Sit down. Grab an extra large bottle of Xanax. Prepare yourself for a shocks of shocks.
A US gov’t agency made a pro-labor decision yesterday.
Alright, I’ll wait for the paramedics to revive you.
Yes, the regional National Labor Relations Board ruled that college athletes have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. They can, in other words, form a union.
Ever since Saint Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers back in 1981, unions have been under siege in this holy land. It’s reasonable to buy into the theory that the ascendent Right back then wanted to kill off the unions because they’d been a backbone of Democratic Party support throughout the 20th Century. And it worked because, without unions, the Dems had to turn to big money corporations for their bread and butter. To do that, the Democratic Party had to move to the Right itself. That’s why don’t-rock-the-boat center-Rightists Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been the Dems’ standard bearers in the last quarter century. The Clinton and Obama administrations were (and are) as friendly to Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and the plutocracy as any fuddy duddy GOP-ers were before Reagan declared America safe from the horrors of organized labor.
In fact, the only really successful recent union has been the Major League Baseball Players Association, itself populated by nascent plutocrats. The MLBPA has taken management to the woodshed time and again, proving once again that only millionaires have any real power here.
Anyway, the outgoing QB of the Northwestern Wildcats football team, a lad named Kain Colter, led a group calling itself the College Athletes Players Association in an effort to negotiate with NU. Colter and Co. claimed to be employees of the university. Northwestern meanwhile said they were student-athletes, the fairy tale designation that colleges use to make us think of young men in gowns and mortarboards dashing off to make it on time for a brief practice after spending the majority of their day reading Proust and memorizing the periodical table. The local NLRB looked at the daily skeds of NU ballers and concluded, very rightly, that their huffing and puffing on the practice field was a full time job with some academics thrown in when there was time.
Kain Colter, Labor Leader
Keep in mind that Northwestern is not even a typical sports factory. In football and basketball, it’s usually the laughingstock of the Big 10, with its fan and alumni base becoming delirious when NU achieves mediocrity. Players at, say, Ohio State University or the University of Florida are under such pressure to perform that to tell them their point guarding or strong safety-ing will be only a full-time job would be akin to telling them they can go on vacation for six months.
Many observers note that the football and basketball programs at big, powerhouse colleges run their teams much as their pro counterparts do, meaning players must think sports morning, noon, night, and even while they dream. Athletes at these sweat factories must do weight training in the morning, study the playbook in the middle of the day, scrimmage in the afternoon, and have meetings with coaches in the evening. They’re assigned ” counselors” who make sure they get up on time and comb their hair properly, and who have private meetings with professors to ensure that, say, the star running back makes it through that grueling and onerous History of the TV Sitcom course.
Sure, college football and basketball players get scholarships — some of them — but that free education means little if the recipient knows what the Triple Spread Option is but can’t quite put his finger on who Henry David Thoreau was.
Indiana University makes scads of dough selling tickets for the general public to see its “student athletes” throw spheroids around. IU sells out the plus-17,000 seat capacity Assembly Hall for its basketball games. Several people have been known to buy tickets to see the Hoosiers football team play. Nobody gives those ducats away. Partisans pay a premium for them. University presidents say this influx of cash helps keep tuition down although they rarely make mention that tuition figures are growing exponentially these days.
That dough is going somewhere but it ain’t going into the pockets of the kids the fans pay to see play.
Let’s hope the new college game players’ union will change all that.
One of my five favorite television shows of all time was Mystery Science Theater 3000, aka MST3k.
You either get it or you don’t. The Loved One, for instance, doesn’t. Whenever I click MST3k on Netflix, she either groans or gives me one of those “you idiot” looks. That’s fine. She digs the hell out of soap operas like Six Feet Under and Mad Men, stuff that I consider to be slightly below fingernails on a blackboard in my ranking of pleasurable activities. So, she watches her stuff and I watch mine.
I like to think, though, that I don’t give her “you idiot” looks. I’m such a saint.
