The NFL, Women and Spartacus

SpartacusNobody can stop talking about the NFL.  Me neither.  Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of broadcast networks and sponsors  (who by the way paid my salary for more than 25 years) in this issue of women’s and children’s safety.  I’ve never seen so many tone-deaf people in my life.  Even CoverGirl can’t seem to get it right.

But today, on Microblog Monday, I have another question.  What do we do about this world of modern gladiators in a game that damages their brains until many of them are never able to think clearly again?  How do we protect them from the impact of the conditioning and brutality that is part of their work?  And what is the difference between NFL owners and those who sent Rome’s ancient, doomed fighters into the Coliseum?

Women Are 45% of NFL TV Audience. FORTY-FIVE!! Time to Take On the Networks

Photo by Coemgenus via Wikimedia

Photo by Coemgenus via Wikimedia

We need to do something (HINT: #boycottNFLsponsors)

Why is it so hard to affect the NFL and its disgraceful responses to abusive players?  After all, women are 45% of the NFL fan base.  It makes sense to care what we think.

Sadly, there’s that other thing. To see what we’re up against, follow the money.

Team owners make money from tickets and souvenirs but even more from TV contracts and the networks who pay for them.  It’s all nicely divided up.  In the 2011 9-year NFL-broadcast contract, CBS gets American Football Conference games – and is asking $500,000 for thirty second spots, according to Forbes, Fox carries the National Football Conference and NBC broadcasts Sunday night in prime time – with ads going for $628,000/30-second spot. Each network gets an exclusive crack at three of the nine Super Bowls and all the revenue that comes with it. (Bloomberg News)

Here’s what Forbes said this time a year ago, “Live appointment television—already extremely important—will only grow in significance in coming years, as television programming and audiences continue to fragment. On TV, the NFL is king.”

This morning (9/15/14) Joe Scarborough, never one for impulse control, lashed out at NYT columnist Alan Schwarz for his mention of the failure of broadcasters to acknowledge their own complicity in the shameful collaboration among the NFL, sponsors and the networks who charge them for their ads.

It’s like the story of the nail and the horse and the war*:  Sponsors pay the networks, networks pay the NFL, the NFL divides the revenue among the teams and the owners combine these huge paydays with their ticket sales.

Listen to the Wall Street Journal describe the most recent TV rights auction:

The auction was a sign of the NFL’s huge leverage over television networks, which are increasingly looking to the NFL to help fortify them against the rise of online video services, the stagnation of pay TV and other threats. “It’s almost like the networks are afraid to say no to the NFL,” says one senior TV executive involved in the bidding process for Thursday night games.

So.  If the NFL is king and everyone, especially the TV networks who profit from ad revenue, ratings and football programming in general, are enablers then we have to make it scarier to continue than to take a stand.  That means finding, and boycotting, NFL sponsors and letting the network brass know what we’re doing.  (I boycotted Greece for years during the Junta years.  Then an Amnesty International leader told me “If they don’t know why you’re not coming, it doesn’t do any good.   You need to write to them and tell them why you’re not there.“)

That’s the other part of it.  We need to be noisy and bold and brassy and (forgive me Ms. Sandburg) bossy about this – holler like hell in support of our sisters and put our money where our mouths are.  Nobody needs any of the stuff that advertise on NFL games and there are alternatives for all of them anyway.

Women’s bodies should not be paying for the bad business planning of television networks; if they won’t take a stand with the NFL, let them find another way to make their money!


UPDATE: See this Jezebel story on CoverGirl, too.

Microsoft  @Microsoft (big deal w/NFL to use ONLY Surface Tablets and other MS technology on the sidelines

Gatorade  @gatorade                 Bud Light  @budlight

Visa  @visa                                  Verizon @verizon

Papa John’s  @PapaJohns           FedEx  @FedEx

Marriott  @Marriott                    Pepsi  @pepsi

General Motors  @GM                Campbell’s Soup  @CampbellSoupCo

#boycottNFLsponsors  Please add more in comments!


*For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.   

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.



NOTE: This is another 2008 virtual baby shower post – to Julie Westerbeck Marsh when her first son appeared.

