3 Reasons Super Bowl 50 Might Be My Last

3 Reasons Super Bowl 50 Might Be My Last

Next week Sunday evening, the Carolina Panthers and star young quarterback Cam Newton will face off against veteran Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium is being touted as the “Father Time vs. The Fountain of Youth” matchup, and rightfully so. Only New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady can rival future Hall of Famer Manning for the title of generational greatest. And Newton? Well he’s 26 years old and already the best of what remains should Manning and Brady finally decide to hang up their cleats. Barring major injury (unfortunately always a prospect in the NFL), we should be talking about him for a long time.

I’m deeply interested in this game. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Peyton Manning as an athlete and competitor, and I’ll also admit I’ve enjoyed his humorous turns in a variety of ad campaigns. He’s far looser, with better comedic timing than his wooden and unfathomably two-ringed younger brother Eli (another rant for another time). This may well be his final season and it would be awfully sweet to see him go out a champion. Also, suck it Colts.

As for Cam Newton, he’s at the top of his game and a possible 2016 MVP candidate. It’s fun to watch a guy who just won the Heisman Trophy five years ago dominate the sport. The fact that he’s also extraordinarily good looking has nothing to do with my affinity (lies).

But you know what? Other than perhaps the first three contests of the 2015-2016 Bears season, Super Bowl 50 might be the ONLY game I’ve given a shit about in awhile. Yes, the former Monsters of the Midway went a pathetic 0-3 and never improved much. Sure my fantasy team comfortably finished in last place. And I admit I was out of my survival pool by Week 5. I miserably own all of these misfortunes, but I’d be lying if I claimed they weren’t the year-over-year norm.

No, for three colossal reasons, I’ve just found it hard to care much about this season. My love of sports and competition springs eternal, but National Football League, if you’re listening? I’m over it. Notwithstanding welcome and overdue news of Buffalo’s hiring Kathryn Smith, breaking the glass ceiling as the league’s first female assistant head coach, I’m just not that into you anymore.

Here’s why.

The absurd greed.

The NFL has finally begun paying taxes, but corporate whore Roger Goodell and his machine generate over $10 billion in revenue for football. It’s a business, and this fact permeates seemingly everything the Ginger Hammer decrees (thanks Drew Magary!).

  • The decision to depart from Roman numeral 50 for the coming Super Bowl, and the fact that this story about the merchandising theory behind it ran on CNN Money.
  • The strong but struggling Midwestern city of St. Louis delivered a huge blow with the Rams’ pending relocation to Los Angeles, California. Despite valiant efforts by city leaders to make staying in place an attractive deal for the team, shitbag CEO Stan Kroenke trashed the Lou, and per Sports Illustrated, “the NFL and its ownership followed the money.”
  • And as a female fan weary of the league’s blatant, rampant misogyny (see #3 below), I can’t even deal with it’s misappropriation of the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon without actually raising funds for research.

The long-term injuries

It’s true that the NFL agreed to a $1 billion concussion settlement with thousands of former players, stemming from the brutal sport’s catastrophic injury record. It’s also true that there is serious doubt about whether this amount can ever be enough to reimburse a steady stream of former athletes for their medical bills and ruined lives. Just this month, former Steelers star Antwaan Randle El opened up about his struggles with memory loss and balance. He’s a mere 36 years-old and was never seriously impaired during his playing days. Yet he says, “I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”

This is a tragedy and there are too many human stories like it. A fellow writer and friend recently observed, “I said in a blog post once that I wonder if, in the future, our support for the game will be seen as barbarian.”

It’s getting tough not to feel barbaric for continued support of a system that allows an unacceptable number of men to commit suicide as pain relief.

The chauvinism

I wish I had a stronger word for this last one, but I already used “misogyny” and I don’t like to be linguistically repetitive. Ray Rice and thousands more overpaid, entitled, criminal cases like it – spoken and perhaps just as often, hushed. The New York Times titles the sport’s unchecked – and frequently unpunished – violence against women,”a quandary.” Once again the nomenclature seems feebly understated.

The Super Bowl is a national event and millions are looking forward to a Patriots-free contest, while relishing the commercials and spectacular half time show. Including me. But it feels different in 2016, much more bittersweet. I don’t know how if my engagement can survive the offseason into the fall. The NFL is going to have to do some work over the next six months to demonstrate less cynicism. The lack of currency involved may not matter to Roger Goodell and the league, but continuing to ignore fact is bad business for my moral conscience.

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Hollywood’s Winner in the #OscarsSoWhite Controversy? Chris Rock

chris rock

“With all due respect to Mr. Gibson, if Chris Rock can take the theme of spousal murder and turn it into a cross-demographic gut buster, I think the topical humor portion of next month’s telecast is in good hands. In fact, there may be no one better suited to the task. So why the high-profile pressure for an experienced, intelligent host who knows too well the sting of being marginalized on an all-white stage? As the Smiths and Spike Lee are allowed to formulate a response to the Academy’s dereliction that feels right for them and their fans, Rock’s pledge to the broadcast offers another opportunity to present a strong, positive example.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Back to the Wall: Hillary’s in Trouble and Knows It

hillary-clinton-rub-head

“It’s fair to say that Clinton did not run from the two-term Obama record Sunday night. On issue after issue, in drawing contrast between what she hopes voters will view as the more radical, impractical positions of Sanders, Hillary’s stance was essentially, “I plan on building upon what President Obama did.” (Side note: it kills me to agree with Chuck Todd). What a difference a few months makes.:

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Number Four

Number Four

On August 8, 1978, a warm and humid evening in Chicago, Rebecca Ann Bluemel was born at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The symbolism of this inner city debut would come to define much of her character.

Rebecca was the first realized, but fourth conceived child of Gregg and Gloria, 23 and not-quite 22 years-old respectively. She was number four. The first three fetuses had been aborted by the young and careless couple.

I know this because my father confessed it when I checked him into a hospital several years ago for another mental health episode. I was horrified, and hated him intensely at the time for speaking. But in a way, the truth did offer freedom. I’d never heard that my sociopathic mother insisted she couldn’t get pregnant, and that my troubled father failed to question repeated, terminated evidence of her falsehood. I guess the former Catholic alter boy who still skipped red meat on Fridays couldn’t stomach a fourth trip to the abortion clinic. So my parents got married and six months later, there I was.

When I was around eight years old and my family was sinking in the quagmire of too much responsibility and too little stability from its leaders, my parents had another horrible argument. This one ended with dad screaming the following words, forever seared in my formative mind – “YOU TRAPPED ME!” I wasn’t old enough to understand it all, but I absolutely felt the rage – and comprehended that the “trap” was me.

The impression this accusation left, deepened by natural inclinations of character and desire to be loved, unleashed a firestorm of achievement-oriented activity. I wanted to be the best at everything, to keep climbing new heights, make them proud. It was so painfully and openly needy. I owed it to my dysfunctional parents to help them care more, and I was persistent in effort. After all, wasn’t their unhappiness and disinclination to provide for our basic needs my fault? I trapped them. I was hungry in more ways than one to show them that engaging was worth it. That I was worth it. As a bonus, I enjoyed the luxury of disappearing into industry. A mind and body always in motion doesn’t have time to hurt and despair.

Years later, when my father told the whole truth – that three other babies could have been in this position – a whole new can of psychological fuckery opened. Why me? Why had I been born at all? What would the unborn have been like? How did I compare to the people they might have been?

I’ve been thinking about all of this ugliness a lot lately. I’m healthier and happier than ever. There’s been miserable years, necessary estrangement from both parents, lots of therapy and personal labor. But early in 2016, I live a contented, peaceful, fulfilled life for which my younger self dared not hope. Aspiration was just too painful, especially under the impression that in burdening my caretakers with an unwanted presence, it was necessary to work harder and repent more. So very Dostoyevsky without the religion.

I’ve had time to think about my father’s 5150 revelation. Of course I’ve understood in a real way for several years now that my parents had plenty of choices. Like birth control. It’s not anyone’s fault that their broken interpersonal gamesmanship ended up in a rotten marriage and a daughter for which they weren’t prepared to care. I also know that playing the “What if my unborn siblings would have turned out better than me?” game is a psychological fool’s errand. I’m here. That’s how it went down. And despite it all, I have a life of which I’m proud.

I’m ok with being number four. I carry the idea of the three that never were with me. They are not forgotten. Unhealthy people made decisions for all of us (or at least our collective cells). I’m finally living truth that once seemed impossibly buried under the heavy weight of sins not my own. Overachievement that always felt more exhausting than productive is leveraged today by passion, rather than a campaign for the acceptance and love of those who can’t give it. I like myself a lot more this way. It’s sustainable.

As I move through the novel experiences of 2016 and settle into some wonderfully comfortable routines, I’ve been thinking about the years I spent looking at Rebecca Bluemel (now Sarwate) as a booby trap. I’m nobody’s regrettable baggage. And the first embryos weren’t either. Numbers one, two and three travel with four in spiritual communion.

Chuck Todd and the Rest of Mainstream Media Finally Recognize Bernie Sanders’ Existence

meet-the-press-chuck-todd

“Todd was speaking of results from two new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of likely voters from Iowa and New Hampshire. The latest data shows Hillary Clinton with just a three-point lead over Bernie Sanders in the Hawkeye State. Meanwhile in Granite territory, Sanders is ahead of Clinton by four points. So yes, it is clear we have a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination. My question for Chuck Todd and the rest of the mainstream media: but haven’t we always? Why is conventional wisdom and corporate marketing so quick to count out Bernie?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Those Who Can(?), Teach

Those Who Can Teach

For years I’ve been needling my friend Tim, an English Professor and Department Chair at Northeastern Illinois University. I met Tim during the pursuit of a Master’s in English Literature at NEIU from 2005-2007, and he was one of my favorite instructors – energetic, learned of past and present, and truly inspiring in his encouragement of student potential. Although I learned everything I use today in terms of writing acumen, research discernment and (hopefully) clarity of argument from the education he and other talented faculty members imparted, I now enjoy the benefit of hindsight.

In the eight years since graduation, I’ve built a reasonably successful communications career. There has been much paying of dues. There have been mistakes, setbacks and a heap of lucky breaks. But there it is. I’m a proven corporate marketing professional. I’ve amassed a large body of freelance journalism, criticism and opinion work. I’ve risen through the ranks of important state and national communications organizations, and the experience has taught me how to lead, network and build communities. I’ve developed proficiences in all of these areas for one important reason – a liberal arts education. With one caveat.

What my degree course at Northeastern did not teach is that we need to start growing these “extra-academic” communication skills before walking out the door with paper in hand. An MA, while impressive in conversation, did not qualify me to do any of the above, or for that matter, a whole slew of other non-profit, startup, government, freelance or corporate work. During the years I harangued Tim, I passionately argued that given the mountain of debt with which many students graduate, and the often anemic employment opportunities that await, learning on the job takes time most can ill afford. Wouldn’t it be great if colleges and universities held some type of transition class for liberal arts majors?

Fast forward to Fall 2015 and a phone call from Tim. Over time, we’ve become close friends and frequent collaborators, an honor often beyond my comprehension. I idolized him as Professor – full command of subject authority with none of the pretension. And he always believed in me, well before I demonstrated an inclination for much besides finishing the degree and serving as an enthusiastic NEIU English Department ambassador. Our post-collegiate friendship has offered many occasions for discussing ways to improve student opportunity. During one of these conversations, the idea for the progression class was born.

Anyway, that fall day, Tim called and mentioned a Spring 2016 staffing shortage – sabbaticals and such. Was I serious about teaching the course after all the talk? And if so, name it and provide an abstract.

Ok. I’m a German-Italian woman born and raised in America’s third largest city. I also happen to be a dramatic creative with a loud, opinionated streak. OF COURSE I’m a talker. I have great ideas by the second and share them with anyone who will listen – often at a volume intolerable to common decency. But am I a teacher? Sure I have this diverse experience, amassed by trial and error. But do I have the command, and more importantly, the balls, to channel it into something meaningful that could make a difference for imminently graduating students?

Folks, I guess we’re about to find out because here it is:

ENGL 358 – Making Your Liberal Arts Degree Work:
Writing For The Professional World & Internships
NEIU Spring 2016
College of Arts & Sciences

This course provides a personal and professional communications orientation, covering the integrated landscape of digital media. Students will learn to adapt their writing for such practices as social marketing, blogging, headline writing, messaging, networking, community building and resume development. Whether a students’ ultimate career goals lead them to freelance, startup, non-profit or corporate endeavors, this course helps students learn more about putting their degree to work.

Whatever symptoms of Impostor Syndrome I’m experiencing at present (moments of acute panic), better take a pill. Because this is happening. Starting next Wednesday evening, every week, for 16 weeks. I’m all HR registered, lesson plan developed and guest speaker prepared. There are 27 officially registered pupils as of this post and they deserve a lot more than sluggish insecurity from the newbie. As do Northeastern and Tim for believing I have the credibility to pull this off.

I am honored. I am energized. And I’m shit scared. I’ve heard from experienced teachers, as they shared wizened, tired smiles, that these might be my greatest qualifications. The cause is bigger than my ego. If I can remember that long enough to get through my opening introduction – “Good evening. Thank you for being here. My name is Becky Sarwate and I’m here to try to save you eight years by sharing what I know.” – I think we’ll all be ok.

While Obama’s Got the Executive Orders Handy, How About One for Oregon?

Ammon Bundy

“Ok look. It’s the evening of January 5th. Three full days ago, Ammon Bundy and his hypocritical gang of redneck, domestic terrorists (we can tolerate no “reasonable disagreement” on this matter if democratic law and order are still principles by which we care to live) seized the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The remote haven of natural beauty, federally mandated for the unencumbered use of anyone who cares to travel to rural Oregon, has been violated by causeless thugs and their weapons. They may be pathetic. They may lend themselves to quippy hashtags such as “Y’all Qaeda.” But this is not a joke.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.