Everyday People

So, I’ve been finding it really hard to blog lately, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on why, exactly, that might be.

I mean, I don’t want to blame it all on 9/11, but it certainly didn’t help.

There’s a lot of little reasons, of course, but I think the one it comes down to is the way I write. I really have a hard time writing about something until I’ve thought it over a lot. I’m the only person I know who drafts the comments I write on other people’s Facebook posts. It’s actually one reason I hate reading my own writing; it always feels so labored and forced. I read other people’s blogs, and I’m sure they put, if anything, more work than I put into mine, but the end result just feels more natural, refreshing even. I wish I could write differently, but this is the way I know how, and the end result of all this is I have a very hard time just picking a topic and writing about it. Most topics I’ve written about are the ones that got stuck in my mind and I worked them over and thought about them until I felt confident enough to put something out there.

And, as of late, all of those topics are political. And this presents something of a problem for me.

It’s not that I think politics is not a topic worth writing about (obviously), and this isn’t even a promise that I won’t write about politics in the future. But my biggest problem, I think, comes from the unstated goal of this blog.

My very first post (so long ago now) was prompted by, and largely in response to, a comment thread on my Facebook wall in which two people argued back and forth about the merits of downfalls of Noah, a film that neither of them had seen.

And I decided then that I wanted to use this blog, such as it is, to oppose that sort of closed-mindedness. I didn’t have delusions of grandeur. I wasn’t out to change the world or reshape our cultural conversation. But even if I only got two readers, I’d hoped to use my posts, even in a small way, to promote thoughtfulness, reasoned (and reasonable) discourse. Dialogue.

And right now, when it comes to politics, I’ve just got so much anger. I’m starting to worry that I’m becoming what I’ve always hated. But even if that’s not true, even if every part of my anger is completely justified, what does that leave? If all I’ve got to contribute to this field is rage, I’ll keep it to myself. There’s already more than enough of that going around.

And so I’ve been thinking a lot about what (or if) to write, because every other topic felt so small, so insignificant right now.

But as I was thinking about how all these other topics, movies and TV and art and sports, “don’t matter” anymore, from nowhere a very powerful memory came back to me.

It was July, during my bachelor party weekend in Minneapolis, and we’d gone to the Jazz and Funk Fest to see Sly and the Family Stone. It was very warm, and I was quite drunk, and I’m shockingly ignorant about music history so all of the songs they played were more or less new to me. And then they paused to talk to the crowd before kicking off their set closer.

“I’ve been around forever,” the speaker said. “And this is the craziest election I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But one thing I do know…

I-I-I am everyday people!

“And so are you!”

And as they kept singing and repeated the chorus, everyone in the crowd began to sing along. Even I caught on eventually. And there was just this weird, unspoken bond in the crowd. It didn’t matter if you were Republican or Democrat, Making America Great Again© or With Her™, or throwing your vote away on a third party.

I’d never felt that connected with strangers. And never, before or since, had felt more assured that things would work out okay.

I don’t know why that memory came back to me or what prompted it, but it was like a cold splash of water to the face. It helped me remember something I’d always known. That these topics aren’t inherently frivolous. That anything that can connect us is worth celebrating and promoting.

And that is the main reason I, for one, herald the return of the NFL Draft tonight, with the start of the season soon to follow.

There’s so many divisions in the country right now. Don’t get me wrong, the issues are important, I would never say otherwise. Discussion and debate are necessary.

And at the same time, at the end of the day, we are just “everyday people.” “Sometimes [we] can be right and [we] can be wrong,” but “we got to live together.”

And anything that can make us feel united, even for a brief moment, is a good thing.

Which is why, I swear, if I see one more person try to politicize sports, I’mma smack ‘em.

I’mma do it.

Trump’s Postmodern America?

So this has been a weird week.

Between the inauguration, the first several (largely unnerving) acts of our new president, trying to make it to the Iowa’s Women’s March, getting lost and not making it to the march but instead calling the cops on a guy who was threatening a woman while several other people stood by, it’s opened up a… lot of opportunities for important political discussion.

So it was the other day I found myself in a Facebook discussion about philosophy and Trump, two topics I would never expect to find in a room together because one is an attempt to define truth, and the other wouldn’t notice if he accidentally signed an executive order banning it from Twitter.

Hang on, I can do better than that. One is an attempt to define truth, and the other wouldn’t recognize truth if he grabbed it by its unmentionables (which, statistically speaking, he probably has).

