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Why the Patriot's Victory Over the Falcons Is a Ridiculous Metaphor for the Election

By Mostly Steven Lloyd Wilson | NFL | February 6, 2017 |

By Mostly Steven Lloyd Wilson | NFL | February 6, 2017 |

Publisher’s Note: This morning, TK — a Patriot’s fan living in New England — posited that it was unfair to analogize the Patriot’s victory to what’s going on in the country. I offered a counterpoint, but as is often the case, Steven Lloyd Wilson eloquently managed to shut down the debate in a post that should probably just be called, “Steven Kicks Our Ass in a Debate. Again.” Here’s our exchange. — DR

TK: Somewhere, there’s a piece about how the Falcons/Patriots metaphor is kind of ridiculous, about how in all likelihood there are just as many Trump supporters in the Falcons organization, they’re just not as high profile, about how an entire country is basically only paying attention to the three high profile white men on the team and ignoring the efforts of a team made up of mostly black men, about how INCREDIBLY frustrating that is for people of color to time and again have the focus be on the whitest people on the team, about how the Falcons have had their own troubles with ethics (artificial crowd noise, PEDs, Michael Vick), about how we’ve conveniently built up Brady and Kraft as the bad guys in a league run by one of the worst commissioners ever, about how the REAL political tragedy is that millions of dollars were made yesterday so that the country could watch a group of mostly black men threaten each other with concussions while their white owners looked on from on high.

Don’t get me wrong — pound for pound, [Falcon’s owner Arthur] Blank and [Falcon’s Quarterback Matt] Ryan seem to be definitively better people than Kraft and Brady. And I understand the dislike of the Patriots given both their record and their occasionally shady practices. AND I think that if you didn’t have a horse in this race, rooting for the Falcons over the Patriots made sense. But to make the Super Bowl into a metaphor for the election and America as a whole is … not particularly well thought-out.

BUT. I’m not writing it because I don’t want to be seen as a sore winner and I try not to be that guy, and no one in hell is going to want to read it. But I just needed to get it off my chest.

Dustin: I’d like to say that it’s not the Pats’ fault that the nation is against them, and that Richard Spencer is rooting for them …

… and I feel bad for players like Martellus Bennett, who said he would not go to the White House. But Brady and Belichick kind of brought this on themselves: Brady advertising that hat in his locker, Belichick writing that letter to Trump, and then doing absolutely nothing to distance themselves from Trump when given the opportunity over and over and over again. Football shouldn’t be about politics, except in exceptional times when it needs to be, when we look to “immortals” to offer some direction, and they say, “A racist, Islamophobic thug is ‘my friend.’” It’s disappointing, not as much for me — I already hated Tom Brady — but for our kids — some of whom are Pats fans — who are forced to separate their love of a team from the people on it.

Steven: I’m with TK.

The thing with sports as metaphors, is that it’s like fiction as metaphor, at the end of the day it’s in the eye of the beholder based on the emotional resonance of connections made. You can’t say that one person’s reading of a poem is wrong just because it’s not how it resonates with you. It’s especially true with sports because we’re drawing connections that are literally nonexistent, unlike with fiction where at the least we have the literal reality of the story itself that limits and shapes our projection of it onto reality.

Because one can draw an equal universe of other metaphors. Belichick as the smart and hyper-competent technocrat who is vilified for doing what everyone else does, but better. Condemned as cold-blooded for not kowtowing and smiling sweetly to the talking heads all while doing the goddamned work and outthinking everyone else at the table.

Or how the Falcons always talk a big game about being a good Christian organization full of good family men unlike those evil New Englanders, who cheat on their wives with supermodels and don’t give credit to Jesus for their victories. Never mind that time we were headed by a dog murderer, or how that other time we made the Super Bowl our star got arrested the night before the game picking up prostitutes. Good. Christian. Men.

And don’t forget the first time the Patriots won. Impossible scrappy underdogs that no one believed in, but goddamnit it was six months after 9/11 so no one in the country outside of St. Louis wasn’t rooting for the Patriots to pull off the impossible. Was that narrative wrong in retrospect?

We can and do make up any narrative we want when it comes to sports, we can map it just like a poem onto whatever terrain we have predetermined is in our hearts. And that’s fine. That’s the great thing about sports, that we can bleed and cry and scream for joy for something that doesn’t matter. Symbols matter precisely because they don’t matter at all. They’re powered entirely by the meaning we pour into them.

But the mistake is in letting the symbol become real instead of reflecting reality. It’s fine to feel deeply about the game, to rage when it doesn’t go the way you wanted the narrative to go. But you can’t let that translate into conclusions about the world. If you rooted for the Patriots to lose because you map them onto Trumpism, you can’t then conclude in the harsh light of day that this is one more data point of Trumpism’s slow destruction of all you love. Because you’re the one you put Trump into that equation. When you get out exactly what you put in, you can’t treat what you got out as confirmation about anything, even on an emotional level.

Plus, you know, Captain America going full ten-year-old kid ecstatic for the Patriots, while being outspokenly anti-Trump:

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.