Jumping the Shark

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In 1977 the actor Henry Winkler, in his alter ego as Arthur Fonzarelli, unwittingly spawned a phrase for the ages when the comedy “Happy Days” depicted him scaling a shark while donning water skis. Yep, the Fonz was the first to Jump the Shark, and now we recognize those words as a moment when all pretenses of reality and common sense are tossed aside. While Jumping the Shark today is used most often in entertainment circles, it’s emerged as a theme that can be reliably applied to many facets of life.

The entire United States of America has, in fact, Jumped the Shark – just look at the occupant of the White House. But this piece isn’t really about him – it’s more about the forces that were unleashed to put him there, and how they’re at-large throughout our society.

In late January the emotional-support animal trend Jumped the Shark when a woman in Newark, New Jersey bought a plane ticket for her pet and arrived at the airport with the critter in tow – it was a fucking peacock. Fellow travelers were savvy enough to snap pictures and capture some video before United Airlines jolted the woman into reality by informing her that the bird would not fly.

The lunacy continued into this month when a Florida woman attempted to bring an “emotional support hamster” on a plane and was allegedly coerced by Spirit Airlines personnel to flush it down the toilet.

It could be argued that the actual Shark Jumping on this issue occurred long ago.  People have been complaining about the generous interpretations of help animals for quite some time. Enough dogs are flying these days to warrant their own restroom facilities at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA – a room with artificial turf and a reasonable facsimile of a fire hydrant. Remarkably, it doesn’t smell.

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A place for dogs at the airport in Burbank.

It may not be a coincidence that Burbank is the closest commercial airport to Hollywood, home of Paramount Pictures, the production facility for Happy Days.

Much of the rest of the country believes that California Jumped the Shark decades ago, regarding it as “the land of fruits and nuts,” and they may not always be talking about food. Many of us who live here see it differently, of course, believing in the state’s innovative and progressive spirit. But we have our moments. Here are a couple of examples that may have raised eyebrows elsewhere in the country:

  1. A law forbidding plastic straws – A bill working its way through the California legislature would make it illegal for restaurant employees to hand out unsolicited plastic straws. The legislation was written in such a way that a single violation could result in a six-month jail term. The conservative media jumped all over that one before the bill’s author clarified that the overly harsh penalties weren’t supposed to be in the bill and will be removed before voting occurs.
  2. Legal weed with no iron-clad mechanism for determining DUI – California isn’t the lone ranger on this one. Recreational marijuana is also legal in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and Washington DC. The fact remains that cannabis results in another legal intoxicant people will consume before climbing behind the wheel, and even though anyone with experience driving while stoned knows that weed significantly alters your perception and reactions, there currently isn’t an iron-clad way for law enforcement to test for levels of of intoxication–like alcohol–and that is a potential problem that has defense lawyers ready to pounce. We certainly hope that changes and our hats are off to police agencies that are definitely trying their best, but it may seem to conservative America, dear voters, that this issue could have been resolved BEFORE legalizing weed, and that doesn’t even to begin to discuss how the right may feel about the conflict between federal and state laws on marijuana.

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It’s not just California and other blue states Jumping the Shark, though. In fact, the red and blue states have a kind-of mirror image thing going. They point at each other and claim the other side is the problem.

The red states pull us back to the subject of Donald Trump. When we ask the perfectly natural question of how the hell he became president, the answer lies in the red states. They elected him. They Jumped the Shark. The Republicans populating those states made a deal with the devil to gain control of the presidency, and now a great many of them are holding on, refusing to admit their mistake come Hell or high water, mostly Hell.

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Some of our best writers continue trying to explain what happened. Richard North Patterson, writing in the Huffington Post, pointed out that the GOP is plunging “ever deeper into a fever swamp of fantasy” when it comes to Trump, supported and facilitated by friendly media like Fox News and Breitbart. Patterson continued: “Long before Trump, ever more Republicans became addicted to fact-free narratives (fake news) through which one right-wing cult or another mesmerized the party faithful. From this petri dish of unreason came Trump’s implacable army…The GOP has become a credulous coalition rooted in magical thinking and unreasoning resentment ― the perfect seedbed for a toxic Messiah who creates his own reality.”\

The newspaper of record in the state of Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune, recently lectured the institution that pays its bills, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, with an opinion piece from a Mormon college student asking when church members will finally dump Trump. The student wrote, “The difficult truth, it would seem, is that Mormons have decided that promoting a conservative agenda is more important than opposing Trump’s reprehensible behavior.” The young man concluded that supporting Trump is, in fact, a betrayal of Mormon identity.