Okay, okay, give me one more try. One is an attempt to define truth, and the other’s top advisor honestly just used the phrase “alternative facts.” I’m getting distracted, hang on…

Sorry. Anyway, the important part is, there are a lot of people trying to link the rise of Trumpism with the rise of postmodernism. There’s this article, which kicked off our discussion (and which my brother described as reading like it came from someone who “learned [philosophy] from the back of a cereal box”). This one, which is much better-written and more informed, but seems to oversimplify things (something we never do here at The Total Depravity of Mannings especially not in this post in a few minutes). And then there’s this, which probably makes the best point and, quite frankly, made me question everything I thought I knew about MTV.

And yet, there’s just something about all of these that seems off to me.

Full disclaimer: my knowledge of philosophy comes almost entirely from a few things I read years ago in college and a few master’s-level essays I’ve proofread for a friend of mine. All of these writers (including Ernst, whose article I publicly mocked) are likely much better read on this subject and it would no doubt behoove me to stick to topics I know about (which I will totally do, as soon as I figure out what they are). But.

I don’t think this is a connection that can be made, for one (probably overly simple) reason:

Trump supporters seem largely the least postmodern group active today.

We’re going to be speaking in broad terms here, so please bear with (and forgive) me. The popular view of postmodern thought, that it holds that nothing is true and morality is dead, is very much false. Such a belief would be not only ridiculous, but also untenable.

While there are many schools of postmodern thought, and a lot of depth to all of them, one thing they tend to have in common is the value of the subjective experience. The idea that, because all of our experiences are subjective, none of us can ever claim to be an “objective observer.” So we need to listen to, and take seriously, the subjective experiences of others.

If I could sum up my understanding of postmodern philosophy in one sentence, it would be this: “My experience does not define reality” (which is a bit ironic because the popular understanding of it is the opposite).

And if there is one group who acts as if their experience does define reality, it would almost have to be those who practice Trumpism.

I’m a woman, and I don’t feel like a second-class citizen. Therefore, the Women’s March is stupid.

I don’t feel black people are treated unfairly. Therefore, we don’t need the BLM movement.

Now, those are, admittedly, four of the least charitable sentences I’ve written in a long time. Not all Trumpers criticized the WM/BLM; not all who criticized were Trumpers. But given that data on that sort of thing is difficult to attain, I’d be amazed if there wasn’t at least a strong correlation there.

So what do we make of this? Well, either I’m completely off in my understanding of postmodernism (very possible, though if true I will renege on everything I’ve said here and explain how “that’s just what postmodernism represents to you, man!”) or there’s something else at play in Trump’s historic rise.

I’m inclined to go with the latter. Philosophy is important (to paraphrase a wise man, if you don’t think philosophy matters, try to explain why, without using philosophy), but it feels unnecessary to reach for abstract explanations when there are far more concrete and immediate explanations for Trump’s… nuanced relationship with truth and meaning, or why a significant portion of the population followed along.

When the choices for explaining Trump are citing a shift in philosophical approach or accepting that 4 in 5 white evangelicals put their loyalty to party ahead of their loyalty to faith, it’s tempting to blame philosophers. But it’s probably more accurate not to.

Election 2016

Okay, bear with me…

Donald Trump inherited a lot of money, and has grown his brand largely through frivolous lawsuits and exploiting the powerless. Despite many of his companies and most everything he touched failing, he developed a nearly sterling reputation as a successful business man.

He then started a campaign that, by all rights, should have been dead in the water six weeks in. Over the course of the election, he committed roughly 3,741 gaffes (conservatively estimating, of course) that would have buried much better campaigns. Despite his best efforts, he wins.

Perhaps most impressively, he managed to be somehow connected to every single terrible decision the WWE made over the course of a roughly three year period. Despite losing the company millions, he ends up a WWE Hall of Famer.

So… is it too much to think that as a president he can maybe keep failing his way to success?

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. And I needed a little humor right now, because my real thoughts are a bit darker.

I’ve seen a couple of my friends posting statuses on Facebook to the effect of “I’m so disappointed in this country,” and to be completely honest, I really can’t agree. Not because I’m happy Trump won. In fact, I said repeatedly before the election that I could stomach just about any of the candidates except him. But just because that’s the democratic process. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Much as I might want to, I have a hard time holding a vote against strangers, whose reasons for voting I sincerely don’t know.

