Commercial Muscle

If you watch any NFL football, then you almost certainly have seen the numberless commercial messages from “Papa John’s Pizza.” The ads feature a couple of NFL players — notably J.J. Watt and Payton Manning — and the ever-smiling but always happy Papa John himself, John Schnatter. This raises the interesting question of why the CEO of a large company would insist on making the commercials himself rather than to pay a deserving actor some money to do a much better job. But that’s a topic for another time.

Recently Schnatter has made it clear to the NFL owners that his company blames the “situation” in the NFL involving the players’ protests over social injustice to be the cause of decreasing pizza sales — or at least decreasing sales of Papa John’s Pizza. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: that which precedes the latter is the cause of the latter. Throw a couple of virgins (if you can find any) into the volcano to appease the Volcano God. Note that the volcano is quiet and conclude it is because you have thrown a couple of virgins to their death. You can’t argue with logic!

A recent Yahoo News story quotes the man himself:

“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” . . . “Like many sponsors, we’re in touch with the NFL. Once the issue is resolved, we’re optimistic the NFL’s best years are ahead.”

No threat there, eh?? In any event, the NFL owners, it is said, are very nervous because one of the major sponsors of NFL games is pissed off and, in a thinly disguised manner,  threatens to reduce his support of the NFL if something isn’t done about those annoying athletes who insist upon drawing attention to the fact that they deserve to be heard above the commercial din and the sound of cash registers ringing up record pizza sales. Television revenue is a major part of the billions in dollars the NFL rakes in each year and the owners fear the goose may stop laying golden eggs.

One might argue that Papa John might simply stop paying such major athletes as Payton Manning what must be large bucks and put that money to better use — perhaps giving cowed employees pay raises? Perhaps it is Payton’s face in the ads that is hurting sales — or, heaven forbid, the always smiling face of Papa John himself. Or perhaps there is better pizza available in the marketplace! Heaven knows there are a gazillion types of pizza available. But whatever it is, the NFL owners are nervous. This could hurt the bottom line, something they have feared since the protests started and attendance to the games fell off a bit.

The truly big issue here is the undue influence a sponsor can have on what is or is not seen on television. We have always known this to be the case — it is one of the major drawbacks of commercial television. Those who might have hoped at one point that television would help enlighten Americans have known for some time that this will simply not happen. Americans want too be entertained, not enlightened! But the fact, the disturbing fact, is that a single man can threaten a multi-million dollar business in a way that could affect the way they treat their players, and can also alter the course of what might otherwise be constructive steps toward a solution to the legitimate complaints the minority players have against a wealthy culture that turns a blind eye to social injustice and ignores the legitimate complaints of those who are chronically disadvantaged in this country.

Money talks! And the entertainment industry listens.

Coming Unraveled

As a high school student in Baltimore I used public transportation to go back and forth to school. It was standard procedure to get up and give one’s seat to elderly folks, especially elderly women, who would otherwise have to stand. All the boys did it. We also said “sir” and “ma’am” to our teachers, and held the door for women, did what we were told to do, did not interrupt, and spoke only when spoken to. That’s what we were taught. My wife tells me she was raised in pretty much the same way in Kansas City, Missouri — though she was the one the doors were held open for. When we raised our two sons we were very concerned that they also learn good manners, that they were courteous and considerate of others. These rules were self-evident as far as we were concerned. It was the way we were raised and we wanted our sons to go forth into the world armed with the basic tools that would allow them to get along with others. It seems to have worked as they are both happy and successful in their lives and careers.

But the older I get the more I realize that this sort of thing is out-dated. People simply don’t spend much time raising their kids any more, even less teaching them manners. Much of this, of course, arises from activists who felt that good manners were pretentious and often demeaning to women, together with the pop psychologists who wrote best-selling paperbacks in the 50s and 60s telling parents not to thwart their children’s spontaneity, that suppression and discipline were wrong; all of this, of course, was reinforced by the entertainment industry that showed spoiled, ill-mannered  kids in charge and insisted it was funny. In the end we eventually said “good-bye” to good manners as children became the center of many a family gathering and the adults simply shut up when the children spoke and forgot the word “no.”

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, these attitudes have been augmented in the schools by the “self-esteem” movement that insists that kids be told they are great even though they are unmotivated and the projects they turn in are trash. This has given rise to rampant grade inflation and an age of entitlement in which every Tom, Dick, and Sally are rude and self-absorbed and expect things to be handed to them. Manners, at least, have gone the way of the dinosaurs and we are now surrounded by folks who aren’t fully aware that others share their world and who demand that their needs and wants be fulfilled immediately, if not sooner. This point was emphasized in a recent blog where I also quoted some wise words from Edmund Burke about the importance of manners to civilization, which, as Ortega Y Gasset told us a long time ago is above all the desire to live in common. You may recall Burke’s words:

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there. . . Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify. . . .barbarize or refine us. . . .they give their whole form and colour to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.”

About three generations later, the same basic idea had evolved somewhat and was expressed by Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting the United States for nine months and going home to write Democracy In America:

“If you do not succeed in connecting the notion of virtue with that of private interest, which is the only immutable point in the human heart, what means will you have of governing the world except by fear?”

As I mentioned in that blog, with the demise of manners (and morals), society necessarily falls back on civil laws to keep order — that is, laws without the support of manners and morals to give them strength, only fear of reprisal. And with the recent events surrounding the jury trials of George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander, as noted in a recent blog, one shudders to think how the average person will come to regard lawmakers, the role of law, and civil courts in this country. The outbreak of violent protests over the Zimmerman case, especially, in which a guilty man was found not guilty on the grounds of an insane law reflect well-founded — and understandable — doubts about the sanctity of both law and the courts in Florida, if not the rest of the country. This concern, coupled with the demise of manners and the reduction of morality to matters of opinion (“Who’s to say?”) suggest that the final strands in keeping a civil society together seem to be coming unraveled — held together only by fear in one of its many forms.

I have noted on occasion the birth of a new barbarism, evidenced by increasing numbers of folks who are tattooed, pierced, ignorant, linguistically disabled, self-absorbed, disdainful of history and tradition, and disrespectful of others. The Romans welcomed the barbarians from the Germanic tribes into their armies and their world as their Empire disintegrated.  We have bred our own. And with the huge surge in the sale of weapons recently, we are talking about armed barbarians.