football v. fútbol — it ain’t just sports

People know I like fútbol. They also know I periodically mock conservatives. So it’s only natural, I suppose, that yesterday and today I’ve been bombarded with emails and IMs suggesting I write something about Ann Coulter’s column on hating soccer.

But c’mon…who the fuck is Ann Coulter? Really, who is she that anybody should give a rat’s ass about what she has to say about anything? Does she make policy? No. Does she have any influence (outside the perpetual rage machine)? No. Does anybody who actually has influence or makes policy listen to her? No. So who cares what that sad, pathetic, hateful woman has to say? Not me.

BUT, there’s something worth noting about her idiotic anti-fútbol rant. A lot of people (and I mean people less sad, less pathetic, less hateful — people who actually have influence and make policy) share Coulter’s dislike and distrust of fútbol. That attitude is one of the reasons the United States has been rubbish in our recent military conflicts. Yeah, it doesn’t help that we’ve been fighting the wrong wars for the wrong reasons against the wrong people in the wrong places — but that’s a policy matter. I’m just talking about how the sports we play influence the way we approach armed conflict.

This is football

This is football

Here’s my point: the U.S. is a football nation; the places where we’ve been engaged in combat are fútbol nations. We’re talking two different sports with radically different philosophies. Those philosophies can be seen as metaphors for the ways we wage war. American football is a great metaphor for waging large-scale land and sea wars. The U.S. totally kicked ass in World War II. But for your more modern asymmetrical conflicts, fútbol is the ticket.

This is fútbol

This is futbol

Here’s why. Football is centralized and authoritarian. Command and authority is channeled through coaches and advisers who aren’t even on the field. The information is relayed to a single individual who reveals those orders to the players. In other words, you’ve got old guys who don’t have any skin in the game making most of the decisions. This is thought to be a good thing, because their decisions can be made in a cold, dispassionate, logical way. Most of the individual players on the field don’t need to know what’s going on overall; they just need to follow instructions and do their fucking job. On the other hand, it means if communications fail, or if the defense takes out the quarterback, the team on the field is thoroughly fucked.

Fútbol, on the other hand, is decentralized and democratic. For the most part, once the match begins the coaches are relegated to standing on the sidelines, screaming. Almost all the decisions are made in real-time by the players on the field. Every member of the team is expected to know what’s going on. If one player is removed — even if he’s the best player — the rest of the team can carry on.

US military in Iraq

US military in Iraq

Football is played by specialists. Individual players have narrowly defined functions, from which they don’t/can’t stray. Only certain players are allowed to move the ball (except in very specific circumstances). The quarterback can’t throw a pass or hand off the ball to the offensive tackle. Why? Because he’s the goddam offensive tackle; his job is to bang into people, not to move the ball. Make sense of that, if you can.

Fútbol is played by generalists. The only truly specialized position is that of goalkeeper. All the other players play both offense and defense, and are prepared to shift from one to the other without notice. Anybody can move the ball and score.

Insurgents in Iraq

Insurgents in Iraq

Football is a game of interruptions. Since the decisions are mostly made by people who aren’t actually playing the game, the game comes to a halt every few seconds while new instructions are given to the players. During that halt, substitutions are brought in for specific plays. The players need to memorize their duties for a large number of different plays, but those duties are pretty tightly limited. If the quarterback calls an end run, the offensive tackle has to remember to bang into that specific guy; it the play is a passing play, he needs to bang into that other specific guy. The offensive tackle doesn’t need to know what the wide receivers are going to do, or what the tight end is going to do. Why? Because he’s the goddam offensive tackle, and he just needs to know who to bang into.

Fútbol has few interruptions. Game play, for the most part, is continuous. There are few substitutions. Instructions from off the field are rare. Players are expected to pay attention to what’s going on all over the pitch and improvise as necessary.

Football is a game of explosive violence, so players have to be armored. That armor is tailored to the position the player occupies on the field — a wide receiver wears different gear than an offensive tackle. For a kid to become a good football player, he needs access to all that gear, which ain’t cheap. That means joining an organization (usually a school). An organization means outside control — coaches, sponsors, etc. The organization looks out for the organization, which isn’t always good news for the people playing the game.

Teens playing football

Teens playing football

Fútbol requires a ball. Maybe some shin guards. Maybe a goal area. Kids can play the game anywhere. You can learn most fútbol skills without joining any organization; all you need is people to play with.

Teens playing fútbol

Teens playing fútbol

Football is about rigid control of territory. It’s about concentrating power at certain locations on the field. It’s about one guy directly delivering the ball to one other guy, and everybody else in support roles.

