Political Football: Rooting Responsibly

This Week’s Featured Game: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys.

Philadelphia update: The city is proud of its performance during the RNC. And why not? The police hardly kicked anybody in the head—at least not repeatedly—and did so at only twice the budgeted amount: $10 million instead of $5 million. A real bargain when you consider the cost per constitutional violation. Plus, they went the whole week without bombing a single inhabited city block! Things went so well that a few days later, the International Association of Chiefs of Police named Philly as the site for its convention in 2003, which figures to be just about the time local cops will be done kicking the crap out of that guy they pulled from the car.

Dallas update: Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill—lunch—kill, kill, kill, kill, kill—complain about the Mexicans—kill, kill, kill, kill, kill. The killingest place in the country has been especially killtastic these days, what with the governor running for president and Texans loathing anyone who’s not a Texan or anyone who is a Texan but is also African American, young, old, Mexican American, female, mentally disabled, Canadian, Muslim, or, worst of all, a mentally disabled African American Muslim whose lawyer falls asleep during their trial. Just how killer is Texas? One hundred forty people have been put to death on George W. Bush‘s watch.

Air Attack: Back in Philly, not all the news is good. The annual Labor Day pigeon shoot was canceled. Animal rights activists argued that the event, in its 65th year, is cruel—participants kill wounded birds by tearing their heads off, smashing them, and suffocating them. (Texas officials are said to be “intrigued.”) Shoot organizer Robert Tobash defended the event. “It isn’t that we hate pigeons,” he said. “We treat them well until they get shot.”

Mind Game: Those who think of Texas as merely backward and mean aren’t familiar with the state’s evolving attitude toward the mentally disabled. The president of Joseph Goebbels‘s alma mater, Texas A&M, is accused of bilking a 99-year-old mentally impaired woman out of $2 million. And after receiving postcards from local police alerting them that one of their neighbors was a sex offender, residents of one Texas backwater severely beat a mentally retarded man who, it turned out, wasn’t a sex offender. The convicted pedophile had moved more than a year earlier.

Consensus: You know it’s easy to make fun of Texas; that’s why we like doing it. Go Eagles!

Among the Thugs

Cynthia Cooper, Marion Jones, Venus and Serena Williams—household names, maybe, but women’s sports have still not been able to shake loose the presumption that even the greatest female athletes are crashing a man’s domain. “Hey, Rebecca Lobo is using Patrick Ewing‘s locker,” exclaimed a male colleague on his first foray into the Liberty locker room. Looks these days rather like the other way around. Progress has been made, of course. So it’s no surprise that the beef has turned from the playing fields to the stands, long held as a place of such sacred male bonding rituals as spilling beer and shouting obscenities at players. Female faces in the crowd—especially those that aren’t looking adoringly at a male escort—have become a new subject of male amazement, if not downright scorn. As fine a columnist as Times writer George Vecsey, finally noticing after four years that there’s a women’s pro basketball league, expressed shock in a recent column that a woman with a shaved head and tattoos was sitting in “Woody Allen’s seat” at the Garden. (That was Joan Jett, honey, the one on the video over the court, rocking out “Let’s go, Liberty . . . OW!”)

But in the baldest assertion of hetero-masculine supremacy in the stands, officials threw two women out of Dodgers Stadium on August 8 because they had the temerity to kiss each other, just like other folks celebrating the string of home runs L.A. was whacking. Last week team prez Bob Graziano personally and publicly apologized to the women, Danielle Goldey and Meredith Kott, whose seatmates had complained to a guard that they didn’t want their kids around “those kind of people.” (The Dodgers also donated 5000 tickets to three local gay and lesbian organizations and promised sensitivity training for their employees.) Said Graziano, “We wouldn’t have asked a heterosexual couple to leave, but we did with the lesbian couple. . . . And that was an error in judgment.” The good news is that when the guards escorted Goldey and Kott from their seats, the crowd booed—and finally put all that cursing to good use.

Solidarity . . . Never?

With middling box office returns, The Replacements might not warrant more attention, and enough critics have already slammed the film for glorifying scabs, but someone still needs to point out how wrong it got its villains as well as its heroes.

The film’s premise—that $5 million-a-year superstars, upset by the high cost of insurance on Ferraris, would stand united against the owners—is, unfortunately, a howler. Something like a quarter of the players had crossed the picket lines by the time the ’74 training-camp strike collapsed after 41 days. There were no picket lines to cross in ’82, as games were canceled, but lack of solidarity again pressured the union to cave in after 57 days and settle for what the owners had offered two months earlier. The ’87 strike, the one with replacement players, ended after 24 days had passed and 16 percent of the 1585 players crossed the picket line—and without a settlement, leaving the league with no collective-bargaining agreement for five more seasons. Those who publicly denounced the union in ’82 or who crossed the picket lines in ’74 and ’87 included quarterbacks Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, John Hadl, Jim Zorn, Joe Montana, Danny White, Jeff Hostetler, and Doug Flutie, as well as Mark Gastineau, Lynn Swann, Steve Largent, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Dwight Clark, Roger Craig, John Stallworth, Lawrence Taylor, and Howie Long.

In a film that makes heroes of scabs and views the players, not the owners, as overpaid, the image of superstar union men might seem a minor distortion. But to set the record straight: Replacement players in ’87 helped the owners defeat the union, but some of the union’s most prominent members did more damage.

Contributors: Steve Lowery, Alisa Solomon, Michael Oriard

Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman