What can be said that hasn’t been beaten into the ground already, about football? Well, some things can be said about the meaning of it. Your response may be that there must be something more important to expound upon, but there is a point, here, worth making.
Football is a metaphor for America. Not because of the “sport” aspect, but because of its declaration of excellence being rewarded and celebrated, vicarious inclusion of couch potatoes, and attraction of profits – even the creation of millionaires.
“Aww, c’mon,” you say, “it’s just a game.” No, no it isn’t.
Football is a great business, and Americans react well to this because we are, like every other human, innately capitalist. We recognize and appreciate smart business, smart marketing, and that wonderful effect of smart business: secondary benefits to multiple other businesses and tremendous flows of profit dollars into charities.
Even better, football succeeds, itself, because it grandly recognizes and rewards individual excellence and discipline.
No matter how loosey-goosey our morals appear to be, we each value excellence and we honor those among us who strive, daily and hourly toward perfection. We are awed and thrilled by organizations whose profit motivations imbue their individual members toward constant improvement… and success.
“Do Your Job.” Americans respect and reward responsibility. No matter the qualities of leaders – and successful organizations, particularly business organizations are led, obviously, more than simply managed – every individual following a leader is ultimately responsible to that leader, to his associates who depend upon him or her, and to him- or her-self, for the task each has trained and learned to accomplish at the moment of execution. Ya’ gotta’ love it.
There are a handful of truly great and greatly led moments in our history, when large fractions of the nation followed, even sacrificed, for the proper purpose a recognized leader had placed before us. The Revolutionary War – in a sense our first Civil War, as we “seceded” from England – is a perfect example. Clearly Washington was a superb leader who was able, in the face of extraordinary odds and opposition, to maintain the shining goal and keep his under-fed, under-supplied and under-appreciated troops striving toward an “impossible” goal: Independence.
The Americans weren’t fighting for treasure or even for comfort or out of fear, but for a set of ideas and ideals. To maintain leadership for such an effort is rare and justification for our reverence of General Washington.
Lincoln showed similar, not identical traits. But his sense of “mission” was no less complete than Washington’s. And there was a purity of purpose that never faltered and was apparent to enough people in the “Union” to re-elect Honest Abe in the midst of our bloodiest, most-hate-filled war ever.
In a sense, Washington led his troops to become the prow of the ship facing war’s stormy waters; Lincoln was, himself, the prow of that same ship. Both were leaders for the right reasons… and respected. Those being led were able to sacrifice for the purposes each leader embodied. Americans respect and honor that stuff!
Another, more refreshing example was the Apollo Moon-landing mission. Jack Kennedy was a leader. It’s not because of any significant executive experience – far from it. It was because of vision. For those of us born during WW-II, the 1960 election was the first we could vote in. We grew up under Eisenhower, but he didn’t “speak” to us. His presidency marked the end of an era and of his career… he was our parents’ president.
Kennedy represented the vitality of America and the start of new adventures, new ideas… the New Frontier. He was our start, too, and anything was possible. Somehow, in spite of his practical naiveté Kennedy perceived that the competition with the Soviets was a competition between cultures, between beliefs, between dreams, and that American needed a new dream every so often, and that the times and the possibilities were coming together. The U.S./U.S.S.R. conflict was a challenge to the ideas of America, and there simply was no room to come in second.
Kennedy’s May, 1961 Moon-landing proposal to Congress met every aspect of what a leader should include in laying out a mission: it was bold, it was a challenge, it was timed and measurable, and it had a specific goal – a goal that rose and set every day. It was perfect, and what the nation needed at a time when popular, slanted news was extolling the amazing progress the Soviet system had made in everything from rocketry to housing to medicine and to education.
The other element of the Apollo challenge was technological, and a certain boost to our economy… something every President needed. What happened?
Military leaders, scientists, engineers, colleges, think-tanks, machinists and a thousand businesses with their own leaders, adopted the mission and devised a thousand missions of their own. Most of the knowledge needed to pull off the moon landing and a safe return to Earth, was unknown. Many of the skills were floating around among the disparate parts of the nationwide, about-to-be-team, but they’d never been marshaled to a single goal until Kennedy presented a new dream. Still others had to be invented.
Again, what happened? A new unity of purpose. Indeed, there was an irresistible force of purpose that caused levels of sacrifice, stress, service and a striving for perfection rarely experienced by any industrial society… and success. The success was so profound that it swept up the vast majority of Americans into a new belief in what we stood for and could accomplish. It has not been repeated.
But metaphorically, its impact is out-pictured in teams’ quests to reach the Super Bowl. And the fans of those quests, fans of every team, respect the sacrifice and discipline, study, practice, learning and leadership that’s needed to get there. Brady would be nowhere without good leadership at the head of and within the Patriots organization, and within himself in fact.
Americans get that, and respond, even to buying shirts and hats as if to absorb a little of it.
The same qualities exist in the military, although the sacrifices are so compellingly greater. And Americans grasp what it means. We honor and respect the training, discipline, leadership and near-perfection elite teams strive for in every service… and even more, the physical, sometimes mortal sacrifices made in furtherance of the greatest mission on Earth: defending America. We share the pain when we back out of conflict without victory; we try to honor the many victories it has taken to get even to there.
We felt and respected some of the magic under Ronald Reagan, perhaps never recognizing the nature of his and our victory over the Soviet communist system.
But the momentum of dis-education and the constant anti-American pressure that has marked American culture since Nixon was forced out of office, was bearing fruit… and nuts.
From the utter debauchery of the Clintons, through the distorted semi-conservatism of Bush-43, through the Obama dislike of America, of Whites and of Christians, and his greater respect for everything we are not, Americans have yearned to respect again; to respect, perhaps, themselves. We have yearned to respect our institutions, and people, and systems and teachers and churches and everything that has, no matter how hidden or suppressed, the innate sparks of leadership, training, practice and sacrifice, that we know has created greatness in this land and in us.
No ONE can do that, and certainly he or she cannot BE that – not even Donald Trump. But he, at least, knows what IT is and its importance to the ideas of America. Like JFK, he has succeeded because he sensed Americans’ need for a new dream, every now and then.
Now is good. Go Pats!