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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

“Family Values Week Is Over”: A Rough Week In America For Women

Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep. from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.

Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.

September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”

For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”

McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

Guess family values week is over.

To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.

As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.

To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soulmates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.

“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.

“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”

The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.

True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.

To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.

To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly. Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.

Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.

Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.

But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.

Meanwhile, September isn’t over.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Values, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Does Fox News Apologize?”: After Years Of On-Air Idiocy, Why Walk Back Your Business Model Now?

Nearly two years ago, Fox News luminary Shepard Smith delivered a memorable apology. On a slow-news afternoon in September 2012, Smith’s afternoon program followed a protracted car-chase in the Arizona sticks. Its coverage of the drama was so intense that producers failed to cut away from the scene when the driver got out of his car, staggered through a desolate area and shot himself.

Tonal perfection characterized Smith’s mea culpa: “We really messed up, and we’re all very sorry. That didn’t belong on TV. … I personally apologize to you that that happened,” said the host.

The theme of Fox News’s capacity for apology surfaced this week, after “Fox & Friends” co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy joked about the Ray Rice situation. On Monday’s program, the two were discussing the emergence of the video showing Rice assaulting his then-fiancee in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel. To wrap up the discussion, Kilmeade quipped, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”

Doocy, in the jocular spirit of a cable-news morning show during a discussion of domestic violence, joined in: “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

With that, “Fox & Friends” prepped public expectations for a stone-faced apology. Tuesday morning, that didn’t happen. Instead, Kilmeade appeared to be blaming viewers for using their eyes and ears: “Comments that we made during this story yesterday made some feel like we were taking the situation too lightly. We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.”

CNN, like a good competitor network, found newsworthiness in the depravity of “Fox & Friends.” In a chat with host Carol Costello, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter said, “It’s a cheap try yo pretend to apologize but then again, Fox News tends not to come out and apologize when their hosts say offensive things.”

Cue the Google and Nexis searches for “fox news apologizes.”

In August, Fox News’s Shepard Smith apologized for having called Robin Williams a “coward.” (Hat Tip: Johnny Dollar)

In April, Fox News apologized for a graphic that painted a distorted picture of Obamacare enrollment numbers.

In March, Fox News host Clayton Morris apologized for “ignorant” comments that he’d made about gender. (Hat tip: Johnny Dollar)

In October 2013, Fox News apologized for reporting — based on a bogus story — that President Obama had pledged to personally donate to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures during the government shutdown.

In February 2013, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson apologized for ripping Wiccans. (Hat tip: Johnny Dollar)

In July 2012, Fox News apologized for showing a picture of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in a discussion of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.

In July 2011, Fox News apologized after its politics Twitter account was hacked, resulting in a false message about the assassination of President Obama.

In November 2009, Fox News apologized for misrepresenting some footage of Sarah Palin.

So there’s a sampling of Fox News’s regretful moments of recent years (we don’t claim it’s comprehensive). The circumstances behind them vary — some correct factual mistakes, others remedy stupid, ill-considered remarks made in the error factory that is live television.

Does the network under-apologize for “offensive” remarks, as Stelter suggested? Who knows — a claim that broad and subject to value judgments is both unprovable and irrefutable, a perfect thing to say on cable news. Perhaps there is a contrast to be drawn with MSNBC, a network that went on an apologetic tear starting last November after offending the likes of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, the “right wing” and others.

Despite the squishiness inherent in this debate, it’s clear that there’s an entire industry of apology demands directed at Fox News. Here’s a demand that Fox News host Megyn Kelly apologize for her comments about Santa and Jesus being white. Here’s a demand (from now-Fox News guy Howard Kurtz, in 2009) that Fox News apologize for using “partisan propaganda” on air. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize for its Steubenville rape coverage. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize to all Canadians for mocking their country’s military. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize to John Kerry for catching his off-mic remarks (see comments section). Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize for some allegedly transphobic remarks by Dr. Keith Ablow (who produces apologizable statements in just about every appearance, it must be noted).

And on and on: Some of the demands are perfectly ridiculous, some compelling.

Of all the moments for which Fox News has apologized or received apology demands, none appears as regret-worthy as what went down on Monday’s edition of “Fox & Friends.” In advising “take the stairs,” Kilmeade appeared to be counseling domestic abusers on how to do their thing. Or perhaps he was counseling women not to get into elevators with their boyfriends. Abominable either way. Fox News — and “Fox & Friends” itself — has apologized for much less. Absent an explanation from Fox News itself, only pure arrogance can account for why the network whiffed on its responsibility to viewers. Years and years of on-air idiocy, after all, have propelled “Fox & Friends” to the top of the morning cable-news ratings. Why walk back the show’s business model now?


By: Erik Wemple, The Washington Post, September 10, 2014


September 12, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Fox News, Violence Against Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The NFL’s Twisted Sense Of Justice”: The Priorities Are Wildly Out Of Proportion

Where would NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have gotten the idea that a two-game suspension was an appropriate sanction against a player who beat up his fiancée? Maybe from the example set by prosecutors and the criminal justice system.

Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice yesterday was cut from the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. But that obvious punishment came long after the attack, and only after the NFL – rather improbably – said it had just seen a damning video of the event.

The grainy, jerky tape is sickening. There’s a beefy professional football player, beating his then-fiancee Janay unconscious and proceeding to drag her out of the elevator like she was a too-heavy sack of potatoes.

