Horace Smith

What I Learned From Not Watching the Super Bowl

Not Watching the Super Bowl

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl!

Blasphemy, I know. It’s not because of my progressive leanings or my preference for circular sporting objects. I love guacamole and have been known to drink some craft beer from time to time (hello, Portland!).

Plus, it was Seattle. That’s like two minutes away from Portland, and us PNW’s have to share teams when David Stern lets Clay Bennett take them away from us we don’t have them.

No, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl because I was busy investigative journalist-ing.

The Richard Sherman fiasco? The Marshawn Lynch “media snubbing” junk? Peyton’s wounded ducks? Genius, Roger Goodell. Genius. Nobody wondered about that $765 million concussion issue when there were way cooler things to focus on!

Anyway, not watching the Super Bowl turned out to be very enlightening. Here are the things I learned about the Super Bowl from not watching the Super Bowl.

It Was Lame

Okay; seriously. How terrible was that game? Having not watched it, I can say with 100% certainty that it was totally not good. I can’t begin to quote all of the things I was reading on Facebook and Twitter, but there were so many gems!

Wow, this is lame” or “How much closer can it get???”  or “Don’t look now! Things just got WAY more interesting.”

How bad is a game when people can’t even say anything funny about how bad it is?

My favorite was an acquaintance’s reference to Peyton Manning — “When you touch darkness, sometimes it touches back.”

I don’t know what that means. But at least it made me laugh.

There Were Commercials!

Did you know there were commercials? Those things between the game breaks during the Super Bowl? Apparently, there were a lot of them, with everything from Chevy trucks and cow prostitution to Axe body spray. Did they spend more money on that Axe commercial than on the entire movie Nymphomaniac?

World peace sounds pretty swell. How simple it would be if the solution to the world not being such a terrible place was really as simple as not casting Shia Labeouf and spraying yourself with a bunch of Sex Panther pure gasoline?

Speaking of which; if these companies have enough money to shoot commercials that are better works of art than Lars von Trier movies, can’t they make products that don’t contain the stuff people use to scrub blood off highways?

Okay, okay. Just kidding. But seriously, Coke, would it kill you to use a little bit of sugar?

People Love Puppies and Horses

Okay, so apparently there was a really cute commercial about a puppy and a horse. I refuse to watch it because I don’t want to firewall my miserable, cynical, pessimism.

Everybody was raving about it, though. I heard way more about the puppy and the horse than that poor guy on the Broncos and the wounded duck. One tandem was cute; the other was sad and Manning-faced.

Budweiser always makes some good commercials, which apparently makes it all okay that a certain beer company is throwing all these American things at us — Clydesdales, puppies, beer —  and it isn’t even American! And it makes terrible beer.

Kudos to Belgium for making world class beer in their own country and bad American lager in ours! Did you know they save over $50 million a year by using cheap, non-quality hops and broken rice grains? Way to go Budweiser!

It Wasn’t Cold in New York

I knew more about New York’s weather than my own weather (it was sunny, thank you for asking).

It’s not like we have the Weather Channel or anything.

That would have made the whole “Peyton Manning can’t play in the cold” scenario way less interesting.

Pete Carroll is the Coach of the Seahawks (or, Richard Sherman is a CB on the Seahawks)

Yes, he is. Everybody, we know he is.

Yes. Him as well.

Thank you.

Peyton Manning is Bad (or, Football Inspires Illogical Nonsense)

This one is funny. Did he not win the MVP? Did he not have the greatest regular season ever?

I’m sorry, but for all the mean things I see written about poor Peyton, they’re mostly not fair. Coming from a guy who didn’t watch the Super Bowl — even I knew about how the Seahawks presented the worst possible defensive matchup for Peyton’s Broncos.

Not to mention, even if he didn’t score more than 8 points (haha, haha) was he really going to score more than 43 POINTS against the best defense in the league?

Wasn’t the entire Broncos defense starring in the Walking Dead? Weren’t they worse than that show? Is that even possible? Yes, yes it is.

Did we all forget that Denver usually just kicks the ball into the end zone on kickoffs (and is bad at special teams)? Because of that thin air of theirs in Colorado?

Was that Peyton’s fault? Maybe Peyton stinks in humidity. That’s why Seattle won!

Face it — the Seahawks were the Sunday lineup  on PBS Masterpiece (Sherlock, Downton Abbey) and the Broncos were AMC… Post-Breaking Bad.

Yuck.

Richard Sherman and Stanford: Why it Shouldn’t Matter

Richard Sherman’s interview with Erin Andrews brought the haters out of the woodwork. Thankfully, some people chose to defend him. The problem with some of the defense, however, is that it’s just as shortsighted as all of the offense.

How many times do we have to hear that Richard Sherman went to Stanford? Or that he got good grades and nailed his SATs?

Excusing Sherman’s “actions” based on his academic degree – while thankfully not malicious in any way – is still narrow minded. I didn’t see Bill Gates (a Seattle native) all pumped up on national television. Is that because Bill Gates went to Harvard for two years? Or is it because he dropped out?

Sherman’s SAT scores don’t matter much either because it’s the same as name dropping an alma mater. I certainly wouldn’t want people rushing to defend my personality with a number that determined how well I took some outdated and extremely flawed ‘aptitude’ test. There’s also this idea that school isn’t the bees knees either. So why judge someone by their grades?

I care about the people that know Richard Sherman. I care that his coach, other teams’ coaches and reporters who cover the Seahawks respect him. I care that he apologized (even though he didn’t have to). I care about his actions. Richard Sherman, by all accounts, seems like a good guy who yelled loudly and passionately on national TV after a crazy game in a crazier sport.

If you disagree, fine. You’re entitled to that. Just know our ability to hate people for any reason we see fit is becoming destructively obnoxious at this point.

But for everyone rushing to his defense, stop using Stanford and his grades as an escape clause. Defending gray areas with even grayer matter isn’t helping. Saying Richard Sherman is a good person (and not a thug) solely because he attended Stanford and got good grades is unfair to Richard Sherman and to everyone else.

Where you attend college (and how well you did on a bunch of obsolete tests) should never factor into the equation when it comes to holding people accountable for their actions. Academic absolution only works for a select group of people. Besides, if you haven’t noticed, it isn’t working in Sherman’s case anyway.

There are probably many different shades to Richard Sherman and his academic degree is a very small part of who he is. I’m sure he’s proud of those other parts. I say that not because I know who Richard Sherman is (or what Stanford is like) but because he’s a human being and I’m a human being and we most likely share the infinite complexities of human existence.

Breaking Bad: Football’s Power Overdose

(Warning: contains Breaking Bad spoilers)

When I was in the sixth grade, I attempted to sign up for football and started crying instead. One of the coaches saw me and told me football wasn’t about judgement or being strong. It was about “heart” and “believing in yourself.” He was a liar, but I’m glad I listened. I signed up, played defensive end and wide receiver, recovered a fumble, broke a bone, and was nicknamed “Legend.”

I quit two years later, mostly because I discovered running. I have really long legs and it’s just easier in life to run away from things. I was joking about Legend. He existed, somewhere — most likely in Santa Barbara for his sexual hot-tub prowess — but not me, not then, not football. But I’ll always be grateful for that coach who helped out a crying kid and didn’t tab him $15,000 for the Vegas bro-trip.

It’s a pretty powerful thing, football. Check out a map of the United States according to the highest paid public employees. Forty-one states claim a sports coach — a whopping 30 of those are football coaches. We care a lot about it. More than libraries, obviously.

There is that other thing, though, that comes with great power — the thing football doesn’t seem to know much about.  Instead of embracing its great responsibility, football has collapsed inward and upon itself. The result is an overwhelmingly powerful black hole.

By now, we’re sick of hearing about Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, anything to do with CTE and concussions, sexual assault and Jameis Winston, or homophobia and ex-Viking punters. We’ve been exposed to every reaction possible, from stubborn denial and anger to hopeless pleas for institutional change.

Last fall, when the Martin/Incognito Bullygate went down, someone went all Nostradamus on us and said, “all hell is going to break loose.” Smart guy. Here’s the thing — hadn’t hell already broken loose?

There’s that book, League of Denial, after all, which is about football-related brain injuries and the NFL discrediting scientists and claiming the concussion issue in football, “was one of those pack journalism issues, frankly.”

Here’s the truth: Football broke bad a long time ago.

This isn’t Walter White deciding to cook meth. It’s him killing Mike. Picture Adrian Peterson dying beside a river with Roger Goodell mumbling about how all those hits just didn’t seem so bad at the time. “Shut up Roger,” says Adrian. “Let me die in peace.”

Chris Kluwe is football’s latest sacrificial lamb, a punter who was allegedly booted off the Vikings squad for being opinionated about human beings deserving basic civil liberties. He even aligned his situation with poor Tim Tebow’s, saying “Because he (Tebow) brings this other stuff with him, just like I bring my other stuff with me, teams look at it like, ‘We don’t want it. We don’t want players speaking out. We don’t want players doing anything other than football.’

