Archive for February, 2009

18
Feb
09

The Rise of Captain Hopeandchange

There is a movie you probably haven’t seen called “Idiocracy” that you really don’t need to see, because I’m about to tell you all about it.  The premise of the movie is that a completely average guy from 2005 is cryogenically frozen, and wakes up 500 years later to discover that American society has become so dumbed down that he is the smartest man alive— by a long shot.  While the movie isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious, it features incredibly biting satire, and is probably the kind of movie I’d write, if I were the kind of guy who wrote movies.

In the future that “Idiocracy” sees, the secretary of state is “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.”, you can get your college degree at Costco, and the most popular thing on television is a channel devoted to looped clips of men getting hit in the crotch.  And in this future, the president of the United States is a former professional wrestler named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, who makes most of his public appearances at monster truck rallies.

You might expect from having read previous posts on this site that I’m now about to go into some long discussion on how we as a society are closer to this being truth than we think, and we need to blah blah blah before our brains turn into whatever, which doesn’t matter because you stopped caring three sentences ago.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  While I think the movie is witty, I don’t think society is on its way towards anything close to resembling that future.  That being said, I do think the character of President Camacho requires further examination.

In the film, Americans love professional wrestling, and Americans are stupid, so Americans vote a vastly unqualified professional wrestler to be their president, just because they can.  In real life, anyone who saw this on a t-shirt last October knows that while it’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, voting someone into political office on account of their celebrity isn’t so much of an outrageous thought these days.

And that brings us to this, this, and this.  Yes, our current president, whether he intended to or not (and I tend to think he didn’t), has blurred the lines between politician and celebrity even moreso than Ronald Reagan, who need I remind you was an actual celebrity.

(A wee disclaimer: the remainder of this post will be about everyone’s favorite new president, Captain Hopeandchange.  However, this will be a discussion on Obama the celebrity, not Obama the politician.  There’s a difference.  Keep that in mind should you decide to comment.)

I’m not about to suggest that President Obama and President Camacho have all that much in common.  The character of Camacho is, obviously, the extreme.  What I’ve been pondering is whether or not Obama is a step towards that extreme, and a lot of that, I believe, is up to the man himself and how he deals with the fame that has been thrust upon him.

Most people will point to his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as the moment when his fame began to rise, and I wouldn’t argue that point.  In order for him to become president, 2004 Obama needed to tenderly cultivate that fame, fertilizing it with equal dashes of political opinion, general handsomeness, and yes— hope, until he had grown into the massive cultural icon (and oh yeah, president) he is today.

And whether or not you choose to believe it, at least a handful of the people who voted for our president did so not because of his ideology, but because of the massive cultural icon he became.  In simpler terms, he was the cool kid in the student council contest.  Many voters (especially those in my generation) may have convinced themselves they were voting Obama instead of McCain, but what they were really voting for was Dr. Pepper instead of Mr. Thunder.  They were choosing a brand, not a president, and quite frankly, anyone who worked on Obama’s campaign is totally okay with that (Don’t worry, though… I’m not talking about you.  You voted for him for the right reasons).

There’s a reason many pundits called Obama’s campaign the greatest in the history of politics, and there’s a reason voter turnout was at its highest in 40 years, and while not all of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity, a lot of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity.  In a perfect world, every four years we’d vote into office the person whose views best aligned with the majority of Americans regardless of what they look like or the quality of their jump shot, and while that certainly is the intention of the electoral process, it has, in today’s culture, become a far too idealistic thought.  Last year, 148.3 million people watched the Super Bowl and we spent north of $530 million dollars on tickets to a movie about Batman, and while that sort of thing shouldn’t have anything to do with our choice for president, it certainly says a lot about what we think is important.  Obama realized what captures America’s attention, and he became just that, or rather, he allowed himself to become that.

That’s an important point to note— Obama didn’t necessarily seek out the fame he has; rather it seemed to be thrust upon him, and he just rode it all the way to the Oval Office.  Now, though, I would argue that if he knows what’s good for him, Obama needs to prune that fame back a bit.  To be a successful candidate, you need to be the first person everyone thinks of when they think “president.”  And now that he has attained that title, he needs to switch gears from gaining popularity to properly representing those that gave him his popularity.