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However, Trump has enjoyed stunning success among the religious right, including Mormons. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals reportedly voted for him last year, and more than one evangelical leader has equated support for Trump to a belief in Jesus Christ that may well accompany a presumption that God is a benevolent supporter of white, male-dominated America.

At the same time, and this is far from a coincidence, a recent survey of evangelicals asking if  “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life” revealed that 72 percent of them said yes, although only 30 percent of them believed that in 2011, when Barack Obama was president.

A sizable portion of Trump’s support seems to track along a belief system that, in addition to being highly religious, is also anti-fact and anti-science, and that may not be a coincidence, either. In this video by journalist and author Kurt Anderson, he explains how religion has radicalized American politics over the last 30 years and seriously harmed the perception of science, led by the rise of the Christian right.

On the other hand, the impact of religious beliefs is nothing new, even if the scale and fury of it in modern times are something different. It could be argued that a fundamental belief in God is anti-fact and anti-science, a position that is reinforced by a woman described as an ‘evangelical adviser’ to Trump who claims flu shots are unnecessary because you can “inoculate yourself with the word of God.”

The religious right has unquestionably Jumped the Shark.

Bottom line – Jumping the Shark is the human condition. People have brains that are hard-wired for emotional responses and not always willing to consider objective fact – irrespective of political and religious beliefs. So as a country we pay the price, and we find ourselves barely treading water in a vast sea of bullshit, especially right now with a stupendous moron in the White House.

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Tattoos and you

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I was born 10-15 years too soon to comfortably fit in with Tattoo America. When I was in high school and college three guys I knew of sported tats, and they were all outlaws. I never gave it serious consideration. All I could think of then (and now) is what happens when gravity inevitably takes control of one’s body, like when one might be about to turn, uh, 60. As a result, whatever is sagging on me does not include ink, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

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A style of tattoo I would actually consider.

Tattoos began regularly appearing on otherwise respectable people not in the Navy in the early 90s. I remember meeting a woman about then who had a smiling sun on the side of one of her calves. It remains one of the few tattoos I actually liked. If I was ever to get one (not bloody likely), I would probably choose that, and maybe in the same spot.

At some point tattoos became standard equipment for professional athletes, especially in basketball, where they could be seen (and enjoyed?) by all. The first phase consisted of relatively tasteful single images on a bicep or forearm, and then guys like Dennis Rodman, Chris “Birdman” Anderson and Cherokee Parks took it to the next level by featuring multiple pieces of body art, including personal artistic expressions like neck tats. In my humble opinion, nothing says, “I am not a serious person” quite like a neck tat. But those young multimillionaires blazed their own trail, and popular culture willingly followed.

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The Birdman

Fast-forward to the present and tattoos are more popular than ever. A story from the Huffington Post in 2014 estimated than 36 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18-25 had tattoos. I would guess that figure is higher now.  People of a certain age, my age and above, have resigned themselves to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews tatting-up.

The 19-year old living at my house has been discussing tattoos for several years and made it clear they would be a part of his life. The first one recently materialized on his forearm, indicating his dismissal of my suggestion that he locate them in places where people who might judge him for his ink–people like his stodgy old man–can’t see them.

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The Year of the Tiger.

His tattoo is a Chinese character matching a gold piece he wears on a necklace that represents the year of his birth, 1998, the Year of the Tiger. Hey – it could be worse. I’m still suggesting strategic hiding places for the next ones, and I’m also lobbying hard against neck tats. Please, dear God, no neck tats.

 

 

 

Arguing with voodoo and nonsense

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The debate following the horrific slaughter last week in Parkland, FL has tracked along predictable, sickening lines. Those supporting reasonable gun control rely upon numerous solid facts, while those defending their “right” to own weapons of war try to prop up the Second Amendment and the NRA while leading us down a rabbit hole of warped logic and militia voodoo. Like many issues involving conservatives in this country, they are countering strong arguments with flimsy propaganda and emulating the moronic president they idolize by doubling-down on their stupidity when challenged. As for members of Congress bought and paid-for by the NRA, they meekly recite their lines and somehow continue to look at themselves in the mirror.

