I emerge from the echo-chamber of Super Bowl Sunday energized and armed with a new set of heroes and folk-tales to pass on to others. My hero on our great (near) secular national holiday wasn’t Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who one suspects would be going to Disney World whether he won or lost. It wasn’t the incredible looking Madonna, spotted backstage drinking her daughter's stemcells, or M.I.A. with her middle finger malfunction. It also wasn’t Clint Eastwood who made a commercial where I think he threatened to murder Detroit.
My new heroes are the people in the Occupy and Labor movements who gathered to protest on Super Bowl Sunday. It certainly didn’t make Sportscenter that night, but several hundred people gathered at the Indianapolis state house to stand up against the recent passage of the state's “right to work” legislation and make clear that the fight was far from done.
They included representatives from the Indiana Occupy movement, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, union iron workers, as well as trade unionists from UNITE and the Communication Workers of America. They came from Indianapolis, Bloomington, Anderson and beyond. Their ranks included radical cheerleaders from Indiana University who chanted, "Lies and tricks will not divide. Workers standing side by side….Union town through and through. You for me and me for you.”
My heroes include Randy, a member of the iron worker's union who came with a delegation all the way from Wisconsin to speak at the rally. Following his words, people chanted, "From Tahrir Square to Wisconsin, we shall fight, we shall win."
My heroes include people named Amy, Ben, Mike, Heath, Ed, April, Jacob, Jubin, Bill and the tireless Tithi Bhattacharya who emailed me at day’s end, “Class solidarity does exist!”
All of these proud trade unionists and Occupy activists showed up even though the AFL-CIO explicitly instructed people not to protest on the day of the big game. They accepted the bullying line that the Super Bowl was not a day for politics. They accepted this even though a brutal anti-union ad played during the game for much of the country.
That's why it's so important that the people were a presence at this Woodstock for the 1 percent, leaving energized and excited about further forging connections between the Occupy and the Labor movements. After all, we don't have $3 million for a 30 second ad. We just have the ability to gather and be heard.
As for the game itself, I think I’ll always remember the stirring words of Gisele Bundchen. For those who don’t know (and if you don’t, then more power to you) Bundchen is our world’s first billionaire Super Model. She’s also the spouse of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In the aftermath of the game, she was recorded saying, "You've to catch the ball when you're supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times." One player said after hearing her words, "It's like knocking someone when they are down."
Gisele comfortably carries the billionaire's impatience with the great unwashed breathing her air, who in her mind, are the fools unable to catch her husband's throws. But with her statement, I think we can see why so many people are overdosing on schadenfreude following the Patriots 21-17 loss to the Giants. For years, the Patriots have played with a sense of entitlement. They won three Super Bowls in Tom Brady's first four seasons as a starter and since then, every year, they've played like it was their trophy that some other team was just borrowing. It's an arrogance that has festered and worsened into a scabby crust that surrounds Brady and his coach Bill Belichick with each year of failure. They have become the Randolph and Mortimer Duke of the NFL, screaming after every season ending loss for the stock exchange to "Turn those machines back on!" Then there is Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and his owner’s suite mate Rush Limbaugh, with Limbaugh caught on camera forlornly picking his nose.
Seeing the arrogant and the entitled get knocked down a peg is always welcome. But in the real world it doesn’t mean a damn just because one arrogant and entitled owner’s box cheers, while another weeps. It happens because people around the country are standing up and saying, "Enough is enough." In Indianapolis, it happened because people heroically dared to be heard on a day when everyone told them to just shut up and watch the game.