OK so I grew up with sisters.  And I went to a women’s college.  And most of my life I’ve worked in offices with more women than men (amazing, no?)  So, when I was pregnant I was terrified at the idea of having boys.  They were so strange — so noisy — I just had no idea what was coming.  Except that what was coming was Josh. And then Dan.  And it turned out that — hang on sisters – boys are a blast, great company, luuuhhhv their moms and — boys are easier!  I know this because I’ve watched my friends raising daughters and the tensions are fierce.  Girls and their mothers — boys and their dads.  Not easy.

But let’s get back to basics.  Little boys run around a lot and make noise.  They jump off things.  They ride the dog around and fall off and hit their heads and need stitches.  They, later, seem to be trying to kill each other much of the time.  And before I go any further – let me tell you that there’s an old shrink saying that therapists never believe that babies are born with personalities until they have their second child.  This is also true with many women regarding gender differences – it hits you once they show up.  My kids are feminists and very good to the women in their lives as far as I can tell – but they are men and they were boys and that is not like being a girl.  Nope.

I have great memories from when they were little – stomping around singing Free to Be and Da Doo Ron Ron Ron and The Garden Song and Abiyoyo, skiing down black diamond slopes and going to Yankee Stadium to see Billy Joel and Carnegie Hall to see Pete Seeger and Madison Square Garden to see Sesame Street on Ice and being dragged to an infinite number of Police Academy and other disgusting movies.

And I lived in alien space much of the time.  Some of our hit toys (ie things I would NEVER have had in my house if there were not these strange male creatures inhabiting the premises — and pre-video game age of course):
One of those Radio Shack electronics build-your-own thingy kits that make bells ring and bulbs light up if you hook them up correctly.
Anything aviationary
Anything Star Wars
Anything GI Joe
Weird wrestling stuff (boy did I fight that one!)
Folk music (that’s my fault though)
Baseball cards  (and proudly, I did NOT throw them out)
Stuffed animals

No  Mary Poppins books (I tried) but I did get to read all The Great Brain and Ralph S Mouse and Timothy Goes to School and a gazillion baseball player bios.

There’s serious stuff to having sons, of course.  We have to be sure, no matter how much we love hanging around with them, that they get enough alone time with their dads or some other male figure.  And wave bravely as they off together on a Sunday (also your day off after all) without you.  We have to accept and celebrate the guy stuff.

Just like girls, but differently, we have to let them know we think they can take care of themselves – enable independence at each landmark, if we think they can handle it, even when we really want to help.  It’s so easy, with a boy, to want to remain more connected than is useful for them as they grow.  At certain points they may pull back for a while, when they need to untangle.  We have to let them and respect the struggle

With regard to respect for women – I am deeply impressed with my sons’ perspectives.  I hope that being honest and respecting their developing attitudes, helped.  I never threw a Playboy out of our house but I made it very clear how I felt about them in the (brief) period they were around.  Anything like that, of which I (or my husband) disapproved, had to come out of their allowance.  They had to put their money on the line – and I think that helped more than locking it all out of the house and pretending they weren’t interested.  It also helped us understand where their heads were.  Although that is easier for boys because they are, honestly, more straightforward.

Of course none of what I write here applies to all boys.  Much of it may apply to plenty of girls.  But it was my experience and in a kind of stream of consciousness baby shower kind of way it’s what rose to the top.   The bottom line though, is that even though it’s scary if you’ve lived in a world of women, as I had, they are just wonderful.  Most of all, because I know Julie, from reading your blog for so long, you  would be a great mother to any child with whom you were blessed, this kid is in for a great life.   And where advice is concerned, I say take it only as far as your gifted mother gut takes you.  Where the two collide, trust yourself.  Girl, boy or android, that way your little one will always be in the right hands.

YOU ASKED FOR IT: Advice for New Moms

6 Replies

Josh_and_cindy_in_muir_woodsNOTE: In the early years of BlogHer “virtual baby showers” – posts on a topic new moms might like – were frequent.  This, one of the first, sought advice for new moms.  In honor of two new grandchildren, here’s what I wrote then, in April of 2007.

That’s me with my older son, Josh, in Muir Woods outside San Francisco  — pretty many years ago.  I don’t know if you can tell but I’m pregnant with his brother.  Happy to join the virtual shower although despite my adoration of and respect for both Liz and Catherine, I’m from the generation that put their babies to sleep on their stomachs and so may sound a little old-fashioned.

1. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right no matter whose advice it is.

2. Trust yourself.

3. Remember that everybody makes mistakes and anyway a child is not a product, she is a person. You’ve heard that kids are resilient. They are. Do your best with love and if you don’t dwell on your mistakes neither will they.

4. You can’t turn a child into someone. You can only help them become the best somebody they already are.

5. Don’t be afraid to say no. Parents who don’t set limits and help their kids learn self-discipline are selfish. It’s easier but it’s not right.

6. No experience is wasted on a child. Maybe they’re too young to remember, but if it happened, it had an impact. So share as much of what you love as you can – music, museums, trips to Timbuktu or Target — poetry, cooking, washing the car.

7. No child ever went to college in diapers.

8. Listen to experienced people you respect, preschool teachers, friends, even, God forbid, your mother.  Experience really is a great teacher.  Then, though, think it through and then do what you think is right.

9. Everything is not equally important. Pick your fights and win them.

10. Leave time to just be. Lessons are great but quiet time is where imagination and a sense of self emerges.

11. LISTEN to your kids. They are smart and interesting and wise and if you respect them you have a far better chance of having them respect you.

12. Did I say trust yourself?

With love, admiration and the joy that comes from knowing all you wonderfulpoetic and caringcommitted and in one case, very new mothers on the occasion of this lovely virtual baby shower.


On the Arrival of a First Child

x Dan hospital picSix years ago I wrote this piece to honor the pending birth of a friend’s child.  It’s about the first days after the birth of a first child. Right now, each of my sons is expecting a child, so one more time, here’s the memory – with gratitude and love.

What an emotional shock it has been to write this.  I need to start with that; the feelings, years later, are still there. Since this baby shower is for one of my favorite bloggers, and friends, I’m grateful to be part of it.  Our task is to share those lovely early moments with our brand new children.  That’s why I’ve added this, which may be the most perfect photo I own, because it says just what we all know.

The connection of a mother and newborn is so complete that it’s almost
impossible – even with writers as remarkable as this community — to describe.
At least I can’t find words that say what I know this photo says.

This is actually my second son, very soon after he arrived.

He’s almost 33 now and more extraordinary than even I, proud mama, could have imagined
that cold November day in Roosevelt hospital in 1979.  He and his brother
both started off with beautiful souls though.  They are beautiful still.

When I think of those early days, it isn’t all the getting up at night (although it could be) and it isn’t that I had so much trouble nursing that I needed to supplement (although it could be) and it isn’t the absolutely perfect terror that I might do them harm that accompanied the first days of their lives (although it certainly, indubitably could be.)

Nope.  Here’s what I remember, and what I wish for the two of you and all you other moms and moms-in-waiting:  it’s a cold winter night, maybe after about a week as the new parent of son number 1.  It’s dark, but out the window you can see the boats going up and down the Hudson River (even though our windows leak so there’s ice on our windows, on the inside.)

You hear a cry and struggle out of bed, grab a robe, go retrieve this new little person from his crib, change him and move with him to the bentwood rocking chair (of course there’s a rocking chair) facing the window. And you hold him in your arms and you feed him.

The dark envelops you,  the dim skyline across the river in New Jersey is the only light you have, except for the tiny pinpoints of light on the tug boats and barges as they make their way.  And it’s silent.  Not a sound.  And, with this new life in your arms, you rock gently back and forth.  The gift of peace of those nights in the rocker was so intense that as I write this, I can feel it. If I let myself, I could cry.

I remember watching my mother with each infant – can still see her face as she responded to them,  thinking to myself then “Oh. This must be the way she was with me.  How beautiful.  How beautiful.”

And I remember this.  My parents came to us very soon after our first son was born, helped put the crib together, celebrated with us. Late one night, as I stood with our baby in my arms, my dad walked into the room. Looking at the two of us, in perfect peace, he said to me  “NOW do you understand?”  Of course I did.

Our Gigantic Family #MicroblogMondays

Chagall_JW_Tables_Law_M374Two new little boys will enter our family before the end of September.  We’re excited, happy for our lovely sons and their wives and very happy too that our grandchildren have such wonderful people as parents.

