A nation of Monday morning quarterbacks

A recent poll purported to have found 57 or so percent of US voters would now vote for Mitt Romney if they had the chance, whereas only 26 or so percent would vote for Barack Obama. Assuming these percentages are representative of the actual percentages among the population, so what? Who cares whether voters would now vote for Romney or Obama. Such percentages tell you little or nothing about the relevant underlying issue: how well Obama has performed and how well Romney would have performed had he been elected.

Most likely only a small percentage of the Monday morning quarterbacks responding to the question gave any thought to answering rationally, which would have been impossible, since you can’t compare actual performance and imagined performance. About all the poll accomplished was give respondents a chance to express their disapproval of Obama and tarnish his reputation.

I have some experience dealing with Monday morning quarterbacks since I used to be a quarterback, which I documented in my book Business Voyages.

My folks owned and ran the lumber yard and hardware store in the small town where I played football in Texas in the 1950s and on Monday mornings during football season customers would want to talk about the game last Friday night. Some knew more about it than others, some told interesting stories about it, and now and then I got some valid praise and criticism.

But about the only thing that really counted was whether you won or lost.

Playing high school football in Texas in the 1950s was not easy. Most of the time it was pure drudgery. Having to run laps, do pushups, and run wind sprints was tortuous, since most coaches worked their players to their physical limits during most practices. But at times doing battle in games players experienced exciting and satisfying flows and highs.

A quarterback in the 1950s calling his own plays was like a military general creating strategies and tactics in a command center. Good quarterbacks in those days made up their own plays in the huddle, depending on what the defense was up to, hitting different holes in the line with various combinations of fakes, dives, and crossbucks, calling sweeps around either side of the line, creating new passing routes to take advantage or slow, small or clueless players in the defensive secondary, moving wingbacks and fullbacks from one side of the line to the other, spreading out the wingbacks and ends, pulling linemen to run interference, running right over your opponents if your players were strong and big enough, doing anything you could within the rules of the game to advance your team down the field, score another touchdown, and win.

There was no greater joy than being able to say, “By god, we beat em.’”

A good quarterback had enough authority to determine just about every move his team made on offense, sometimes producing for himself grandiose feelings of power, mastery, and success, sometimes producing in gleeful, hollering, screaming fans ecstatic happiness and excitement, creating heroic moments for himself denied most mortals, excepting, of course, real generals, such as Wellington, Washington, and U.S. Grant.

Six years ago at our 50th high school class reunion a classmate asked me if I remembered that pass I threw him on the first play of the first game of the season when we were in the 8th grade. I told him, no, I didn’t believe I did remember it. He said, “Yeah, it happened, I ran straight down the field and you threw me the ball and I caught it and ran for a touchdown.” Thinking about him telling me this later, the play came back to me. It was something. I told him, the right end, to run straight down the field, the only receiver running down he field, faked a standard dive play over right tackle, backed up, and there he was all alone behind the defensive backs. I lobbed him the ball, he caught it, and ran about 60 yards for a touchdown. Not a bad way to start a season. In the military they call it the element of surprise. We did well that year, winning 11 of 11 games, playing teams in towns within a forty-mile radius of our town.

But, alas, as Burl Ives told Paul Newman in the movie Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, based on Tennessee Williams’s play by that name: “Life ain’t no football game, boy.”

There are no quarterbacks for most organizations, sometimes referred to as teams, and a football game is much simpler than games played by most organizations. A football team has 11 players. The field is 100 yards long and about 40 yards wide. The game lasts for less than two hours in most cases. A quarterback can know just about everything there is to know about the game, what the score is, how many minutes are left, the relative strengths and weaknesses of every player on the field, what has worked and not worked so far in the game. If his players are all significantly bigger, stronger and faster than the opposing team’s his team will probably win no matter what plays he makes up or calls. If not, the quarterback can cause his team to win by outsmarting the opposition, if their players are not significantly bigger, stronger and faster than his. And there are referees during football games watching every play, making sure everyone plays by the rules, which are clear-cut. It’s easy to keep score and know for sure who won.

In real life organizational teams are almost never the same size, games are of indefinite duration, or continuous, there are no clear-cut rules for the game, and if there are laws and rules internationally, the biggest and most powerful teams being sovereign nations can get away with violating them with impunity. There are no referees and there is no way to enforce penalties for infractions in most cases. It’s hard to tell in many cases where an organization starts and stops, where its boundaries are, who is really on the team and who is not, since organizations often collude with allies to gang up on rivals. It’s often difficult to tell who is friend and who is foe. Big “sovereign” organizations such as the US can declare their unethical actions “state secrets” and imprison traitorous teammates who disclose them. Large corporations have enough money and power to pay and influence lawyers, lobbyists and politicians to change laws and rules in their favor, especially tax laws. It’s impossible to keep an accurate score in most games and know for sure who won unless competitors are wiped out.

Most competition in the real world is not fair; yet in general it’s winner take all. There are some 200 nations, or big teams, on Earth, all led by someone or some political party. Most nations stay in pretty much the same relative position from year to year with respect to gross domestic product, perhaps the most relevant score for a nation economically, the total value of goods and services produced in the country, however fairly or unfairly the national income is distributed. Within most countries property laws insure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor through inheritances, regardless of how intelligent, knowledgeable, productive, stupid, dumb, hard working, lazy or immoral the heirs might be. One might say the universe is infinitely permissive, allowing any country to get away with anything it can, assuming the universe had volition, and assuming humans have it. One can build the case that everything that happens happens by accident or is inevitable, caused by unbroken cause-effect chains inexorably progressing through time, and the whole concept of winning and losing and heroism is pure fiction.

Some organizations such as the US government get very large. The US president as chief executive and commander in chief supposedly manages and leads about 2.5 million full-time government workers and .25 million part-time workers, and about 1.4 million active duty military personnel, plus about .85 million reserve military personnel. There are 100 senators in the Senate, 435 representatives in the House of Representatives, and 9 judges on the Supreme Court, parts of the US government not under the direct authority of the president, all having authority to undermine and sabotage his performance.

The international capitalist corporation with the largest number of employees is Walmart, started in Arkansas in the US in the 1960s by Sam Walton, one of the most successful capitalists of all time, who actually played quarterback on his college football team. Walmart now has about 2.1 million employees around Earth, originally called associates by Sam Walton, about 1.4 million of whom work in the US. Sam used to have pep rallies and cheers for his team members and Saturday morning meetings, similar to chalk talks in football locker rooms, where team members would talk about how the game went during the week and what they might do to improve their game to make more money for the team next week. Sam’s children/heirs are now billionaires, ranking among the top ten or so richest humans on Earth. Walmart’s policy has always been to always sell goods at the lowest price.

One can build a case the US government has gotten so large, dysfunctional and obsolete no one can now effectively and efficiently lead or manage it competing around the world. Yet most US citizens, not understanding games the US plays domestically and internationally, seem to think their elected president is equivalent to a quarterback, having sufficient authority and power to call plays to make his team win no matter what.

How could most citizens understand the games the US plays? They don’t read serious books and articles, and even if mainstream media TV networks could or would give full coverage of the current US imperialistic game competing against other nations, most citizens wouldn’t turn it on; they are too busy rooting for their heroes and superheroes watching domestic football, basketball and baseball games or Fox (so-called) News. And many would not believe the US plays the imperialistic game it plays even if someone told them about it in detail and could show with facts they knew what they were talking about, since most US citizens steadfastly and righteously believe and have faith their good-guy heroic country is too moral to undermine, run over and sometimes destroy nations to secure resources at the lowest price so the global corporate capitalistic system can make money, no matter how poor and hungry their people might be. Noam Chomsky and others have been trying to educate US citizens about this for decades with little success.

Unfortunately the biggest concern of millions of US citizens is who wins ball games they watch and hear about on TV and radio, or read about on sports pages of newspapers. Most of them attempt to remember more facts and statistics about the players and games than their friends and cronies, hoping to win one upmanship games showing they know more about the sport than anyone else in the conversation, playing Monday morning quarterback. Some successfully subdue their friends and cronies into one-down psychological positions with their superior sport knowledge, as if winning Monday morning quarterback games matters, as if it really matters which teams and players win real ball games for that matter.

I suppose you could make the case these Monday morning quarterback games matter because they help keep the population mentally occupied with something considered exciting and satisfying, deflecting their attention from their banal insecure domestic existences and the gruesome realities of international strife.

Competitive egotistical US citizens, like the citizens of all nations, give thought to whether they personally have relatively good incomes, and whether their incomes increase from year to year, but they don’t talk much about this with friends and cronies using facts and statistics. They mainly demonstrate their relative positions with the cars, houses, clothes, vacations and the like they can afford to buy. Where the resources came from and how they were acquired to maintain their flow of goods and services and money and make it increase from year to year is something above their pay grade, not something to worry about. It would never occur to most citizens that military imperialism might have had something to do with it, or that the rate of return on military imperialism might be too low, since the rationale for military expenditures is to protect citizens from foreign threats and enemies, supposedly paying for defense, not offense.

