Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Monday Night Mandingo

touchdown sheridan
One of the things that you are forced to deal with in the television sports business is being bludgeoned by brainless executives and standards freaks. It's just a fact of life and the vermin come at you like waves of rolling meat. On some days they can be found gnawing at your ankles, and on others they scheme up treacherous lawsuits while groping at themselves like baboons in corner offices lit by ultra-violet lava lamps.

Such things happen more often in the NFL. Not everybody puts on a show like Regis and Kelly. The game plays out like a depravity fest as crooked as Joe Theismann's leg, but only a few of the athletes make it to a four-year career, and no one in the televised audience really cares when a bone suddenly erupts through a linebacker's flesh. It's all part of the glitzy package of girth, speed, sideline titillation, hitting, public drunkenness and humiliation - where insanely chiseled physiques with two-percent body fat can cover forty yards in little more than four seconds. Imagine a stampede of wild rhinos approaching a filled playground at 35 miles an hour, and you begin to see the glamorous picture of today's gridiron combat operations.

Everyone who touches the game is a victim of its slime, in one way or another.

Most nights are slow during the Monday Night Football schedule, but every once in a while you get a nail-bitter, a seesaw blood and guts battle that keeps Michaels from reaching for his flask of vermouth and Madden out of the cliche tank.

It is a malignant romp, on most nights, and nobody with common sense could defend it ... except maybe Dubya, who seems to be dumber than a carton of rocks these days. But he is - boys and girls - Our Preznut. He can declare war on Tulsa on any day of the week and have anyone who protests him arrested. Not a bad gig, in a stagnant job market, and it appeals to some magnificient questions about creeping meatballism in the White House. It is like calling Eagles star receiver Terrell Owens a fool for earning a zillion dollars a year for watching a white woman take off her towel.

While the same does not go for the Preznut - or the president of Mattel, for that matter - there is no need for an NFL wide receiver to be smart. He just has to show up for game time and beat down the secondary like an annoying wino scrambling for spare change. The problem for Terrell Owens, however, was the pre-game show.

Two days after ABC aired a steamy intro to the Dallas-Philadelphia game featuring Owens and actress Nicollette Sheridan, coaches and players are still talking about it. Indianapolis coach, Tony Dungy, a far better human being than he is a X's and O's strategist, beloved and respected by every player he has managed, was brave enough to rise above the declarations of erotic innuendo from the religious right windbags to tell it like it really is: an outright, racist vaudeville act straight from the maniac bowels of Madison Avenue.

"To me that's the first thing I thought of as an African-American," Dungy said Wednesday.

"I think it's stereotypical in looking at the players, and on the heels of the Kobe Bryant incident I think it's very insensitive. I don't think that they would have had Bill Parcells or Andy Reid or one of the owners involved in that,'' he added, a reference to the coaches in the game.

ABC's intro showed Sheridan wearing only a towel and provocatively asking Owens to skip the game for her as the two stood alone in a locker room. She drops the towel and jumps into Owens' arms. Owens is black and Sheridan is white, and the rest of the marginalized world - the blue states - were left to consider the plot summary for 1975's Mandingo, a disturbing and homoerotic film treatment of a salty book, emphasizing long, bloody and gruesome fights between black men for the pleasure of Old South whites. Curious minds want to know the reaction if it was Brett Favre and Beyonce playing out the same scene - that's right, it never would have been taped.

"If that's what we have to do to get ratings, I'd rather not get them," Dungy said. "I realize that ratings pays us in this league, but if that's what we have to do, I'm willing to take a pay cut."

As Gambino Crime Family capo John Gotti once put it -- "Any friend of Tony's, is a friend of ours!"

In the mean time, keep popping down those Levitra like crack covered candy corn, wash it down with a six pack and order some pay-per-view porn off the satellite dish. And while you're at it - buy a couple of Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendars while you're waiting for scratch tickets in your local 7-Eleven. You'll find them next to the condoms and butane lighters.

Indeed, there is no end to this garbage heap of madness, and the cranks never sleep. But we are coming upon the Year of the Rooster, and the religious fundamentals are going to run into a deluge of cotton-mouth and trenchfoot. By February, once the holiday credit card bills come due, it will signal the end of time for the white trash rejects who own the agenda. Trust me on this. I have supreme insight.


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