Follow The Bouncing Ball
Through the haze of another late-January bout of illness (thanks for reminding me, Facebook) that swept through this house over the weekend, I had an epiphany. Credit where credit is due.
This is not the kind of sickness that should produce epiphanies, or even halfway good ideas. It’s a pretty meager bug. I mostly napped and I feel much better now. My wife went off to work, but she’s probably not crazy about the idea.
Anyway, I was scrolling through existence yesterday, and I realized that I’m constantly searching for teachable moments. I watch how people behave online, how I behave, and the whole thing begins to look like a laboratory for some mad sociologist.
And if you pay attention, the patterns start to emerge. We can begin to see how our buttons are being pushed. We’ve been doing this for a decade, at least; it should be clear.
Obviously it’s not. And every time I get a new idea, what I think is a brilliant way to explain exactly what I’m seeing and how we can fix it, or avoid it, I find myself susceptible to my own buttons and then I wonder about everything.
Politics are impossible. I have no doubt that this is all amplification, that there were always these divides and differing opinions about fact and fiction. Now we can just see what our neighbors like to believe, and some of it is horrifying.
But if facts become fungible, they lose their effectiveness. A lot of people in this country—most people in this country—have only vague ideas about how the whole thing works, and so they’ve become marks for con men (and women). Nobody wants to admit they’ve been played for fools, even with the best evidence. So they double down, and no one wins the argument when there are no rules.
There are other things, though. For some reason, last Sunday’s bad officiating during the NFC Championship game is never far from my thoughts, and all because of social media. Look, I completely understand. I can imagine it being my team, my hopes suddenly dashed in a second (I remember the 2015 Super Bowl well, trust me).
I would have bitched about it for weeks. I probably would have boycotted the Super Bowl, refused to watch. I would have felt righteously wronged. God knows what I would have said on social media.
But since it’s not my team, I sit back and see what it looks like. And now it’s just embarrassing. I’ve read quite a few Saints players pointing out that, yeah, that was a bad call, but the game wasn’t over. They had more chances to win, and in fact went ahead just a few seconds later. Hold your ground, stuff the Rams for less than a minute with defense, and head for Atlanta.
The missed call almost certainly changed the outcome of the game, and thus the Super Bowl. But that’s still not a certainty. And maybe the Rams run back the kickoff anyway, or the Saints fumble, or the field goal goes awry...we’re talking about odds only. Odds are, Saints would have won by stalling, running out the clock and then kicking the go-ahead field goal with only seconds left. Not a great way to win, but a win. Not a guarantee, but likely.
But the relentless whining. The lawsuits and threatened lawsuits. The heavy dose of conspiracy theory, how the NFL did everything in its massive, cohesive way to ensure the Rams won. The focus on a villainous act instead of a mistake.
Again, I get it. This is how we talk around the dinner table, maybe for weeks after that loss.
But when everyone can see it? And when you question the right of the Rams to play in the big game, as if your team wasn’t outscored 20-7 in the last half of the game?
There was no villain. Just a guy who didn’t make a call. Who knows what he saw, or thought he saw? The game moves fast, and far faster now than even a decade ago. This is why we have replay reviews. Maybe they’ll allow it for this sort of thing in the future, another desperate attempt to find fairness in human frailty.
But no, I guess not. This is apparently a Big Injustice, and that’s probably the most offensive thing about it. There are other injustices. We understand. We understood on Monday. By Tuesday, the rest of us were moving in another direction, still hearing in the background what now sounds an awful lot like bad losers, losing over and over again, loudly.