By David Anderson
Why are football players stereotypically dumb? Why are blondes the brunt of jokes? And what does this have to do the collapse of our country?
The answer, with respect to those on the gridiron, is not that they can’t handle homework. And blondes, well, the fact that they have more fun is to suggest a similar affliction as that which befalls those booting the ball about. Ditto the demise of democracy.
That’s right, noise.
With football players it’s the fan’s fault. With blondes it’s pogoing in the mosh pit. I mean you don’t get the reputation for having more fun as a blonde by booking it in the library, right? And my guess is few people know the literal role dirt – yes, sound-deadening dirt – played during the crafting of our country’s Constitution.
“Noise is the supreme archenemy of all serious thinkers,” wrote philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer way back in 1850 as reported by George Prochnik in the New York Times this past August 24.
Schopenhauer’s “argument against noise was simple,” writes Prochnik. “A great mind can have great thoughts only if all its powers of concentration are brought to bear on one subject. And nothing disrupts thought the way noise does. Even people who are not philosophers lose whatever ideas their brains can carry in consequence of brutish jolts of sound.”
“Brutish jolts of sound.”
New York Giants QB Eli Manning couldn’t have expressed it better himself although it would have been a funny bit to think of him cupping his hands and yelling in the referee’s ear that his brain couldn’t carry whatever play he was supposed to call “in consequence of brutish jolts of sound.”
As it was, Manning was clearly rattled during that 2005 game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field – “the notoriously loud stadium in Seattle.” The Giants’ frustration was reflected in no less than a franchise record 16 penalties, 11 of them for false starts – a.k.a. “the failure to communicate” caused by the 12th Man.
Given Schopenhauer’s contention about cacophony – and his complaint 150 years ago concerned the “‘infernal cracking” of coachmen’s whips” – I wonder what this silence-is-necessary-to-think thinker would think of 67,000 obnoxious fans who were delighted to be the offending party contributing not only to Manning’s ineptness on the field but also being partly responsible – maybe primarily so – for the 900-word section in the N.F.L. rule book devoted to crowd noise – the equivalent of a college term paper.
Which term paper college football players don’t write. Because football players can’t think. Because football players can’t concentrate. Because of lingering fan noise.
No, it’s true. Hear me out.
On the equivalent of accentuated bedlam by way of piping in artificial sound to bolster crowd noise of which then-Seahawks head man Mike Holmgren was accused, accompanied by the fake decibel meter vibrating ever closer to the red zone, a study published in 2009 examined the effects of aircraft noise on sleeping subjects.
“The findings were clear,” writes Prochnik. “Even when people stayed asleep, the noise of planes taking off and landing caused blood pressure spikes, increased pulse rates and set off vasoconstriction and the release of stress hormones. Worse, these harmful cardiovascular responses continued to affect individuals for many hours after they had awakened and gone on with their days.”
So there’s proof for my premise that football players are not dumb and blondes are unfairly mocked. They just can’t focus. Because of where they’ve been. The results lingering long after the stadium has been swept of noise makers and the stage cleared of drum sets and cymbals.
Noise, even the clatter of horses’ hoofs and the creaks and squeaks of rumbling carriages, so perturbed the framers of the Constitution that our founding fathers saw fit to have “the streets outside Independence Hall covered with earth so that their deliberations might not be disturbed by passing traffic,” according to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Frankfurter further ominously declared, “Our democracy presupposes the deliberative process as a condition of thought and of responsible choice by the electorate.”
If silence to allow for brooding thought is a “precondition for democracy” we’re in trouble.
If representation depends upon reflection, the next choice we make for public office will be at best a best guess as we haven’t a clue.
If so important a document as the Bill of Rights – let alone an essay for English 101 – requires our game plan primarily consist of inaudibles, then we can kiss our education – and perhaps our country – goodbye.
Because this is football season.
If the number one fear among frenetic fans of Husky football, for example, was whether the newly refurbished University of Washington stadium would be “deprived of its ability to produce the decibel level of a cargo jet at takeoff,” they need fear no more.
John McGrath happily announced in his post-game review of Saturday’s blow-out of 19th-ranked Boise State by the dogs on the field encouraged by the barks from the fans that “everything is louder, beginning with a sound system blaring ads that can be heard on the Snoqualmie Ridge.”
Grades will suffer due to the lingering affects but hey, school hasn’t started yet.
Until then a moment of silence everyone while we reflect on my slightly-altered and thus abused quote attributed to political philosopher Thomas Sowell:
“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with football.”