it’s a “tribute” to some murdering jarhead back from slaughtering dark-skinned innocents in Af-Pak.

And the seals watching clap and smile at it all. What a disgusting, pathetic joke.

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By bmeisen, February 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment

First a fan’s confession and now this!?! Can’t Truthdig find someone who can write critically about this cultural monstrosity called the Super Bowl. It’s pretty low-hanging fruit. See my comments under a fan’s confession for what is possible.

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By Marc Schlee, February 7, 2011 at 12:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, God DAMN, then.  Let me be the first.

May all living beings be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success.

FREE AMERICA

REVOLUTIONARY (DIRECT) DEMOCRACY

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By rollzone, February 6, 2011 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment

hello. i roll on the side of the bloodthirsty. this
was a mediocre game, and contrary to pregame hype, Pittsburgh had the better running game: and lost.
this false adulation written of does not interest me.
i am the customer, the one in the seat, the one
without the body gifted by God, the one not being
paid ten to a hundred working peoples’ salary, to
play a game. it is not about the analysis, the
statistics, or the commercials. i want to see
competition at a super level, with super coaching,
and super players. how could people be happy paying
thousands of dollars for tickets to see such a
mediocre contest? all the background soap opera is
for some other show, and this game needs to return to
blood and guts football. these athletes need to
sacrifice their contracts for the game, and if it’s
not broken, they should be back in it. with all the
players across the nation whom never make it to the
position these players are in, with only so much room
at the top: the players owe it to us customers to
give it all they got. they have to show us they
belong where they are at, especially at the Super
Bowl. every Super Bowl game should be a great game.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 1, 2011 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

“I’m just saying… when the world has gone insane,
even the analysis can only be insane.” JDmysticDJ

Profound.

I hold the opinion that such magnanimous idolatry is
strictly earth-bound. 

Some of it is related to the human characteristic so
clearly demonstrated by the “children of israel”
during the “Kings period”.  Who demanded, “give us a
king whom we must look up to-”.  Thus Saul, who was
shoulders and head taller than average, was chosen.

With females, a beautiful face and figure are pre-
requisites.  While with leadership, only one
characteristic was significantly, statistically
associated: being taller than “average”, and this
discovery was made in the 1960s.

However, the selection of Saul occurred a bit earlier;
5,000 - 4,000 yrs earlier.

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By reynolds, January 31, 2011 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment

well said?

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, January 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

Rather than obfuscating the truth, and selectively criticizing fans and players, why not recognize the most obvious truth. Our popular idols are not worthy of being idolized. They are just random representatives of a decadent society. When these idols are exposed as being unworthy, it should be instructive as social commentary, but instead, these exposes’ are treated as anomalies that occur over and over, and over again.

It might be argued that we are all human, and subject to human failings, but our society seems to be prone to human failings. Entertainers of all kinds, athletes, politicians, you name em.’ The one thing they seem to have in common is a powerful drive towards self aggrandizement, and the propensity to give the credit for their success to God.

If there is an omnipotent and omniscient God of virtue, he seems to be using these false personas to his advantage, and discarding them when they are no longer credible. They seem to be God’s sleazy PR reps who fall from grace only after they are exposed.

Tiger’s got no game, but maybe he’ll be rehabilitated, after all even Solomon was able to bounce back; he became a wiser but sadder man.

I’m just saying… when the world has gone insane, even the analysis can only be insane.

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