Fumble at Goal Line in ‘20 Replay
With the NFL starting again, it’s a perfect time to look back on last year’s strange season that dealt with the original outbreak of the pandemic and a divisive political landscape. At Glossy News, we have the real story of how the election and NFL season worked in tandem to sound like a reprise of the TV Series, The Americans. And the math of season records checks out:
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Rodion spots Dimitri coming open like an NFL wide receiver. His quarterback-like-vision snapshots the Vuitton Full Zip, the Mark Weldon, forest green DRYKNIT shirt and the G-Star RAW jeans when Dimitri waves in recognition from the booth beyond the 2nd Avenue bar.
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“My longest-serving American troll,” Rodion toasts, downing his first of five Stoli shots lined up like one side of a kickoff team next to each man’s beers. “What’s that?” he asks, pointing at reflective goggles?”
Sheepishly, Dimitri responds, “For riding my Thunder Scooter.”
Dimitri blushes: “Spy Legacy Goggles.” Nervous laugh. “Maybe should change brand?”
“The ’16 election was your brand change touchdown, Dimitri. Your best work. Embedded for fifteen years, you understood American males took messing with N.F.L. teams more seriously than Presidential elections. Why?”
“Football brings Blue and Red together,” Dimitri intones while peeking at his iPhone SE.
* * * *
“Nyet, Dimitri. I know that. America’s psyche reads easier than a betting line. You thought you’d immerse yourself in sports culture without getting caught up yourself?”
Dimitri raises his second glass: “To pop culture. How do you say it? The car to impose our will on America.”
“On arrival, I expected to feed ideas home to guide techies molding political propaganda directly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, our agency’s American triptych.”
“Instead, you learned to troll sports talk. A solid innovation that made us proud.”
“Anonymity. Everyone’s a sports shock jock.”
“We fanned the flames of white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and other whack-jobs. That was easy. The subtle stuffs most effective. We’ve influenced music and computer games: Violent, divisive, isolating. And movies. Perfect set-ups for our closers.”
“Huh?” Dimitri takes a slug of beer, but Rodion’s on a roll.
“The Marvel movies we touted pushed the notion power should be seized by expressive, undeveloped man-children with a superpower, like the ability to tweet and bully. Ain’t no disputin’, Putin’s American Rasputin fit the bill. But, football. You hit the mother lode for the motherland.”
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“To Rodion, the Rap Pushkin,” Dimitri exhorts, nervously reaching for number three. “At first, I figured baseball, America’s national Pass Time.”
“Exactly. Past time. Wrong car, as you say. It’s a Latinx sport now.”
“Baseball’s the Hispanic NASCAR, to use the old word. A vehicle for us to exploit immigration fears. The misinformation your NFL sites and blogs generated did, however, help tip the ’16 election. And, we expected you to do similar good work leading to this past election.”
“Got the right people pissed off in ‘16. Your genius and guidance, Comrade. When Billy Belly-Check spied on opponents and his boy Brady orchestrated that blowing up his balls conspiracy, influencing fan reaction with blogs and websites worked good.”
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Rodion nods for Dimitri to down number four. “Our barrage of posts fanned discord among disaffected losing team fans, prime targets. Surprised nobody noticed the records of NFL teams in the five key states that helped Putin’s boy sneak over the goal line.”
Dimitri reaches into his GG messenger bag to pull out his Dartle Keyboard, projecting a hologram to check his notes, but Rodion carries on, a quarterback plunging straight ahead: “The Eagles and Steelers had 4-4 records the Sunday before the election in ‘16 as did Green Bay, though two of the three finished stronger. Our chosen one won Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, your disaffected, no doubt, carrying the day. Cincinnati was 3-4-1 and Cleveland 0-9, locking Ohio. Detroit was 5-4, but long-suffering Michigan fans knew that team was doomed. And Florida: Jacksonville was 2-6; Tampa Bay, 3-5; and Miami 4-4. The damage was done for the party in power. A promise to be great again resonated with fans feeling like losers.”
“Yes, Dimitri, fine work, but, carelessly, you’ve gotten Americanized since. We filmed you strutting around wearing a G-Men New York Giants cap. No MAGA. Your online chatter’s playfully self-absorbed. You have your own football favorites. Eye on the prize, Dimitri, instead of amusing yourself. Like an American. You should have kept focus on the ‘20 election, working 24-7, manipulating responses in battleground states.
Backing this incumbent this time, we wanted football fans, our male demographic, happy with the Trump status quo, to hate the mask-wearing Democrats who kept them from attending events like football games and their kids from beating the crap out of each other playing the sport. It should have worked if you followed through online. Instead of shopping on it.”
“Look at the standings the Sunday before this election. Of the five states that swung, only Georgia where the Falcons were 2-6 was an outlier. Pennsylvania: The Steelers and Eagles were golden, 10-4-1 combined. Though inept, the Eagles topped their division. Wisconsin: The Packers were 5-2 and on the way to the NFC championship game. Michigan: The Lions were 3-3, good for them. Arizona was 5-2. If you had done your work, happy fans should have voted for the incumbent. Nyet!”
“But,” Dimitri swallows.
“Only the losers voted for Trump. Can you believe that? And even the modest wins reflected team standings almost exactly. Florida, even with Brady guiding the Suckaneers and Miami doing well, still stood 10-11 that Sunday, thanks to Jacksonville. And Ohio teams, thanks to the Bungles, had a combined record of 7-8-1, despite the newfound success of the Browns.”
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“Coming home, Dimitri. Lenin said capitalists would sell rope to hang themselves.” He lifts his last shot. “You’ve been roped into becoming like them. A rookie’s taking over your brigade. No NFL Primetime or sports bars in the Gulag.”
“Home? The Gulag? Can I throw a red review flag?”
“Dimitri, check your Hermes Apple watch. it’s your two-minute warning; all reviews come from the booth. Read the scoreboard: Nyet!”