Anyway, I round out my top five of all time with The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Cubs on WGN, and Seinfeld. Okay, shoot me, that makes six. Whatever. Notice the common thread? They’re all farces. Especially the Cubs on WGN.
MST3k was a troublemaking, utterly irreverent, radical, impudent, insolent, sacrilegious, mocking snark-fest. I’d watch it every single Friday night on Comedy Central and the channel’s earlier incarnations. The writers and performers on it were so flip and derisive that I was certain they thought about the world just as I did. Sure, they considered those hushed, stodgy filmstrips we saw in elementary school as silly as a grown man wearing clown shoes. And they must have thought that, well, Newt Gingrich was clownish as well. They were my kind of people.
Joel Hodgson (L), Michael J. Nelson, And The ‘Bots
The rumor mill’s been churning out news that a new version of MST3k is coming back, only it isn’t. You’ll have to go to Happy Nice Time People to find out about it. Apparently, the new version is some sort of trick you play with a movie you get from Netflix or one of those peer-to-peer video file sharing rackets on the interwebs and then you have to buy some audio to synch up to it that’s put out by some of the old MST3k people. It all sounds too jerry-rigged and Rube Goldberg for me so I’m not going to do it. Which is fine because my guess is the MST3k thing is long past its sell-by date. Sorta like the fourth season of Arrested Development.
Leave well enough alone, right?
In any case, in reading about this new development, the Happy Nice Time People made reference to Michael J. Nelson’s “completely reprehensible political beliefs.” Nelson was the second host of the show after founder and first host Joel Hodgson left to carve out a stand-up career somewhere. (I haven’t heard of him since, so I figure he never did wow the comedy club crowd.) Nelson was just as funny as Hodgson — maybe even funnier. He delivered his lines better and was a natural actor. I liked him immensely.
That’s why I was crushed to read about his “completely repreh…,” oh, you know. the HNTP people linked to what amounts to a manifesto of MJN’s poli-junk-sci. Let me repro it herewith:
During a 2004 interview with the fanatic site MST3K Review, Nelson described himself as Protestant and conservative: “I read the National Review cover to cover. Check in at Townhall.com every day. Check the Washington Times daily. Listen to Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on a regular basis. Read Mark Steyn with regularity. Read the Weekly Standard. So, yes, I do vote Republican.” He later referred to the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “the Star and Sickle, or the Red Star Tribune”
I almost broke down in tears. I consoled myself by repeating, mantra-like, that this snippet was from Wikipedia. Now I’m not anti-Wikipedia by a long shot. I think it’s a great resource, only not an authoritative one. It’s a nice place to start learning about something. Its links and references are a good step in the right direction. But god forbid I’d ever quote something from Wikipedia in these precincts as if whatever point I was making was written in scripture.
Say It Ain’t So!
So here’s my hope. Mebbe someone with an antic sense of humor equal to the MST3k gang typed in the graf in question. You know, ha hah hah? Or, even more likely, Michael J. Nelson himself was toying with humanity by telling us a bunch of funny lies about his “conservatism.” That’s even ha hah hah-ier.
Man. I’m still bummed, though. It’s as bad as when I first discovered that most sports stars were Republicans. It makes sense now but when I was a kid, I believed none of my beloved Cubs could ever even think of voting for Dick Nixon. But a lot of them did. A lot of them.
I’ve become much more sanguine about the whole thing. For instance, I still love watching Robert Duvall act. Clint Eastwood, too. And John Wayne. I can pretend their real political slants just don’t exist. And by golly, no one who could play Mac Sledge so well in Tender Mercies or Captain York in Fort Apache could actually be — eek! — a Republican. But Duvall is and Wayne was. So there. I’ve just gotten better at suspending disbelief.
But Michael J. Nelson? From the very, very seditious, insurrectionist Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Now that’s unbelievable.
Hey, Remember Me?
Alright, call me a cynic if you want, but this is what television and movie stars do when they’ve faded from the spotlight: