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“For The Patriots, Without Apology”: Even Though Loyalties Can Be Misplaced, A Life Lived Without Them Makes No Sense

I never knew how much fun it was to be loyal to a hated outlaw sports team until the whole world came down on my dear New England Patriots.

Having rooted over the years for Boston teams that many felt sorry for — God help us — and found psychologically interesting, it was a rush to hear MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough the other morning describe my Patriots as a “ruthless killing machine.” Wow!

It’s a long way from the early days of the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Babe Parilli and Gino Cappelletti (he was also a great kicker). Back then, many didn’t even take the upstart American Football League seriously. As a kid, I insisted on being faithful to our local guys, so I’ve been a Pats fan from the day they were created.

And I now understand far better what life is like for those who work as spinmeisters. In a fight like this, you look for whatever arguments come to hand and judge their merits later, in a quiet room with fellow fans.

If those footballs were deflated, why didn’t the refs, who handled them dozens of times, notice? Maybe the balls lost air. Besides, didn’t you catch the fact that Tom Brady did far better with the regulation, non-deflated balls in the second half of the Indianapolis Colts game? And anyway, everybody messes with the football, right?

All Patriots fans are Taylor Swift partisans these days: “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” She didn’t invent the line, but many loyalists are using her buoyant and defiant lyrics to shake off the Pats’ critics as jealous souls who just can’t stand this team’s dominance in the long Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

Already, I can imagine the sighs of impatience from those who think loyalty to professional sports teams is a silly and even pernicious waste of energy. Aren’t they just a bunch of businesses owned by rich guys who use them to make more money and stroke their already large egos by paying a share of that cash to athletes, some of whom get wealthy themselves? Didn’t we see what a moral mess the National Football League made of the Ray Rice affair?

And isn’t loyalty itself a questionable virtue that can lead people to overlook many ethical issues and to ignore more important moral callings?

On the last question, I share what the 19th-century philosopher Josiah Royce called a “loyalty to loyalty.” Of course loyalty can be misplaced, as Royce acknowledged. “A family engaged in a murderous feud, a pirate crew, a savage tribe, a Highland robber clan of the old days — these might constitute causes to which somebody has been, or is, profoundly loyal,” Royce wrote, and he agreed that such relationships are problematic.

But even though loyalties can be misplaced, a life lived without them makes no sense. They are defined by the legal scholar George Fletcher in his fine book Loyalty as obligations “implied in every person’s sense of being historically rooted in a set of defining familial, institutional, and national relationships.” There really are, he argues, “groups and individuals that have entered into our sense of who we are.”

For many, sports teams become part of this fabric, usually through powerful regional ties (I really do love New England), bonds of friendship (only a fellow fan could understand what it felt like to lose the 2008 Super Bowl to the Giants, or to win the “Snow Bowl” against the Raiders in 2002), and the draw of history (see everything above).

Do the owners of these teams exploit such feelings? You bet, which is why fans feel so outraged and betrayed when a team gets moved from one place to another. But is there anything intrinsically wrong with their loyalties, or with the admiration of fans for heroism in an athletic encounter involving “their” team? I don’t think so.

Given such strong sentiments, the people who own these teams have an obligation to stewardship that they don’t always discharge. Even as a profoundly loyal Patriots fan, I’d be upset if the team and the league simply threw a locker room attendant under the bus to get out of their problem. Loyalty runs both ways, and it most certainly extends to the locker room attendant. (And if he did deflate 11 balls in 90 seconds, he should have been in the Pro Bowl.)

But I know which side I’ll be on this Sunday, without any mental reservations. The Patriots, including the attendant, are my guys.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; The National Memo, January 29, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | National Football League, New England Patriots, Super Bowl | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Getting Mad For All The Wrong Reasons”: Madness Is Simply The Status Quo For Republicans

Nearly a week later, the Affordable Care Act’s opponents are still furious that the employer-mandate provision that conservatives opposed won’t be implemented on schedule. But there’s a reason that sentence might seem unusual to you — if Republicans don’t like the employer mandate, why are they outraged that the mandate won’t exist until 2015 at the earliest?

The answer is simple, but unsatisfying: Republicans are mad for all the wrong reasons. Brian Beutler had a good piece on this the other day, noting that Obamacare’s detractors are, ironically, disappointed that “a problematic provision won’t be taking effect right away.” Republicans don’t want a health care system that works effectively; they want a system that doesn’t work effectively so they can complain about it. The White House’s decision last week satisfies GOP policy goals, such as they are, but interferes with the GOP’s rhetorical goals, which the right obviously sees as more important.

[I]t doesn’t take much reading between the lines to recognize what’s really going on. Republicans are still committed to the far-fetched objective of repealing Obamacare, and as such have effectively vowed not to work with the administration to fix any of its dysfunctional provisions. To the contrary, the GOP is committed to creating implementation problems where they can, and to making sure existing problems are never fixed, to make the whole program a liability for Democrats.

By delaying the employer mandate, the Obama administration unilaterally sidestepped the GOP’s strategy. And Republicans aren’t happy about it.

Keep in mind, Republican policymakers could, right now, sit down with Democrats to explore scrapping the employer mandate and replacing it with some other policy alternative. But that would require governing, and post-policy nihilists that dominate Republican politics in 2013 aren’t even open to that possibility.