What I am disappointed in is my brothers and sisters in faith. What I can hold against people is all the support for our president-elect from otherwise rational people who call themselves Christians. That, to me, is just incomprehensible. That is completely inexcusable.

You cannot call yourself a follower of the Prince of Peace and yet follow a man who says he would order his soldiers to kill the families of terrorists; whose solution to conflict is “bomb the shit out of them.” You cannot claim to endorse the man who said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, and then endorse the man running on a platform of hate; a man endorsed by the KKK and who has a history of practicing discrimination. You cannot claim loyalty to the God who said “Love me above all else, serve me above all else, trust me above all else,” and then cast your vote based on a handful of Supreme Court seats.

You cannot serve God and love power, and this election was about power, pure and simple. This election was about maintaining our stranglehold on power in this country, and the rhetoric reveals it. The “lesser of two evils” mentality confirms it.

I don’t care if you think Clinton was worse. I don’t care if you think this was our last chance to preserve America (or, more shamefully, the GOP). I don’t care if you think a third-party candidate couldn’t win. Relative morality is not who we are, preserving America is not our business, winning elections is not our priority. Our only purpose on this Earth is serving, living, speaking, and voting in a manner consistent with a good God and with His teachings.

You can’t honestly look me in the face—scratch that. This isn’t about me. You can’t look someone who is not me, someone whose place in society is more fragile than mine, someone who is a woman, who is black, who is Hispanic, who is disabled, who is gay, who is trans, who is Muslim, you cannot look that person in the face and tell them that your support of this man was loving them.

More importantly, you cannot look God in the face and tell Him that your support of this man was loving Him.

Because ultimately, while this election may be remembered for generations, even for centuries, our actions, our love for others, what we do for “the least of these” will be remembered for eternity.

How WCPW Should Have Booked: Joseph Conners’ Heel Turn (Part 2)

Last time on The Total Depravity of Mannings…

Right, so… WCPW had a very good idea that they failed to execute properly. And I can do it better…

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How I Would Have Booked It

So, to start off with, we really don’t change too much. As I said, the beginning of this feud was really excellently done. Through the first month, really, the only change I would make is after Hendry steals the pinfall in their first match as a tag team, I would have a backstage segment between the two, with Conners expressing some frustration over Hendry’s actions, and The Local Hero responding, something along the lines of “Look, you already got your win last week; in fact, you got the first win in WCPW history. But I lost. I still needed my first win, so I thought you wouldn’t mind if I took this one. You’ve already established yourself as a winner here, but I still need to make my name on this roster.”

That would be important early on, because it would set up the dynamic of their partnership. Yes, Hendry is looking out for himself, but he’s not unreasonable. And it would also give Conners a reason to put up with him for so long. It would appeal to his ego and give his character a reason to understand why Hendry does all the narcissistic things that he does.

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Besides, how could you be mad at a face like this, especially when it’s attached to an accent like this?

So then everything else plays out like it did in real life, until we get to Hendry’s singles match with Gracie. And this time… Hendry loses! Obviously! I mean, there’s no other logical way to do it. If it were a straight-up fight, Prospect could lose. They’re heels, they’re cowards, you have to book them kind of weak. But when they have the numbers advantage and it’s a 4-on-1 fight, you really have to give them the victory. Otherwise, they look like complete dorks.

So Gracie pins Hendry, 1-2-3, and after that, like in real life, Prospect starts to beat up The Local Hero. However, unlike in real life, this goes on for a while. Conners doesn’t rush to defend the partner he just turned his back on. Instead, he waits a good five or so minutes, until it’s gotten really brutal, and then he hits the ring. However, rather than running away from one man, Prospect swarms him. Conners tries to fight them off, and he actually does surprisingly well. Again, we can’t have our heel faction beaten by one man for no reason, but he holds them off long enough for Hendry to recover, and together the two of them chase Prospect off.

Hendry grabs a mic, but instead of thanking Conners, he starts dressing him down. He tells him “See? See what we could accomplish together? If you had only been here to have my back, I would have won my match.” Conners tries to argue, but because Hendry keeps interrupting him he finally gives up. He sits there in silence as Hendry instructs him to never abandon him again, and Conners just gets angrier and angrier this whole time.

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So, sort of like this, but with more high school drama

Now in the real version, they had a dramatic change in Conners’ mannerisms. As soon as he won the title, he started just constantly licking his lips with a mad glint in his eye. It was kind of… weird. So, here, because we want a more natural transition, we’re going to have him start doing that, very subtly, after this conversation. At first, you should barely be able to notice it unless you watch him very carefully, and then we’ll just have him build and build on it each week.

