Fall Facsism

Sleaze Culture

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The musty smell of the summer’s heat being released from the ground by easy going rains leaving mist and light fog behind. The leaves turn various shades of brown. It is a gentle time of the year when the chill in the air warns of the coming harshness of winter; the gloaming of the day seems to take forever. Perhaps because this time of year is so languorous, the dark side of the American character comes to the fore.

Yes, it’s football season.

To the unschooled observer, American football looks like a game of over grown men in plastic body armor whacking into each other in a show of staged brutality between elongated breaks. These folks would claim the game is a vile excuse to allow the violent side of the American Experiment to bubble up. However, I find this explanation of the most popular sport in the United States to be substantially incorrect. In truth, Football is the sublimation of all that is fascistic in the American character.

According to dictionary.com fascism is defined as –noun

1. (sometimes initial capital letter ) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism…

Initially, the game itself had few of the traits listed above. It started at high- brow colleges in the northeast and Midwest like Yale, Harvard, Michigan and the University of Chicago during the late 19th century with student-athletes playing a bastardized form of rugby. The closest the game came to fascistic tendencies was player’s desperate desire to defend their home field advantage from the ‘invading’ visiting teams. During this era, the visitors would usually take something that belonged to the home team and inviting them to come and win it back.

Essentially the game of American football remained unchanged for decades. The country responding to college football, a game played in school by boys whose coaches, although authoritarian, had the job of taking these rough 18-year-old boys and turning them into 21-year-old men. Pro football remained a game played in the northeast and upper Midwest by men with no necks who had Polish or German surnames or nicknames like Big Daddy who would go back to brewery work when the season ended.

All of that changed when Pete Rozelle took over as the Commissioner of the National Football League in 1960. At this point, the professional game was just an outgrowth of the college game, same strategies etc. Rozelle turned the NFL from a game with fascistic tendencies into a full-blown league of National Socialists. League wide profits were placed into a pool and distributed equally to each franchise. As other leagues were formed, the AFL, USFL etc., they were either subsumed into the NFL or forced out of business. By the late 1990’s, Paul Tagliabue had taken over the reigns of the Commissioners office and various commentators called the NFL a corporate product or the No Fun League.

But the average punter didn’t care. The chance to act out those urges of domination had grown very strong. Grown men went to monster sports bars with many TV’s to belittle other grown men whose teams were beaten into submission. Gone were the sophisticated brunch buffets and champagne cocktails found at the local bar in the 1960’s. They have been replaced by chicken wings and shitty light beers served by lithe 20-something blonde women on team jerseys. Eating at a Sports bar on Football Sunday in 2010 is just like being served at the SS Mess in Munich in 1938.

And it’s getting worse. Roger Goodell, the current head of the NFL, runs the league with an iron fist. Martin Bormann would have been proud. Under the guise of the “Personal Conduct” clause in all player contracts, Goodell has enforced a behavioral policy so strict spitting on the sidewalk is punishable by a 4-game suspension and $50,000 fine. He seems to want to reign in the player’s public excesses in order to keep the scrubbed image of a successful sports league in front of the American Public. The overly tattooed, steroid fueled monsters whose aim it is to rip off each others heads in the most violent way possible (within the rules of course) is solely for the pitch.

Perhaps we should all be watching these games clothed in gleaming black leather. Anyway, I’m off to watch my team be dominated by another. Afterward, I’ll turn on ESPN to watch the coaches and players use platitudes and clichés to describe their performances. Those phrases make the Commissioner happy.

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