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Television, Football, and Politics: Gaming Spectacles Designed to Keep the Police State in Power
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2016-02-03 14:53:28
“Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” – Professor Neil Postman

If there are two spectacles that are almost guaranteed to render Americans passive viewers, incapable of doing little more than cheering on their respective teams, it’s football and politics – specifically, the Super Bowl and the quadrennial presidential election.

Both football and politics encourage zealous devotion among their followers, both create manufactured divisions that alienate one group of devotees from another, and both result in a strange sort of tunnel vision that leaves the viewer oblivious to anything else going on around them apart from the “big game.”

Both football and politics are televised, big-money, advertising-driven exercises in how to cultivate a nation of armchair enthusiasts who are content to sit, watch, and be entertained, all the while convincing themselves that they are active contributors to the outcome. Even the season schedules are similar in football and politics: the weekly playoffs, the blow-by-blow recaps, the betting pools and speculation, the conferences, and then the final big championship game.

In the same way, both championship events are costly entertainment extravaganzas that feed the nation’s appetite for competition, consumerism, and carnival-esque stunts. In both scenarios, cities bid for the privilege of hosting key athletic and political events. For example, San Francisco had to raise close to $50 million just to host the 50th Super Bowl, with its deluxe stadium, Super Bowl City, free fan village, interactive theme park, and free Alicia Keys concert, not including the additional $5-million cost to taxpayers for extra security. Likewise, it costs cities more than $60 million to host the national presidential-nominating conventions for the Republicans and Democrats.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with enjoying the entertainment that is football or politics.

However, where we go wrong as a society is when we become armchair quarterbacks, so completely immersed in the Big Game or the Big Campaign that we are easily controlled by the powers-that-be – the mega-corporations that run both shows – and oblivious to what is really going on around us.

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Bigger Than Baseball: Owner Dave Heller Helps the River Bandits Transcend Sport
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Feature Stories

2015-08-06 11:30:04

Dave Heller. Photo by Kevin Schafer (

It goes without saying that Dave Heller is a baseball guy. He is, after all, the Quad Cities River Bandits’ managing partner, and he has an ownership stake in three other minor-league teams.

He talks about his first ownership experience – as a business partner with legendary players Don Mattingly (Heller calls him “Donnie”) and Cal Ripken Jr. And about road trips to see his baseball idol Tom Seaver when he pitched for the Mets and Red Sox.

When I inquired about his favorite River Bandits player, he quickly answered, “Carlos Correa, without question. ... Great work ethic, great natural ability, great with kids. He’ll be a special star. ... The idea of having an overall number-one pick like Carlos here is really exciting to us. Two years later, and he’s in the major leagues and tearing it up.”

Heller grew up in Baltimore, but he wasn’t an ardent Orioles fan. “I wasn’t passionate about the Birds the way other people were,” he said. “I really kind of just loved baseball writ large. I could watch a Cardinals-Cubs game and enjoy myself every bit as much as watching an Orioles-White Sox game.”

Yet the 53-year-old doesn’t run the River Bandits – or any other team he owns – like a sports enterprise. In an hour-long conversation last week, the game itself felt incidental. Heller said his model for the myriad improvements, additions, and promotions at Modern Woodmen Park during his tenure was “county fairs. ... I think the idea of bringing some of that county-fair atmosphere into a ballpark is really healthy and fun and productive.”

Treating the ballpark like an amusement park might rankle baseball purists, but it’s good business – particularly when one considers that minor-league owners manage the venue and not the team. The goal is to get people through the gates – and all the better if some of them only know ERA as an acronym for the Equal Rights Amendment.

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Photos from the World Series of Drag Racing, August 27-28 in Cordova
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Noteworthy Events

2010-08-29 19:28:40

Images by photographer Chris Jones from the World Series of Drag Racing, August 27 and 28, 2010, at Cordova Dragway Park.

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Photos from the WWE Raw Event, April 5 at the i wireless Center
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Noteworthy Events

2010-04-07 16:16:07

Images by photographer Chris Jones from Monday's WWE Raw event at the i wireless Center. Click on any photo for a larger version.

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Ted Rall: Revenge of the Nerds
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Ted Rall

2009-10-04 11:29:45

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