The next week, James R. Kennedy, the leader of Prospect comes out; he cuts a promo and challenges our heroes to an elimination tag-team match, the three members of Prospect

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Though not much more than a typical Grado match, I suppose

vs. Team Hendry, The Local Hero and Joseph Conners. Not Grado… Again, his involvement didn’t really make sense, and it also didn’t lead to anything. It was sort of a waste of everyone’s time.

So we’ve got a 3-on-2 handicap elimination match. But, instead of Conners getting eliminated right off the bat, this time Hendry gets caught showboating, and while the referee’s distracted, two of the members of Prospect double-team him, 1-2-3, he’s out.

With Hendry pinned, he starts to think the match is over, so he starts to exit the ring area and motions for Conners to come with him. Conners is all “Um… I’m still in this fight,” and Hendry is like “No, I got pinned. We lost.” Conners interprets this as Hendry trying to steal the spotlight again, grabs Lucas Archer, the legal man for Team Prospect, and hits his Righteous Kill DDT. He covers him, the ref counts to three, Conners gets the elimination. He never takes his eyes off of Joe Hendry through all of this. He’s looking daggers at Hendry. Hendry doesn’t get it, shrugs, and leaves the ring area so Conners can finish the match.

At this point, Alex Gracie and Drake, the two remaining members of Prospect, want nothing to do with Conners. They’re both out on the ring apron arguing about which of them should get in the ring. Finally, Conners walks over to their corner, knocks one of them to the floor, grabs the other, drags him into the ring, and proceeds to just rip him apart and pin him. He then does the same thing to the final member, eliminating all three men, one after another.

Okay, now, I know that I said that we can’t have our heel faction lose to one man, but there are a couple of differences between what WCPW originally did and what I’m suggesting. First, Conners isn’t beating all of Prospect all at once here, he’s taking them on one at a time. And secondly, and more importantly, there’s a purpose to booking it this way, because what we’re doing is establishing Conners as a bit of a monster. We need to show that he’s taking all of this anger he feels because Hendry’s constantly disrespecting him, and channeling it. And that’s letting him to do things no one thought he was capable of.

So basically we stick with that formula for the next couple of weeks; Hendry continues to upstage Conners, and Conners acts a bit madder each time. Then, finally, we get to the main even of Stacked. Now, in the real event, Hendry came out to his own version of the Sonic the Hedgehog theme, complete with a video where he was Sonic, and Conners was Tails. We keep that. But, instead of Conners shrugging that off, as he did in real life, that video causes him to hit his breaking point. I mean, everybody hates Tails, so…

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Probably not the worst thing that’s been done to Sonic. Probably.

When he sees that video, Conners stops moving. He stands still as a statue with no expression on his face. But in his eyes is pure rage. Hendry gets in the ring and goes for a fist bump, like in real life, and Conners simply doesn’t move. He doesn’t turn his head. He in no way acknowledges Hendry’s existence.

Rampage and Big Damo both make their entrances, and we don’t give Big Damo a mic, because that just ends poorly. Instead, the match just starts. After all, that’s what we’re here to see. Right from the start, Joseph Conners goes on an absolute tear. He just starts laying into people, knocking them over, left and right, up and down. He is dominating this match. You can see the looks on the faces of the other three competitors, all thinking ‘What the heck is this? Where did this guy come from?’

About halfway through the match, Hendry gets knocked out down to the floor. He’s not badly hurt, but he decides to just chill down there and see how things play out. Back in the ring, there’s some back and forth, but again it’s mostly still just Joseph Conners going nuts on everyone. He’s hitting move after move, and going for pinfall after pinfall. But each time, whether he tries to pin Rampage or Big Damo, they manage to just barely kick out before three. And Conners is just getting more and more outraged at this. He starts yelling, he starts pounding the mat. Eventually, he starts intimidating the ref after each near fall.

That goes on for a few minutes, and then Joe Hendry climbs back onto the apron. But before he can re-enter the ring, Big Damo shoulder tackles him, sending him flying back to the outside, and Hendry hits his head against the barricade. He gets busted open, there’s blood everywhere. The ref goes to check on Hendry and Big Damo seizes this opportunity to keep his title. He goes out into the crowd to grab a chair. Rampage and Conners continue fighting each other, so they completely miss this. Damo returns to the ring with a chair and he tries to ram it into Conners’ head. Conners just manages to duck out of the way in time and Damo instead cracks Rampage across the skull. Damo turns around to attack Conners, but Conners surprises him, and dropkicks the chair into Damo’s face, knocking him out.

