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The NFL has managed to diminish my favorite pastime

Football has been my favorite sport for many years. Some of my fondest memories are of going with my Dad as an 8 year old to high school football games he officiated on weekends; and for close to a 20 year stretch I hardly missed a home game at the Stadium to see the Jets. I played a little in high school and caught two touchdown passes on the day my JV high school team won its first game in three years for our small Catholic school – it was a thrill I still think about over 30 years later. There are few things to me that are as graceful as an airborne receiver making a diving catch with his body extended in a way the defies reality, or the fluidity of a running back running making tiger-like moves with agility, sheer power and stamina. I will even stop on the side of a road to watch a high school or amateur game.

However, I find the game as it is presented today by the NFL holds less and less favor to me. Not so much because of the game itself, though my enjoyment has been greatly impacted by the revelations of the Frontilne report “League of Denial,” but because it has been overshadowed by its caretakers’ decisions to militarize and corporatize almost every aspect of its presentation. The corporatization of football as a commodity to sell advertising is at the heart of the NFL today, it’s the engine room of a capitalistic society that demands profit over people every time. All manner of commercial ads, from beer to cars to fast food to banks, bombard the viewer throughout.I have come to loath consumerism, and it is impossible to separate it from the game.

Far more dangerous than the corporatization is the collusion with the military to neatly weave this creepy fascistic tapestry of nationalism, the military and football. If it makes you shudder to see old newsreels of stadiums full of Germans in the 1930’s pledging their fealty to the Homeland, it’s not very far off when multiple times during the Super Bowl one watches and listens to the many choreographed moments of militaristic and nationalistic imagery and theater resulting in orgiastic, ritualistic and ecstatic fervor. At the core of both events are notions of national superiority, false pride, violence and fear. George Carlin’s classic piece “Baseball vs Football” cleverly describes the infatuation with military language, culture and names. “The quarterback aka field general,” has to be “on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense, hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy, in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun,” “with short bullet passes and long bombs he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing his assault with a sustained ground attack.”

The most obvious change has been in the Super Bowl Growing up I can’t recall holiday-like gatherings with feasts bigger than Thanksgiving and major, big-scale Hollywood production sets, not until the 80’s (yeah, that decade which was the worst culturally, politically and musically). Now every Monday Night game is a spectacle, as are each playoff game. And to think, the NFL made $10 billion this year. How are they considered a non-proft business? It is the same kind of mockery of Exxon/Mobil paying no taxes, or subsidizing farms not to harvest crops, or not taxing all financial transactions. When will the jig be up? We’ve been screwed, by a system run of, by and for the plutocrats.

Even the stadiums themselves have become high altars to consumerism. They feel like malls first, playing fields second. Shea Stadium, or whichever bank or corporations bought the rights for its name which I refuse to use, has become a vile and ugly faux heritage-style stadium. Being there twice when there wasn’t a game is when you see it in its nakedness. They’re now McStadiums, a place whose only purpose seems to be that from which to hang as many corporate banners as can be affixed. The last 20 years have seen many new stadiums, and for the most part they’ve conformed to this crass setup, with few exceptions. A seamless flow from shopping mall, to franchise food to sports stadium. Shop and eat, repeat. Shop and eat, repeat. A full stomach and an empty head, ready to be filled with advertisements.

Which makes sense. You’re no longer there to just watch a ballgame. You’re also there to shop, which in contemporary America means your ultimate civic duty. That’s as much as the last President said,, in response to 9/11. He went even further, offering specificity in a refrain familiar to any who watched football in the 80’s. That era could have been the beginning of the end, when we had to endure the banality of a player – engaged in the biggest battle of his career, being watched by hundreds of millions around, look into the camera and say “I’m going to Disneyland.” It’s surprising the team uniforms don’t yet have corporate logos on them like they do in Europe. Perhaps we shall hear I the not-too-distant future Al Michaels say, “This fourth down is being brought to you by All-State.”

So it’s no surprise that NFL franchises operate the way Corporate America does: if you don’t give us tax-free investment we’re gonna take our ball somewhere else. Corporations in all fields of business use this canard(see Boeing in Seattle now – which surely will get no mention on Sunday – and dozens and dozens of other companies). Threaten to move the operation to where there’s an offer of tax breaks and cheap labor. The American way is to depress worker wages and be rewarded with a windfall of money from a desperate small cities willing to fork over local tax money. It’s another form of outsourcing,; the only thing different is that the greedy monomaniacal businessmen owners can’t take the Patriots or the Redskins to Bangalore or Ho Chi Minh City. The one bright spot is the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by the people of the small city in Wisconsin, and not by some vainglorious .01%er looking to dabble in football for a little fun.

This Sunday I will at some point be thinking of how green with envy Leni Reifenstahl and Joseph Goebbles would be over the spell the NFL has cast over the American people. The mass indoctrination of American nationalism ranks for me as one of the most dangerous developments of the NFL. With this help from the NFL, non-stop warfare around the globe, corporate fealty and a lemming-like culture of consumerism is made easier.

The NFL, the tv networks and corporate America cultivate this fascistic union by weaving together American nationalism, consumerism and an obsession with the military all throughout the game. Every few minutes the announcers are telling you what the tv program is for the rest of the week (“Don’t miss tonight on Fox —-“), the ads come pouring in after every kickoff, change of possession, scoring play, carefully crafted to make you think of something you had no interest in or to gently nudge you to a favorable feeling for a product brand (allegedly the banks have been the biggest spenders this year… cue sympathetic music, video clips of diverse, multi-cultural people cooperating, gleaming shots of progress, etc – all from Goldman Sachs, who led the way in the financial meltdown). There will be a great attempt by the banks to makeover their image and the NFL is all too happy to oblige.

The screen will be filled with glittering images of giant American flags, fireworks, military flyovers and of course, multiple shots of military personnel. David Zirin of the Nation watches the Super Bowl every year with guys from the Iraq Veterans Against the War. “As the troops said over and over again, ‘this is about exploiting the soldiers for the purpose of selling the war.’” He also notes that the commercials “depend very heavily on selling women’s bodies.” The problem, he says, is that “you can’t separate the camera lingering on Kim Kardashian’s body to sell some product or another, and then the shots of the troops. It’s all sort of woven together in one large tapestry that says ‘Join the Army, sex, Rock n Roll, the Super Bowl, flyovers. It’s the same way you can’t separate Top Gun from Tom Cruise getting to sleep with Kelly McGillis. It’s all the same package. “ Even though I reflexively mute every commercial, including the in-between commercials from announcers which are cleverly thread throughout the broadcast, it is still pretty overwhelming.

The story of Pat Tillman should be remembered here too, because his tragic death was a result of that nefarious alliance . He met his demise literally in the crosshairs between football and the Army. Here was a dynamic, intelligent, well-liked standout defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals., who was killed by “fratricide” in Afghanistan. But that’s not what the Army wanted reported. They concocted a more “heroic” story, because they wanted to use him as the patriotic poster boy for the war. His family wouldn’t accept the company line and despite being stonewalled by every rank in the government concluded finally that he was killed by his own men. Tillman had also been reading Noam Chomsky. The ardor with which he left professional football to defend his country after 9/11 was waning as the reality of the war shone clearer to him on the ground. He had arranged to meet with Chomsky upon his return.

