Sunday morning I wake up and it’s still dark outside. The clock says 5:17, which means it’s already past eight in New Orleans. If Patrick Willis is up, then so am I. Wait, is Louisiana two or three hours ahead? The new math — who can keep up? Didn’t Ben Franklin invent daylights savings time? Or was it Copernicus? That’s the problem with history, a clutter of names and dates designed to obfuscate and confuse the dominant paradigm, which is only the dreary cliché of the rich and powerful keeping their sharp, smelly heels on the throats of those who would otherwise be free.
We need more revolutions and more Ben Franklins. The real Big Ben, now there was a man! The genuine rebel and inspired genius invented the lightning rod, the lending library, and in 1803 helped Thomas Jefferson conclude the Louisiana Purchase, which swindled the French out 828,000 square miles of land stretching west of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf Mexico to the Canadian border (and for the remarkable hurry-up-give-me-the-gold-before-the-Indians-wake-up price of four cents an acre). This gave the fledging United States control of the port of New Orleans and the strategically vital Mississippi River trade route. (You want to learn the history of the world, study the water.) Yes, we can thank Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Jim Harbaugh for winning the NFC, but without Ben Franklin there is no Superdome, no 64-ounce grain alcohol slurpies to wash down fried doughnuts, and no Hurricane Katrina for George W. Bush to prove to the world (and his sneering Daddy) that no one takes our freedoms away, especially tropical weather storms drifting over from Africa, Haiti and the Dominican Republic (all blue state strongholds).
But as brilliant as Franklin was, it took Bill Walsh’s invention of the West Coast Offense to make this country truly great. It was the 49er coach’s vision to replace the plodding three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust dinosaur playbooks with a sophisticated passing attack predicated on a simple premise: put men in open space, get them the ball, watch the bewildered and overwhelmed defense surrender in the considerable art of this new science.
Energized by this latest self-absorbed epiphany, I leap from bed and reach for the radio. It’s game day. The big one. Already on KNBR breathless announcers discuss for the thousandth time how the Ravens will attack the Niner defense, how the read option could trouble the weary and worn Baltimore linebackers, and how delightful the French Quarter is when packed with belligerent drunks, happy pickpockets and amateur hookers from the four corners of the earth. Sex, crime, violence! It’s kick-off for America! Ben Franklin had the Farmer’s Almanac. Before taking the Candlestick reins, Bill Walsh coached at Stanford, aka “The Farm.” Coincidence? More like a devious Masonic plot. Either way, Franklin and Walsh shared a favorite saying: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a passing game more lethal, healthy and wise.”
Forget the radio b team’s trite tedium. We need music, an up-tempo boogie to get the inner ape swinging through the steaming jungle of our pre-Freudian, post-colonial desires. Do I crank up the Clash? Some art school trip-hop? Dave Yearsley on the clavichord? When I was a kid, my Uncle Ken liked to wake the entire household by blasting Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women.” My father Bruce’s preferred sonic doomsday weapon was a Little Red LP of Chinese opera, which sounded like two speed-crazed bobcats having a contentious ménage a trois with an electric mandolin suffering from schizophrenia. Not to defend the more violent dada excesses of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but anyone who’s ever been ripped from adolescent slumber by angry hags screeching in Mandarin while cymbals crash and tin drums bang understands that extraordinary evils require extraordinary counter-measures: eggs must be broken, flowers must bloom from gun barrels, offensive linemen must fire out and stay low.
Discipline. Controlled rage. Lost art forms condemned as indecipherable by giddily ignorant modern audiences. Yes, that’s me. Fill ‘er up, pal. Victory is never enough. Total annihilation is what the Pentagon brains ordered. Besides, the natural evolution of history demands that we go Maoist on their AFC asses. In fact, on page 28 the Great Leader specifically addresses Super Bowl tactics:
“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
In other words, 49er fans, in order to shape the future we must study the past. Which is why I genuflect at the altar of my ancestors’ glory with ten minutes of Bob Dylan exhorting everybody to get stoned, washed down with a half-jigger of Cantonese atonal psychosis. I close my eyes and see myself surrounded by millions of fellow Red and Gold Guards. We wave Fred Dean banners and exchange tips on how to defeat the decadent forces of imperialism, specifically targeting bourgeois agents, secret agents, and Baltimore running back Ray Rice. I get down into a three-point and practice firing out into the sofa. Take that dusty bourgeois pillows! How’s a knuckle-sandwich with an aftertaste of lavender soap, pampered elitist fool!
It’s now 6:07am. Kick-off in nine hours, give or take a handful of macramé jockstraps (and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to hold a macramé jockstrap, you know what I mean). Feeling loose now, hostile but focused. Do I need a fourth red bull? Nah, I’ll have a double espresso instead. Gotta pace myself. Turning on the TV I am immediately bull-rushed by two ex-players with tree-trunk necks and a perky blonde fluttering her lashes. They jibber-jabber on about one of the Super Bowl’s media manufactured story lines: Ray Lewis patriot, Ray Lewis swan song, Ray Lewis hall of fame linebacker, Ray Lewis double homicide, Ray Lewis strikes plea deal and found guilty of obstruction of justice, Ray Lewis deer antler spray, Ray Lewis torn triceps but still on the field, Ray Lewis proud father of six by four different women, Ray Lewis bastard son of Mother Theresa and Ray Nitschke, Ray Lewis dreams nightly of St. Augustine’s astro-turf stadium on a hill…
I don’t give an under-ripe fig what Ray Lewis did or didn’t do, how many women he needs to keep his waterbed warm, or how the legal system may have been derelict in its administration of justice (wink wink). But over the course of these playoffs Lewis has become despicable. He’s constantly mugging for the camera. He takes every opportunity to thank God and praise Jesus. He takes over press conferences to remind America that it was the Holy Spirit’s beneficence that led to the miraculous comeback win against the Denver Broncos, that Mary Magdalene’s personal intervention resulted in an upset win against the New England Patriots, and that President Obama’s contrived shotgun photo op is proof that a good ballgame is the only thing Americans can watch without cringing these days. You might be a great player, but here’s your helmet, what’s your hurry, Ray.
Niner Nation has had enough of you. Niner Nation is congregating in the shadows of the deepening Frisco night, where our venomous blacks crackle and drag. Your hypocrisy will soon be revealed as the petulant fraud that it is.
We’re here to win, and by “we” I mean the San Francisco 49ers. Is this choice of language naïve? Probably. Is it pathetic? Undoubtedly. Is it fatal? I don’t know. Were the prairie stars fatal that summer night in 1956 when Jack Kerouac laid down on the fifty-yard line of a mythic corn-fed field house and looked awestruck up at those obtuse glimmerings? Did that soft poison reveal the true meaning of the mysterious night? Or was Jack already dying when he said, “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.” ¥¥
(Next week: the game, the bitterness of Ray Lewis’ tears, and the inevitable end of the Maoist fantasy.)