Outside, Hendry is just getting to his feet. He’s a bit dazed and bloody, but still able to keep going. Conners grabs the ref’s attention and goes for the pin on Damo.

The ref counts one. Hendry climbs to the top turnbuckle. The ref counts two. Hendry leaps, but in his dazed state he misses Conners and Damo. He instead lands on the ref, just as the ref was about to count three.

If Conners had any sanity left, he loses it here. He grabs Hendry and pulverizes him with the Righteous Kill DDT. He then gets the chair Big Damo used, and proceeds to smash Hendry with the chair, over and over again, breaking the chair on Joe Hendry’s back.

Conners throws what’s left of the chair out of the ring. He wakes up the ref. He covers Hendry. One. Two. Three. And the twitching and lip licking get even more maniacal.

So that’s how I would have booked it. I think it just makes more sense. There’s a more logical flow from one event to the next, the character motivations are easier to follow, it prevents Prospect from being completely buried for no reason, and, most of all, it avoids raising questions about why there are no disqualifications in a match that would normally have disqualifications!

How do you think I did? Tell me about it in the comments below, let me know how you would have booked this angle, and also let me know if there’s another WCPW angle you’d like me to re-book. I take requests. Well… I might take requests. If I decide to turn this into a regular thing, I might take requests. Let’s play it by ear.

How WCPC Should Have Booked: Joseph Conners’ Heel Turn (Part 1)

Hello there! I’m Thadd from The Total Depravity of Mannings, and welcome to How WCPW Should Have Booked, where I look back at infamous WCPW missed booking opportunities and talk about how I’d book them differently because I’m a smart ass.

Author’s note: I swear on my life, I have never heard of Adam the Blampied’s series How WWE Should Have Booked and definitely don’t recommend watching it. Right now.

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I couldn’t figure out how to do the ding.

That’s right, we’re talking about professional wrestling again today, because why not? I know, no one takes it seriously, but that’s too bad. Because at the end of the day, what professional wrestling amounts to is storytelling, whether that’s with words, or more often (and preferably) without words. And, as I’ve talked about before (and a lot of people a lot smarter than me have noted) storytelling matters. Telling clear stories, and telling them well, is important. It’s part of what makes (and keeps) us human. And if WhatCulture is going to point out when WWE drops the ball on their storytelling, I think it’s only fair if someone does the same for them.

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The Original Booking

So, in one of WhatCulture Pro Wrestling’s first shows, Joseph Conners and “The Local Hero” Joe Hendry formed a tag team to take on Prospect, the main heel faction of WCPW (sort of like Nexus in WWE). Over the next two months, they built up a slow-burning feud between the two, with Hendry constantly upstaging Conners. He would interrupt him in interviews. In their first tag match together, Hendry blind tagged himself in and stole the pinfall. At one point Hendry made Conners come out to the ring with him just so he could call out another wrestler and demand a 1-on-1 match for a spot in the upcoming world championship, completely excluding Conners. Basically Hendry was acting like a bit of a cock.

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Basically this. But over and over again, for weeks.

It all seemed to come to a head on the August 8th episode of Loaded, WCPW’s weekly show. The Local Hero was booked to face Alex Gracie, one of the members of Prospect, in a singles match. Conners was especially peeved on this night because not only had Hendry cost them their match the previous week, but he had promised to write an entrance theme for their team that was evenly about each of them, and instead wrote this, which was almost entirely about The Local Hero and only mentioned Joseph Conners for one line (the line was “Joseph Conners”). As a result, Conners told Hendry he was on his own for his match that night.

So Hendry goes into his match with Gracie by himself, while Gracie has the other three members of Prospect watching his back. And because Prospect are heels, they’re cheating! They distract the ref, they double-team Hendry, they generally make his life hell. And yet, despite this, Joe Hendry, who had not won a singles match before this night in his entire WCPW run, wins. He takes Prospect on, 4-against-1, and beats them. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

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If the man not wearing gold pants looks like he’s seen a ghost, it’s probably because he’s looking at his future endeavors