Another level-headed guy who also read Chomsky and willingly gave up his chance to be in NYC right now, reveling in the anticipation of playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, is John Moffitt . He was playing for the 8-1 Denver Broncos when he quit in the second week of November, having had his fill of football and blocking for Peyton Manning who was on an unbelievable streak. He’s also a Buddhist. “I just really thought about it and decided I’m not happy,” Moffit said. “I’m not happy, and I think it’s really madness to risk your body, risk your well-being and risk your happiness, for money… How much do you really need? What do you want in life? And I decided that I don’t really need to be a millionaire.” Similarly, Dave Meggyesy, a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers in the late 60’s, decided he’d had enough too. Surprise, he was also a highly literate guy who concluded in his prime that football was “institutional violence,” comparing the game to the military, with its obedience to authority, the players plagued by fear and subservience to titillation.

Football, like the Army, depends on malleable, loyal pawns who for the most part don’t really take to literature, philosophy or politics. They’ll take guys like Dexter Manley, the All-Pro defensive end for the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins who actually never learned to read until he was almost 30 years old. Just pushed through the system for his athletic ability, herded like cattle. In the minds of its superiors the Army and NFL functions more smoothly when the employees are incurious about the world at large. Maybe then they could use a guy like Mitch Daniels to run things. Remember that RW ideologue clown/former Governor of Indiana, who went on to become President of Perdue University? As Governor he attempted to ban Howard Zinn books statewide from all public colleges. Banner of books becomes university president!

I’ve noticed I don’t quite watch football the same way anymore. Especially after the Frontline investiagtions revealed the NFL’s denial and coverup of the epidemic of consussions. Every time a player goes down I used to just get up to grab something to eat or go to the bathroom. Now I imagine a guy closer to agonizing dark depression, memory loss and debilitated physicality in the years to come, the pain his family goes through.

These days it’s hard to see a professional football game as more than it being a vessel upon which Corporatism, Militarism and Sexism can attach their brands to, and not much more.

—Crossposted here on Daily Kos with comments

Caroling for the 99%

This holiday season, a group of us returned to Steinway Street in Astoria for our second annual Caroling for the 99%. With re-worked Christmas carols in hand, we went from one fast food restaurant to another singing carols to show solidarity with the fast food employees. Here are some thoughts on the experience from those who participated.

Caroling for the 99%

Caroling in Subway on Steinway Street.

Rich:

I participate in order to show solidarity with the fast food employees and hopefully educate people about this huge problem.
Caroling lets fast food employees know that there are people aware of their plight, people who are willing to advocate and fight for them.
It is empowering when we walk into a McDonald’s or a Taco Bell. I believe it is always empowering when you speak your mind. Being in a tight-knit group of like-minded friends makes it just that much more special.
We receive a wide variety of reactions. There is surprise, indifference, appreciation, wonder, curiosity, respect. We hope to pique people’s curiosity to the point that they engage in conversation with us, do some research online and, ultimately, become active in their own ways.

Wage Hike (to the tune of Sleigh Ride)

Just hear those profits jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too
It’s time to pay the workers for all the work that they do
Those bills just keep on rising and debt is through the roof
Come on let’s work together, it’s time to face the truth

Sam:
“Why carol? Because I care about people! And I don’t want anyone to suffer because of the 1% not noticing them and not giving them human rights. Caroling is a good way to convince the 1% to actually realize, ‘Oh, my workers are underpaid. Better make up for that!’”
“I felt really really good. I only got a little nervous when we found the cop in the bank.”
“A lot of people smiled. The cop looked a little scared and tense, ready to pull off an arrest.”
“I’m just saying… I also liked singing the songs. I could have… I want to be a man of many talents, I enjoy singing when there’s a chance and it doesn’t embarrass me. And singing with the rest of Occupy Astoria, I didn’t feel embarrassed, I felt special.”

It’s Time to Ask for More (to the tune of Auld Lang Sine)
May old slave wages be forgot
and replaced by something more
We can’t survive on $7.25
It’s time to ask for more

Michelle:
I participate to show solidarity, and also on the hope that some people will be interested, inspired to learn more about a living wage, as well as to interrupt the usual flow. On a personal note, I have always found this time of year to be deeply alienating, and caroling with you all takes an edge off that like little else has. Except for bourbon : ) I was late this time, but no matter, I find it frightening to do this because I think protest is criminalized and misunderstood. But I do it to hold out the idea that it is something any and everyone should do when and if they feel so moved. I only witnessed people being curious, and one person who was clearly in support of what we were singing/doing. But I also know some people have a negative reaction. I would expect that because any protest is a questioning of the status quo and most of us want predictability. It gives me hope to carol with you all, and that is really saying something.

