Wednesday, October 22, 2008

America's Circus Maximus

THIS MORNING I HEARD sportswriter Sal Paolantonio on the Dennis Miller show (yeah, I know, I listen to that glib, snickering-at-his-own--jokes Republican shill so you people won't have to) plugging his book How Football Explains America. The biggest revelations in that interview are no secrets to any thinking person conversant with history and with the ways of the power elite; but what knocked off my socks was that they exposed it on national radio for the masses to hear: America's preeminent national sport, football, is the "Circus Maximus" (Miller's words) of the American Empire; according to Paolantonio, it is about "violence," about "religion," about "manifest destiny," about war and conquest.

American elites wanted to form a national sport to replace the European sports of soccer and rugby, which most Americans hated. The "Founding Fathers of American sport" got together in two meetings in 1880 and 1882, at Harvard and Penn State respectively, to "fix" the game of soccer. Their first innovation was to add the first down, which enables the team to "capture territory, hold it and defend it" -- an allegory for the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The next innovation was to add a general called the quarterback, the "cowboy outlaw figure" and "main protagonist" who "tells the story of the game as it marches across the field, just as we marched across the continent."