However, there have been some interesting developments over the last few days. Let’s see if they lead anywhere:

1) A teenage speaker in Parkland has declared to great acclaim that this will be the last mass school shooting in America.

2) A former army solider described in convincing detail in a widely distributed blog post how an AR-15 is the perfect killing machine, and how it’s patently ridiculous that it is available for sale.

3) A key GOP donor has said he won’t write another check until Republicans get behind an assault weapons ban.

4) A protest vigil turned up at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, VA.

5) Students and teachers are threatening a massive nationwide school walkout on April 20. As that date is also the infamous 4-20, we can only hope the students’ motivations remain pure.

For any of these ideas to actually achieve something, Americans must do one thing differently, a big thing – stay engaged. We are good at public mourning and we excel at insulting each other on the internet, but we haven’t figured out how to be tenacious in finally, finally stopping the mentally ill from acquiring weapons and using them to butcher children, concertgoers and movie patrons. Common sense would tell us that at some point every citizen regardless of political persuasion would say “enough” and work together to enact change. But common sense was banished from one side of the table a long time ago, and it has not been invited back.

If there was ever a time to lay the voodoo priest to rest, it is now, but we have been saying that for years and Wayne LaPierre, the NRA and their congressional puppets still don’t get it. It will require uncharacteristic tenacity and possibly conflict with armed-to-the-hilt assholes to get there. I fervently hope we find a solution in my lifetime, but I have doubts.

 

A Kerr-Popovich national ticket in 2020

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Gregg “Pop” Popovich and Steve Kerr

In the wake of the shooting deaths of 17 people at a school in Parkland, FL, the latest incident in the long-running batshit-crazy psychodrama of American assault rifle attacks, I am reminded that some of the best takedowns of the infantile Donald J. Trump; his corrupt, inept administration; and GOP moral vacancy in general have come from a pair of basketball coaches, Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, two men who have become rich and famous through professional sports but in fact offer a great deal more, starting with fierce intelligence and deep humanity, traits that are in very short supply right now in the White House and among majority leaders on Capitol Hill.  For this reason I’m taking a stance that’s half-serious (maybe): Kerr and Popovich for president/VP in 2020.

Popovich, 69, is an NBA legend who has led the small-market San Antonio Spurs to five league championships and 20 consecutive winning seasons. Kerr, 52, has enjoyed what looks like a too-easy career as a member of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, a national broadcaster, and the coach of the talent-rich Golden State Warriors. If you didn’t know better you would think Kerr is one of those guys who has breezed-by on charm and good looks, and you would be wrong.

Steve Kerr’s life story is unique, and some of it is heart-wrenching. By the time he had become perhaps the most popular athlete in school history at the University of Arizona–inspiring an arena full of basketball fans to repeatedly and ritualistically shout “STEVE KERR” in unison–he had already endured more misfortune than many of us encounter in a lifetime. His father was Malcolm Kerr, an educator who was president of American University in Beirut and was killed there by terrorists in 1984. Steve Kerr carried that terrible burden forward and wore it on his sleeve as maturity and leadership. As a coach, Kerr took a Warriors team that was already very good and introduced a meticulously thought-out, innovative approach that made it the best in the NBA, winning two of last three league titles. Kerr had never coached before.

I know three people who know Gregg Popovich personally, and they each talk about his loyalty and integrity. They go back to his years as a student at the Air Force Academy and a stint as a young coach at a small California college. Popovich, known as “Pop,” doesn’t forget his friends. He leaves them tickets when his team travels to Northern California, and he is careful to make time for them away from the demands of players and the media. As a coach, Pop has excelled through flexibility, tactical brilliance, savvy player acquisitions in collaboration with the Spurs front office, and brutal honesty. He connects with his players and motivates them, and sometimes he might even scare them a little.

So let’s look at Kerr-Popovich on the issues. Pop has been very eloquent in his assessments of Trump:

1) Responding to a lie Trump told about his response to the deaths of four soldiers in comparison to other presidents, Popovich said, “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it.”