We’re left with a dynamic that the political establishment still finds difficult to fully grasp: GOP officials could make the federal health care system better and more to their liking, but they see no value in that. They’d rather sabotage it, regardless of the real-world consequences. They could help get rid of a mandate they oppose, but they’d rather keep the policy they hate in the hopes it won’t work, people will feel adverse consequences, and there will be new fodder for 30-second attack ads a year from now.

Some people pursue public service to build things, and some pursue public service because they just want to watch the things burn.

This dovetails nicely with news that Republican leaders have urged the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA, and NASCAR not to partner with Washington on informing the public about health care benefits Americans are legally entitled to. Kevin Drum had a terrific rant on this.

But not. Conservatives remain so spittle-flecked angry about [Obamacare] that they can’t even abide the thought of a sports league helping to run a public education campaign that reduces confusion about who’s entitled to what. Even now, they desperately want it to fail. And they’re going to do everything they can to help it fail, even if that means screwing over their own constituents. It’s a temper tantrum possibly unequalled in American political history.

And it’s revolting.

I’ve made a conscious effort to read conservative commentary on this, trying to understand their rationale for such callousness and recklessness. Their argument, in effect, seems to be this: Republicans hate the law, so of course they want it to fail and will continue to do whatever they can to ensure their preferred outcome. If there are elements of Obamacare that need fixing, why should the GOP agree to help clean up the mess? Families may suffer if the system collapses, but it’ll clear the way, eventually, for a superior Republican reform plan.

I don’t doubt that the right finds this line of thought coherent and persuasive, but their sincerity doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. First, there is no precedent for elected federal American officials acting to deliberately sabotage federal law, hurting millions of people on purpose out of partisan spite. That’s just madness, but it’s currently the status quo.

Second, if GOP policymakers were even remotely serious about governing, they could — get this — achieve policy goals they like. This employer mandate is a terrific example of the sort of provision Democrats would gladly trade away, if only they had someone to trade with. Republicans could, in other words, score policy victories if they just try.

People forget this, but shortly before Obamacare became law, several GOP leaders said they agreed with “80 percent” of the Democratic plan — and that was before the public option was scuttled, which means in the end, Republicans agreed with more than 80 percent of the law. GOP officials could move it even closer to their preferred vision if they’d only take public policy seriously for a short while.

As for someday replacing the Affordable Care Act with a far-right, Republican-friendly alternative, we’ve been waiting for years for a half-way-credible GOP plan, and there’s a good reason one has never materialized: they really don’t give a darn. They saw the old, dysfunctional mess — the one the public demanded be reformed; the one that cost too much and covered too few — and said it was good enough to leave in place indefinitely.

The most generous thing I can say about their approach is that it’s fundamentally unserious about helping anyone. The least generous thing I can say is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 8, 2013

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Kidding Yourselves”: No, Conservatives, You Won’t Stop Watching Football If The NFL Markets Obamacare

News broke last week that the Obama administration had reached out to the National Basketball Association about a partnership to promote the president’s health reform law. Now, it is seeking a similar deal with the National Football League that will involve “paid advertising and partnerships to encourage enrollment” in Obamacare’s new programs, according to The Hill.

I’ve explained why the Obama-NBA partnership makes sense for both parties, and that reasoning holds true for the NFL–and more importantly, the networks that air the games–too. Given the enormous amount of money television networks pay for the right to air football games, they’re unlikely to turn down advertising that will help them reach the break-even point on those investments. And for the Obama administration, football is a logical target. The NFL has the largest audience of any sport in America. It reaches people in demographics that the Obama administration needs to reach with basic information about. And beyond the ads, such a partnership meshes nicely with other corporate citizenship efforts the NFL has undertaken, like its health-driven Play60 campaign. Plus, it’s the law.

Conservatives, to no one’s surprise, are nevertheless outraged. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson said it would be “yet another reminder that football is best watched on Saturdays,” and Twitchy highlighted tweets from conservatives who said it would cause a “mass exodus of support.” “If the NFL backs Obamacare,” one Twitchy tweet says, “they can kiss this season goodbye.”

It’s unlikely the NFL is rethinking its strategy based on a few tweets, but here’s a word of advice in case they are: the idea that people are going to stop watching football because of a few pro-health care ads, most of which will likely deal more with the details of new programs instead of advocating for it on ideological grounds, is absurd. I might personally share Anderson’s view that football is, indeed, best watched on Saturdays, but the NFL is the most popular sport in America. Its TV ratings are sky-high from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. The league has endured two lockouts, the beginnings of a concussion crisis, and plenty of other on- and off-field controversies without turning the masses away. It’s going to take much more than a few health care ads to get people to stop watching.

The NFL, of course, knows that, but that doesn’t mean the partnership is going to happen. The cost of advertising may be too high for the government to pay on a regular basis, or the two sides may just fail to reach an agreement on other collaborations. If it does happen, though, conservatives might kick and scream and send angry tweets that the Twitchy team aggregates into a post every Sunday afternoon. To suggest that people will stop watching, though, is an exaggeration on the same level as cries of “government takeover of health care” and “death panels.”


By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, June 28, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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