For this behavior, Rice initially got a two-game suspension – not much to complain about when you have a $35 million contract and have collected more than $28 million from the league already. He avoided not just jail, but even probation, and was instead slapped on the knuckles with a “diversionary” program. What’s more, the Ravens stood by their domestic abuser, tweeting that “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”

It’s hard to separate out who is the worst actor here. Rice himself is an obvious choice. There’s no way to interpret the terrifying video other than to conclude that he beat the woman he supposedly loved until she fell helplessly onto an elevator floor, unable to even get out of the car, while her husband-to-be slung her onto the floor and pushed her legs together with his foot. That’s the sort of behavior that will get you, at the least, a personal foul in the NFL – that’d be 15 yards – when done to another muscled and football-padded man. But little happened to Rice when he did it to a much smaller and weaker woman.

That brings us to the Ravens, who had the insensitivity to treat the abuse like it was just a little couple’s spat, and worse, suggested that the victim herself was at fault. The fact that Janay Rice commented on her “role” in the assault only proves how endangered she was and is – and anyone who has an elementary school level of education, or who has watched even a single episode of “Law and Order: SVU,” ought to know that.

Then there is the NFL, whose authorities claimed not to have seen the videos – a more detailed one was revealed this week – that show the brutal assault. One wonders how that is even possible, unless Goodell was determined to stick his head in the AstroTurf to protect the right of players to be violent, and the mission of teams to keep them amped up and aggressive.

But Rice still avoids time behind bars, which is no surprise. The criminal justice system takes the same distorted and twisted view of infractions as has the NFL. A first-time drug offender in the NFL, for example, can get a four-game suspension without pay; a third-timer could go a year without pay. That’s much worse than the penalties imposed – and recently increased, in light of the Rice incident – for pounding your fiancée into unconscious submission.

And in the criminal justice system? Rapists, who do the math, can feel pretty confident. Just three out of 100 rapists will spend a day behind bars, according to an analysis of Justice Department statistics by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a victims’ advocacy group. While one in five women will be raped at least once in her lifetime and one in three women will experience some kind of domestic abuse, the Centers for Disease Control recently reported, fewer than half of rapes are reported, since victims are afraid to come forward. A fourth of reported rapes result in arrests, and a fourth of arrests end up with a felony conviction or incarceration, according to the victims’ advocacy group.

But for drugs? The average sentence for a federal drug offender is about six years and for a crack cocaine violator, eight years.

The NFL – and Goodell’s – priorities are wildly out of proportion, putting abuse of a person’s own body ahead of the assault of a woman’s body. But the example set by prosecutors and the criminal code are just as bad.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, National Football League, Violence Against Women | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The NFL Is Full Of Ray Rices”: So Much For Zero Tolerance

After the first video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator surfaced in July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for a mere two games. An apparent knockout punch was punished with a slap on the wrist, which Goodell later acknowledged wasn’t enough.

“I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values,” Goodell wrote in August. “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

Goodell revised the NFL’s disciplinary policy with regards to domestic violence: a six-game suspension or more for the initial infraction and up to a lifetime ban for recidivists, with the opportunity for annual appeals. Even though Goodell said that “domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances,” a great many abusers of women still in fact have a place in the league.

Ray Rice’s teammate and All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs has twice gotten into altercations with his then-girlfriend and current wife. In 2009, he allegedly, “threw a soap dispenser at her head, hit her in the chest with his hand, and held a bottle of bleach over her and their 1-year-old son.” In 2012, he “punched her in the neck and dragged her alongside a speeding car with their two children in the vehicle.” Unlike Rice, Suggs was on the field with the rest of the Ravens on Sunday.

Carolina Panther Greg Hardy was convicted this summer of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening her life.

“He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” Nicole Holder told the court. “I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me,’”

Hardy was given a 60-day suspended sentence and put on probation for 18 months. Last Sunday, he suited up for the Panthers, registering one sack and four tackles.

Brandon Marshall, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, has a rap sheet including two domestic violence charges. He caught eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.

Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys hit his mom and then said, “I’m done with domestic abuse” at a 2013 “Men Against Abuse” rally. The NFL is not done with him.

Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers was part of a defense that shut down Bryant’s Cowboys, even though he was busted for felony domestic violence a mere 72 hours after Goodell’s revised policy was announced. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said last week, “If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there’s no understanding. There’s no tolerance for that.” Unless you play for Jim Harbaugh.

Randy Starks was forced to miss a single exhibition game despite striking his fiancée. He still plays for the Miami Dolphins.

Frostee Rucker had a one-game suspension overturned by Goodell in 2007 despite two counts of spousal battery. Rucker now plays with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The only reason charges against Chicago Bears wide received Santonio Holmes were dropped in 2006 is because his accuser—the mother of his children—refused to testify against him. Holmes often lines up next to fellow abuser Brandon Marshall.

Even if you think they all should all be kicked out yesterday, it’s hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which Goodell—with a tenuous grip on the commissioner’s plush leather chair—might enact a Stalin-esque, retroactive purge.

First, doubly punishing the aforementioned players would definitely raise howls from their union, the NFL Players Association. Second, the 32 team owners aren’t particularly interested in having their very valuable assets taken away from them. After all, they didn’t sever the contracts of Suggs, Hardy, Marshall, McDonald, Starks, Rucker, Holmes, et al after their abuse became public.

Furthermore, were these wealthy men to take a hard-line stance, you’d have to assume that the Commissioner would have to bring the hammer down on the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, should he lose the lawsuit which alleges that he sexually assaulted a woman a third his age, and “fondled her genitals, forced her to touch or rub his penis, and required she watch as the 71-year-old Jones received oral sex from another woman.”

To paraphrase Fox & Friends, don’t get caught beating women on camera and you’re safe to play in the NFL.


By: Robert Silverman, The Daily Beast, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, National Football League, Violence Against Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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