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Valentine’s Day Special: Sports as a Window on to the Regressive Nature of Progressive Ideology

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The United States has, since the early 1990s, been engulfed by a cultural ideology in youth sports that encourages what are called “participation trophies”. This is where it is not the first (or second or third) place finishers in a given competition that get trophies, rather all participants get trophies. I witnessed it growing up, as my little league and youth soccer league gave out meaningless trophies (in spite of, at times) poor performances on the field. At the time, I certainly understood—even as an eight-year-old—that I had done nothing to warrant a trophy. I also remember, as a child, when my school did away with valentines in school on Valentine’s Day, lest some students feel excluded for not getting as many Valentines as the next. I could have never known how harmful these policies could be at the time; it is only now—as an “adult” that I can reflect on the results of these policies. Unfortunately, I cannot say that they have made me—or any of my generation—“better”, per se. Rather than making us resilient—making us resistant to the inevitable bullshit that life will throw at us—it made us complacent, all-too-ready to succumb to adversity (and, consequently, anything that promised to “fight adversity). And that is no way to raise a society, or a country.

The head coach of Washington State University’s football team, Mike Leach, made his feelings clear regarding “participation trophies” in a 2016 post-game press conference. Mr. Leach, bemoaning the poor performance of his team, said “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s the team that has the most fun. All the crap like that. All the stuff that’s contaminated America where they give everyone a trophy and don’t keep score in little league anymore”. To be honest, one cannot take much issue with Mr. Leach’s comments; indeed a book The Wussification of America was written on the topic.

 

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Mr. Leach May Be a Contraversial Figure, But He Makes Very Important Points That We–As a Society–Ignore at our Own Peril. Image Courtesy of: http://www.dbknews.com/2017/12/15/mike-leach-washington-state-coach-maryland-football-interview-randy-edsall-dj-durkin/

 

Even globalist media specialists Huffington Post published an article entitled “When Everyone Gets a Trophy, No One Wins” bemoaning this trend in 2012. In this article, by Michael Sigman, the author rightly points out that grade inflation has become a major problem at American universities; 43% of students got A’s in 2011 compared to just 15% in 1960. Did Americans suddenly get smarter, as a group? Or did they suddenly become more catered to? Judging by my own experiences teaching at an American University, I will say that it is mire the latter; as knowledge has become more commodified (to borrow some terminology from sociologist Jurgen Habermas), the pressure to give good grades has risen. After all, people are paying for, what they assume, will be good grades.

 

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A’s Are Easier To Get Now More Than They Have Ever Been. But What Does This Say About Our Country’s Education? Image Courtesy of: https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/stuart-rojstaczer/

 

Despite this obviously problematic trend in U.S. society, media outlets have recently changed their tune. Fellow globalist media specialist Forbes published a 2016 piece entitled “Only a Few Win Mentality More Dangerous to Kids Than Participation Trophies” in which author Bob Cook claims that the “only a few win mentality” leads to an interpretation of “life-as-a-zero-sum-game”. What Mr. Cook fails to realize is that life sometimes works in just that way: Either you feed your family, or you don’t; either you make enough money to survive, or you don’t; either you live, or you die. Unfortunately for us, the media in the U.S. has a tendency to “flip-flop” or change their tune as a result of the Zeitgeist; the irresponsible nature of American media is a topic I have written on before. That the media supports this odd form of coddling, for lack of a better term, is odd. It is odd because it is this coddling that has neutered American society (to borrow words from coach Leach) to the point of not even realizing when the progressive mentality can become regressive.

A recent event at a Utah elementary school shows just how this can happen. According to CNN’s story:

Kanesville Elementary School in Ogden, Utah, holds a sixth-grade dance on Valentine’s Day each year. The dance is intended to promote inclusion and kindness, and students have traditionally been told by their teachers to say yes when a classmate asks them to dance.

