Once upon a time, I was a rabid football fan. I spent nearly every weekend holed up here or there, ingesting endless hours of college and pro football to the point where I knew the names of some of the key players’ wives and mothers just from hearing them so much.
Then one day, the NFL players started complaining about how they were being treated and their pay rates. I read article after article about the issue and discovered I gave absolutely zero fucks about how bad these players who were being paid millions of dollars a year to play a game – granted, a brutal and punishing game – felt they were being treated by team owners and the league.
I believe everybody should be paid a fair wage for the work they do, and playing in the NFL is definitely work, so don’t get me wrong – these guys SHOULD be paid. I had to take a hard look at what my fanaticism said about me, though, and I decided that supporting that many millionaires with my time, effort and loyalty was unwarranted. I gave up the NFL and focused on college ball.
Not long after that – maybe a couple of years – I started paying attention to how much college players are exploited by the NCAA sports-industrial complex, which essentially commoditizes young men and turns them into entertainment revenue without truly compensating them. Sure, they get a college education, but if you want to know how that works, you should take a look at NCAA Division I football graduation rates. Without getting too much into it, the NCAA basically functions as a feeder league for the NFL and since I gave up the NFL, I felt like a hypocrite for continuing to support the NFL by being an NCAA football consumer.
What I noticed after walking away from NCAA football is how much free time I had on the weekends. It was amazing. Watching football had become the equivalent of a part-time weekend job for me, and bailing on it gave me time to do numerous rewarding things with my life, like spend time with my family, play music and ride motorcycles. I haven’t watched the Super Bowl in close to 10 years and haven’t seen an NCAA bowl game in at least 8 – don’t even get me started on the NCAA’s “playoff” system.
I told you all that to tell you this: I’m walking away from the State of the Union address.
For the last 6 or 8 years or so, I haven’t been watching the SOTU because I haven’t had cable TV and am not interested in sitting in front of my computer to stream this annual event. I satisfied myself by poring over transcripts of the address, as well as the enemy – er, opposite party’s retribution – um, I mean rebuttal – and basing my analysis on WHAT was said rather than HOW THEY SAID IT. I felt removing the viewable event aspect of the SOTU helped me better understand what was being said without bias derived from facial expressions, hand movements, etc.
That’s over as well now. Not SOTU for me, no more. It’s not that I don’t care about the country or our politics, because I do. Rather, it’s that the SOTU has slowly become political theater, an opportunity for the president to grandstand, pontificate, bloviate, obfuscate and outright lie to the American public. You might think because of the timing that I’m talking about Trump, and while I am, it’s not just him. Trump is just the latest, worst offender when it comes to the SOTU. Obama, both Bushes, Clinton, even Reagan all used the SOTU podium in a joint session of Congress to deliver a cheerleading chant rather than a substantive, thoughtful statement on the progress being made by and challenges to our society and its grand democratic experiment.
Add to that the opposite party’s “rebuttal” that follows directly on the SOTU’s heels and you have more political theater. The other party isn’t listening to respond, they’re just waiting for their turn to say “NO – THAT IS ALL WRONG!” and do the same thing the president has done – bloviate, pontificate, obfuscate and lie to the American public.
From 2019 on, then, I will not be putting any of my time or attention into watching, listening to, reading, reading about or discussing the State of the Union address. Instead I will pay attention to political events and issues that actually matter, that can serve to have some positive effect on our society and give us the opportunity to learn and grow rather than just listen to partisan rhetoric that gets nothing done and takes us nowhere.