Then, after the match, Prospect start ganging up on Joe Hendry, and almost immediately after that starts, Conners hits the ring and chases them off. Hendry gets on the mic and says something about how much that meant to him and he gives Conners his moment to shine. Conners gives a big, long speech about how Hendry was there for him when he needed a friend and how he’ll be there for Hendry, no matter what. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Flash forward a couple of weeks and Prospect challenges Team Hendry, consisting of The Local Hero, Joseph Conners, and Grado (who really had nothing to do with anything and was just sort of thrown in there) to a 3-on-3 elimination match. Conners and Grado get eliminated early, leaving Hendry alone to take on Prospect alone, which he does. Again. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

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Well, if we buried everyone this hard, at least we’d never have to worry about zombies

Then finally, at WCPW’s next special event, Stacked. Hendry and Conners have both been inserted into the world championship match, a 4-way match that also included Rampage Brown and the defending champion Big Damo (no, your name is stupid!). Over the course of the match, Hendry sacrifices his body several times to push Conners out of the way of danger; the final time taking a chair shot to the midsection from Damo… A chair shot that, for some reason, does not result in a disqualification, even though it was in full view of the ref. First of all, what? Secondly, don’t question it, it saves time.

Anyway, at the end of the match, Rampage and Damo are brawling on the outside of the ring, leaving Conners and a wounded Hendry inside. Hendry offers his tag-team partner a handshake, which Conners takes and then immediately turns into his finisher, the Righteous Kill DDT, beginning his heel turn. Conners goes for the pin, and… I’m not really sure what happens. The ref clearly counts to three, and Hendry never kicks out or even visibly moves, but, for reasons never made clear, the ref signals that Hendry was not pinned.

So then, with very little provocation, Conners grabs the chair that Damo had used on Hendry earlier and throws it in The Local Hero’s face. He picks it back up and smashes it

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Not pictured: A reason for disqualification

over Hendry’s back over and over again, completing his heel turn. He goes for the cover. The ref counts, one, two three. New WCPW Heavyweight Champion.

So yeah, there was a lot to like about this storyline. I liked that they put the belt on Conners in the end, and they did a pretty decent job of swerving the fans. They made it seem like Hendry was going to be the one to turn, and it was a bit surprising when Conners went heel, instead.

But still, it didn’t quite all come together. They started building the tension between the Joes, but then halfway through they completely undid that for no real reason, only to pick the angle back up again a few weeks later. Then the final event that caused Conners’ turn felt really small, and as a result his actual turn felt unearned. Also, Prospect was really buried by this angle, and for no real reason. And given that they’re some of the few heels on WCPW’s roster right now, they really need to be booked stronger to be a credible threat. Also, why were there no DQs? The match wasn’t announced as no disqualification, so using the chair should have been illegal. And if it was legal, why should we care that Conners used it? Why didn’t everyone use it?

So some good things, but also a whole lot of reasons it didn’t… really… work… And I can do it better.

Read Part 2 to see how…

National Anthems and Flames (and Wars Thereof)

So funny story. I remember, the last time I had this blog thingy open, thinking to myself ‘Wow, I’ve got a lot of topics I want to write about. I may need to do two posts this month.’

And here we are, six months later, with nothing new posted in the interim. Huh.

I guess getting married can have that effect. Not to mention finally finishing a screenplay I should have finished a year ago but had been putting off because I’m a lazy writer because I was waiting for creative genius to strike.

But now that I am getting back to blogging, instead of writing about one of those topics I felt so passionately about before, I’m instead going to write about something recent, because that’s the kind of minute-to-minute attention span the internet has taught me to have.

So, to review, recently two different athletes have got the internet into quite the tizzy because of their different but (apparently) abhorrent reactions when the national anthem was played.

First it was Gabby Douglas, who made the decision to stand at attention rather than place her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony at the Rio Olympics.

As an unapologetic Douglas fan, I did think about commenting on this, but really, there’s not a lot to say. She thought what she was doing was respectful. Other people thought it was disrespectful. The criticism may have been racially motivated, but also may not have been.

At the end of the day, it seems to me the main crux of the story comes from the fact that celebrities, especially celebrity athletes, are so rarely given the benefit of the doubt, or even just allowed to have lapses in judgment, even though the rest of us demand we be granted these same benefits.

Sunrise, sunset. Nothing new under the sun.

No, the event I wish to comment more in-depth on happened just last night, when Colin Kaerpernick of the San Francisco 49ers chose to sit while the national anthem played before his preseason football game.

Unlike Douglas, however, Kaepernick did intend to be disrespectful, saying afterwards “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This, too, is nothing new, but it did prompt swift and harsh criticisms from every corner of the internet. It’s this backlash that primarily deserves more discussion and, frankly, criticism.