Let It Grow (to the tune of Let It Snow)
Oh the minimum wage is frightful
but here’s something insightful
$7.25′s too low
so let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

Jay Tee:
-Why did you participate in Caroling for the 99%?
-There are 4 main reasons: To raise awareness, show support, hang out with awesome people and have fun, which is easy to do while singing with your friends.

-What effect do you think it has?
-Even if people didn’t react, I think it plants seeds and helps buttress the point that things are changing.

-How did you feel walking into stores and singing?
-Sometimes I was a little nervous and thought we might get arrested, especially given the recent “charges” and threats brought against Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping for their wonderfully creative Golden Toads performance at Chase. There were 2 times when I was a little nervous. One time I couldn’t find the song we were singing and I felt all flustered as it seemed everyone was waiting for me to get it together, and the customers in the restaurant were just sitting there watching us. Aside from looking disorganized, my main concern was regarding whether or not this delay was enabling more time for a manager to call police. But all in all I felt very merry and wonderful! I felt that a lot of people supported us as they nodded their heads and clapped.

-How did people react?
-With the exception of a couple of people, the reactions seemed to range from no reaction to very positive. While walking down the street, some. perhaps most, people didn’t react. They may not have known how to as one rarely sees Christmas carolers any more. Some people also had ear buds in and couldn’t hear us. But I think just about everyone was reading our signs.

Inside restaurants, it seemed that most customers had a positive reaction. They clapped,smiled, nodded, gave us a thumbs up, etc…Even some employees clapped as we finished. This is quite bold and I think very encouraging.

I am really proud of OALIC for getting it together and Caroling once more for the 99%. I think performance and music are very powerful and represent one effective way of continuing to fight the good fight.

$7.25 (to the tune of Winter Wonderland)
CEO’s make a killing
Average Joes aren’t willing
to keep being paid the minimum wage
We can’t survive on $7.25!

Ted:

It feels good to gather with people and get this message out, especially in this way at this time of year. Singing is fun, though the message is quite serious. I participate to amplify this important message of economic justice as well as to lift my own spirits by doing something proactive with friends.

I think it can shake people out of their holiday shopping stupor. If only momentarily, it presents a starkly different perspective. People see a group singing carols, but then the message is actually about workers rights. Maybe it makes an impact on passersby and hopefully encourages employees of the fast food restaurants we carol in.

It feels fun because you’re part of a group and you’re trying to be a voice for those who need a voice. It also can feel uncomfortable in an invigorating, exciting way. I think that is an important part of it for me. Sometimes actions should take you out of your comfort zone and maybe make you uncomfortable.

Reactions range from no reaction to smiles to people taking pictures and thanking us. Some people came over to express support and engage in conversation. We encouraged people to visit www.fastfoodforward.org for more information. Ultimately, caroling is a small action in the face of a monumental problem but I think of it as the pebble thrown into the ocean, hopefully rippling out in ways you can’t fathom.

Pay a Living Wage (to the tune of Do You Hear What I Hear)
Said the 99% to everyone
Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)
Workers rights eroding everywhere
Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

VIDEO: “OCCUPY NEIGHBORHOOD” AT LEFT FORUM 2013 NYC

Which Way, G.A.?

The 25-person “Occupy Neighborhood” meeting last Sunday (6/9) at Left Forum 2013 included people from New York neighborhood general assemblies in Kensington, Harlem, Astoria/LIC and Sunset Park, and also from OccuEvolve, Granny Peace Brigade, Green Party, “No 7-11″ and La Jornada. Others came from as far away as Syracuse, Vermont, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Spain. Sofya Aptekar has produced a record of it in nine parts on the Occupy Astoria LIC youtube channel. (Further comments, see FB event.)

