Condoleeza Rice Should Keep Her Day Job…wait, maybe not…

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, 11:49 pm

We read in Peter King’s MMQB column that former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was asked to speak at this week’s NFL Meetings. What she said, and what King (and others) wrote about what she said, is so incredibly stupid it makes you wonder how people like this feed themselves, let alone rise to positions of power, influence, wealth, etc.

Admittedly King is a sportswriter and not an expert on foreign affairs or diplomacy or politics or, well, the real world. That still doesn’t excuse King from writing one of the most blinkered sentences of the decade. While wrestling with the  tiresome Denver Broncos-Jay Cutler snit King nearly herniates himself trying to compare that who-gives-a-shit soap opera with the Middle East. And then King says the following:

I think, like Rice used to do in the Middle East, the Broncos will exhaust all diplomatic means.

Anyone who has lived on planet Earth for the last eight years can only assume that King hasn’t been living on planet Earth. Rice used to exhaust “all diplomatic means”? Uh, what? Wasn’t “diplomacy” a four-letter word during the Bush Administration? Methinks King should stick to impromptu coffeeshop reviews and stay away from foreign affairs.

In a just world Rice would spend the rest of her days atoning for the last eight years, perhaps by wearing a hair shirt and working in a soup kitchen. Instead she’s In an AP story about Rice’s speech she’s quoted thus:

It’s true, when I was talking with the Russians and … the Iranians and Venezuelans…

Uh, when exactly did Rice talk to the Iranians about ending their nuclear program? Did she chat with Vladimir Putin before he decided to invade Georgia, or was Bush’s looking into the Russian dictator’s soul enough? What sort of productive conversations did she have with Hugo Chavez after the Venezuelan president, who was elected to the job at the polls, was apparently overthrown in a coup and then learned the Bush Administration seemed cool with that?

Putin, Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are villains of varying magnitude and you’d like to think the United States, the most powerful nation on Earth, could (to some extent) use our diplomatic power to bend those regimes to our will. Does anyone think that Condoleeza Rice, even when backed by the military and economic might of the United States, could negotiate a good deal with those three? Chavez is a Latin American folk hero for tweaking America’s nose. Putin sent tanks into Georgia because, hey, we invaded Iraq to get rid of terrorists and he’s just doing the same thing. And Ahmadinejad, while not the true power in Iran and pretty much loco, ain’t so loco that he doesn’t see that countries with nukes (North Korea) get negotiated and countries without nukes (Iraq) get invaded. Well done, Madame Secretary. Well done. We’ll even be diplomatic ourselves and not mention that you were National Security Advisor during the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. Well, we won’t mention it twice.

In a just world Condoleeza Rice would spend the rest of her days atoneing for the last eight years, perhaps by wearing a hair shirt and working in a V.A. hospital tending to the sick, wounded, infirm. Instead she was at a posh resort fêted by NFL owners, a collection of billionaires who float above all that socialism talk you hear these days even though they’ve they’ve helped themselves to hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to build their stadia. According to an AP story Rice received “numerous standing ovations” and “spoke to several hundred rapt listeners about everything from football to politics to the need for American optimism in a trying time.” Think about that for a second–Condoleeza Rice speaking about “the need for American optimism in a trying time”. The word “obscenity” is often misused in our discourse–that quote in an obscenity. I’d say she should be ashamed but, well, the whole idea of shame seems so passé among our betters…

But what did Rice have to say about football? What wisdom did Dr. Rice have to impart to the NFL cognoscenti? According to King’s article Rice told NFL owners to “think globally”. Wow, that’s some brilliant insight, she must have an MBA ‘n shit. According to King, Rice “thought Great Britain, Germany and Australia would be good candidates for NFL franchises”. Uh, what? Exactly how is the NFL supposed to handle the logistics of an NFL team in goddam Australia? What, you have the Aussie team spend months in the U.S. playing  eight road games in a row and then have teams fly halfway around the frickin’ world to spend two weeks Down Under acclimating to the time change and the Coriolis Effect and the fucking vegemite? Let’s also not forget that NFL Europe was not exactly a smashing success, and if you think that the Euromasses didn’t show simply because it was the minor leagues, I invite you to visit any one of a hundred U.S. college campuses on an autumnal weekend afternoon and see how interested people are in football.

There is no way, no way, that you’re going to see an NFL franchise (or any other major U.S. sports team) based overseas. That’s because they’re over seas. Until transsonic transportation is developed and you can economically fly from New York to Canberra or L.A. to Berlin in four hours there’s no way to base an NFL franchise in Europe or Australia. Anyone who even suggests such a thing is full of shit and should be pointed at and mocked with gusto.

Second,, it isn’t like the NFL should feel all that happy with the state of affairs here in the U.S of A. There’s no NFL team in Los Angeles, the second-biggest city in America, so you’d think La-La Land would be a better place to put a team than Stuttgart. Buffalo, home of a well-supported team with a proud history, has been making goo-goo eyes at Toronto. And a number of NFL teams (like Arizona, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Detroit) have had attendance issues from time to time. Never mind the fact that there’s a better-than-even chance there’ll be a lockout in 2011 and that, by the by, there’s something of a economic meltdown going on. The NFL has bigger issues to ponder before they start “thinking globally”. Which has been, like, a business cliché for thirty years. But that’s what Rice thought was worth pontificating about. Remarkable.

But not as remarkable as the other internationalist point she made about developing a love of football in other countries. I mean, this is a true jaw-dropping howler:

“We need to find countries with a mass sports culture. Countries where they play either rugby or Australian Rules Football or soccer…”

Name me a country where they don’t play rugby, Aussie rules, or…SOCCER? I mean, how did she not get laughed off the stage?? Where on this big blue marble are they not playing soccer? Only two countries come to mind–America, where footie hasn’t really taken a foothold, and Canada, where hockey is king and where they have their own funkified version of “American” football.