2) On Trump and all the commotion last fall over athletes choosing not to stand-for or otherwise recognize the national anthem: “The childishness, the gratuitous fear mongering and race baiting, has been so consistent that it’s almost expected. The bar has been lowered so far that I think it’s more important to be thinking about what to do in more organic roots based level. Thinking about the efforts to restrict voter registration, comments that demean cultures, ethic groups, races, women. Those sorts of things. What can be done in an organic way to fight that?”

Kerr took time last night before a Warriors loss to address the attack in Florida, saying, “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death, day after day in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country to actually do anything. That’s demoralizing. But we can do something about it, we can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives, not just bow down to the NRA because they’ve financed their campaign for them. Hopefully we’ll find enough people, first of all to vote, get people in, but hopefully we’ll find enough people to actually help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not building some stupid wall for millions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

It’s even more powerful on video.

Yeah, we can elect new people – guys like this. What, you ask, basketball coaches as national leaders? Well, as you can see, they’re already leaders, and in the current farce we’re forced to suffer through, why the hell wouldn’t we consider people like them?

Kerr-Popovich 2020? Sure, I’d be interested. (Half-seriously)

 

 

 

About Jane Fonda

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We had a Jane Fonda moment last month. We don’t seem to have a lot of them, or at least I don’t. On those rare occasions when she enters my consciousness I find myself thinking something like, “Oh, yeah – her. Is she still around?” Indeed she is, but in the world I inhabit she spends a lot of time under the radar before occasionally resurfacing in a burst of publicity and/or controversy.

Jane Fonda’s legacy is complicated and unique. Born to Hollywood royalty and devastatingly beautiful, she has managed to–in the eyes of some–both squander her considerable gifts and achieve a level of notoriety she will never completely outrun, not even in death.

Fonda is an octogenarian now. She recently turned 80. And whatever golden years she might have been enjoying have been jolted by a feud with NBC news anchor Megyn Kelly that apparently began over interview questions about Fonda and plastic surgery and advanced to the point where Kelly, a product of the Fox News propaganda machine, realigned with the conservative right by attacking Fonda’s long-ago actions in opposition to the Vietnam War. Kelly took the very Fox step of claiming Fonda has never apologized for those actions–one in particular–when, in fact, she has said a number of times that she regrets her actions.

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Hanoi Jane

So what, exactly, did Jane Fonda do all those years ago? Well, in 1972 she accepted an invitation to tour North Vietnam, where she made several radio announcements urging US pilots to stop their bombing runs and then posed for a picture that still enrages veterans and the right-wing – she was photographed with an antiaircraft gun that would have been used to shoot down American planes. And with that, the legend of “Hanoi Jane” was born.

The animosity for Fonda was visceral, and it still is. A common reaction is a stated refusal to watch any movie or TV show featuring her, which–if true–is fascinating but hardly fair. The list of objectors to the Vietnam War is, of course, overwhelmingly long. Millions of Americans lined up against it. Young men moved to Canada to avoid the draft. Some guy named Trump stayed out of it with a highly dubious claim of bone spurs.

Celebrities like Paul Newman and Warren Beatty supported anti-war Democratic challengers to a Republican president (Nixon) pursuing and defending the actions in Vietnam. News broadcaster Walter Cronkite, perhaps the most trusted man in America at the time, came out against the war.

Meryl Streep, a leading Hollywood liberal, forged her political consciousness in the Vietnam era and has set herself up squarely as an enemy of the modern right-wing. Yet Streep is the most celebrated actor of this and many other generations, the star of films no doubt seen by a large number of the same people treating Jane Fonda like a pariah.

To be clear, as an actor Fonda is no Streep, but she has enjoyed a long and distinguished career–49 movies–and peaked in the 70s with two Academy Awards for best actress, for Klute and Coming Home. Yet she has always seemed to play Jane Fonda rather than inhabit a role. Her highly cultivated speaking voice tends to typecast her in a manner similar to Katherine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall, or Humphrey Bogart. The voice overpowers everything. She perhaps would have been better suited to an earlier era when stars were always glamorous on-screen; the era of her father. For those reasons I have never been much of a fan. The only movie I can regularly identify with her is The China Syndrome, where she does a passable job portraying a TV reporter who stumbles onto the story of a lifetime. The film rocketed to fame in 1979 when its fictional near-meltdown at a nuclear power plant preceded an actual near-meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island a short time later.