CNN went on to seemingly lament the “changing times” with this passage:

But times have changed, and some parents were angry when they got wind of the dance’s protocol this year. Natalie Richard was shocked when her sixth-grade daughter told her she couldn’t refuse a dance with a boy at the upcoming dance. “The teacher said she can’t. She has to say yes. She has to accept and I said, ‘Excuse me?,’” Richard told CNN affiliate KSTU.

Doubling down, CNN frames the story by seemingly encouraging more progressive ideology:

At a time when parents are teaching kids they don’t need to hug a friend or even kiss their grandparents, there’s been a movement toward children maintaining control of their own bodies. To many parents, not being able to turn down a dance partner goes against that.

 

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Anderson Cooper the Snakeoil Salesman: CNN’s Recent Advertisement on the Aforementioned Post. Unfortunately, CNN Sells More Opinions Than It Does Facts [“Summarize the News” Should Never be an Option for Any News Organization with a Modicum of Self Respect]. Image Courtesy of: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/13/health/utah-school-children-dance-trnd/index.html

 

More than any other recent news story, it is this one which most exemplifies the regressive nature of modern progressive thought. To force young girls to do anything that they do not want to do is, under any circumstance, unquestionably unacceptable. To not allow young boys to face rejection—and deal with its consequences—is similarly irresponsible. To encourage this kind of fascistic social engineering is to encourage a weak and divided society. Girls are not trophies, and school dances are not places where one gets “participation” trophies. To argue anything else, to me, would be fundamentally anti-humanist.

On this Valentine’s Day, everyone should remember that they are free to dance—or not dance—with anyone they choose to (or don’t choose to), and I will leave you with George Strait. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Author’s Note: After I had organized this post, I learned of the tragic shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 innocent people lost their lives on this Valentine’s Day, and it is something that should make every American uncomfortable. This kind of violence has no place in American society. While the politicians will, likely, try to make it about gun laws, we should all recognize that it has nothing to do with gun laws; there is no quick and easy fix to social ills as the sociologist C. Wright Mills would point out. The United States has had the second amendment since 1791, and mass shootings did not become commonplace until the 1990s. Like sociologist Emile Durkheim’s study of suicide—which showed that there were social causes for suicide apart from psychological ones—we should see that mass firearm-related violence is symptomatic of wider societal troubles. The uber-individualistic culture of the United States has alienated many while progressive ideology has attempted to paint over the cracks of this individualism with fake buzzwords like “tolerance” and “kindness” and “inclusion”, as the case of the dance mentioned above exemplifies. Until we solve the root causes of the problems in U.S. society—such as alienation and extreme individualism—it is not likely that we will be able to avoid other tragic events like today’s in Florida.

I will revisit a quote from the above post, taken from CNN, which mentions a recent trend: “At a time when parents are teaching kids they don’t need to hug a friend or even kiss their grandparents . . . “. Again, we see that progressive/globalist news outlets like CNN subconsciously (or perhaps consciously?) encourage the fragmentation of American society. Why should we—as citizens (and for those who are, parents)—be encouraging our children to avoid physical displays of affection to their friends and family? This kind of “parenting”, if it can be called that, will only result in a more fragmented and alienated society for future generations. As someone who values the stability of my society and my country, that is something I do not want. We must all stand up to “progressive” ideology when it approaches its most regressive. Otherwise, we will all suffer. May I remind readers once again: United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.zazzle.com/patriotic_american_flag_heart_stickers-217018501992539322

 

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The View of a Marginal Sociologist: The Culture Industry and Music in the Age of One-Dimensional Thought . . . And Mark Hoppus is a Chelsea Fan?!

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In class this morning our professor kindly gave us a respite from our discussions of criminological theory and instead had us watch the 2002 film Gangs of New York. It was, in itself, an exercise in theory building. The film itself touches on many topics which are pertinent to the modern world, such as immigration: While some interpretations focus on the elements of nativism in American society which were prevalent in the mid 1800s, resistant to increasing immigration from Ireland, other elements within the film show the tendency of American politicians to use gangs in order to exploit immigration in order to garner votes for their cause. Needless to say, the film provided a useful opportunity to debate both sides of the current state of American society.

