While I was away…

1) collectively insanity seems to have engulfed the land. No, not because a lot of people actually *like* Donald Trump. Instead, it’s because James Harrison is being widely lauded as a role model for good parenting, a bulwark against the forces of entitlement, indulgence and the lily-liverization of America. Harrison, a one-time NFL defensive player of the year (and one tough hombre), ordered his six and eight year old sons to give back participation trophies because, he believes, they only deserve trophies for earned achievements, not just for showing up.

I could talk until I am blue in the face about the fact that, for the large majority of Americans, including those coming of age now, the job market is as fiercely competitive as it’s ever been. The data on this are clear. So are the data on the ferocious college admissions process, a pressure cooker the likes of which no previous generation of college-bound students has ever faced.

That kids are going to, on the basis of a participation trophy, kick back and decide they don’t need to work for anything for the rest of their lives is, to be as polite as I can possibly be, devoid of coherence.

Speaking of his own two young children, Deadspin’s Albert Burneko has put the matter beautifully:

The world is patient, and its stride and stamina are much greater than theirs, or mine; it will catch them, no matter what I do. That is the only race they are running, and they will lose it; they will have lost it before they learn it is happening. Everyone does. For now, for now, for as long as I can have it, the reason to do things—to play sports, to do work, to get out of bed in the morning—is because the privilege is a fucking miracle, because it might allow my children to be children now, now, today, before the least consideration of long-term goals and competition and getting ahead may intrude upon the impulse a little kid gets to put a balloon inside his shirt and make another little kid laugh. Before the world barges in with its repulsive notions of good enough and demands to know whether these two small people have earned their place in it. They earned more than the world can ever give them when they woke up this morning. So did James Harrison’s kids. So did you.

No one has ever accomplished anything more worth having than the moments little kids steal away from the big grown-up world, together; when they wall out all of our sad hypocrisies and fucked-up values and grotesque striving, illuminate a little world for each other, and fill it with their easy goodwill and eagerness to participate.

The trophy to give back is the one they get for winning. It is worse than worthless.

In America today, an historic chasm has opened up between the very wealthy and everyone else. And much of public discourse is consumed with inane distractions from that profound reality. This is one of them. Most people are going to have to work damn hard to make a decent, secure living for themselves and their families. Trophy proliferation didn’t cause that and it won’t change that.

2) Meanwhile, in a ruling that has surprised many, the National Labor Relations Board voted unanimously to reject the Northwestern football players bid to obtain the right to unionize. It was a strange ruling in numerous respects, not least of which was that the Board, in its ruling, did not materially contradict the analysis of Peter Sung Ohr, the regional NLRB supervisor who preliminarily ruled last year that NW football players were employees under American labor law and therefore entitled to try to form a union.

Rather than contradict Ohr, the NLRB simply argued that to allow the players to move forward would cause “instability” in the “labor market.” Specifically, they argued, that since the ruling could only cover private schools and those schools play public schools which are subject to state labor law (and therefore not bound by the NLRB), there would be a problematic imbalance in the nature of the competition. In other words, because states may deny labor rights to college athletes, the NLRB is essentially saying that it is obligated to do the same.

Mark Emmert would have had a hard time writing a more oddly circular and self-serving argument than that.

Hey, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Emmert and the NLRB in the same room at the same time, so….

(Patrick Hruby, Andy Schwarz and Dave Zirin each have good pieces on the ruling).

3) Brady-gate is still going, praise Jesus. Matt Taibbi, a Patriots homer, wrote this searing attack on Commissioner Goodell. Like Taibbi, I hadn’t realized just how bad the league’s handling of Bounty-gate was. Read Taibbi for the details. On that basis, and others, Taibbi says Goodell should never be trusted at all.

To ride a new favorite hobby horse of mine, one word I essentially never hear associated with Goodell, even among his many critics: “entitled.” As I’ve noted before, for those scoring at home, this is the son of a former United States Senator. I’m sure he worked hard once he got to the league office. But does anyone want to claim with a straight face that the family name didn’t give him a leg up that most folks can only dream about?

While privilege continues to reproduce itself in ever-tightening concentric circles, we keep tossing around words like spoiled, entitled and coddled at precisely the wrong targets. The kids are alright. The Emmerts, Goodells and Trumps – each of whom has marinated in privilege and repeatedly dodged accountability – not so much.

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