It’s a good point. After the obligatory, “we don’t condone discrimination in any way and will investigate this immediately” statement by the Vikings, speaking out truthfully seems more relevant than ever. The obligatory “we had no idea this was going on” quote has become the de facto “we clearly knew about this and we know you probably know this, so whatever, here’s a lame statement about how we didn’t know about this” NFL guilty plea.

What will most likely follow is the firing of someone, perhaps the glorification of Kluwe, the denunciation of the Vikings, or the fourth coming of Richard Timothy Tebow. The thing is, none of that really matters. Not in the grand scheme of things. This is – and always has been – about the establishment.

Who do you think the Vikings answer to? The Catholic Church? Football is an incredibly profitable machine that has a whole bunch of cogs. It’s not rocket science. Kluwe < Vikings < NFL. The thing is, why are we punishing the low men on the totem pole? Go after the coaches and the organizations all you want, but if a kid goes into his first day of organized school and punches every other kid in the face, is it right to hold the parents completely unaccountable?

All these “transgressions” amount to is football never having to answer for anything. Football – as a whole – gets off scot-free every time. Yet somehow, that’s always overlooked in our (and the media’s) rush to get on the proverbial moral high horse.

Sadly, this isn’t just a professional issue either, as the lack of responsibility can get downright educational. I’m no law expert, but it seems very obvious (and experts agree) that Florida law enforcement completely bungled what should have been an incredibly serious investigation that involved Jameis Winston and the alleged sexual assault of a young female.

Look, there was something sad about watching that National Championship game. Especially the way it ended. It’s sad because there is no such thing as black and white and it’s not like handling sexual assault cases atrociously and ignoring victims is an isolated incident in college football.

I don’t know what happened with Jameis Winston and that girl. Everyone deserves to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, but the thing is, football – professional and collegiate – really is a black hole when it comes to the evaluation of truth. You can speculate all you want about what happened, but you’d never know the truth until you became a part of the system. Once you’re in, however, there would be no way for you to report back on anything. Nothing escapes football. Not light, not gravity. Certainly not truth.

That’s what is so disappointing — that truth and justice in football will always be warped and clouded by the powers that be.

Some of this is on us, of course. Football is very dear to us and we turn blind eyes when things get ugly. But we have to take some responsibility. We have to stop dragging the red herrings  — Richie Incognito, the Kluwe-haters, the Minnesota Vikings, even Jameis Winston — to the gallows. Because as long as we punish the cogs and not the machine, football will never be threatened because we will have failed to shine our moral flashlights on its rotten core.

Everything is always a product of a bigger environment. There is always a higher power. It needs to answer for something too. Ironically, for all the fuss about the Redskins, there’s something else football stole from Native Americans — tribal sovereignty.

Football is a sport, not a sovereign nation. A judge recently rejected the NFL’s $765 million settlement of concussion claims. It’s a small step in the right direction, sure, but still — is it any wonder $765 million wasn’t enough?

Football needs to be held held accountable, but more importantly, it needs to take some responsibility. And not just financially. The sport I played in sixth grade seemed to be about knocking people down and helping them back up. Not kicking their skull in.

So it’s up to you, football. Your move.

No Country for Melo Tony

Carmelo Anthony

New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden. Memphis Grizzlies won 95-87. Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

So the Clippers and the Knicks are apparently talking a Blake-for-Melo swap. I’m not sure how to react. Seriously??? The ex-LA resident Clipper fan in me wants to cry. There is no Knick fan in me – despite going to school in New York City – but if there was, oh, my. Send Melo Tony away! Send him away for a pick. Send him away for no picks. Send him away for a piece of pizza. Just get him out.

Five years ago, there used to be a few sure things in the NBA. The Clippers being the laughing stock of basketball was one of them. They were “cursed!” Never mind that being cursed just meant drafting the wrong players, signing the wrong players, and just making poor decisions in general. Honestly, the Clippers weren’t cursed. They were lucky. There were no Greg Odens. No city of Cleveland stuff. Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles’ and ran away to Philadelphia. Count your blessings, LA.

Blake Griffin saved the Clippers. Without him, they’d probably still be firing coaches, paying nobody any money, and squandering draft picks. Nowadays, Clipper Nation is alive and well. Sometimes, people might even mention the Clips as championship contenders before cooler heads prevail. Regardless, they compete nightly and aren’t a total drag like the Lakers. None of that is remotely possible without Blake Griffin — the guy who turned the pretenders into the contenders. Without him, Chris Paul doesn’t even consider going there. There is no Doc Rivers. You think Captain Jack stops by? Not a chance!