There’s another thing, that (even though it is, of course, obvious) I hadn’t thought about in a long time: these children, while we can’t trace personal generations very far back because so many records and stories were lost in the Holocaust, have a family that goes back to Abraham and to Moses and Mt. Sinai and to Sarah and Rachel and Rebecca.  Of course, we all, biblically, begin with Adam and Eve but because I’ve always known I couldn’t trace our family, I didn’t let myself consider what we might never know – it was too painful.

I think that’s why the sudden recollection of this spectacular Jewish lineage became an almost new discovery even though the reality has always been part of our lives.  We, and our children, and theirs, are part of something well beyond ourselves.  I am grateful to be part of the tribe – and pray that our boys, and theirs – and their moms – travel safely as the world continues on its magnificent, scary and complicated trips around the sun.

Bruce Morton: a Master Journalist and a True Gentleman

CBS News camera platform at the March Against the Vietnam War, April 1971

CBS News camera platform at the March Against the Vietnam War, April 1971

Bruce Morton died yesterday.  He was a sensitive and deeply moral man.  He never raised his voice and when I asked him why he told me that he had seen so much violence when he covered the Vietnam War that he didn’t want to be responsible for inflicting any more – even verbally.  Those years had left a deep mark on him, but that reply was about as far as he would go in discussing it out loud.

He was smart too, and funny, and brilliant.  He won an Emmy for his coverage of the 1970 trial of Lt. William Calley for the 1968 My Lai Massacre.  It was tough for someone who had been so affected by the war to cover this tale of atrocities and shame, but he did it elegantly and well, as he did everything.

I learned so much from him; some of it really unexpected.  Once at a party in the studio for the guests who had appeared on a just-completed live broadcast, we got into a terrible fight about Lyndon Johnson.  I was part of the anti-war movement before I went into journalism and was only 23, as you can see in the photo of the two of us ( along with hundreds of thousands of marchers.)  I hated Johnson, blamed him for the war, of course, and had very little perspective on the rest of his history.

With the kind of passion I learned to expect from him but that was really scary then, Bruce ran the litany of Johnson’s Poverty Program, Civil Rights accomplishments and background and insisted that I take another look.  He was, of course, right.  Like every other story, this one had two sides and I had only seen one.  That never happened to Bruce.

He was really nice to me; he and his wife Maggie even hired me, since I was usually short of cash, to babysit for their two fabulous kids Sarah and Alec.  And their Great Dane. And their cats.  It was a real privilege to be invited into their very exciting lives and be trusted with their kids.  All those times are memories I cherish.

As I remember this lovely and remarkably talented man, (I once saw him ad lib a 1:30 live radio report and get it right, beautiful and to the second) I can’t do much better than our colleague Joe Peyronnin:

Bruce Morton was a brilliant political journalist, and a superb writer and reporter. He wrote a script faster than anyone I have ever known. His writing was imaginative, incisive and informative. We worked together at CBS News on many stories in the 70′s and 80′s, and got the scoop of the1984 Democrat Convention, that Walter Mondale had picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. Bruce was a truly remarkable man. RIP my friend.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission Like South Africa? Do We Need One Here?

revealingAre we there?  Does the endless litany of police murders of young, and not so young, black men, and the arrest and detention of so many more, require the deep, horrendous revisiting that comes with hearings like those held in South Africa?  Yes, says The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion:

The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, inspired by the process that took place in South Africa, will allow us to develop an appropriate understanding of past injustices and to envision constructive remedies to create a new regional culture of fairness, equal opportunity and improved prosperity.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, conducted after the end of Apartheid, were dramatic, traumatic, hideous and brilliant.  Hideous because of the brutality of the testimony – brutal because Apartheid was brutal, and brilliant for their courage and honesty.  In Country of my Skull, her gripping account of the hearings, reporter Antjie Krog describes post-traumatic stress that sent not only the accused and the witnesses but also the reporters and judges, into trauma therapy.  It was simply unbearable to hear.  And those who testified and listened, bore the unbearable, helped to defuse a rage that would have consumed the country.