Many US citizens disapprove of President Obama for not being militaristic enough, for not being tough enough, for being wishy-washy, for not taking military action to solve military problems overseas, however effective his administration has been with covert operations in North African and Middle Eastern countries, and in Ukraine, securing oil and gas supplies and other resources at the lowest price for global corporate capitalism, undermining and overthrowing governments and leaders presumed to have posed threats to the Western capitalistic system. Obama has been referred to as the Hamlet president, continually dithering about whether to be or not to be, rather than being.

In my opinion Barack Obama is one of the cleverest, wisest and most conscientious presidents of my lifetime, and it seems to me he has done a good job overall, considering the requirements, constraints and obstacles presented by the entrenched US intelligence-military-industrial complex, corporate lobby, Wall Street money and banking complex, Washington bureaucracy, Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and Supreme Court.

Unfortunately it seems to me most political Monday morning quarterbacks are judging Obama as if he were a football quarterback fully in control of a team, holding him responsible for happenings he can’t possibly control or change, however relatively powerful the role of US president might be, while many disapprove of him because he’s half-black while others disapprove of him because he’s half-white, something real quarterbacks don’t have to worry about these days. He has not done anything really stupid, like Bill Clinton getting impeached for fooling around with his office help and lying about it, or Bush II offensively bombing, invading and conquering Iraq, a country posing no military threat to the US.

On the other hand, whether Obama is getting more criticism at this point in his presidential tenure than most presidents got in theirs remains to be seen. It seems getting blamed for what went wrong and getting lower approval percentages as time in office elapses has become a standard fate of presidents. Apparently most US citizens need a national scapegoat to make themselves feel better about their personal fates which they gradually come to feel would have been better had the current president not been elected, when in reality the US president had little to do with them.

However much the US now relatively excels its international competitors militarily, it started absolutely deteriorating economically and fiscally around 1980, when Ronald Reagan got elected: The rich got richer while lower classes got poorer, and the trend continues. Good jobs remain scarce and underemployment remains high. Most good jobs for working people have been shipped overseas to make the rich richer; twenty-five percent or so of the US population now live below the poverty line; large corporations and the elite rich now pay about the same after loophole effective tax rates as the shrinking middle class; the federal budget remains unbalanced, the debt remains horrendous and menacing; greedy banksters are still buying and selling derivatives, leveraging their capital to insane levels, gambling with other people’s money, taking insane risks, hoping to get richer and cash out before the next crash; the US military now has operations in over 100 countries; five right wing ideologues on the US Supreme Court continue to undermine generally accepted standards of fairness for all US citizens; and global warming continues to heat Earth up, threatening the US just like it does every nation on the planet.

Would Mitt Romney have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat had he been sent in the game as titular US quarterback in 2012, replacing Barack Obama?

Not hardly!

No president can turn the US into a real winner in today’s world in two years, four years, or eight years; expecting this would be like expecting Cnut the Great to turn back the tide.

Current problems of the US were gradually cumulated, considering Vietnam, over 50 years by innumerable greedy, unethical, immoral and obtuse executive, legislative, judicial and military actions and inactions, and no mere mortal can make them go away anytime soon.

After writing this essay, I read on page one of today’s (July 9, 2014) Statesboro Herald the US started bombing Iraq again in the last day or two, possibly helping US fascist citizens feel better about themselves, and Obama.

For 30 or more years about 50 percent of US eligible voters have voted in presidential elections and about 50 percent of voters voted for the Democratic candidate and about 50 percent of voters voted for the Republican candidate, resulting in the so-called winner winning with about 25 percent of eligible voters voting for him, hardly a mandate for anything, showing no matter what people say, write, argue or do in any kind of media or organization to influence non-voters and voters on the other side to join them the US population remains polarized in about the same percentages, a sad testimonial to the power of facts, data, evidence, reason and rational thought, and propaganda for that matter, for changing the political biases and prejudices of citizens, indicating US citizens are imprinted with their political biases and prejudices by parents and others early in life, setting them in stone, as the games progress.

The real quarterbacks of the US are the voters and until they improve there’s not much hope for a national winning season politically or economically. Until the voters improve they will continue deploying the same kinds of politicians in Washington that caused the US nightmare in the first place. For elaboration see my 2012 eBook, Recommendations for Waking Up From the American Nightmare.

As Pogo said on Earth Day in 1970: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

So long as global warming continues all nations on Earth are losers.

Living in the US today is like taking a business voyage on a ship you got shanghaied for knowing it might hit an iceberg at any time.

Richard John Stapleton is an emeritus professor of business policy, ethics and entrepreneurship who writes on business and politics at www.effectivelearning.net and on Facebook.

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