Fútbol doesn’t care all that much about territory. Control of the ball is more important. Fútbol is about dispersing power all over the pitch. It’s about loose, flexible coordination of indirect attacks from unexpected directions by several different players.

Football is World War I and World War II. Fútbol is insurgency and guerrilla warfare. This is how the U.S. has been fighting wars. We’re playing football; they’re playing fútbol. We’re great at banging into things really hard; they’re great at dodging and controlling the ball without using their hands. Head-to-head straight-up violence, we’re your daddy. Subtle, improvised, unexpected violence, we’re their bitch.

These aren’t just my thoughts, by the way. Joel Cassman and David Lai published an article in the Armed Forces Journal titled Football vs. Soccer, American Warfare in an era of unconventional threats. You should read the entire article. Sad, pathetic, hateful Ann Coulter should read the article. The fuckwits who keep arguing that we should send U.S. troops into combat should read the article.

Here’s the really sad thing: it was written way back in 2003. And we’re still trying to impose football onto the fútbol pitch.

lessons learned

Hey, everybody makes mistakes. That’s why Plato (or Aristotle or Zorba — one of those Greek guys) said Errare oops humanus est (which is Greek for “Yeah, I know, I fucked up, sorry, oops.”).

Not only is mistake-making universal, it’s also a good thing. Sort of. It can be a good thing. If you realize you made a mistake and you learn from it, it can be a good thing. If you don’t make that same mistake again. If you’re not a total fucking idiot.

Lord Raglan: "Sorry, won't do that again."

Lord Raglan: “Sorry, won’t do that again.”

After the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan (GCB, PC) acknowledged his error and said, “Well, let’s not do that again.” And he never ordered another cavalry charge against a redoubt with a battery of fifty cannons. That wasn’t Lord Raglan’s first mistake; he also had an arm shot to pieces at the Battle of Waterloo. But as his arm was being amputated, Raglan told the surgeon, “My bad, learned my lesson, sorry to be a bother.” And he never had another arm amputated for the rest of his life. Lesson learned.

Captain Smith: "Sorry, valuable lesson learned."

Captain Smith: “Sorry, valuable lesson learned.”

We see that same resolve to learn from errors in Captain Edward John Smith (RD, RNR). After his ship, HMS Titanic, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, Smith turned to his crew in the wheelhouse of the doomed ship and said, “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here. Let’s not repeat this iceberg thing.” Unfortunately, Captain Smith drowned shortly thereafter, but I’m confident that had he survived, he’d have spent the rest of his career dodging icebergs like a ninja. Lesson learned.

Kapitän Prüss: "Sorry, got it now."

Kapitän Prüss: “Sorry, got it now.”

Similarly, Kapitän Max Prüss of the airship Hindenburg (LZ-129) quickly realized the error when his Zeppelin burst into flame at Lakehurst, New Jersey. As the ship plunged to the ground, Prüss stated, “Right, got it — no open flame around hydrogen.” The Hindenburg was the last airship he piloted to explode. Lesson learned.

We all make mistakes. None of us is perfect. Not even Joss Whedon, who helped with the rewrite of Waterworld. But I think we all agree we should reflect on the mistakes we make, and attempt never to repeat them. That’s pretty basic.

Dick goddam Cheney: "Sorry? Fuck you. Fuck you with a chainsaw."

Dick goddam Cheney: “Sorry? Fuck you. Fuck you with a chainsaw.”

But not Dick Cheney. Not Dick goddam Cheney. No sir, not Dick goddam fucking Cheney, especially when it comes to Iraq. You’ve probably heard about (and possibly even forced yourself to read) Dick goddam fucking shitbrain Cheney’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal — the one he wrote with his galactically stupid daughter — the one that says this about President Obama (and I swear, I am not making this up):

Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.

It’s hard to think of anything to say about a comment that profoundly and fundamentally idiotic and cynical.

But this much is clear. The only thing Dick goddam fucking Cheney has learned from encouraging his boss (that notorious fuckwit George W. Bush) to launch an invasion of an Islamic nation that hadn’t (and couldn’t have) attacked the U.S. is that while the war cost the United States about two trillion dollars (and the lives of some 4400 troops and more than a hundred thousand Iraqis), his corporation Halliburton turned a profit of nearly forty billion. So hey, let’s do it again! Lesson not learned.

Lord Raglan, Captain Smith, Kapitän Prüss, and all the millions of poor souls consigned to the Hell of Seven Thousand Monumental Oops for having made massive mistakes are looking at each other this week and saying “That Dick Cheney guy — what a douche.” Lesson learned.

Editorial note: Above quotes may not be entirely historically accurate.

open carry relationship

It’s time — time for me to admit the truth. I’ve avoided talking about this for years, but now it’s out in the open. My parents have come out of the closet. So I might as well accept it and get on with my life.

My parents have an open carry relationship.

my parents open carry

They hid it from me at first. I suppose they were ashamed. Maybe they even denied it to themselves. To each other. But you can’t deny who you are forever. You can’t deny the things you love most. And my parents…well, they love the Second Amendment. And guns.

my parents open carry2

They used to hide their love. They hid their guns, denied their Constitutional rights, tried to be ‘normal.’ But it was just too hard. Too unfair. Too dishonest. So they decided to come out of the gun closet — just to family and friends, at first. They began to wear their guns around the house.

It was embarrassing at first. But it made them happy, so I smiled and tried to be understanding. I figured that so long as they didn’t touch their triggers in front of me, it would be okay. They’re my parents, after all. You have to love your parents, don’t you?

my parents open carry3

But it wasn’t enough for them to wear their guns in the privacy of our home. They decided to flaunt their gun-love openly. In public. On the streets and at the library and in stores and even — and it shames me to say this, but I have to because it’s true — they even wore their guns to church.

Everybody saw them. The neighbors. My friends. Children. My god, the children.

And still, that wasn’t enough. They made a video celebrating their firearm love.

They say there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural, they say. They didn’t choose to love the Second Amendment. They didn’t choose to love guns. They were born that way.

They say they understand some people will be offended by their behavior. Some people will hate them. Some will even be afraid. But, they say, it’s just for self-defense. They’d never force anybody else to wear guns.

But then they wrote the book. A book for children. That’s when I realized the truth. They were recruiting children. They want children to grow up and be gun lovers too. They want their lifestyle to become mainstream.

my parents open carry4

My parents, I know now, are completely insane. Maybe they really were born that way. Or maybe when they were innocent children somebody exposed them to guns, and it warped their personalities. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. They are who they are. I’ve asked them to get help, to talk to a therapist — but they won’t listen.

These are my parents. They’re in an open carry relationship. I’m afraid their love for guns will continue to grow. I’m afraid of what might happen to them, afraid of what they might do to others. And there’s nothing I can do to stop them.

not alarmed enough

I don’t have time today to write about this properly, but here’s something to think about. Y’all already know about Jerad and Amanda Miller — the young married couple who shot and killed two Las Vegas police officers as they were having lunch, then proceeded across the street to kill another person in a Wal-Mart before killing themselves. But did you know this?

Police believe the couple walked the four miles to CiCi’s Pizza, where Officers Alyn Beck, 42, and Igor Soldo, 32, were having lunch in a booth.

Let me repeat that. They walked four miles before they started shooting. And further, did you know this?

[A] neighbor who saw them set off on foot Sunday morning with a red shopping cart carrying weapons and ammunition was not alarmed enough to call police.

So think about this: these two people walked for four miles to a busy shopping area on a Sunday, while carrying a shotgun and several handguns, and pushing a shopping cart holding “hundreds of rounds of ammunition” — and nobody they passed by felt any need to notify the police. Why?

The murdered Las Vegas police officers

The murdered Las Vegas police officers

Because Nevada is an ‘open carry’ state. Because it’s perfectly legal in Nevada to go wandering around with firearms and a shopping cart full of ammunition. Because until they walked into the pizza restaurant and opened fire, they were presumed to be responsible gun owners. Didn’t matter that Jerad Miller was a felon who wasn’t allowed to own a firearm, didn’t matter that these two had espoused hateful ideologies and talked about killing police officers, didn’t matter at all.

Wayne LaPierre, NRA spokesman

Wayne LaPierre, NRA spokesman

I’ve written about these ‘open carry’ fuckwits before. You cannot tell the difference between an armed Second Amendment fuckwit and a mass murderer by looking at them. You can’t tell them apart until the bullets start flying. We can thank the National Rifle Association for that. The NRA and the cowardly greedhead legislators they’ve paid off through campaign contributions.

