A postscript from two weeks ago: In this space on January 24 I compared the state of animal protection, and its armed officers knocking on the doors of suspected abusers of household pets, with the state of child protection, in which beleaguered staffers for the Division of Youth and Family Services are lucky to get inside the home of an abused child.
On the day that column went to the printer I received a call from a worker at the “Division of Adult Protective Services,” concerned about a disabled senior citizen who had recently been a tenant of mine. I helped the woman from “APS” as much as I could, and then asked her a question of my own: In her agency’s work, did any staffers carry guns as they visited clients needing their help.
“Guns!” she exclaimed. “Let me tell you how it is with guns. We don’t ever get to carry guns. What we get is to deal with people who use guns to threaten us while we try to do our jobs.”
So the short answer is, whether you’re an innocent child or a vulnerable senior citizen, you still may not get the forceful protection enjoyed by the family pet, thanks to the ASPCA.
Now a post-mortem: Let’s take a minute to exhume the 41st annual Super Bowl, or Stupor Bowl, as I have been referring to it for the past half dozen years or so. Devout football fans may correct me, but my memory recalls only a succession of grind-em-out games, all but over by the third quarter.
This year the pre-game hype centered in part on the two head coaches, both African-American, the first ever to coach at this rarefied level of professional football. It was, as the television broadcasters intoned, a “significant” event. But even that hype was quickly deflated. Yes, it was significant, winning coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts said, but even more significant was the fact that it was the first time the Stupor Bowl coaches were both Christian coaches.
What the hell were the other ones, I wondered for a split second, guys like Lombardi, Stram, Shula, Noll: Jews? Muslims? Buddhists? No, that probably was not the point Dungy was making. He was probably referring to himself and the head coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith, as fundamental and no doubt born-again Christians. And I will take his word for it that they are first such two Christians to coach in the Stupor Bowl. Not only that, I will accept on faith that the entire Indianapolis Colts organization is, as team owner Jim Irsay proclaimed, “a Christian organization.”
That sectarian view, for me, brought all sorts of questions to mind. I wouldn’t expect any of the fawning television reporters to ask these questions, and I am pretty sure neither Dungy nor Smith would entertain them, either. As Bob Dylan sang back in 1964, “you never ask questions when God’s on your side.”
But I don’t see God’s name anywhere on our staff box, so I’ll go ahead and ask. First why didn’t Lovie Smith accuse the Colts of having a 12th man on the field? You might recall Dungy’s attempt to have a penalty called on Chicago for having a 12th man on the field while his Colts were executing a play from their no-huddle, hurry-up offense. Given the new-found “significance” to the game, maybe both teams should have been penalized for having the ultimate 12th man on the field every play.
And if God is on both teams, how does He decide who should win? While God may offer some divine play calling through the headset of each head coach, one team still has to win, and one has to lose. Reviewing the two teams from this new perspective, you can see that one was clearly more “Christian” than the other. Yes, the Bears were losers in more ways than the final score. No wonder they couldn’t even overcome the 7-point spread given by the bookies.
First, of course, was Tank Johnson, the defensive tackle who has been arrested three times in the last 18 months and was serving in home confinement at the time of the Super Bowl. Tank made it to Miami not only through the grace of God, but also that of a Cook County, Illinois, judge who granted him permission to make the trip.
And then there was cornerback Ricky Manning Jr., no kin of Peyton, who pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge and was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service, and a year’s worth of anger management counseling amid accusations that he had made a racial slur, an anti-Jewish comment, and homophobic remarks during the altercation.
Finally, in a much discussed subject on the sports websites, there were two players who might be considered odd ducks on a Christian team: Rex Grossman, the Chicago quarterback (whose father happens to be a doctor, according to one hopeful blog participant), and Robbie Gould, the young placekicker. Could it be: The first Jewish quarterback and one of the first Christian coaches both in the same Stupor Bowl? The possibility raised more questions.
Back in the early days of the integrated NFL, some people wondered if a team could win with a black quarterback. Now you might want to ask if a Christian team could win the big one with a Jew under center. As the television announcers like to say, would they both be on the same page? Or would they be reading from the same Good Book?
Like a lot of burning questions from the Stupor Bowl, this one turned out to be anti-climatic. While no one pronounced Grossman a “Christian,” he was nonetheless deemed not a Jew. And even fervent Jewish fans, hoping that at least one of the Bears would be cut from the mold of Sid Luckman or, more recently, Jay Fiedler, gave up hope on Gould before he was even asked the question. Pointing out that Gould worked in construction after his graduation from Penn State and before he finally landed a job in the NFL, one blogger lamented, “What good Jewish boy ever works in construction.” For the record, at least a journalist from Fox Sports asked him point blank: Jewish or non-Jewish? “Non-Jewish” was the answer.
At the end the religion issue fizzled out like the Stupor Bowl itself. Which left me with the commercials. More duds, in my opinion. The only one that made me laugh was the one with the rabbit and the guinea pig trying to use a real mouse as a computer mouse. Trouble is I can’t remember if the commercial was for NetFlix or Blockbuster. But I’ll bet God knows, and maybe the ASPCA, too.