Eyes Wide Shut

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Living is easy with eyes closed.
― John Lennon

Some mornings, following their overnight shift, my son and some coworkers head out to breakfast before bed. Beats bars and strip clubs, at least from my perspective.

And lately they’ve been going to Chick-Fil-A. I was unaware until recently that this franchise had extended to my area; five years ago, which is the last time I checked, the nearest one was 400 miles away.

Eventually we had a discussion about this, my son and I. He had some vague memory of a Chick controversy, irrelevant for the most part because, again, we weren’t running the risk of accidental eating barring a spontaneous trip to Idaho.

Chick-Fil-A has apparently gotten out of the gay-bashing business, which is where the controversy began. I mentioned all of this to him, and he shrugged. Whatcha gonna do? Sometimes you’re at the mercy of your ride, not to mention your stomach.

So, yeah. Corporate boycotts are all well and good—I find them refreshing, actually, democracy in action—but it’s hard to maintain passion when it’s off the radar. I rarely eat fast food this side of cheap pizza, and if it comes up I’ll usually lean toward Subway, or else a reliable hamburger. Chicken sandwiches seem dicey, from past experience. Although I understand the food is good.

Then there’s Wal-Mart. I’m appalled by Wal-Mart, by their business model, by their employment practices. By their ambience, in fact; the few times I’ve been in one, it reeks of desperation and dystopia, aisle after aisle of penny-counting shoppers who don’t seem happy. This is in opposition to Costco, which feels like an ersatz Disneyland, and Amazon, which feels like nothing. My shopping needs are covered and social guilt rarely comes into the picture. I pick my poison and move on.

None of this strikes me as anything but realistic. Sometimes you just want a chicken sandwich. Sometimes Wal-Mart is the only game in town. You patronize, you consume, you possibly rationalize, and you live to fight another day.

And then we have football.

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I’ve been following professional sports (and some amateur) for most of my life. I’ve been a passionate fan at times, disinterested at others. My passion for the NBA, already fading, pretty much disappeared with the Sonics leaving town. I keep only a lazy eye on baseball these days, hamstrung by cable’s monopoly in a cable-less household.

Football has waxed and waned, depending upon circumstances. I became a Seahawks fan almost immediately upon moving to Seattle, 34 years ago, made much easier by a suddenly electric team in 1983, sneaking up on a Super Bowl (we believed, anyway). I drifted away in the ‘90s, snapped back into fandom in the early aughts, then leapt onto the bandwagon when Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson showed up.

I’ve been grateful. They’ve been a not-quite dynasty, five straight years of divisional playoffs and at least 10 wins, a couple of Super Bowls and one spectacular win. Owned by Paul Allen, a homegrown rich guy whose sense of social justice coincides with mine, operating under a coaching and management philosophy that feels authentic and ethical, I don’t have to rationalize at all. Domestic abusers and other bad seeds don’t seem to stick around, and I can name a dozen current players who are exemplary citizens, community warriors. It’s guilt-free fandom, allowing me to casually snark at other teams that don’t meet my standards.

Most of this is silliness, not worth mentioning. There are teams that are too good, year after year, and so I pretend to hate the Yankees and the Patriots, but not really. Not even dislike. It’s all pretend. There are no evil sports teams, a ridiculous idea.

Except the Raiders. I have no idea how people like the Raiders.

I’ve never liked Colin Kaepernick, in this sense. He was the leader of our divisional rivals, seeing him at least twice a year, and he was too dangerous on the field. I knew little about him as a man and didn’t really care to. I just wanted my team to win the game, all of the games, and so he was the enemy for a few years.

But I had no problem when he started his protest. I understood it, I agreed with the need for emphasis, and I admired the way he tweaked his high profile, switching from sitting during the anthem to taking a knee, a legitimate, recognized act of respect and honor, suggested to him by Nate Boyer. I understand the bent knee-jerking that’s been inflamed by Donald Trump, and why.

I also, for example, understand our right to burn an American flag to protest injustice or inequity or, whatever, taxation without representation, something. This is as American as it gets, and the act horrifies me. Truly. I have to look away. It’s a reflex on my part, a dim sense of acceptable behavior.

Not so much with the kneeling. It feels passive, subtle, potentially influential without (potentially) being inflammatory. I’m baffled by the response, really, although I guess I shouldn’t be.

And if you agree with me, and a lot of people do and don’t, I have a question. Probably rhetorical, but anyway.

If you feel this is a legitimate, acceptable, and/or even honorable way to protest perceived injustice, in this country and at this time, and if you’re a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, how come?

I mean, I know how come. I’m just honestly wondering if you have to jump through rationalization hoops. Your star running back has a history of alleged domestic violence; I think if I were a fan, this would be difficult, but I can see the path here. He’s young, never charged, possible extenuating circumstances, etc. A man who beats up a woman, repeatedly, is not my kind of a man, but again: I don’t know what really happened. Benefit of the doubt and so on. I’m glad he’s not a Seahawk and I don’t have to wrestle with morality about a game.

A game that has its own morality issues, by definition. By the way.

I’m just wondering about now. With Jerry Jones and his edicts, his line in the sand, his shady record of ownership and his apparent personal philosophy that his version of patriotism is everyone’s version. By decree.

Switch subjects and see. Harvey Weinstein has done despicable things; anyone boycotting Miramax films, past, present or future? Maybe, but I don’t see it. It’s too removed, too complicated, too many moving parts.

And the film industry has a long history, not only of sexual harassment and assault but just any number of bad players getting big paydays, always, always. Alfred Hitchcock was a serial sadist, an abuser, a harasser of women, a creep. Does it change your opinion of Rear Window? I’m guessing not, and I can’t figure out why it would. I don’t muse upon the lifestyles and ethics of Cézanne or Wagner; I admire their work and move on.

I’m fairly certain I’ll never again listen to the comedy routines, or watch the films and TV shows, of Bill Cosby, but then I was weary of him 30 years ago. It’s not that hard.

But the ‘Boys? That’s a personal relationship, one that has its own rules and rationalization. I’d like to think that if Elliott were a Seahawk, I’d lose interest until he wasn’t anymore. I’d like to think. But I don’t know, and I sort of doubt my principles here. Sports, go figure.

I just wonder. I’m honestly not judging; I can’t get that worked up about it. But Jerry Jones is a bad dude, and he owns your team, and he says and does these things, and now I’m curious. As I said, probably rhetorical. But I’m still curious.

Chuck SigarsComment