Other countries like their own brand of football, thank you very much. Soccer is BIG. Bigger than the biggest thing you’ve ever god-damn dreamed of. On top of that, our version of football isn’t easy to introduce to virgin territory. Not every country is as rich as the United States. That’s why soccer has thrived the world ’round–all you need is a patch of ground and a ball. Even with basketball, another game that’s doing well internationally, all you need is a hoop, a ball, and something firm to bounce the ball off of.

But football, Jesus. You need 22 players, unless you wanna play that 7-on-7 game they play out on the prairie (which would probably be a BLAST). But to play proper football you need to rustle up 22 players at the least. And then these folks need to be clad in helmet, shoulder pads, and cleats–and that’s if you bare-bones it. All of which are expensive, especially in places where running around barefoot is both de rigueur and financially necessary. Then you need a 100-yard by 53 1/3-yard patch of grass (or astroturf, or FieldTurf, or whatever the hell they play on these days) to contest the match. On top of that you need bleachers because you gotta charge admission to the games to pay for the field and the helmets and, oh Jesus, you also need a bunch of guy to frickin’ REF the game. That’s if you wanna play REAL football. If you wanna develop players who are gonna make the NFL someday.

If I’m attending a symposium on sport and the speaker says something as dumb as what Rice said about globalizing the NFL I’m walking to the back of the room to hit up the pastries. Instead, according to the AP article, Rice received “numerous standing ovations” and “spoke to several hundred rapt listeners”. Jesus, how dumb are these guys? Or is this just your typical plutocratic back-slapping? Condoleeza Rice is a disgraced public figure. She had a job to do–she failed, utterly. On top of that, when speaking on a subject that you’d think NFL owners would have SOME semblance of a clue about, she speaks utter crap. And yet they give her “standing ovations”. The audience was “rapt”. It begs the question–how bad do you have to fuck up in America before people give a shit?

And this leads me to the reason why I’m really, really pissed off. Pat Tillman left the NFL to join the Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Over time it was revealed that he’d been killed by friendly fire, not by the Taliban. The Army covered this up and to this day, despite six investigations and two Congressional hearings, all the documents pertaining to his death (including Tillman’s diary) have not been released. Twenty veterans joined Tillman’s mother to ask NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to help them pressure the Army to find out what happened. The league didn’t respond. Condoleeza Rice was the Secretary of State and while oversight of the Army wasn’t in her portfolio, one thinks she had enough stature and access to the President to get the Army to cough up whatever info she demanded.

But she didn’t demand. Neither did Goodell. And it appears none of the fawning owners nor the supine journalists at the NFL meetings asked a single question about Tillman. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not naive enough to think that an apparatchik like Rice or a suit from Central Casting  like Goodell would’ve been fazed by a question about Tillman. They would’ve said the right things, would’ve recited the usual lines about honor and service and sacrifice…while absolving themselves of any responsibilty or committing themselves to action. But so far as I can see the NFL owners and the journalists on site were too busy giving Rice standing ovations to think about Pat Tillman.

I started writing this post after reading King’s original article, but he also writes a Tuesday edition of his MMQB column where he answers emails and whatnot. I figured he’d get more than a few messages ripping him for his column and I wanted to see what he posted. What he posted was this:

THE WORLD IS FLAT. From Jason of Hermosa Beach, Ca.: “Say it ain’t so! Peter King heaping praise upon a former member of the Bush Administration? Looks like we might finally have a fair and balanced MMQB after all!”

Let us pray.

Pray for what? Does “fair and balanced” mean ignoring the catastrophic past? Does it mean forgetting Pat Tillman? Who do you pray to when you ask for things like this?

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4 Responses to “Condoleeza Rice Should Keep Her Day Job…wait, maybe not…”

  1. KenP Says:

    I really have to hand it to you. For a beer guzzling bar fly with a cat for company, you really get out there and know it all.

    BTW, did you catch her on Charlie Rose? Probably not. No hair shirt evident. Probably, if she hadn’t been black, she’d be as knowledgeable as you.

    Not sure why you are so depressed. Bars are still having happy hour and big screen NCAA to give you a life.

    Love to hear you thoughts on the new budget — unless Barak already asked you in confidence.

    Move into Technicolor kid; or, figure out that black and white is really shades of gray.

  2. Gene Says:

    Come now Ken, this is some pretty tepid stuff from you. You can’t even muster a defense of Rice (admittedly there isn’t a good one to be had) and appearing on Charlie Rose does not qualify as absolution. I’ll need to check out the transcript, probably good for a few laughs.

    I’m not sure how you square me supposedly thinking Rice isn’t knowledgeable because she’s black with my alleged allegiance to Obama, but no matter. And beer is not to be “guzzled”–it is to be sipped, and savored. Especially in these troubled times.

  3. Ain't No Sin Says:

    Nice post. I’m not sure that Rice deserves this much attention, but if you have the energy she deserves being mocked.

    As for an international NFL, I’m willing to bet that there will be an NBA franchise on the moon before there is an NFL franchise in Australia.

    Looking forward to a post on Cheney, but you might find that too easy.

  4. KenP Says:

    Tepid? Nah. It was strictly a cheap shot. Figured it was good company to your post.

    My current job isn’t to defend Rice — who worked for a President I never voted for. I just have less regard for her replacement. Where’s John Foster Dulles when we need him? Right…dead. That’d make him an even better Secretary of State.

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