And when I got home, I researched the film further—and that’s what provided me another opportunity to tie the film to current American society. Apparently, Gangs of New York’s star actress Cameron Diaz is now married to Good Charlotte band member Benji Madden; apparently she was introduced by her (now) sister-in-law Nicole Richie, who is married to another Good Charlotte member, Joel Madden. As someone who grew up in the late 1990s in the United States, I am very familiar with Good Charlotte—in fact, I listened to them.

Now, almost two decades later, these (former?) rockers show just how the culture industry (to borrow from Theodor Adorno) perpetuates itself in American society, despite its contradictory messages. It is a perfect example of Herbert Marcuse’s theory of “repressive tolerance”; that which is critical of capitalism is turned around to perpetuate capitalism.

Fans of Good Charlotte will remember them for their songs critical of America’s capitalist society. “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” (2002) had the lyrics “Lifestyles of the rich and the famous/They’re always complainin’/Always complainin’/If money is such a problem/Well, they got mansions/Think we should rob them” [Emphasis mine]. The band’s first major hit “The Little Things” (2001) opened with the following call to the marginalized:

Yeah, This song is dedicated (This is Good Charlotte)/To every kid who ever got picked last in gym class (You know what I’m saying, this is for you)/To every kid who never had a date to no school dance (Run to your mother)/To every one who’s ever been called a freak This is for you.

That these lyrics seem to be the antithesis of the lives that the band members of Good Charlotte now live—married to members of the Hollywood elite—should not be surprising. Yet, what is surprising is that most Youtube comments on the aforementioned songs are nostalgic for this music; even I must admit that this kind of music is missing on current American airwaves. Indeed, some might even go so far as to say that rock is dead—the kids have smartphones and social media to amuse themselves with, they no longer need this aspect of the culture industry. And here we also see that the culture industry, in the early 2000s, sent us messages against the proverbial “man”, only for those same messengers—who were artists—to become the proverbial “man”. This is how the culture industry tends to perpetuate our own continued subordination to the system.

 

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From Punk Rock . . . Image Courtesy of: https://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/music/patient-wait-good-charlotte-fans

 

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. . . To Hollywood Elite. Image Courtesy of: http://www.instyle.co.uk/celebrity/madden-brothers-benji-joel-bond-missing-wives-cameron-diaz-nicole-richie

 

This should not be seen as a criticism of the marriages of these individuals, everyone is free to marry whomever they choose and indeed I wish nothing but happiness to both couples; rather this is a criticism of the culture industry itself. Purveyors of the culture industry send us political messages without actually believing it themselves; this is why—in the age of extreme capitalism—even art has become a tool of mass culture indoctrination. It sells us things in the name of “resistance” without actually carrying any substance. And this is very real problem. Not only has “art” been co-opted–and the “distance” between “artist” and “viewer” widened–but it has been co-opted in a bid to influence our very thought. Yet, this is a culture industry that a generation of Americans grew up on; it sent messages of victimhood (“to every kid that never had a date to no school dance) that tie into psychologist Jordan Peterson’s (astute) critique of men who have become “adrift, arrogant, hostile and vengeful” (among other things) in the modern era.

Another band from the late 1990s that I (still) enjoy is Blink-182, and I was surprised to learn that (co)-lead man Mark Hoppus had become a Chelsea fan since moving to London. For me, it was interesting that Mr. Hoppus would become . . . a Chelsea fan; after all, it is the team that embodies the trends of industrial football: foreign ownership, distance from local fan communities, etc . . . yet it is a team that also embodies the “success” and “greed” that extreme capitalist society encourages, so I suppose it is not surprising.

