HOW 'BOUT THEM RAMS, NOAM?

On some frequency in St. Louis, sports-talk radio takes on pro football and other opiates of the masses

Good afternoon, sports fans. Today we have a first-time guest for sports-talk radio, here to shed a little perspective on this Ram-inated town we live in. We want to give a big St. Louis welcome to Noam Chomsky, who is -- wait a minute while I look here -- a world-famous linguist and social critic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I think that's in Boston. Hey, too bad about those Patriots this year, Chomsky, but let's face it, now that you've dumped Pete Carroll, I think you're on the right track. Hey, can I call you Chomsky, right? I'm not sure I'm saying "Noam' right.

Noam: Either name is fine. Glad to be here.

How 'bout them Rams, Noam?

Noam: Well, before we get into that, I'd just like to say that when I'm driving, I sometimes turn on the radio, and I find, very often, that what I'm listening to is a discussion of sports. People call in and have long and intricate discussions, and it's plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussions about whether the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytical skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and, for all I know, understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say, international affairs or domestic problems, it's at a level of superficiality that's beyond belief....

Whoa, whoa, Noam, you're off on a tangent there. Let's take a caller. T-Bone from St. Peters, you're on with Noam Chomsky.

T-Bone: Let's talk about how many big plays the Rams have made this season. This year the Rams had 57 passing plays of 20 yards or more, so 20 percent of their total plays had accounted for 43 percent of their total offense. And look at Ricky Proehl. He's got 33 receptions this year, and 24 of them were for first downs and 14 of those were on third downs. Can you believe that?

Noam: This is what I'm talking about. Listen to the level of detail, the analysis. Now I don't think that international or domestic affairs are much more complicated. And what passes for serious intellectual discussion on these matters does not reflect any deeper level of understanding or knowledge. But, sir -- Mr. T-Bone, was it? Have you ever heard of East Timor?

T-Bone: Did you say Dorothy Lamour? Wasn't she in those "Road" pictures with Hope and Crosby?

Hey, hey, never mind -- we're off topic. Next caller: It's Jeff from Arnold.

Jeff from Arnold: Now that the Rams are in the NFC title game, who do you think they might face in the Super Bowl?

Well, I hope it's the Tennessee Titans, who used to be the Houston Oilers. My hunch is if those two teams meet, the Rams' owner, Georgia Frontiere, may run off and marry Tennessee's owner, Bud Adams. He's Georgia's kind of man -- he's older than she is, he owns a football team and he has a pulse. They may get married, adopt Al Davis and start a new league. Next up is Mark from Ballwin.Mark from Ballwin: Hey, I was wondering -- it's so great what the Rams and Kurt Warner have done this year. Do you think they'll make a movie out of it?

Yeah, it'd be a takeoff onDamn Yankees -- they could call itDamn Rams. Only in this one, Kurt Warner sells his soul to Jesus for a starting gig and a shot at the Super Bowl. Ben Affleck could play Warner.

Mark: Who'd play Orlando Pace?

He'd have to play himself, that or they'd have to get two guys in a Rams uniform. For a sanitized PG-13 version, that bust with the prostitute would be left out. Hey, Noam, you still with us?Noam: Yes, I was just thinking this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that's far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that's in fact what they do. I'm sure they are using what I call their Cartesian common sense and intellectual skills, but in an area which has no meaning, as a displacement from the serious problems one cannot influence and affect because the power happens to lie elsewhere.

Fantasy world? Hey, you talkin' fantasy football? What, you made some bum picks in your rotisserie league, Noam? The skill positions are key. Like if you picked Dan Marino this season, you were screwed and tattooed. Let's see -- think we got Scott on a car phone. How's traffic?Scott on a car phone: Fine, but some bozo priest in a Lexus just cut me off. Hey, I'm listening to your station, and all I hear are ads for divorce lawyers, hair growth, weight loss and debt management. Are your programs geared to bankrupt bald-headed fat men who just got dumped by their wives?

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