It’d be easy (and fun) to mock the dumb posts, like this one, which hilariously tries to assert that losing a preseason game (which does not impact a team’s record and will be forgotten by next week) is Kaepernick’s “karma” for disrespecting the US. If that’s all the karma he faces, I guess what he did must not be that bad. But there’s much more troubling posts, like this one, which is also getting much more attention.

The thing is, I really don’t understand this fellow’s logic. His criticism of Kaepernick seems to begin and end with “He makes a lot of money, yet claims he’s oppressed.” Now, what Kaepernick actually said was that black people, as a group, are largely oppressed; to my knowledge he never claimed to have suffered oppression himself, so maybe this is a simple case of the fire-starting fan not reading the statements carefully enough before responding. But since he’s responding to Kaepernic and apparently some people are taking this man seriously, let’s look at the problems created by his response to the statements actually made by Kaepernick, his argument therefore being “Kaepernick makes a lot of money, yet erroneously claims that black people are oppressed.”

There are only two premises from which he could logically draw this conclusion: Either a) Because Kaepernick is well-paid, no black person is oppressed, or b) Because Kaepernick makes $126 million, he’s not allowed to be angry about the oppression others face.

The first premise is an obvious fallacy. The equivalent would be my finding one white person who was broke and trying to claim that all white people are oppressed. As an argument, it’s one step above those who say “It was cold today, therefore global warming is a myth.” Individual examples do nothing to prove or disprove general trends.

The second is much more insidious, but also more problematic. First because it raises some obvious questions right off the bat, such as “How little does a person have to make before it’s okay for them to care about marginalized groups?” If he made $125 million, would his comments be okay? Or would it have to be below, say, $500,000?

But even more problematically, it encourages our human nature that tells us we should only care about problems that affect us. Now, we all know that this is not true–after all, what would be the logical conclusion to that line of thinking? Should I ignore the plight of rape victims simply because I’ve never been raped? I’ve never been persecuted for my faith, so am I not allowed to be angry about the systematic genocide my brothers and sisters in the Middle East have had to face? Should only cancer patients do research on cures for cancer? It’s ridiculous, and we all know this. We all know, at least subconsciously, that we are responsible for making the world a better, juster, fairer place for everyone. And yet, for some reason, we continue to see this argument brought up, particularly in cases of race.

Now all of that being said, I’m far from on Kaepernick’s side here. I find it more than a bit suspect that when he was on top of the league and considered a future Hall-of-Famer, the most important social issue I heard him speak out against was a stigma against people who had tattoos. But now that he’s fallen on hard times and has been largely forgotten, he’s grown a social conscious? I’m not saying people can’t change, just that I find this particular case a bit suspect.

Even if he is sincere in his statements, though, there almost certainly had to be a better way to express them. Many other black athletes have expressed similar convictions in a way that is not only much less headline-grabbing (again, I’m a bit suspicious about Kaepernick’s motives) but also much more thoughtful, and therefore more likely to promote honest, open discussion.

Kap is far from beyond criticism here, and it’s important for those who disagree with him to criticize. But. It’s equally important that any criticisms levied at him focus either on his beliefs (i.e. showing that black people, again, as a group, not as individuals are not oppressed) or his actions (i.e. showing more positive ways he could have expressed those beliefs).

Misrepresenting his argument, oversimplifying complex social issues, and personal attacks (especially the particularly childish ones hurled in the video) only serve to perpetuate the juvenile discussions and divisive arguments that are ripping our culture apart at the seams.

The only way society moves forward is if we all pull in the same direction.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Walking Humbly

Sometimes the truth hurts more than any lie could…

So I may have mentioned my emerging soccer fandom. Since the last World Cup I’ve become a fairly avid Seattle Sounders fan, but, let’s be honest, Major League Soccer is not exactly a good league (sorry, Mr. Garber), so naturally I’ve also kept an eye on some European leagues and a headline from the Spanish Primera División (La Liga) caught said eye.

Ronaldo: Madrid Teammates Not on My Level.”

The story details Cristiano Ronaldo, the star of Real Madrid, one of the richest and most successful teams in all of Europe, and his… less than charitable interview after he and his team were beaten by Atlético Madrid, specifically that he said his teammates were not as good as he was and that was the reason Real Madrid lost.

https://i2.wp.com/talksport.com/sites/default/files/tscouk_old_image/cristiano_ronaldo_tantrum_barcelona_2.jpg

I’m not proud of how long I spent laughing at this picture.