But it is also indicative of something larger. This is how the culture industry sustains itself. It sells us the messages we want to hear without actually following the meanings behind these messages. It is empty. For instance, as a football fan and with all due respect to Mr. Hoppus whose music I enjoy (and not that I would ever tell someone what team to support), it seems to me that it would make more sense for a “punk” rocker to support, say, West Ham United than Chelsea (even if the latter is his “hometown” team due to proximity). But such is the culture industry; it is—for all its “reality”—all too fake. That said, judging by a graffito I saw on a wall in Istanbul, it is clear that the influence of the culture industry (and Blink-182) is still alive and well in 2018. Given that the messages of popular culture are so prevalent in our societies, it is worthwhile that we parse out what these messages really mean so as to become more than mere passive receivers of “culture” itself. In this Brave New World, culture itself is more politicized than ever.

 

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Above is the Hashtag #Hayir, in Reference to Last Spring’s Referendum. Below it is a Love Note to Mr. Hoppus’s Band-Mate, Tom Delonge. Here, the Culture Industry Meets Politics on the Streets of Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

Sports and Politics in the United States and “Sir Charles” vs. “King James”: Spat Between Former NBA Star Charles Barkley and Current NBA Star Lebron James Is Representative of Some of the Issues in Current American Society

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Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sports and politics in the USA have become more and more intertwined; it is symptomatic of a nation divided by ideology, one where people are supporting their political positions as they would a sports team: unwaveringly and unquestioningly. ESPN, the leader in American sports media, has taken to using one of their websites to spread political messages (from one side only, it should be noted) while ESPN writer and vice president Roxanne Brown was solicited by CNN to provide her opinion on President Donald Trump’s inauguration:

 

No day in our nation feels more patriotic than Inauguration Day — the Marine Marching Band, the past presidents, politicians and power brokers braving the cold to flock to our nation’s capital. But it was hard not to look at the sea of white faces in the crowd, gathered for President Donald J. Trump’s swearing-in, and not see represented a shockingly different America than we saw on this same day eight years ago when President Barack Obama was sworn in. In fact, this was the whitest inauguration I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.

 

Apparently, judging by the last sentence, she was unaware that most African-Americans boycotted Mr. Trump’s inauguration. This absurdity aside, of course, it is notable that a sports reporter should be given such a space in mainstream American media. It shows just how sports has become a space of contention within the cultural civil war that the United States is experiencing.

 

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ESPN Now Sells Politics With a Side Of Sports. Image Courtesy of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2017/01/21/espn-offers-social-media-sites-platform-leftist-activists-womens-march/

 

ESPN, for so many years a channel devoted to sports programming alone, has recently completed a turn to the field of culture. The new SC6 (the 6pm/18:00EST) edition of ESPN’s flagship highlights program Sportscenter will debut on 6 February 2017. Senior vice president of Sportscenter and news Rob King had this to say about the show in an interview:

 

This show will be unique because it is an opportunity to look in on a conversation among close friends, colleagues and the people who they bring into their orbit by virtue of the topics they choose and the interests they have. Since we launched the midnight show with Scott Van Pelt, it’s been really clear that SportsCenter can be distinguished when it’s built around unique personalities and unique conceits, especially those ideas, personalities and conceits that work for specific audiences.

 

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The Anchors of ESPN’s Newest Show. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espnfrontrow.com/2017/01/expectations-excitement-permeate-kings-view-sc6-michael-jemele/

 

The focus on “conversation”, “unique personalities”, and “unique conceits” [Author’s Note: An odd choice of words] suggests a larger role for the personal element than the traditional sports program would present. Sports reporter Andrew Bucholtz adds that

 

there seems to be less and less interest in straight news and highlights, and both ESPN and Fox are adapting to that. Fox went with the drastic move of killing the news-and-highlights version of Fox Sports Live and turning it into more of a comedy-focused late night show, while ESPN has focused instead on making highly identifiable and individual versions of SportsCenter, from Scott Van Pelt’s show to SportsCenter A.M. and more […]

