Thursday, May 15, 2014


"Bread and circuses" (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered "palliative." Juvenal decried it as a simplistic motivation of common people.

I am struck by the recent glaring example of circuses used as a means to distract from anything important within the United States: for the important, I offer Russia and the Ukraine, with the US playing an obviously antagonistic role; for the circuses, I offer two different recent sports stories: Donald Sterling and Michael Sam.

…fans have an expertise in sports that’s unparalleled in any other area that fans interact with, other than their regular job. When you compare how much fans know about their members in Congress, or their state legislature, or corporate crimes, there’s no comparison compared to what they know about the game.

I suspect all readers of this post are quite familiar with the backstory occurring in Eastern Europe.  However, as I know I have many visitors from places other than the fifty states, I offer a brief description of the two sports stories:

Donald Sterling: On April 25, 2014, TMZ Sports released a recording of a conversation between Sterling and a female friend, V. Stiviano. In the recording from September 2013, a man confirmed to be Sterling was irritated over a photo Stiviano had posted on Instagram, in which she posed with Basketball Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson. Sterling told Stiviano: "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people", and, "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want", but "the little I ask you is ... not to bring them to my games."

On April 29, 2014, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling had been banned from the league for life and fined $2.5 million, the maximum fine allowed by the NBA constitution. Silver stripped Sterling of virtually all of his authority over the Clippers, and banned him from entering any Clippers facility. He was also banned from attending any NBA games. The punishment was one of the most severe ever imposed on a professional sports owner. Moreover, Silver stated that he would move to force Sterling to sell the team, based on a willful violation of the rules….

There is so much I could write about the Donald Sterling incident; however most of it has nothing to do with the subjects pertinent for this blog.  Let’s just say I am awaiting the exposure of the backstory on this; if anyone has the money and demeanor to dig it up, it is Sterling.  I only hope he lives long enough.

Michael Sam: Michael Alan Sam, Jr. (born January 7, 1990) is an American football defensive end for the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League (NFL). He attended the University of Missouri, where he played college football for the Missouri Tigers football team for four years.

After completing his college football career, Sam publicly came out as gay. He was selected by St. Louis in the seventh round, with the 249th overall pick, of the 2014 NFL Draft, becoming the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the league. If he plays in the league, he will also become the first active NFL player to have publicly come out.

Apparently Sam is interested in doing much more than focusing on his football prospects; it was recently announced that he will cooperate in a documentary of his training camp endeavors with Oprah Winfrey.

So I tried a simple check.  I did a search on the four topics – the one that could lead to a cataclysmic war, and the three that matter not a whit to anyone’s personal well-being beyond that of the named individual and those few close to him. 

I narrowed the search parameters: last 30 days, in English, in the United States.  The number of items?

Russia and the Ukraine: 142 million
Donald Sterling: 202 million
Michael Sam: 167 million

I tried the Russia / Ukraine search again, however this time excluding any of the following terms: cnn cnbc msnbc bbc fox abc nbc cbs.  I figured this would remove the bulk of US government puff-pieces on the subject, without removing any actual analysis based on facts. 

For this, I returned 84 million hits.

I guess I have nothing really to add.  I was just curious: a perfect opportunity for juxtaposition was offered, and I thought I would share the results.

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