1) Which New York Occupys Are in the House (0:00)? Opening statement by Nicholas Levis, Occupy Astoria LIC (5:00).

2) …Levis. Nellie Hester Bailey, Harlem General Assembly (2:49).

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Occupy Astoria LIC Road Trip To North Carolina Protest

Just Another Moral Monday

By Ted Alexandro

Yesterday, I drove down to Raleigh, NC with two friends. What motivated us to hop in the car and drive nine hours was not just a fun road trip, though we did have fun. We wanted to go down to see the growing “Moral Mondays” protests at the NC state capitol. Spearheaded by the NAACP and rooted in Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles of non-violent civil disobedience, it is a call to North Carolina’s religious leaders and their communities to advocate for the poor and speak out against Governor McCrory’s right wing agenda, which targets the most vulnerable North Carolinians.

Each of the past several Mondays, North Carolinians have flocked to the statehouse to protest a government that they view as failing the needs of the people. In the previous two Mondays alone, two hundred people were arrested for civil disobedience and led out of the statehouse in handcuffs.

Moral Monday protest, Raleigh, June 10

All Photos: Adrian Resa Jones / Nomad New York

As someone involved in the Occupy movement, I was intrigued to see for myself, as were my friends. When we arrived in Raleigh and walked to the great lawn outside the capital, we were impressed by what we saw.

Under a gray, rainy sky, hundreds of people were gathered, many carrying signs advocating for issues of all sorts. I didn’t need to ask “What are their demands?!” I knew damn well…

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OCCUPY ASTORIA LIC FILM SERIES – MAY & JUNE 2013

Documentaries for the 99%

All Films: Tuesday evenings at the Church of the Redeemer in Astoria. Doors open 6:30. Film starts at 7:00. Lively discussions, usually hosted by the filmmakers or experts on the issue. Light refreshments served. Potluck is invited!

Laurel Leaves
6/18: THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD
(with Comedian Lee Camp)
***
6/25: HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
(with activist and “St. Pat’s For All Parade” founder Brendan Fay)

***
5/7: BROTHER OUTSIDER – LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN
5/21: #whilewewatch – #OCCUPYWALLST MEDIA REVOLUTION
5/28: GREEK AMERICAN RADICALS – THE UNTOLD STORY
(with AKNY-Greece Solidarity Movement)
6/4: INCONVENIENT TRUTH BEHIND ‘WAITING FOR SUPERMAN’
(with educator, filmmaker and performer Brian Jones)

Rally to Save P.S. 122′s Gifted Program

By Bill Biniaris

The auditorium at P.S. 122 was filled with over 600 people on March 6, 2013. Parents, teachers, students and neighbors showed up on a cold night, whose forecast called for snow, in order to voice their frustration at the recent Department of Education announcement to phase-out the gifted program at the school. Among the panelists were Costa Constantinides, an alumnus of the coveted Academy for the Intellectually Gifted, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

Parents, students, teachers and residents rallied at P.S. 122.


According to the Department, they’ve decided to enforce Chancellor’s regulation A-101 after never having done so in the past. In short, this regulation mandates that any zoned K-8 school allow all students that entered the school in kindergarten to remain in the building through the terminal grade. In order to apply this logic, all students that are admitted to P.S. 122 in September of 2013 will complete their tenure there upon graduating from the eighth grade.