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Fonda’s life has taken some other intriguing turns, starting with her three marriages. In her 20s she married French director Roger Vadim, who directed her in several films portraying her as a sex kitten, including 1968’s Barbarella, which led to a wild, infamous cover for Penthouse magazine. Fonda’s next marriage went in a dramatically different direction. Her husband was Tom Hayden, a civil rights and anti-war activist who became a California state senator. And the final union went someplace different still – she married media mogul Ted Turner, who owned the Atlanta Braves. The liberal Fonda was there during the Braves’ 90s heyday, attending postseason games at Fulton County Stadium and joining in the controversial Tomahawk Chop before she honored the concerns of Native Americans and stopped.

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In addition to all that Fonda found time to develop a sideline career as an aerobics entrepreneur. She was in her mid-40s then and looked pretty damn good in a leotard and tights. She produced Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, which spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list, and then helped pioneer workout videos with a VHS series–starring her–that continued well into the 21st century (progressing to DVDs) and sold hundreds of thousands of copies to people–mainly women–who didn’t seem to care much about the Hanoi Jane thing.

There can be no question that Jane Fonda has led an extraordinary, albeit privileged life touching movies, politics and popular culture. To write her off following her activities during the Vietnam War amounts to nothing less than short-sighted cultural retardation. Love her or not, Fonda is an authentic American icon who should be celebrated, warts and all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is a constitutional crisis merely a matter of opinion?

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There are two words–constitutional crisis–beginning to surface with more frequency among those watching the actions of Donald J. Trump in the White House.

As Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation continues to drill down and the bizarre so-called Nunes memo drives speculation that Mueller and the Justice Department lawyer who hired him, Rod Rosenstein, will soon be fired, Congressional Democrats are raising the possibility of a constitutional crisis, and that certainly seems foreboding, but what exactly does that mean, and will Republicans agree?

According to a recent story in the Huffington Post, there is no hard definition of a constitutional crisis, but the following statement is offered as an attempt to clarify things: “Constitutional crises arise out of the failure, or strong risk of failure, of a constitution to perform its central functions.”

The story proposes that there are “operational,” “fidelity” and “power struggle” types of constitutional crises. The operational type occurs when important political disputes cannot be resolved within the existing constitutional framework. A crisis of constitutional fidelity occurs when the Constitution’s meaning is clear, but one or more branch of government or a key political actor willfully defies the charter’s clear meaning. And a power struggle seems straightforward – two or more political actors believe the other is violating the constitution and neither is willing to budge.

So what are we talking about in this case? Well, I’m not a lawyer or a scholar, but I’m finding a hard time fitting Trump’s firing of Mueller, if it were to occur, into any of those three boxes, even though the last time a president fired a prosecutor investigating his commander-in-chief (Nixon and Archibald Cox), it ultimately led to resignation under threat of impeachment. Nixon acted because Cox got too close and/or was considered impertinent, and the same fate–for the same reasons–may await Mueller.

Another story, from the web site 538, states there are four types of constitutional crisis:

1) When the Constitution is vague, making direction unclear.

2) When the Constitution’s meaning is in question.

3) When the Constitution’s direction isn’t politically feasible.

4) When government institutions fail.

That last one may offer something relevant for Trump and Mueller. Our government’s system of checks and balances is supposed to permit the investigation of a president when there is evidence of wrongdoing, and what we know about Trump, Russia and possible obstruction of justice would certainly seem to meet that test.

But what if Trump fires Mueller, anyway? Who will hold him accountable? Who will prosecute the constitutional crisis? That’s where things get murky. The constitution is a political charter in a system controlled by a majority party that effectively gets to decide whether or not there’s a crisis.

Republicans are in control right now and they would very much like to stay there, as they’ve shown with a collective blind-eye to Trump’s transgressions.  Impeaching him would effectively cede control to the Democrats. With any luck, though, the Dems will end up with control anyway after the midterm elections, and then maybe this clumsy, ignorant would-be dictator can be sent home. But until then a constitutional crisis seems to be matter of debate, one the Democrats don’t have the numbers to win. They claim crisis and the GOP majority dismisses it as mere opinion.

