Fifteen days. That’s how long we were told to stay at home- excuse me, I mean #StayAtHome- before the situation would be reassessed, wasn’t it? My memory is sort of hazy, as traditional time keeping has lost all meaning. But according to the Gregorian Calendar from days of yore, that seems to be where we’re at now. So, what’s the story?
Although this new and shockingly different phase of American life is so unpredictable, nothing could be more predictable than the idea that the quarantine would last longer than fifteen days- MUCH longer, in fact. Regardless of whether or not the pandemic will be as bad as the experts claim- and the jury is still very much out on THAT point, at least- nothing could stop the death toll from rising well into the Spring of 2020, if not longer. The idea that we could just turn everything back on after two short weeks, as the hospital beds and body bags started piling up- literally- was always absurd. But give the politicians credit, however reluctantly, for realizing that it would be much easier to sell the public on this idea in short phases, as opposed to telling us how long it would really take. America has had endless nostalgia for World War II for longer than most of us have been alive, so it’s no surprise that in mobilizing the public- or demobilizing, in this case- we hear all about the sacrifices our grandparents and great grandparents made for their country. But the harsh reality is that this whole thing looks far closer to a different war- Vietnam.
THE RISE OF INCREMENTALISM
Unlike World War II, Vietnam never had a defining Pearl Harbor style point of entry. America got involved very slowly, first assisting the French, followed by the South Vietnamese. Before we knew it, we’d taken over the whole operation, without any definitive goals or exit strategy. All we knew was we wanted to slow the spread of Communism, even though we didn’t know by how much or by which measures. Sound familiar?
Of course, this is not a perfect analogy- very few analogies are. Unfortunately, the analogy breaks down largely because there are far greater consequences to the “war” we are currently fighting. For one thing, it’s already a distinct possibility that we could lose more people to COVID-19 this year, than we did in the entire Vietnam War combined. But on an even larger scale, Vietnam did not have a direct effect on the majority of the population. Oh sure, people grew their hair longer and came up with some slogans to yell in the street, but for the most part, American life continued on uninterrupted. The coronavirus gives us no chance to avoid the fight, to enroll in a university (most of them are closed down, anyway), or have well-connected parents keep us safe. These days, we are all growing our hair longer, because hair salons have been forced to close, much like most American businesses. Even more disturbingly, at least to some of us, is the government is giving us even less of a chance than the virus itself, as they clamp down on more and more of our freedoms, in the name of “keeping us safe”. But the government can’t do this alone. Fortunately for them, they haven’t had to.
Thanks to some well-crafted propaganda, restrictions are getting tighter, while deadlines for *ahem* “returning to normal” are getting longer. Although the liberal side of the aisle are more enthusiastic about embracing these measures in the name of “the greater good”, no one in power- not at the state level, not at the federal level, nor anywhere else of significance- gets a pass here. If anything, conservative politicians should be more criticized for this, because it’s their responsibility (at least in theory) to take unpopular positions that protect individual liberty over what the public might be clamoring for. Instead, we have the Republican governor of Maryland, taking some of the most draconian measures of all, to attempt combating the pandemic.
Whether or not these methods are the right thing to do or not (you’ve probably figured out what I think by now), it’s hard to remember a time that political spin in implementing them has been so successfully used on the public. Rather than admit the error of underestimating the virus’s spread before it hit our shores, the government turned to medical experts on what we need to do now. That’s all well and good, except for the fact that at least as of now, there isn’t much that can be done to change the course right now, given how quickly the virus spreads and how interconnected our society is. But, since we need to do something, the good doctors (we HOPE they’re good doctors, anyway) have sold us all on “social distancing” to “flatten the curve“- two concepts that did not even exist in American life at the beginning of this month, yet somehow BECAME American life by the end of this month. How effective are these methods? What is the cost? What is the trade-off in using them? None of these questions were asked in a thoughtful manner. We were just told that this was the way through, and seeing how frightened the American public became, it became accepted as gospel.
So this is where the propaganda machine really goes into high gear. Even believing the most infallible projections of social distancing’s effectiveness in flattening the curve, there was no way it would show strongly measurable results after a few weeks. Seeing how impatient our society is, that part was significantly downplayed, as Americans were told to wait it out for 15 days, then see what happens. So 15 days came and went, the death tolls (predictably) started rising, and what did happen? We were told that, “Gosh, the quarantine just didn’t work- not because we were given a false timeline, but because of those rotten Spring Breakers! And how about those people happily jogging around the block, or…gasp…flying kites in a public park?? THEY’RE the reason we need to lock-down longer!”
An angry public was all too happy to grab onto this myth, because like the climate change debate (remember that?) and many other complex problems, it’s more comforting to find a scapegoat, than to admit a problem is largely out of our control. The reality is, though, the American public adhered to these guidelines in astonishing numbers. Somewhere between 80% and 90%- and probably a lot closer to 90%- of the public willingly took themselves out of the daily grind, in the name of “stopping the spread”. (Another nifty phrase that has entered our lexicon.) In fact, most people were so willing to take this to an extreme even beyond what was recommended, those who wanted to continue going about their business outside, to the extent it was even allowed, could easily do so and STILL followed social distancing guidelines! The country is more unified in taking action (or inaction) than it was after 9-11.
Unfortunately, the divide-and-conquer strategy of pitting the majority living in extreme caution (if not outright fear), with the minority taking a more moderate approach, is working. This ultimately will not help anything get better. It will, however, give those already in power a reason to grab more, which they surely will.
None of this really answers the question of whether the virus will live up to the hype, nor does this blog post dare to even attempt answering that question. It is worth acknowledging that in New York City, New Orleans, and a few other spots across the country, there already seems to be a highly troubling strain on hospitals. But even with that in mind, tragic as it is, we are still nowhere near the kind of plague-like warnings that would justify shutting the economy down, assuming that would even be an effective countermeasure to begin with.
Unfortunately, one thing that already has been established, is that the rate of damage we are seeing done to the economy in real-time is without precedent in American history. Whether the damage itself will be unrivaled has yet to be seen, but after a mere three weeks, the signs are not looking good, particularly with the astonishing number of those filing for unemployment. Given that this shutdown will continue for AT LEAST another four weeks from this blog post, there’s no telling how much destruction will be done to our financial system and previous way of life. But at the current rate, it will certainly be far greater than the damage done by the virus itself.
(Next blog post will address the people that seem to be most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and the questions necessary to best deal with the surrounding facts.)
In these trying times, it’s nice that we can still take a short break from harrowing events, to fight online about things that are absolutely meaningless. At yesterday’s press conference, Mike Lindell, better known as “The MyPillow Guy”, was given a high profile opportunity to address the nation from The White House. Normally, this sentence might seem absolutely surreal, if not for the fact that Donald Trump- DONALD TRUMP- is The President of The United States! Anyway, at a White House press conference with millions and millions of viewers, Mr. Lindell announced that his company was making 50,000 masks, a very necessary step in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition to this announcement, he threw in some very nice words about God and Donald Trump himself, although it’s unclear if the President was able to make the distinction. But I digress.
Anyone who spends too much time online could see what was coming a mile away. On one side, there would be snickering about the spectacle of watching a guy from late night infomercials, addressing the nation during a very serious crisis. On the other side, there would be people countering against these “elites”, daring to mock a man for showing his faith, while contributing his company’s services to the only cause that seems to matter these days. Of course, very little of this was actually about Mike Lindell at all. He was merely a proxy for the ideological battle that has been going on in this country for decades now, and particularly since Donald Trump was elected. Throw in the fact that our sports leagues have been taken away from us- hopefully not for too much longer- and THIS has become the nation’s pastime.
Without diving further into this issue- I mean, seriously, there are far bigger things to worry about- what Mr. Lindell is doing is a net positive for the country, and we need industry to step up with these types of efforts as much as possible. But for those who are not MAGA types, let alone those who identify with “The Resistance”, the presentation seemed tacky. We’re in the middle of a life or death situation, and this guy is giving a speech that could could have easily been saved for the Republican National Convention! Surely there are other companies out there who have also reallocated their resources to “fight the good fight”, but those companies are not headed by big-time Trump supporters, so they won’t be getting valuable prime airtime that could have been put to much better use. Some liberals even suggested that Lindell used his time in the spotlight to cynically promote his company, to which conservatives defiantly responded by saying they would be sure to make purchases from MyPillow. None of this resolves anything, of course, other than confirming that Mike Lindell really does know how to advertise.
All in all, though, the whole thing provided a somewhat entertaining, if unintentional, distraction for us. And regardless of what you think of Donald Trump, Mike Lindell, or the MyPillow product itself, we could all use a little bit of entertainment these days, whenever and wherever we can find it.
It seems surreal to think that not even two months ago, we were treating the tragic death of Kobe Bryant as the defining moment of a generation. Indeed, the events around it were extraordinary, and in terms of public figures, his death alone was AT LEAST on par with that of Princess Diana and John Lennon. Factor in that his daughter and seven others were in the private helicopter with him, and it made the whole event even more painful to think about. Nevertheless, Kobe Bryant was still just one man, and outside of the few individuals close to him, his daughter, and the others lost in the accident, life would go on the same for all the rest of us.
But here we are, barely on the other side of an event that apparently changed American life more than anything since December 7th, 1941. (Yes, including 9-11.) The Coronavirus, something that entered our lexicon at the end of 2019, has fully taken over our society, days before the Spring of 2020 commences. Indeed, its spread has taken on a life of its own, like the deadly virus that is, but at least so far, in a very unexpected, ironic way. Rather than infecting our immune systems at the exponential rate that has been predicted, it has infected our society and way of life, in a way that we will likely not recover from any time soon. By trying to preemptively stop the virus from harming us in mass numbers, we have ended up harming ourselves. The whole thing kind of feels like the episode of South Park, where the parents banished the children from the town, in the hopes that they wouldn’t be kidnapped.
None of this is to make light of the Coronavirus itself. It has created chaos in the health industry across the rather motley crew of Iran, Italy, and especially China, where the virus started. It is far deadlier than the “common” flu, and more contagious than other diseases that have made their way to the headlines in the early 21st century, such as Ebola, SARS, and H1N1. But in a highly interconnected world of 7+ billion people, these types of disease are, unfortunately, inevitable. While the worse case scenario projections are terrifying, the reality so far is nowhere near a fraction of that. Nothing in our lifetimes- at least for those of us under 80 years old- has ever altered the course of our collective lives so dramatically as this. We still do not know if these draconian actions are justified, as only time will tell. But what we DO know is that there is no turning back.
But what exactly caused this event to “succeed”, in a way that The Cold War, Radical Islamic Jihad, the aforementioned diseases (H1N1 killed over 10,000 Americans), climate change, and various other scares did not? Part of it is the spread of social media, which in some ways, behaves in a virus-like way itself. As news permeates through the internet, stories that have “sizzle” manage to grow exponentially. We watched through the news what was happening in China, and knew that it was only a matter of time before SOME variation hit home. Then in early March, Rudy Gobert, a star player in the NBA who had mocked the Coronavirus with a crude “prank” just days earlier, was diagnosed with the disease. Within two days, professional sports leagues were shut down, creating shock not experienced in generations throughout society. Sure, this happened for a very brief time during 9-11, but that was because the country was in mourning. This time around, sports leagues, along with all the industries that followed, were shut down as a preventative measure for a microscopic menace, fearing that those in crowded spaces could catch the virus very easily. It also didn’t help matters when Tom Hanks, a larger-than-life figure in a similar vein to Kobe Bryant, turned out to be mortal as well. People don’t like to say it out loud, but when bad things happen to these “invincible” celebrities, we wonder what kind of chance the rest of us have.
So now, we have toilet paper shortages- another irony, seeing how Coronavirus is not THAT kind of disease- as well as soap, hand sanitizer, and other products that are running low on the shelves. But all that is merely a warmup act for the TRUE damage we are just beginning to experience- the shutting down of the global economy, “led” by the American consumer. For a small, vocal minority that included yours truly, this has been in the pipeline for decades, as financial institutions and their willing-if-unknowing accomplices have been kicking the can down the curb, hoping to put off the inevitable juuuuuuuust a little longer. It was always heading for disaster- glimpses of that could be seen after the DotCom bust, followed by the one in real estate a half decade later. What’s so surprising is that it is not an external event that likely took the whole thing down, but that it was dismantled willingly by a society fearful of what MIGHT be. And make no mistake- even if the shutting down of commerce “only” lasts for two weeks, as unlikely as that seems, it will cause catastrophic waves that will be felt for years to come. The global economy was set up with an appetite similar to the hummingbird- it needs to be fed constantly, or it will die. Whatever unprecedented measures await us to keep it afloat, on top of the unprecedented measures that DID keep it afloat up until this point, they will have unintended consequences that will likely change the way business is done forever.
And what of this soon-to-be defunct economy, that is all most of us have ever known? If we’re looking for silver linings- and if we ever needed silver linings it would be now- one might be that the power will be shifted away from industries that have done more long term harm than good. Around the same time that the current President made his infamous comment about Mexican immigrants in 2016, Michael Bloomberg, the wealthy tycoon and former New York City mayor who ran a disastrous Presidential campaign, said something arguably as offensive and ignorant. Trying to make a point about the superiority of the Information Age businessman over the seemingly-archaic blue collar farmer, Bloomberg implied that those who succeeded in the Information Age (eg. people like him) did so because of superior intellect, whereas “anybody” could learn how to farm. Bloomberg, who apparently thinks his food is grown in a Sparrow’s pizza chain restaurant, completely disregarded the critical importance of the farmers that allow us Americans to take for granted just how easy it is to fill our bellies whenever we feel like it. As the financial system that helped Bloomberg become one of the world’s wealthiest men crumbles in real time, while our digestive systems still demand three meals a day, it will be interesting to see whose skills are really necessary to keep the world going.
Finally, a cold, perhaps even cruel question that needs to be asked- how many deaths will justify the dismantling our way of life? Until the last few weeks, we were told that the largest threat to our society was climate change, although very few practical changes were made, even by those who claimed to be most concerned. If the Coronavirus has taught us anything, even in its early stages, it’s that our fragile society can be hit by any threat at any time, without any time to prepare. Now that we have been caught flat-footed, our leaders are trying to make up for it by overcompensating. When we look back at the actions that are being taken as this blog post is being written, will we be able to say it was worth it? More than half a generation ago, George W Bush got lukewarm support for the invasion of Iraq, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. A few empty canisters later, the whole thing appeared to be a catastrophic miscalculation at best, a deadly set of lies at worse. This is obviously a different threat, in that we KNOW it’s real. But justifying our countermeasures will be a Catch-22. If the number is too low- let’s say, below the number of people killed by H1N1- the whole thing will be seen as a supersized, overly sensationalized media news cycle. If the number is too large- let’s say, approaching or, heaven forbid, EXCEEDING the Spanish flu of 1918, the last TRUE American plague- we’ll say that the social distancing movement was a giant failure. So, the number probably be somewhere well above H1N1, but well below the Spanish flu, to even TRY to justify the current actions being taken.
If I may emphasize the point, I know how heartless this sounds, and it’s not to minimize the tragedy that we have already seen, nor the tragedy that still lies ahead of us. But sometimes, overreaction can be as bad or WORSE than doing nothing at all. (Keep in mind Saddam Hussein was, after all, a mass murdering tyrant.) For those who think that these actions are justified, even if they only end up saving a relatively small number of lives, consider this- is bringing the national speed limit down to 25 miles per hour worth the tens of thousands of lives that would be saved on the road? Remember- throughout most of civilization, the only time anyone traveled more than 25 miles per hour was when they lost control of their chariot.
Anyway, best of health to anyone reading this. Let’s hope that when it’s time to look back to see how well this blog post held up, we’re all around to do so.
No, sports guys and gals, you don’t have to stick to what you’re paid for- but the NBA’s kowtowing to China shows why you should.
For at least a quarter century now- and arguably going as far back as the Nixon administration- the country that currently deems itself “the world’s only superpower” has bent over backwards for a vicious regime that has brutalized many of its people since the middle of the 20th century. (This blog post isn’t really about that, but for just a few examples, click here, here, and here.) As challenging as life may be for some Americans, none of us can comprehend what it’s like to live under a dictatorship like China, other than the ones who have had to escape from one. This is especially true for those who believe Donald J. Trump’s presidency is the worse thing imaginable. But again, this post isn’t about that- not primarily anyway.
People go to Twitter to take all kinds of stands on various issues- politics, sports, ice cream toppings. But those in the public sphere who do so often create more of a stir than intended. Such was the case with Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets. With Hong Kong rising up against the Chinese regime for months now, Morey expressed support for the protesters with a seemingly simple tweet. But in today’s hyper-polarized social climate, very few things are simple, particularly with one of the NBA’s biggest international customers.
The NBA, usually lauded by the virtue signalers for speaking out “courageously” on social issues, was not silent on the issue, although they probably should have been. They took the extraordinary step of criticizing Morey for supporting the protesters. But it didn’t stop there. In fact, they were just getting started. Paying fans who held a banner that said “Free Hong Kong!” were removed from a game…in Philadelphia, no less. Is there a more pathetic symbol of what’s happening with this country, when the city that once hosted the Declaration of Independence signing doesn’t allow fans to support freedom for others? What does that say about our freedom?
Getting back to the NBA, though, the story reached a crescendo when LeBron James, who has bounced between the spectrum of sports hero and villain more times than we can count, had the nerve to criticize Morey for commenting about a subject that he (Morey) “wasn’t educated” on. That’s right- the same man who was once infamously told to “shut up and dribble” by a conservative gadfly was now doing the same thing to a highly esteemed general manager, for speaking out on a worthy cause.
Ultimately, this issue is not solely about LeBron James- or Warrior’s coach Steve Kerr, who disgracefully invoked sporadic mass shootings in America as a shield to widespread Chinese oppression. It’s about the culture of expecting athletes to be more than athletes. Starting with Babe Ruth and leading up to Michael Jordan, superstar athletes were thought to be more like real life superheroes, long before “MCU” became part of our lexicon. Partially overlapping that period has been the socially conscious athlete- or what is sometimes derisively referred to as “woke athlete”, derived from the idea that someone is awake to the problems our society is facing. This can be traced back at least to Muhammad Ali, a very controversial figure in his own time, who took on the establishment in protesting the Vietnam War, at considerable personal cost. Whatever shortcomings Ali had as a human being, this act of bravery has been lauded, at least in hindsight, as a positive example of an athlete being more than just an athlete.
Unfortunately, many poor imitations have been attempted since then. When addressing issues in today’s society, athletes and their backers (click here for the original “stick to sports” blog post) will predictably invoke Ali, in a nauseating self-congratulatory circle-jerk. We have freedom of speech in this country- Philadelphia 76ers pregame debacle notwithstanding- so it’s fine when a future Hall of Famer wants to speak his or her mind about topics beyond what their famous for. But they should not automatically expect to be congratulated for “bravery”, particularly when the endgame of what passes as “sacrifice” turns out to be signing a lucrative dollar contract with Nike, a multi-billion dollar company that has cynically and successfully turned “woke culture” into an even bigger cash cow than the one that they’ve been milking for decades.
So the next time LeBron James, Steve Kerr or anyone else want to speak out on an issue, it’s worth remembering that it’s their right to do so. It’s also worth remembering that when real sacrifice was on the line, they refused to remain silent. They took sides with the oppressors.
(Meanwhile on the court, opening night for the Lakers is on Tuesday, as they face off against the new look Clippers. And if I may exercise my free speech, by the time the circus at Staples Center gets going, aging LeBron’s off-court debacle will be the least of his worries…)
Sixty-three degrees and an astonishing thirty-three percent humidity are producing some of the bluest skies I can recall seeing in quite a while. I wouldn’t even believe the pictures below were of central New Jersey, if not for the powerlines in the background!
(I had to use the word was instead of is, because as I’m typing this, we’re a few days into what is considered to be a nasty selloff, by this decade’s standards.)
The Hunger Games was an entertaining movie, and Modern Family is an entertaining TV show. But that’s no reason for Elizabeth Banks to be the face of midcap stocks. Even more incredible, we see none of the snarky Occupy Wall Street style comments about this ridiculous advertisement, that used to makeup the landscape not that long ago.
(This would normally be the part where I’d say something like, “Don’t say you weren’t warned!” but I know that’s pointless.
I moved back to the east coast in September 2017. That was a very difficult month for me personally (for details, see http://www.tbi-online.com), but also the nicest month for weather that I can recall since moving here. This past week, though, was fantastic. However…
The fall of 2017 was the first and LAST “transitional” (spring or fall) season that I can recall since moving here. It’s gone from hot to cold to hot to cold and so on and so forth. As I’m typing this, on the first official day of fall, we’re entering record high territory AGAIN! But, that doesn’t take away from the first full week of consistently nice weather in nearly two years, so hopefully, we’ll get a few more before the inevitable cold returns.
’til then, enjoy…
(Shameless self-promotion- for a blog that TRULY sticks to sports, check out http://www.dodgersfyi.com!)
A couple of years ago, an unhinged leftist shot up a baseball park, where Republicans politicians were practicing for a game. One congressman in particular, Steve Scalise, was critically wounded. I usually leave my political rants on Twitter, saving my Facebook page for typically lighter content, to not offend those that I know personally. But this story seemed so abhorrent, I figured I’d make an exception, as no one could POSSIBLY take issue with a call for unity.
I was wrong. One of my Facebook friends, an acquaintance in real life, took great exception to my exception, telling me that I had decided to focus on a story for a privileged white man, ignoring many other atrocities that occur in our country on a regular basis. That’s not how I meant it at all, but I did understand her point, however distant it would be from my own. That was the last time I posted any “soapbox” material on Facebook again, deciding to keep away from controversy. There are plenty of other places for me to discuss opinions that some might consider incendiary…such as this one, for example.
I bring this up now because on the day I’m typing this, July 19th, 2019, sportscaster Dan LeBatard decided to use his sports platform for something that had absolutely nothing to do with sports. Assuming that the issue he was addressing was so abhorrent that it transcended any “cowardly” (as he saw it) boundaries that had been put upon him by his bosses at ESPN, LeBatard went on a screed about Donald Trump, his supporters, Colin Kaepernick being blackballed, the civil rights movement of the sixties- a movement that he claims hasn’t seen change (?!)- and “old rich white men” that falsely (again, as LeBatard sees it) believe they have grievances against anyone who isn’t like them. Most jarring of all, LeBatard gave this impassioned monologue under the premise that this was all rooted in fact, not his personal opinion, and that- quote- “this isn’t about politics”.
If there’s nothing else I say here that you agree with, dear reader, at least believe me on this- whenever someone feels the need to declare, “This isn’t about politics,” it is, in fact, about politics. In this case, BY DEFINITION, it’s about politics, because LeBatard was defending Ilhan Omar, a congresswoman from Minnesota, against President Donald Trump and his supporters. Both Trump and Omar, in the most literal sense of the word, are politicians.
By now, people all over the world have seen the, “Send her back!” chants at Trump’s rally, along with Trump’s indifference (if not tacit approval) as he allowed the chants to continue. For what it’s worth, I thought the chants were despicable, and I am not a fan of the President. I didn’t vote for him the first time, and won’t vote for him the next time. (I only bring this up because I have no doubt that many will read this, and picture me writing this with a MAGA hat on, and a Confederate flag draped from my wall. Not that this disclaimer will change that false image. But I digress.)
What LeBatard left out in his high pitched angst is that Omar herself is a divisive figure, with many beliefs and actions that many also consider troubling. Before becoming a national figure, Omar publicly tweeted hope that the Muslim god would awaken the world to the evils of Israel. Since becoming a national figure, she assumed American support for Israel was made possible by Jewish-American money. She publicly shamed the Covington Catholic high school kids, wearing Trump hats, latching on to the erroneous narrative that they were bullying women and minorities, while previously asking a judge for leniency of Minnesota men who intended on joining ISIS. (She deleted the Covington tweet, although did not offer an apology nor an explanation on it.)
None of these facts are designed to change anyone’s mind about Omar- she is a very popular figure among some, and as troubling (if not more so) than Trump among others. They’re merely included to help demonstrate just how much more complex this debate is than LeBatard’s one-sided argument is, and how the roots of the division go beyond Donald Trump and his supporters. And yes- millions of people are applauding LeBatard’s words as I’m typing this, but I’m betting at least 99% of them already believed everything that he said, prior to him actually speaking.
Whatever its problems are, ESPN is there to provide sports entertainment– that’s what’s in the name itself! Dan LeBatard is not secretly broadcasting from some clandestine spot in a dictatorship- no matter how much Donald Trump may act like a dictator, this is still very much a free country, one which has more platforms than ever for discussing every issue under the sun. Sports fans tune in to ESPN, FS1, and the other sports networks, in part, because they want to escape the ultra-polarized environment we find ourselves in. Those who buy what LeBatard is selling already made the purchase. Those who don’t will just tune into something else. In fact, there’s probably a third category that isn’t being considered here- those that do agree with LeBatard, but are just looking for something else at the current time. (Sorry, but no matter how impassioned someone is about ANY issue, it’s unhealthy to be Lisa Simpson all the time.)
So personally, I agree with some of LeBatard’s points. I disagree with some of his others, particularly that this “isn’t about politics”. But my personal opinion isn’t what matters to me here. There are plenty of other outlets for LeBatard to discuss his personal beliefs. Heck, he can start a blog! But he was hired, and paid good money, to talk about sports. There are plenty of other career choices he can make for himself if he wants to expand upon that. Until then, when a company is paying him well to discuss sports and that’s it, he should…well, you’ve seen the title of this blog post. You get the idea.
When discussing the highly acclaimed “Get Out”, there are two separate elements that need to be considered. It’s hard to judge them individually, as they’re so closely connected. Nevertheless, I’m going to try anyway…
“GET OUT” The Movie
All in all, I thought it was pretty entertaining, particularly the first two thirds. I was somewhat puzzled by the “R” rating for a while, but towards the end, they more than made up for it. I thought the acting was very good- not necessarily in a traditional sense, but each character did what they had to do. The protagonist, Chris, was intelligent, likable, and cynical. His girlfriend Rose seemed trustworthy, compassionate, and a bit naive. There was something clearly not right about Rose’s father, as he seemed almost intentionally awkward in trying to prove he wasn’t racist- an early queue to the audience that all was not as it seemed. The mother was very mercurial, as she seemed the most in-tune with who Chris truly was, yet didn’t reveal her true intentions- neither to the audience, nor to Chris. Rose’s brother was kind of gratuitous in the grand scheme of things, but seeing his friendly banter turn outright racist as he got drunk was cringe-inducing, in an effectively tension building sort of way. It was also a good contrast between the other minor characters’ overt racism, who were so over-the-top in their ignorance and rudeness, it was more funny than infuriating to witness. As for the other black people in the movie, their odd behavior was the biggest mystery of all, with the white people (or should we say “caricatures”) being a very close second. Last but not least, Stephen Root, as the one white male who seemed to have some redeeming qualities, turned out to be arguably the biggest scumbag of all. (Though, truth be told, it was probably a multiple-person tie.) In a nutshell, the setup was perfect.
Nevertheless, this was far from a great movie. I felt like the scene where the mother hypnotized Chris- producing the iconic closeup of his teary-eyed face- somehow managed to simultaneously have too much going on, while not being properly explained. It was effectively done and sufficiently chilling, but the premise was confusing. In the guise of helping Chris to quit smoking, she takes him to his worst memory, to put him in a “sunken place”, to prepare him for the process of transformation? Wait…what??
Then, there was the big revelation, which turned out to be…body switching. Okay, I admit that there were some clever clues, and I appreciate movies and TV shows that give the audience a chance to stay a step ahead of the game. (The Sixth Sense, Arrival, etc.) I just wished there was a more satisfying explanation for all this creepy behavior, which dominated more than half the movie, than “the ol’ switcharoo”.
Also, this movie was sold as a “comedy-horror”, and while director Jordan Peele is a genuinely funny man, I really didn’t find much humor in this movie at all- good, bad, or otherwise. Were we supposed to laugh uproariously at the wacky sidekick, who didn’t get integrated into the main story until the very last scene? I’m sorry, but he just didn’t do it for me. He wasn’t terrible, but I don’t really remember laughing out loud at anything he said.
By far, the biggest (and most confusing) error was Chris finding out that his sweet girlfriend was in on it the whole time…twice! First, Chris discovers a whole bunch of pictures of Rose with a number of black men she had dated- and one woman, who happened to be the family maid- after saying that Chris was her first one. Right there, we know Rose is no good. But then, not long after, we see Rose pretending to be horrified at her family’s actions, as Chris pleads with her to get the car keys so they can leave. Mid-panic, Rose stops, and looks at Chris with a deadly stare, giving some sort of Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey response- something like, “You know I can’t do that, Chris.” Well he SHOULD have known, anyway. But seriously, was Chris supposed to be surprised? Were WE? We already KNEW she was in on the plot- did Peele and the rest of the Get Out crew forget about that earlier scene? They simply could have hinted at it- for example, having Chris discover a picture and ONLY one picture of Rose and the maid- or, they could have had Chris confront Rose about all the pictures later, at an appropriate time. But the way it was done just didn’t make any sense.
Last but not least, once Chris escaped and made his way off the property, the movie just kind of felt like a pretty standard slasher film. That’s really not my cup of tea, but even if it were, the cleverness pretty much seemed to dry up at that point, as blood took over as the main element. The one small exception was the aforementioned wacky sidekick, who FINALLY provided a purpose as the film closed out, which is discussed more in the next section. Speaking of which…
“Get Out” The Statement
Although the movie’s humor was unfortunately lacking, the critical reaction did a great job filling the void, albeit unintentionally. Sometimes, life imitates art, and such was the case with the endless praise that this movie received for its social commentary, almost proving Peele’s point after the fact. In the same way that Rose’s father “bragged” that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could, the largely white, liberal movie critics could not stop gushing about the thought provoking metaphors used in this movie, basically showing well-to-do affluent white liberals using black people nefariously for their own selfish purposes. Lest anyone think I’m exaggerating, some ACTUAL reviews stated that Get Out was “a compassionate, thoughtful look at race” (“compassionate”??), a “sharp-eyed allegory”, and “so special”. The praise was so non-stop, one can almost imagine the critics saying, “I would vote for Get Out as Best Picture TWICE if I could!”
Lest anyone think that I, a white man, am offended at such a depiction, nothing could be further from the truth. Politically, I lean more right than left, and enjoy few things more in life than seeing someone point out the hypocrisy of liberal virtue signaling. I just think that this movie did not do a particularly good job of that, outside of Rose’s father getting acquainted with Chris early on. The shindig (which turned out to be an auction for Chris’s “services”- talk about lack of subtlety!) just showed a bunch of aging white people, callously evaluating Chris to his face, as though they were shopping for a car. As a Twilight Zone-esque plot device, it was fine. As the kind of scene that was supposed to “make me think”, it fell very short.
The best thing I can say about this movie as a conversation about race is the statement that it DIDN’T make, which ultimately ended up making the movie slightly better. As Chris nearly escapes, killing the whole family in the process (with his girlfriend being last), a police car pulls up to the property. Jordan Peele allegedly considered having the movie end with Chris’s arrest at the gory scene he left behind. Now I admit, THAT would have offended me, with the message being portrayed all too clear, to a public already sharply divided on this issue. Fortunately, Peele went for the “safer” ending, having Chris’s best friend get out of the car, to take Chris away from the scene. In addition to wisely choosing to end the movie on a “high” note (relatively speaking), it was also an unexpected twist, in a movie that seemed to have run out of them. It also gave Chris’s wacky friend an actual reason to exist in the movie, and not a moment to soon.
So all in all, the movie itself was pretty entertaining, if a bit too gory for me in the latter part. But as far as contributing anything more serious to the broader conversation about race relations in modern America? Well………………………..