At this point, one might be wondering what all the fuss is about. The problem is that P.S. 122 has never been a zoned K-8 school. The building, located at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, has historically been the home of an elementary school until about 1985. At that junction, a very small yet distinct District 30 gifted program, grades 6-8, was opened which eventually grew in size and scope. The specific goal of this new program was to serve the needs of District 30’s gifted middle school students. Such a program did not exist until this one was opened. Over time, “The Academy” expanded to include a strand of gifted classes within the existing elementary school. These changes never constituted the creation of a zoned middle-school at P.S. 122. The neighborhood’s zoned middle-school was and still is I.S. 141. At this point I must add something critical to the conversation. At many schools, similar constructs have been created and staffed by an additional school administration. The cost savings, coupled with stellar academic results, which no one refutes in relation to 122, would be more than enough to characterize the 122 community as successful and innovative.

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Heading to East Flatbush for Kimani Gray

By Jerry Kann

On Tuesday evening, March 19, I took the 3-train out to the Saratoga Avenue stop in Brooklyn. I was hoping to get to my destination — East 55th Street and Church Avenue in East Flatbush — by 7 o’clock. That was the start-time set for the nightly vigil for 16-year-old Kimani Gray, shot and killed by New York police on March 9. The neighborhood was new to me, so I had no idea if I’d be able to find my way to the vigil by 7:00. I was a little nervous.

I had heard that Jumaane Williams, the City Council member for the area, had angrily demanded that people from outside the neighborhood stay away from the vigils. He was obviously concerned about the violence that had broken out in the neighborhood the night of March 13, when about 40 people were arrested.

Yet OALIC member Jenna Pope, who photographed the protest and march that night, reported to our General Assembly that cops on scooters cut off the marchers, blocking their way. There is nothing illegal, of course, about walking down the sidewalk, even with a large group of people. According to Jenna, this blocking the crosswalk was the NYPD’s way of provoking the marchers and, as it were, inciting the disturbance that followed. I couldn’t help remembering the reports that journalists were arrested at Zuccotti Park on the night of November 15, 2011 — a clear case of City government stomping all over the First Amendment…

NYPD scooters flood the streets of East Flatbush at the Kimani Gray vigil.

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A Message for Christine Quinn

So I’m walking on Steinway earlier and at the corner of Broadway, a man is handing out papers. Someone is always doing that. I generally try to take these off the leafleters’ hands and recycle them. A block later, it was still in my hand, so I had a look. It was not an ad for a gym. – NL

Message To Christine Quinn, 2013-Mar-26

The Corner of Steinway and Broadway Speaks

#BrooklynProtest IN EAST FLATBUSH

Candlelight Vigil For Kimani Gray

This week, there have been vigils and marches in response to the NYPD shooting and killing Kimani Gray in Brooklyn. I was there on Wednesday, and although the vigil and march started out peacefully, the cops decided to block us from using a crosswalk while we were on the sidewalk, and continued agitating the whole night. I believe that’s what we call a “police riot.” Click here for more info. Below are two of my photos from the night of March 13, 2013. Follow this link for more photos. – Jenna Pope

#BrooklynProtest/3/13/13

Candlelight vigil for Kimani Gray in East Flatbush

 

#BrooklynProtest/3/13/13

St. Pat’s For All! Occupy Astoria LIC to March Sunday, 3/3

Friends of Eire! Join Occupy Astoria LIC as we march for the second year in

OA-LIC at St. Pat's For All, 2012

OA-LIC at St. Pat’s For All, 2012

This is a festive, family-friendly event! Look for the big yellow “Occupy Astoria LIC” banner at the 12:30 pm Assembly Point, 47th Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. The parade begins at 2 and marches to Woodside Ave and 58th Street. Annual post-parade party at Saints & Sinners, 60th Street and Roosevelt Ave. The whole universe is welcome!

The St. Pat’s for All parade celebrates the diversity of the Irish and Irish American communities of New York. First held in 2000, St.Pat’s for All cherishes and celebrates an inclusive St. Patrick’s season. Ours is the first in the 260 years + of Irish parades in New York City to be open and welcoming to all who wish share the spirit of the day. We err on the side of hospitality.

For directions by subway and bus and the full story of St. Pat’s For All, see the St. Pat’s For All site.