Are things that bad here?  No.  Here, in theory, the law exists to protect Americans against the behavior that Apartheid institutionalized.  Even so, the torrent of agony and sadness and anger of the past weeks is evidence that the current reality  is often unbearable – and should not have to be borne.  That reality includes an ever-growing list of dead black men, day after day after day, in WalMart, on the street, in a police car, a park, a back yard.  Countless more detained, humiliated and released.

TV Producer Charles Belk, wrongfully detained.

TV Producer Charles Belk, wrongfully detained.

Today, an additional outrage arose in the story about TV producer Charles Belk, (left) arrested, handcuffed and detained in Beverly Hills for several hours as a suspect who looked nothing like him (except of course, that they are both black.)

Now it turns out that although the arrest was flawed and he was never arraigned, he has an arrest record that will, according to local attorneys, probably never go away.  Accomplished and with considerable power, on his way to an Emmy event, it (even) happened to him.  If he’s ever stopped again, or if someone searches the law enforcement database for some other reason, his name will come up, even though he was completely innocent.  He’s “in the system.”  The law set him free, but racism got him arrested in the first place and left him with a record.

So.  When we read of proposed reconciliation commissions, whose power lies not in their conclusions but in what they uncover as perpetrator (usually law enforcement) and victim (if they have survived) face one another, and what happens after that, we can’t just write off the idea.

Although all the recent reported incidents involve law enforcement (and yes, there are also many great police officers, we know that), so many other parts of our culture are in need of attention.  Jobs, housing, shopping (even the president remembers being followed by sales staff in stores to make sure he didn’t steal something) education, culture, journalism, and the intangibles – someone grabbing on to their purse when you pass, or crossing the street, being quietly insulting … and in all of them, perception, so far from the truth.

So what do we think?  Is our country, in its current self-occupied, nasty mood, capable of even considering such an idea, allowing a commission to be led as Bishop Tutu led South Africa’s? Do we have leaders with the wisdom and credibility to hold such a thing together.  And would we recognize such a person if they were in our midst?  AND can we be ready for this:

Bishop Tutu (L) with Nelson Mandela

Bishop Tutu (L) with Nelson Mandela

I hope that the work of the Commission, by opening wounds to cleanse them, will thereby stop them from festering. We cannot be facile and say bygones will be bygones, because they will not be bygones and will return to haunt us. True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know…  Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, on his appointment as Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, November 1995

Thanks to Chris Rabb for spotlighting Professor Sheila A. Bedi’s post on this issue.

I Saw It at the Movies: History and Film on #MicroblogMonday

Meryl Streep and Robert deNiro, Best Picture for 1978

Meryl Streep and Robert deNiro, Best Picture for 1978

I saw The Normal Heart, then Love is Strange – with no premeditation, both in the same week.

Each is a great document of a time in our history.  I began thinking about the power of these films and how valuable they would be as teaching tools.  With that in mind, I hereby initiate the “films to teach American history by” list.  Here are some more of mine; please add your own in the comments.

Kramer v Kramer      Hair     Do the Right Thing     The Deerhunter

Bullworth     Dead Man Walking     Valley of Decision     Gentleman’s Agreement

Good Night and Good Luck     The Green Berets     Get on the Bus     The Pawnbroker





Love IS Strange and the Film is Beautiful

Love is Strange Dinner Charlie cropped

Today’s lesson: When Rick Atkins picks a movie that ISN’T American Pie, go. Tonight we saw Love Is Strange - a warm, loving, measured story beautifully built and executed.  I am still reeling from The Normal Heart, as I wrote here  and I hadn’t wanted another sad tale in the same week.

SO when I heard what this film was about, I balked. No More Sad. I ended up agreeing to go though, and am so very glad I did.

In most cases with “small” films like this people say they’ll wait for Netflix; there are no special effects or broad vistas that require the big screen. In this case though, Manhattan was such a part of the story that it was worth seeing it in all its glory.

It wasn’t even sad.  Sad things happened but there was so much love and humor, Charlie Tahan, the young man in this photo, was so wonderful and Lithgow and Molina‘s couple was so much like any couple who’d been together a long time that there was also a deep familiarity that was a great part of the pleasure on the journey we took with them all.

No big conclusions here.  We just got home and these are my first reactions but I doubt they will change; go and see for yourself and comment here if you have thoughts to share.