We have the Supreme Court–the highest court in the land–in place to resolve constitutional conflicts. But make no mistake – that’s not some sort of altruistic, purely legal benchmark. Elected officials nominate and confirm the justices, and while a distinguished legal resume’ is a pretty much a requirement, judges often times apply the rule of law according to their political philosophy, and therefore a majority on the court is considered a valuable political asset.

Of course, the Supreme Court probably wouldn’t end up ruling on all this, anyway. Trump’s fate is likely in the hands of Congress until he runs for re-election in 2020 – that is, if he chooses to do so. The high court example is offered only to demonstrate that this whole thing–our entire societal structure, the so-called American experiment–is built on a political foundation, and it is precarious.

 

 

Football

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Here comes Super Bowl 52, or in official parlance, LII. It’s already considered a game people won’t care much about outside of Philadelphia or New England. Almost no one south and west of the Massachusetts state line likes the Patriots, the so-called evil empire, twice-caught cheaters, and the favored team of one Donald J. Trump; and many of those same people can’t stand the stereotypical Philadelphia sports fan, a singularly unique American caricature with a propensity for booing a missed note during the National Anthem then getting kicked out of the venue before halftime in a drunken, vomit-laced stupor. Here are Eagles fans greeting Minnesota Vikings fans in Philly before the recent NFC Championship Game.

Frank Bruni, writing in the New York Times, refers to this year’s match-up as an “Existential Hell,” and while few of us want to see the despised Brady and Co. win another title, we don’t have good wishes for the degenerates of Eagles Stadium, either, even if we’re more neutral about the actual team.

Of course, that’s barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to football. The elephant in the room continues to be, as it should, the deeply troubling research findings about head injuries connected to the game. The fallout is beginning to erode the sport’s infrastructure. It’s still just a relative trickle at the moment–a few players have walked away at their peaks, citing head injury concerns–but a big-name defection just occurred – broadcasting legend Bob Costas stepped away from Super Bowl coverage, saying he has long had ambivalent feelings about football because it “destroys people’s brains.”

And it lines people’s pocketbooks. The value of all NFL teams combined is roughly $75 billion. The current broadcast and cable TV package is valued at $27 billion. The average player salary is around $2.7 million, with the most money–$27 million–going to Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who failed to lead his team to the playoffs. At the college level, football remains the big ticket sport and in some cases can support entire athletic programs with its proceeds. So the gravy train is roaring full speed ahead, and that momentum will keep the game front and center in American culture for years to come.

The erosion is real, though, and much of it is occurring quietly, among young families. Fewer parents are letting their children play football, and that talent drain will become apparent at some point and presumably lessen the game’s appeal. And make no mistake, the game is appealing, head injuries and all. I played for three or four short weeks when I was 10–I didn’t like getting hit–but I grew up enthusiastically watching it and went to LA Rams games for years with my season ticket-holding father. When my son was approached about playing football his mother and I quickly said no, but we still watch games on TV. The sport has a wonderfully linear quality that comes through very well, and the athleticism is remarkable – beautiful, actually.

But the “beautiful game” tag lies elsewhere, with international football, or futbol, or soccer. It is unquestionably the world’s game and it appears to finally be gaining a lasting foothold in the US. Soccer is one of the most popular youth sports in the country based on participation, and Major League Soccer continues to grow its fan base, especially among those 40 and under. Having said that, though, soccer has its own head injury concerns. But they may be more easily addressed, by moving to limit the amount of ball-heading that occurs, and certainly at the youth levels.

As for American football, a recent Gallup Poll showed it is still the most popular spectator sport in the country even though it has lost ground over the last decade. I believe that decline will continue, with basketball and soccer eventually rising to the top positions. It may take awhile–remember the money–but that day is likely coming, if not in my lifetime then probably during my son’s. He’s 19. History shows us it’s certainly possible – the two most popular American sports in the first half of the 20th Century were boxing and horse racing, while baseball, football and basketball waited their turns for ascension. Soccer is on deck now.

With all that as a backdrop, Super Bowl LII figures to be another TV extravaganza and–as usual–a license to print money; 30-second spots are going for $5 million. Much of the country and the world will be watching, as much for the spectacle, the halftime show, and the commercials as for the game itself. I’ll be watching, too. I can’t seem to look away. Go Eagles (offered with minimal excitement).