In the most basic terms, I’d say for the first hundred days (at least) of his presidency, he needs to do just one thing: his job.  That means get busy workin’– no appearances on The Colbert Report, no surprise visits to high school basketball practices, just sign bills and do all the things that go with acting presidenty.  Let us see your hard work, not your crossover dribble.

So far, he hasn’t done half bad, and whether you agree or disagree with the work he’s done, you can’t deny he’s been working.  And that’s a good thing.  His road to the presidency, as successful as it was, will most assuredly be emulated in the coming elections.  He’s now set the new standard for campaigning, let’s just hope he also sets the new standard for funneling campaign success into effective governing, rather than just continued celebrity.  Just like Kennedy was the first “television” president, Obama will be known as the first “Facebook” president and the first “YouTube” president, and the last thing he needs is for that exposure to affect his actual presidency.

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07
Feb
09

An Obligatory Glance at My Staggering Mediocrity.

It’s over.  Now we must suffer the seven month punishment that is the NFL offseason.  Careful readers will recall that at the beginning of this most surprising NFL season, I made twenty-four bold predictions about what was to happen, and promised to revisit them at the end of the season and prove myself horribly wrong.  Here, for your enjoyment, is that line-by-line revisitation, each with its own analysis, and a running score:

1. Tom Brady will not lead the league in touchdown passes, nor will the New England Patriots have the top-ranked offense in the league in scoring or total yards.

Tom Terrific gets injured, I start out with a correct prediction.  Tommy’s knee explosion wasn’t what I was predicting, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  Score: 1

2. The Patriots will rank outside the top 12 in pass defense, but will still win at least 11 games.

Pats win 11 games, rank eleventh in pass defense.  So close.  Score: 1.5

3. Donovan McNabb will start 16 games this season for the Eagles.  Asante Samuel will not.

Correct, and correct.  Also interesting to note: when Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, the Eagles go to the NFC Championship game.  Unfortunately, when McNabb starts the NFC Championship game, he loses.  Score: 2.5

4. The New York Jets, who ranked 26th last year, will rank in the top 15 in total offense this year.  Thomas Jones will have 1,300 yards, and the Jets will be in the playoff race until the last two weeks of the season.  Brett Favre will start all 16 games, and come back for the 2009 season.

Had the Jets not taken an enormous turd for the last four games of the season, this would’ve been spot on.  With that turd, they ended up 16th.  So close again.  However, Jones had 1,312 yards, the Jets could have made the playoffs, and Favre started all 16.  Will he come back?  Even if he doesn’t, I’m still 2-for-4 on this prediction.  Score: 3

5. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will win at least 9 games, and sweep the Bears for the first time since 2003.

Whoops. Score: 3

6. Marion Barber will make Dallas Cowboy fans forget how excited they were about Felix Jones.  Jones will finish with under 500 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Again, when injuries help my predictions come true, I don’t complain. Score: 4

7. Matt Ryan will do exactly what every other rookie starting quarterback does: struggle.  Michael Turner will have about three games where he looks superhuman, and thirteen games where he looks average.  The Falcons win no more than four games.

Whoops again. Score: 4

8. Chad Pennington will improve the Miami Dolphins threefold.  Meaning they’ll win three games instead of one.

Man, this predicting stuff is hard.  A side note, however.  After the Dolphins drastic turnaround in 2008, come this August, every NFL talking head on the block is going to be writing some article predicting who’s going to turn it around in 2009, and here, I’ll predict that prediction: The Kansas City Chiefs.  Mark my words.  I’m not saying they’ll turn it around, I’m just saying it’ll be trendy to say they will.  Score: 4

9.  The Minnesota Vikings will be .500 at best, and miss the playoffs. (Shocked?  Think about this: Remember who the trendy preseason playoff pick was from last year?  Anyone?  The San Francisco 49ers.  Everyone said Patrick Willis was a beast, and the Niners would surprise everyone.  They went 5-11.)

Okay, I’m contending this one.  Due to the mediocrity of the NFC North, the Vikings made the playoffs by default.  The only reason the Packers didn’t wipe the floor with everyone was their defense disappeared in the fourth quarter.  I’m still not right, but I don’t necessarily think I’m wrong.  Score: 4

10. The Patriots will lose the first playoff game they play.

This is technically correct.  The Patriots played a playoff game against the NFL’s playoff seeding system, and lost.  Winning 11 games loses to winning 8 games.  That’s a playoff loss.  Score: 5

11.  Jason Campbell will pass for over 3,000 yards, and still be ignored.

Zing!  A winner!  3,245 yards, and anyone who lives more than 15 miles from DC probably couldn’t name the Redskins QB.  The trend continues next season.  Score: 6

12. The Cincinnati Bengals will finish at .500 and miss the playoffs only because of the difficulty of their division.  Chad Javon Ocho Cinco will have a career year while wearing a shoulder brace all season long.

In this case, an injury bit me in the ass.  Would Carson Palmer have led the ’08 Bengals to a .500 record?  In this case, it just doesn’t matter.  Score: 6

13. The Dallas Cowboys will NOT be in the Super Bowl.  Wade Phillips will be fired, and Jason Garrett will be the coach of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys, who will also miss the Super Bowl.

So Wade Phillips didn’t get fired.  But he didn’t get fired because everyone assumed he would be fired, and Jerry Jones didn’t want to look like he took his business decisions from the fans, even though in this case, he should’ve.  I’m giving myself the point here, because with the mess this team is in, there’s no way they go further than the divisional round next year, and that’s being generous.  Score: 7

14. J.T. O’Sullivan will be no better a quarterback than Alex Smith.  After this season, (if they don’t already) Niner fans will be wishing their team had used their number one pick on Aaron Rodgers.

Correctamundo!  J.T. was replaced far before the season was over, and A-Rod proved he could fill the shoes of Brett Whatshisname, even in winning only 6 games.  Score: 8

15. The NFC West will not be decided until the week seventeen game between Seattle and Arizona, and Arizona will win.

Again, this isn’t necessarily wrong.  I was predicting a Cardinals playoff appearance, not a Seahawks collapse.  Let’s go halvsies.  Score: 8.5

16. Matt Leinart will not start a single game for the Arizona Cardinals.

Another winner.  Who knew Warner would have the season he had?  That’s right, I knew.  Score: 9.5

17. The worst record in the AFC South will be 8-8. Again.

Okay, so it’s wrong.  8-8 was the best record in the AFC West, though.  Not that that means anything, but it’s interesting, in a pathetic way.  Score: 9.5

18. The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will end the season dead last in the NFC East.

Did I say dead last?  …he he, I meant, first place, which they’d have locked up by week 15!  It’s a simple misunderstanding, right?  Score: 9.5

19.  The Oakland Raiders, despite Al Davis’ best efforts and ridiculous spending, still won’t break 5 wins.

Correct.  Replace the words ‘ridiculous spending’ with ‘new puppet coach,’ and you’ve got a legitimate 2009 prediction.  Score: 10.5

20. During the regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will lose twice to the Indianapolis Colts, then will reach the AFC title game, where they will lose to them again.

Wrong, wrong, wrongeddy wrong wrong. Score: 10.5

21.  Darren McFadden will not win the Rookie of the Year award.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.  Thank you, Matty Ice.  Score: 11.5

22.  Adrian Peterson will not win the league MVP award.

Yeeee-haw!  This is where I start my late-season prediction push!  Score: 12.5

23.  Peyton Manning will.

Sadly, MVP awards don’t always make for Super Bowl appearances.  Score: 13.5

24.  The universe will return to normal, and an AFC team will win the Super Bowl.  More specifically, the Indianapolis Colts will win, and this, not Super Bowl XLI, will be Peyton Manning’s career-defining performance.

Yikes.  Well, I got the AFC part right, even if everything else about this prediction was as wrong as a brown belt and black shoes.  This one’s a wash.  Score: 13.5

…so there it is.  Thirteen-and-a-half out of twenty-four.  That’s good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC and NFC West.  And should I remind you what happened to the winner of the NFC West?  That’s right, they lost the Super Bowl.  Oh well.