Two police officers dead. And pretty soon it’ll happen again. And then again, and again and on and on. Because that’s the world the NRA has given us. And unless we, the people, stand up on election day and frogmarch every last one of these conscienceless bastards out of Congress, nothing will ever change.

firearm-related cryptorchidism

You guys, guess what? Yesterday I suggested the pea-sized testicles of the National Rifle Association had started to descend. You see, they’d published a short editorial entitled Good Citizens and Good Neighbors: The Gun Owners’ Role, in which they said it was “weird” and “scary” and “counterproductive for the gun owning community” for fuckwits to openly go toting rifles and shotguns into private businesses. I mean, even the NRA seemed to recognize that shoppers at Target and Home Depot do NOT want to see a guy in camo pants and an AR-15 slung over his shoulder buying duct tape in the hardware aisle.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. And some Oreos.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. And some Oreos.

I WAS WRONG! Today the NRA’s shriveled testicles crawled back up inside, making a little ‘ploop‘ sound as they disappeared. They apologized to the fuckwits, and blamed it all on some low-level ‘staffer.’

“…referred to this type of behavior as weird, or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece, and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”

It’s totally not weird to carry Mr. Kalashnikov’s fine semi-auto rifle while shopping at Target. It’s perfectly normal to be afraid to go to the market and buy Oreo cookies unless you’ve got your Bushmaster over your shoulder and are ready to defend yourself from…you know…from those other shoppers at Target. I mean, there might be some crazy bastard there with a gun. Or a terrorist, maybe. You never know!

"Oh, and we need to get a birthday card for Kyle."

“Oh, and we need to get a birthday card for Kyle.”

Anyway, the NRA’s testicles have fully retracted (or disappeared altogether). I know I said otherwise. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. My job is not to criticize the fuckwitted behavior of crack-brained dolts.

Well, okay…it kinda is my job.


cane toads of politics

This surly-looking sumbitch is a cane toad. They’re big, hungry bastards, native to South and Central America. When I say big, hungry bastards, I really mean big; the largest cane toad on record was something like 15 inches from asshole to nose. Weighed nearly six pounds. And I mean hungry; cane toads are ravenous. They’ll eat anything. Plants, garbage, dog food, other amphibians, reptiles, small rodents. These guys have been known to kill and eat birds.

cane toad1

And they’ve been around forever. Archeologists have found fossil cane toads dating back to the Miocene. We’re talking at least five million years ago. They’re survivors. Not just because they’re big, hungry bastards, though that helps. They’re survivors because they reproduce at an insane rate. A single clutch laid by a cane toad contains around 30,000 eggs — that’s like three times the number laid by ordinary toads and frogs.

Because they’re such big bastards, you’d think they’d be a prime target for predators, right? Not so much. Because these guys are also poisonous. They secrete a powerful bufotoxin that can kill most animals.

cane toad2

So…big, hungry, astonishingly fecund, and poisonous. In general, it’s wise not to fuck around with these toads. But people are greedy and stupid, so that’s exactly what we’ve done. We introduced them to sugar cane fields in Hawaii, in the Caribbean, in the Philippines, and in Australia to gain control over rats and beetles and other pests.

And hey, it worked. The toads ate the rats, they ate the beetles, they ate the pests — and then they just kept eating everything else. Everything else. Now cane growers are desperately trying to find some way to control the warty bastards — to keep them in their place. And they’re finding it really, really difficult. .

See these guys? They’re a species of political cane toad. Gun nuts, climate nuts, religious nuts, abortion nuts, conspiracy nuts — all cane toads. The Republican party has turned them loose in the cane fields of political discourse in order to gain control of Congress.

open carry smiling

And hey, it worked. The GOP fed these groups a steady diet of fear and suspicion and rage, and they ate it up. Like any invasive species, the extremists found an ecological niche and began to chow down. Initially the GOP.was pleased with the results.

But now things are getting dicey. The Republicans are beginning to see the problem with invasive species. Cane toads don’t stop being cane toads just because the beetles are gone. They’re still hungry and they’re still poisonous, and they don’t stop.

We’ve seen that most recently with the yahoos of Open Carry Texas. A couple of days ago the National Rifle Association found themselves in the improbable position of suggesting the Open Carry folks in Texas might want to moderate their behavior.

[W]hile unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.  It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

Well, they got that right. When you’re snacking down on your burrito at Chipotle or shopping for a new crowbar at Home Depot, seeing a ‘gaggle’ of armed men enter the premises might make a person really fucking uncomfortable.

NRA membership cars

The response of open carry supporters? Many have cut up their NRA membership cards. The NRA is no longer extreme enough on the Second Amendment. We see that same response across a wide spectrum of social issues. That’s where the Republican party is today. That’s why there are almost no moderate Republicans in office. That’s why we don’t see any pragmatic Republicans, any environmentally friendly Republicans, any pro-choice Republicans.

Cane toads, by the way, are cannibalistic; they don’t mind eating their own kind.