They're trying to whitewash those days

So maybe I late morning burst of soul-searching forfeited my football cred once and for all. But FreeDarko exists to communicate certain inalienable truths, and the pre-game to tonight's MNF showdown had me screaming in the cellpiece before the gloss had even settled.

In case you didn't hear, last September the Superdome was transformed into a water-logged cavern of refugee hell. Falcons/Saints was the first sporting event held in this arena since it became synonymous with suffering and injustice; it was billed as a evening of rejuvanation for the city brought back from the brink of doom, the redemption of a nightmare locale. Anyone with half a brain knows that race was the sprawling subtext of all events surrounding Katrina, and one would think that this occasion would too be colored by, well, color.

Cast as a Vick/Bush exchange, this had the potential to surpass even 3/28/06 in the FreeDarko Annals of Excellence. More importantly, of course, I'd assumed this would be a chance for the American mainstream to 'fess up about the diaster's real shape and form. I'd anticipated something that, if not downright lugubrious, would at least verge on cathartic. Cathartic, presumably, for those who had been most affected by the high water.

I don't know why I was so shocked to switch on the 'ol moron machine a bit before kickoff only to find . . . Green Day and U2 fused together as one, performing their most sappy power ballads along with what sounded like an Animals cover. The crowd shots were, well, a bunch of white people looking like they were having the time of their life. After a few minutes, it seems that ESPN resorted to eavesdropping on my brain, since they started zooming in tight on the same four or five African-Americans. Apparently I had missed the Goo Goo Dolls. I immediately dialed Silverbird and started foaming at the mouth, only to be slightly appeased by the appearance of Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint to perform the anthem. The architect of the New Orleans r&b sound got to twinkle a little on a big Casio, and Irma did her best to ruffle no one's interpretational feathers.

It was then that it dawned on me: not only was the mood more festive than moving, they'd also totally neglected the whole "rechristen the Superdome" angle. This was "football returning to New Orleans," minus any of the messy, wrenching stuff that would've come up had ESPN cut to the quick. Tirico off-handedly observed that "not many of the people who were actually in the Superdome are here tonight," but they had to be content with a seat in our collective heart. Silverbird pointed out that there's a gargantuan difference between him going to Auschwitz and survivors hitting it up; still, couldn't they have trotted some notable citizens who passed through the Dome? Put some kids on the front row? Say something about neighborhoods?

Unfortunatey, none of this was to be; while typing this, I learned that the halftime show will be an encore of the Green Day/U2 horah. It seems like the Saints team is doing the right thing. I thought for a second Joe Horn, who cried on Sportscenter about the situation, had the FEMA markings drawn on his face. And hell, any way this went off was bound to come off as paltry next to Spike's necessary chronicle.

Still, I can't help but suspect that if the NBA had to do this, it wouldn't have been quite as insensitive, rote, thoughtless, and blind to the reason for this night's importance. Maybe it would've done a little to remind people what went wrong, instead of simply going along with a status quo that caused the calamity in the first place.


At 9/25/2006 10:57 PM, Blogger billikenbluff said...

Not many fugees can afford
NFL season tickets.

At 9/25/2006 11:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

would it have killed that franchise, or the nfl, to hand a few out?

i know, i know, that organization is struggling to make a comeback just like any from the 9th ward who made it back to town

At 9/25/2006 11:56 PM, Blogger skinny said...

it has a lot less to do with the nfl and a lot more to do with the abc/espn leviathan.

i'm concerned about the effect this will have on katrina-themed charitable giving in the future, with people drawing a line between the life and health of football, and the life and health of the city. i almost wish bush and'em had come out and lost, just to make a point.

At 9/26/2006 1:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you know anyone from New Orleans, ask them how they feel right now. Ain't a single one going to tell you they're mad about ESPN's lameness, but to a person they will tell you how THRILLED they are that the Saints are back and that they actually won. Y'all honestly don't realize the emotional significance of the game that just occurred.

At 9/26/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

To take the horrible position of a slight defense of the mainstream media (and with the qualification that I don't get ESPN and didn't see this):

The mainstream media is still covering race as an issue in Katrina. When Brian Williams and NBC did their "one year later" special, the theme of racial injustice and inequality was shown--and discussed--in almost every shot.

