TK This Week: Thanksgiving Edition
In which we give thanks for good ideas, poorly executed
Beginning a post-turkey descent to nap yesterday, I channel-surfed and caught a familiar sight: a wideout running past a Detroit Lion into the end zone. “You allow Will Fuller free release like that, forget about it,” the color man noted. The score was about a million to six, early in the fourth.
I closed my eyes for maybe five seconds and it was happening again. This time it was a double-pass to Fuller, who walked in from about the 20, with Detroit’s Justin Coleman diving and missing him at the goal line for effect. The announcers were trying not to laugh too hard.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote an underrated book called Galapagos in which the names of characters who were destined to die before sunset were marked with an asterisk. The next time they showed Lions coach Matt Patricia on the sideline, you could see the asterisk over his head. After the game, they asked Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson about the possibility that Patricia could be fired.
“I can’t say,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on somebody else’s job. I’m just here to do mine.”
Ouch. In the NFL, when players stop referring to their coach by name, it’s over. It’s like with an Ebola patient: once they start bleeding from the eyes, there’s nothing left to do but lie to them.
Whose brilliant idea was it to put the Lions on every Thanksgiving? This tradition has made no one happy: not the poor embarrassed citizens of Detroit, not the rest of the country that has to watch these horrible scenes every year, not the NFL, nobody. The Lions are among humanity’s great statistical anomalies. By accident, a sports team will be good once. The Cincinnati Bengals made the Super Bowl two times! The Lions have never been good at anything, except keeping coaches years past their expiration date and forcing generational players to retire young. The last time they won a playoff game, Bill Clinton was a sex symbol.
Nobody could have known what was coming when they first started the tradition back in the thirties. Today, the early holiday Lions game is about as enjoyable as a public service warning about prostate cancer. But it probably seemed like a good idea once. A lot of things are like that: good ideas, but poorly implemented, maybe by the wrong people.
Thanksgiving is one. Every November, modern Americans wear Pilgrim hats for fun. The Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic to escape fun. They were horrible people. A settler named Thomas Morton had the audacity to erect a Maypole and the Pilgrims burned his house down and had him “fett into the bilbowes,” i.e. put in leg irons. The ideal Plymouth male hated women but was aroused by pennies. He employed punishments like whipping, the “ducking stool,” and the cleft stick, which was a split piece of wood he’d cram on your tongue for lying, whispering in church, or other speech offenses.
The Pilgrim was the Anglo-Saxon version of the Taliban and his spirit — in the form of the censorious Yankee cheapskate who drove his sex impulse ten miles underground, in secret coprophilia sessions with paid ladies and gentlemen — lived on in America for centuries. This was before we even get to how he actually treated the indigenous population.
The catch was that the Pilgrims were escaping an even worse group of people, the English aristocrats of the sixteenth century. These were dandies in codpieces who wore the whitest possible face-powder, so no one would mistake them for someone who had to work outside. They’d made it the law of the land that everyone had to worship a faith created to legalize the urges of an obese hypersexualized serial killer of a king, who saw plots everywhere and beheaded a string of courtiers and brides. As Eddie Izzard would say, Thank you for flying Church of England, Anne Boelyn!
Put Pilgrims in the context of what they were fleeing, and they suddenly don’t look quite as bad. Which is kind of how I feel about America generally. It’s true, some of our first leaders weren’t great people. But they were at least recoiling from an even worse group of people. They had some good ideas, too, not that all of them turned out so well. Was that all on them? Ask the people who owned the Lions in 1934 — the future can be hard to predict.
In any case, Happy Thanksgiving, if you’re still of a mind to celebrate. In TK this week, you’ll find:
For What are America’s Wealthy Thankful? A Worsening Culture War. Essay on the increasing cultural divide, and who might benefit from it.
Meet the Censored: Andre Damon. TK talks to the writer and editor at the World Socialist Web Site, which has been at the center of the content-moderation debate.
New today: S—t Public Defenders See: Innocent, But Fined. An Iowa Legal Aid lawyer explains how in his state, when it comes to court costs, you’re better off being guilty.
New today: Everbody’s Saying It: “Guardrails.” A new feature in which we catalog the in-fashion politico-phrase of the moment. This week, the latest craze in verbally safety-proofing democracy.
TK Math: Rudy Giuliani. Man leaks hair dye, grimaces, reminds us of something. Going to keep tinkering with this feature.
Thanks again, and have a relaxing weekend.