To make matters worse, it’s not like they’re considering a trade for Paul George. Carmelo Anthony currently heads a team with a 10-22 record in the worst conference ever. You don’t trade your curse-breaker for a shot-taker. You’re a smart guy Carmelo, I’ll give you that. You’ll get out of this somehow, you always do. But I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about the Clippers.

Why would Los Angeles even consider that trade? I understand ESPN is, from time to time, very gossipy. So this all might be a whole bunch of gossip. But if you’re the Clippers, the existence of this rumor means – at the very least – you thought of the trade. How else would ESPN get wind of it? They’re next level, ESPN. They grab the rumors where they start: the frontal lobe of the human brain. The fact that someone in the Clippers organization actually formed a thought that involved trading Blake Griffin for Carmelo Anthony is pure, crazy madness.

I would have said the Clippers were a changed franchise a week ago. I would have gone out on that limb. But maybe that change was about as real as an ex demanding a second chance because they spent a year “traveling.” True colors are true colors, sometimes. You can’t go to a bunch of temples in Chiang Mai, party with Australians and suddenly claim you’re a better person. Change starts inside.

Melo Tony hasn’t changed his whole career. But you know what? That’s fine. He knows who he is. And he seems to be okay with that. More power to him. But if the Clippers make this trade – and that’s still an if, thankfully – all they’re doing is confessing that they were pretenders these past four years. That’s lame.

If I was a Clippers fan, this rumor would terrify me. It’s like Llewelyn Moss going back to that No-Country-shootout to give the dying guy some water. Why!? You could have walked away with the king’s ransom! Instead, you’re trading it for the king ransomer. Blake Griffin isn’t a perfect player (or a defensive ace) either but he’s shown a willingness to improve. He’s also five years younger than Melo Tony. That right there, is enough for me.

So go ahead Clippers. Do what you need to do. I just hope that Doc Rivers speaks for the entire organization when he says all this is “stupid.” Because honestly, it kinda is. Clipper Country should be No Country for Melo Tony.

Winning isn’t Everything

Winning Isn't Everything

Kobe Bryant is all about winning. He’ll do whatever it takes — especially $48 million contracts. So was that guy who said “winning isn’t everything.” Apparently, it’s the only thing. You probably don’t find this strange. I don’t either. After all, that’s what we’re about. Being competitive. We want our teams to win, our kids to win, our pets to win, even our fantasy teams.

But what if winning wasn’t just an outcome? What if it wasn’t the truth? What if it was more or less a concept – like time – that we use to contextualize our sports experiences? After all, measuring our lives in seconds, years or decades seems pretty shortsighted. And so maybe winning is too.

Look at it this way — is there anything more important and less understood than time? For something so pervasive, time is really hard to define. We really don’t know that much about it (scientifically, that is). All it leaves are its traces; the universal laws we can’t seem to undo: Skin wrinkles, fruit rots, beer goes flat. In this sense, time is really a whole bunch of entropy. Everything – from the hair on your head to the garden out back – is always moving towards a greater state of chaos.

Like time, sports are also entropic. They tend to progress towards greater chaotic states. The start of an athletic event – very much like the start of a universe – is compact and highly energetic. At a precise moment it will suddenly and rapidly expand to fill box scores, human consciousness and the internet. Over the next 48-60 minutes (depending), that previously neat and tidy package will unravel and progress towards a messy, complicated ending. That’s just the way of sports. It’s also the way of the universe.

The intricacy along the way cannot be understated. Look inside this microcosmic universe and you’ll see players tire, game-plans fail, shots fall short. But there, amidst all that madness, is a universal athletic truth — Everyone will try and stem that chaos. They will do whatever it takes. Coaches substitute and adjust game-plans. Players drink electrolytes and use deer antler spray. Spectators switch seats and invoke witchcraft.

If we know one thing about life, it’s that things tend to unravel and don’t tidy back up again. From this perspective, “choking” and “losing” are par for the course. They are naturally occurring by-products of life. Because life isn’t perfect. Everything just wants to fall apart.

The beauty of watching an athlete strive to keep it all together in the face of these universal chaotic realities — that’s what sports are all about. Chris Paul‘s dribble hesitation, Roger Federer’s footwork, a human being plunging from thirty feet into a body of water and not making a splash. It’s these moments that make us realize that nothing is perfect but that is the joy of sports — It’s the illusion, if only for just a second or two.

Often times, winning is a natural product of this elusive perfection. But defining these awesome athletic processes through a myopic lens of “we won” or “you lost” is doing sports (and the universe) a gross injustice.

So next time you watch an athletic event, remember the densely packed particles in a 0-0 score and all the chaotic possibilities they will rush out to become. Then remember that’s what we’re made up of. The planets, stars, galaxies, everything. It’s about the little things. Same with sports.