 

Most importantly, Bucholz notes the change that this program represents; for him it “is interesting because in some ways it seems to be trying to walk the line between a debate show and the traditional SportsCenter. Smith and Hill certainly have backgrounds in opinion programming too (in addition to their journalism and reporting backgrounds, which King also notes)”. The fact that sports programming in the USA is moving to a “late-night show” or “debate show” format means that the personal opinions of hosts will come more to the fore, replacing the traditional format of the sports show which presents the “facts” in the form of highlights. Inevitably, this will allow for more discussion regarding the field of culture; it would be naïve to think that ESPN—a large part of the American “culture industry”—would refrain from putting politics into their new show as well. This type of format allows ESPN to seem apolitical while being just the opposte. French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu explains how this works in his book “On Television:

 

Pushed by competition for marketshare, television networks have greater and greater recourse to the tried and true formulas of tabloid journalism, with emphasis (when not the entire newscast) devoted to human interest stories or sports. No matter what has happened in the world on a given day, more and more often the evening news begins with French soccer scores or another sporting event, interrupting the regular news […] the focus is on those things which are apt to arouse curiosity but which require no analysis, especially in the political sphere […] human interest stories create a political vacuum. They depoliticize and reduce what goes on in the world to the level of anecdote or scandal.

(Bourdieu, 1998: 44-56)

 

Here we can see that ESPN may be attempting to use an ostensibly apolitical program so as to insidiously—and indirectly—send political messages in a way that a traditional news program would not be able to. After all, a sports program is—usually—just a highlights program, presenting “facts”. SC6 strives to be much more, and it is important that we—as consumers of the culture industry in modern industrial society—are aware of what is actually happening.

My favorite American football team, the New England Patriots, has not been immune from this newly emphasized connection between sports and politics. (State) media’s New York Times profiled the close relationship between President Donald Trump and Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, calling it an “uncomfortable love affair”. To further drive home the message, The Huffington Post published an article by Professor David Dennis Jr., who made one of the more ridiculous claims I have ever read (or heard): “Tom Brady’s Politics Are More Un-American Than Colin Kaepernick’s Have Ever Been”. I have written before about Mr. Kaepernick’s protest against the American national anthem (which cost the NFL millions of dollars because—shocker here—the NFL has many fans who actually like the United States). Professor David Dennis Jr.’s piece—due to its sheer absurdity—deserves a little bit of air time here. First the New England star Tom Brady is quoted in his own words regarding President Donald Trump:

 

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

 

Here, Tom Brady’s words seem pretty normal. Like say, something someone would say about their friend. And, since the United States is a free country, it would seem normal that one is allowed to choose who their friends are. Apparently, Professor Dennis Jr. doesn’t agree, adding a gratuitous racial comment by invoking “white privilege” in his commentary:

 

Brady was confused as to why his relationship with the president was even a relevant topic of discussion.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it.”

Brady’s obliviousness reeks of white privilege and dismissiveness; a #MAGA trait if there ever was one. But what’s most troubling is the way Brady’s Trump endorsement has been treated compared to Kaepernick’s political statements.

 

Professor Dennis Jr. then drops his bombshell claim:

 

Brady’s Trump endorsement, however, has been largely ignored when, in fact, supporting Donald Trump as President of The United States is far more threatening to America than taking a knee during the National Anthem.

 

I have no idea why merely voicing support for a candidate who was supported by almost half of the country could be “threatening” or even comparable to insulting all those who believe in American nationalism, but such is the absurd climate in the United States currently.

 

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A Picture of What State Media’s New York Times dubbed “the uncomfortable love affair”. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/magazine/the-uncomfortable-love-affair-between-donald-trump-and-the-new-england-patriots.html

 

At least former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka offered some choice words defending Mr. Brady telling the country to “grow up” and adding “Dammit. I thought this country was a country of choice!” On a separate show he called journalists “assholes” and criticized former President Barack Obama for “showing no leadership at all”. I can agree with Mr. Ditka’s last claim, seeing as how the United States—under President Obama—dropped on average a staggering 72 bombs a day in 2016 on foreign countries, leading to the odd situation where Mr. Trump is called a racist while Mr. Obama’s imperialism goes ignored.

 

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The Indomitable Mike Ditka, Sweater et al. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.pbtalent.com/blog/speaker/mike-ditka

 

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Sorry, I just Couldn’t Resist. Image Courtesy of a Friend Via Social Media.

 

Mr. Ditka’s point, regarding the need for Americans to “grow up” is one that is directly relevant to the spat between basketball analyst Charles Barkley and basketball star Lebron James. A longtime NBA analyst and former player, Mr. Barkley criticized Mr. James for his comments regarding his team’s front office when he asked for another player to help his team win the championship (they won last year while—somehow—managing a loss of forty million USD). Barkley said Mr. James’ comments were:

 

Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above. The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history. He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted [Iman] Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver. He’s the best player in the world. Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete? He is an amazing player. They’re the defending champs.

 

Mr. James responded with personal attacks on Mr. Barkley, calling him “a hater” and asking the rhetorical question “what makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?” Mr. James here seemed to forget that his open endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and insult directed at those who voted for Mr. Trump (Mr. James called them “goofy” even though the majority of voters in Mr. James’ state voted for Donald Trump) were only made credible because he is on TV himself! Mr. James’ diatribe, however, continued (for video, please see nba.com):

 

I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years,      never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.

 

Later Mr. Barkley laughed it off, saying “I was laughing, clearly he did some homework … he Googled me and found some things … He was young when I was playing, so I appreciate that, but I’m not upset about it. … My criticism was fair, and I’m good with that … Some of the stuff he said about me is correct — doesn’t make the message I said about him incorrect. Some of them are intimidated about LeBron, [but] I’m not intimidated at all.”

A day later Mr. Barkley added that “It’s a different generation. If we don’t say everything positive about them all the time, we’re a hater. But I’ve gotten more support than I saw coming. To be honest with you, it’s been great. Especially the guys in the media who are like, ‘Thank you. I can’t say it because I need to talk to him.’ ” Here Mr. Barkley touches on a very important point, one that makes this odd exchange indicative of the current state of culture in the United States.

Lebron James really is of “a different generation”. It is one that, for starters, clearly has no respect for those that came before them. If it weren’t for players like Charles Barkley making the NBA popular in the 1990s, it is probable that Lebron James wouldn’t be the star he currently is. It is the same kind of lack of perspective that allowed Colin Kaepernick to take a shot at the United States…even though the sport he is paid to play is mainly played in the United States. Secondly, Lebron James’ generation is one that also has no self-respect. It is a generation that is all about “Me, Me, Me” and never “We, We, We”. It must always be praise and compliments; criticism cannot be accepted. Unfortunately, the current culture in the United States has become a culture of being “offended”, where comments one doesn’t like are deemed to be “offensive”. It is the same culture that does not accept the outcome of a presidential election because…the candidate they wanted did not win. Its an odd state of affairs, but the spat between Mr. Barkley and Mr. James goes some way to explaining how deeply engrained the cult of the individual has become in American society. If the country—and its culture—is to move forward we must at least attempt to move outside of our own personal selves and try to understand other perspectives. Otherwise, we are doomed to living in a fragmented and rudderless society where criticism—and therefore debate (whether about sports or politics)—is impossible.

 

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Sir Charles, Pictured With the Classic Phoenix Suns Jersey. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.casino.org/news/charles-barkley-says-lost-millions-gambling-dozens-occasions

 

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King James Looking a Bit Perturbed. Image Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/03/lebron-james-could-leave-cleveland-says-stephen-a-smith