I think you might expect too much from a sports broadcast. A network's broadcast of a sporting event exists for mainly the same reason as its broadcasting of news ($), but the journalists believe and act like there might be a greater purpose. A sports broadcast is just going to cast the brightest light possible and keep the rubes interested for entertainment value. A sports "story" is usually based on nothing but interest and entertainment ("Jeremy Shockey said THAT?!"), while a news "story" usually has a backbone to it.

But, of course, perhaps that's the problem. We shouldn't allow sports to become a mere distraction from the messiness of life.

At 9/26/2006 10:14 AM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

Could not agree more with the original post sentiments. I was pretty livid about Green Day and U2, and the people who were in the stands.

And I do agree the NBA would have handled the whole thing diffrently. Just look how they do MLK day every year.

The NBA is pretty much the most socially conscious american sport out there.

At 9/26/2006 10:55 AM, Anonymous westney said...

To pacifist viking:

I'm not sure I agree that we shouldn't allow sports to become a mere distraction from the messiness of life, unless you're saying that we shouldn't allow sports to be ONLY a mere distracion - rather a very large one.
First, sports are a diversion, not a distraction. The difference here is that one is voluntary and the other is not. In this case, it's a tiny bit of escapism that allows those heavy-hearted citizens to adopt a competitive, triumphant attitude that will buoy them for a time while they ARE dealing with the messiness of life.
And second, a distraction (diversion) is exactly what sports should be to you and me and nothing more, at least until we become the GM of the Knicks or quarterback of the Buccaneers, where the stakes are just a bit higher. What I mean is that it's important to have something to cheer for, to rally behind, but it's still entertainment.

One last point RE the original posting - I can see the desire to want an event like last night's to be a microcosm of the stark reality surrounding it, but let's not turn it into the Jerry Lewis telethon, trotting out affected children in an attempt to re-guilt America into paying attention. The New Orleaneans don't need any reminding of how bad they got it, and this was a way for the NFL to show them some love with a (semi-)private show/party featuring some legendary names, just for them. Spike didn't seem to have a problem with it and I don't think we need to either. I'd imagine that the American people are smart enough to put two and two together without the aid of token gestures and 20-second ceremonies. The potential for triteness would have been much too high otherwise... best to leave it to everyone's collective conscience.

At 9/26/2006 11:02 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

w--excellent point. and i agree that laying it on thick would've been a disaster. but wouldn't some acknowledgement that this was going from darkness to light have been appropriate? some superficial indication that this was the people of the superdome who were feeling the spirit?

and not to get too crazy up in here, but remember the nfl's treatment of 9/11?

At 9/26/2006 11:04 AM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

I agree with westney: Wouldn't it be even more fake/hokey if the NFL brought out two orphaned children for the coin toss, put only survivors in the front row, and had the rescue workers return the first kickoff? While I think it would have been incredibly charitable for the NFL to fill the dome with refugees, I imagine that would have led to a few hundred panoramic shots of that section of the stands and an otherwise contrived feel to it all.

Just be glad Lee Greenwood didn't show up.

At 9/26/2006 12:37 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

I'm sure you are right, though I didn't watch the event myself. I think you also missed out on the most telling point. When G.H.W. Bush came out ESPN pumped in cheering audio, over the booing audio. I saw them do that before at an Orioles game. It's really no surprise though. I think the major reason I have lost my passion for football is the blatant anti-labour bias and the non-stop militarist and fascist structure of the game itself. The self-entitled announcers with their constant attacks at African American culture and their portrayal of any individualism as clownish, "Jiggabooism" I do not particularly like him, but to me Terrel Owens has recieved nothing less than a swiftboating, somewhat ironic given that it was Disney(ABC CHRITIANOFASCISTS) who turned him into the Frankenstein he has become with their desperate housewives hatchet job, turning him into a modern day Jack Johnson and white media terror over an outspoken black man with a naked white women.

The entire vernacular of the NFL has shifted, and thus, I have for the most part abandoned my heretofore favorite sport.

Fuck ESPN, god I can't wait till basketball and TNT are back

At 9/26/2006 12:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm with shoefly. and if this man's foresaking his football, things must be getting really dire.

At 9/26/2006 12:49 PM, Anonymous westney said...

shoals -
Yeah, I'm not saying there shouldn't be any tribute at all, just that I don't trust the NFL to do it right for an event so profoundly sad. Maybe baseball, where a complete game shutout is acknowleged with a standing O and a tip of the cap, but not football where Roy Williams (no disrespect) does three somersaults every time he catches a first down.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shaken to my core watching humanity stumble for those five days. It wasn't a war, we don't need a flyover or yellow fireworks or anything like that. But at the same time we can't forget that it was people and bureaucracies - not nature - that caused all the suffering. I don't know how that could even be represented short of a book or 4-hour film (haven't seen it yet).

At 9/26/2006 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Furthering the truth that "substance" has struck the death blow in the battle against "substance." The only acceptable individuality in the NFL is a Favronian credo adopted from Steinbeck's Boxer, unless of course your young, then you're given time to get in line.
Props to Spike for Kanye-veying his message w/o opening his mouth.

At 9/27/2006 12:56 AM, Blogger "rem" said...

worse than the political transformation of the "game" into an event with the stage/trophy being New Orleans, was the pre-game show with Bob Costas...man, that theme music is bad... what is that pre game show called again..?

Football night in america?
Shoulda been on monday

At 9/27/2006 1:21 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can't say i saw the whole pregame; spike was there? what did he do?

At 9/27/2006 9:20 AM, Anonymous westney said...

Spike sat in the broadcast booth for a while at the end of the first half and answered some real questions from the MNF guys... at one point the questions got kind of pointed from Tony K and Spike bailed out by saying "I don't want to pull a Kanye" or words to that effect. His feelings were quite clear, and most importantly the subject was covered.

Then he said Isiah could be coach of the year.

At 9/27/2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Man, I thought Shoefly's comment was really on point yesterday. Today it's almost eerie.

At 9/27/2006 1:16 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

I haven't paid attention to football since I was a child. I expect my disinterest stemmed from a combination of everything shoefly said, a thorough distaste for the aesthetics of the game, and outright disdain for the American jock attitude that seems to find its fullest realization in football fandom and reportage.

That said, I'm glad that Kanye's name has come up, because upon reading this post and the comments, it occurred to me that he would have been the only appropriate pre-game and half-time musical entertainment.

But we all know that that wouldn't happen at an NFL event in a million years.

Too divisive, too expressive, too laden with commentary, too much of everything that the football has come to represent the opposite of.

(Perhaps in the FD Archives this has been addressed, but the NFL strikes me as the opposite of the NBA: a league of anti-psychology, anti-style, and anti-fun. Perhaps even anti-player.)

As to the original point, it seems to me that if the game had meaning for the residents of NOLA and the Gulf Coast, it was likely in spite of anything that the NFL did (other than hold the game), rather than because of it.

At 9/27/2006 3:20 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

David Banner was the clear choice for musical entertainment. But that would've scared off all the white people trying to look sad.

And yeah, I can't wait for basketball to start again. This and the TO thing has really soured me on the league. I'll watch, but I don't care on the same level...

WV: rcbrnw -- racial commentary brown white

At 9/27/2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're aware, right, that most of the horror stories about the superdome were false? if not, try google.

At 9/27/2006 5:08 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that's true, but "horror stories" in this situation is relative. i think we can agree that the whole thing was, by most standards, a horror story with or without the baby rapes and murders.

At 10/02/2006 4:32 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

The NFL really is scared of offending somebody. I think it's appropriate that Buck's "That's horrible, nobody should have to see that" after Moss mooned the crowd was at an NFL game.

And I think that "scared" is the most appropriate word because it creates sitautions like the return to New Orleans where all the choices made are the safe ones because the NFL is frightened by its own popularity and doesn't want to alienate Joe America; nevermind that Mr. America is a marketing amalgation of characteristics rather than a living breathing human being.


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