Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
What a strange moment. Everything, even the Super Bowl, is being Trumpified and is now divisive. Of course, the Super Bowl is always officially divisive with two rival teams and the fervent fans of each. Still, in a normal year, no matter which two teams are playing, the Super Bowl is also the great unifying event of the televised American year (other than, perhaps, the Academy Awards). More or less everyone watches, while consuming oceans of beer and enough chips and guacamole to fill a mid-sized city. It's pure ritual all the way to the last minute of the fourth quarter. (As for me, when it comes to sports, I'm a New York hometown chauvinist. I lose interest once my city's teams fall out of contention and yet -- like a zombie -- I still engage in a Super Bowl-watching ritual with friends.)
This year, however, as with everything else in this country, it's going to be a Trumpian spectacle all the way. Like past presidents, The Donald will evidently not attend, but the New England Patriots are his team. (They play the Atlanta Falcons, if you happen to have been locked away in Guantánamo these last weeks.) Quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft have all backed Trump. Brady even had a red "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker. Trump hailed them at his campaign rallies, and he's wished them well in Sunday's game. ("'In the audience, we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever, because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick,' Trump said [at a donor dinner in Washington], pointing to Kraft. 'Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us... Good luck, you're going to do great.'")
And of course he bestowed perhaps the greatest honor of all on Brady, implicitly dissing him recently. No one, after all, can be allowed to stand taller than Donald J. Trump, which means that sooner or later even his allies have to be cut down to size and put in their place by him. Consider that a rule of Donaldland. In this case, during a rambling speech at CIA headquarters the day after his inauguration, he interrupted a riff about media "dishonesty," itself an interruption of assurances that, despite media attempts to misreport his relations with the Intelligence Community, he was with the CIA "one thousand percent," to take Brady down a notch in his own inimitable fashion: "So a reporter for Time magazine... and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like if Tom Brady's on the cover, it's like one time because he's won the Super Bowl or something, right? I've been on for 15 times this year. I don't think that's a record, Mike [assumedly National Security Adviser Michael Flynn], that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?"
What do you think? Fortunately, in such unnerving times, sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, in "Football is Trumpball Lite," offers us his memories of The Donald (whom he interviewed numerous times back when) and an assessment of how football has, at this curious moment, worked its way deep into the most unsettling parts of the American psyche. So get out those chips and that bowl of guacamole. It's time to think Super Bowl, but in the context of an American world now being Trumpified.