Now there’s a certain perception that most people hold of Ronaldo, one certainly not hurt by his behavior on the field. Basically that he’s a pathetic baby who can’t handle when things don’t go his way. So if you’re anything like me, you read that headline, thought ‘Same old Ronaldo’ and went back to what you were doing (beating his team on your copy of Fifa 2016 that you play on amateur difficulty because you still don’t understand how soccer works).

Apparently not many people are like me, because it would seem that most did not go back about their day. Ronaldo caught enough heat that, within hours, he retracted his statement, saying “I am not better than any of my teammates.”

And this is where the painful truth comes in, because… Yes, Ronaldo, yes you are. Specifically, you’re better than 99.99999% of people who have ever kicked a football, and no, not just on a physical level. There are 7 billion people on Earth right now, and you’re

http://messinews.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Lionel-Messi-vs-Cristiano-Ronaldo-Wallpaper-9.jpg

And on every day, you look better than him.

definitively better at soccer than 6,999,999,999 of them, in every way, and on some days you might even be better than Messi. And what’s more, I refuse to believe you don’t know that.

 

I hate to admit that. It’s taken me a day and a half to get to this post, and most of it I spent convincing myself to actually write that paragraph.

Look, I’m not here to defend Ronaldo’s first statement. Airing your dirty laundry in public has never done any good for any team and it wreaked of childish frustration at losing to the crosstown rivals and being held goalless.

But why is the way to fix that false humility?

Once the second story broke, I went back and read in full the first article on Ronaldo’s post-game comments. Look at what he actually said there:

I don’t want to say that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez] or [Mateo] Kovacic are not good players — they are very good, but … to win a competition you need to have your best players.

Our best players are injured, unfortunately — it’s a fact, the reality.

And he also claimed “Real Madrid would be in first place if his teammates were on his level.”

Can there be any question that both statements are undoubtedly true? Barcelona currently lead La Liga by a wide margin with one player at Ronaldo’s level in Messi, two great complementary pieces in Neymar and Suarez, and… eight other people who I’m sure are very good (I said a kept an eye on European leagues, okay?). Every one in Barça’s starting eleven is a very good player, but undeniably ten of them are second-tier compared to Messi or Ronaldo, so imagine if Real Madrid actually did have 11 players that good? They’d dominate La Liga in their sleep. They’d roll over in bed and score more goals than most teams could in a month. While wearing rocket boots.

And as for the claim that the backups on his team aren’t as good as the players who would start ahead of them if healthy… I mean, they’re backups for a reason.

I’m reminded through all this, weirdly enough, of Terry Crews. If you’re not familiar with the man’s Facebook page, it may surprise you to learn he’s more than just the incredibly ripped torso from countless Old Spice ads. I highly recommend checking out the videos he’s posted, but one in particular that he’s titled “Humility?” He addresses the concept of

https://i2.wp.com/d236bkdxj385sg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/terry-crews1.png

I recommend his videos of my own free will and not because I’m terrified he could eat my soul through my computer.

humility we’ve developed in our culture, saying:

People always tell you to be humble… But are you humble going into your house? Are you humble getting into your car? No! You go into those places boldly, because they’re yours!… Let me tell you, man: God gives you stuff… It’s yours. It’s yours to use.

And it’s easy to forget that. While Crews mentions only physical possessions there, his thoughts extend to gifts and talents, as well, and his video is a response to a stranger at the gym telling him to relax and not make the other people look bad.

Pride can be deadly. I know this, firsthand, and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say it can eat away at you from the inside. But we see that, and we over correct, especially in the church. We take the command to “walk humbly with your God” and use it to mean that we can’t be proud of our accomplishments or skills. That we should deny the gifts we’re given. Ignoring that thinking poorly of yourself still puts the focus on yourself, and missing the point that some of the faith’s great heroes weren’t exactly shy about their gifts.

If I’m worried another patron at the gym is going to make me look bad, he’s not the one who needs to be humbled. It’s me.

Similarly, if the soccer-watching world bristles at the idea of Vazquez and Kovacic being told they aren’t as good as the players ahead of them on the bench, let alone Ronaldo, the fault is not with Ronaldo.

It’s in us.

Yes, Ronaldo’s first press conference was wrong-headed, and the context and medium of a message absolutely reflect on the message itself.

But the cure for wrong-headed impudence is not wrong-headed meekness.