HOW 'BOUT THEM RAMS, NOAM?

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

Ever look in the mirror Scott? Next caller is....

Noam: Now wait a minute. Scott may be onto something. The gas-station attendant who wants to use his mind isn't going to waste his time on international affairs, because that's useless; he can't do anything about it anyhow, and he might learn unpleasant things and even get into trouble. So he might as well do it where it's fun and not threatening -- professional football or something like that. But the skills are being used and the understanding is there and the intelligence is there. One of the functions that things like professional sports play in our society and others is to offer an area to deflect people's attention from things that matter, so that the people in power can do what matters without public interference.

Hey, Chomsky, this sounds like that "religion as the opiate of the masses' tripe that the Marx Brothers put out. Well, let me tell you -- if the Rams are the opiate of this town, baby, find a vein and shoot me up. The Super Bowl is just a shot away. Gimme the Rams, baby. C'mon, Chomsky, what's with you? You never snapped on a chinstrap, not even in high school?

Noam: I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high-school team wins the football game? I mean, I don't know anybody on the team, you know? I mean, they have nothing to do with me. I mean, why am I cheering for my team? It doesn't mean anything -- it doesn't make any sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that's why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers to pay for them and so on.

Hey, Noam, it sounds like you went to Columbine High. Were you one of the Trench Coat Mafia? You hated the jocks, right? Let's take a caller.

Caller: Let's get back to Jesus. I think Bernie had it in his column a few weeks ago, and don't you love that Saturday column, the "Bernie Bits"? Uh, it was about how the pope was in the Dome and Billy Graham was in the Dome and, like, God must be on the Rams' side, doncha think?

Let's just put it this way: If JC comes back one more time and lands in Vegas, he's betting the Rams to cover the spread -- you can take that all the way to the Vatican or North Carolina or wherever Billy Graham hangs out. Noam, we're running outta time. Got any last thoughts?

Noam: Does the U.S. system work? Yeah, it works in some ways. Take, say, the last 10 years. One percent of the population is making out like bandits. The top 10 percent of the population is doing pretty well. The next 10 percent actually lost net worth, and you go down below and it gets still worse. I mean, it's such a rich country that even relatively poor people are still more or less getting by. It's not like Haiti. On the other hand, it's an economic catastrophe. The typical family in the United States is working, latest estimates are, about 15 weeks a year more than they did 20 years ago -- just to keep stagnating, or even declining, incomes. That's a success in the richest, most privileged country in the world? But it works -- I mean, you and I are sitting here and we're not starving, so something's working. It's a little unfair in my case because I'm up in that top few percent who, like I said, are making out like bandits. But most people aren't. So it's a mixed success.

Making out like bandits -- hey, making out like Georgia Frontiere, John Shaw, Dick Vermeil and Trent Green. Warner's the only working-class hero here -- three years ago stocking shelves for $5.50 an hour, then a measly 60 G's a year in arena football, now a $500,000 bonus. Who'da thunk it?

Noam: One more thing about the real mass media -- the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Sixpack, that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people's brains ... to divert them. To get them to watch the National Football League ... or look at astrology. Or get involved in fundamentalist stuff or something or other. Just get them away. Get them away from things that matter. And for that it's important to reduce their capacity to think.

Oh, lighten up, Chomsky -- it's only a game, fer chrissakes. Hey, we're out of time. No more callers, please, we have our winner -- it's the Rams, baby. Take that, Paul Tagliaboo-hoo-hoo. Who ya like in the Super Bowl, Noam?

Noam: Rams. Too many weapons. It's just Cartesian common sense.

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