What Meryl Streep could learn from football and football fans

Like her friend Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep cavalierly insults thousands of football and MMA fans. Her supposed superiority is misguided.

Meryl Street Screen Shot

LOS ANGELES, January 10, 2017 — While many Americans were watching highlights of the NFL playoffs this past Sunday night, others were watching an awards ceremony of some sort. Golden Globes are given to people involved in the motion picture industry. The winners frequently use their acceptance speeches to attack people they have never met for having different political beliefs. In an attempt to humiliate the target of their ire, celebrities frequently launch into tirades without considering the collateral damage of smearing ordinary Americans.

Actress Meryl Streep was given a lifetime achievement award. Among her Hollywood peers, she is considered a very good actress. Many other Americans are unfamiliar with her work, finding pleasure in pursuits unrelated to the entertainment industry. She meant to use her acceptance speech to lash out at President-Elect Donald Trump. Instead, she attacked over half of the country.

“So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

Ms. Streep chose to attack football and football fans. According to her lengthy Wikipedia page, she has never played, coached, or worked in the football industry. She would not be the first Hollywood celebrity to speak on a topic she knew absolutely nothing about, and she certainly will not be the last. However, if her goal is to come across as erudite, educated, and well-rounded, her speech failed miserably.

While it would be tempting to dismiss Ms. Streep as an arrogant liberal, football should not be political. Plenty of politically liberal Americans do love football.

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Excoriating Ms. Streep and “her type of people,” only returns her level of smugness with equal contempt. If the goal in life is to learn and grow, then Ms. Streep should be taught why football matters.

For starters, football unites people of all races, religions, and political ideologies. People who otherwise would have nothing in common can bond over football. It is a great game where players and fans alike can make lifelong friends. Whether you are a billionaire owner or a blue collar worker in the bar, two people who can talk football can at that moment relate to each other.

The National Football League, in particular, has lifted America up during its darkest moments. After 9/11, NYPD and FDNY wanted the New York Jets and Giants to play hard. After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints lifted up their fallen city.

Beyond being inspiring, football players, coaches and owners have raised of millions of dollars for charitable causes. Ms. Streep would probably agree with some of these causes very much. The NFL as a league has raised and donated additional millions of dollars to everything from disaster relief to breast cancer research and beyond.

Football teaches the values of hard work, getting up when you get knocked down, discipline, and teamwork. To quote Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, “Football taught me that life is the ultimate team game.”

Ms. Streep gets to stay in an air-conditioned trailer when she films her movies. A variety of assistants are paid very low wages to fetch her favorite foods and drinks. Meanwhile, football players frequently play their games in bone-chilling cold weather.

They play in rain, wind, and even blizzards. In Ms. Streep’s industry, “break a leg” is an expression. If she gets a hangnail or a common cold, she can just delay her work and keep everyone else waiting.

Jack Youngblood, Charles Woodson and Tory James each played in a Super Bowl with a broken leg.

Most importantly, football is the ultimate meritocracy. With all respect to Ms. Streep, her lifetime achievement award is subjective. So is every other award she has won in her life. Winners are determined by votes that take place by secret ballot.

In many cases, the names of the voters are unknown to the general public. A good deal of voters do not watch the movies they vote on. Transparency in the process is nonexistent. Winners often benefit from having an expensive lobbying team to court voters.

Winning a Super Bowl is not subjective. Everything is based on merit. The players compete in front of 100 million television viewers in America and over one billion people worldwide. If a player or coach makes a critical mistake, they do not get to yell “cut” and redo the scene. Everything is live. Every error is immediately dissected on social media. When grown men cry after winning a Super Bowl trophy, it is because they overcame odds and pressures that most of us could not possibly ever understand.

Ms. Streep condescendingly sneered that football is not true art. She should have watched the College Football Championship on Monday night between the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide.

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With six seconds to play, the Crimson Tide led 31-28. The Tigers were two yards away from the winning touchdown. Rather than play for the tie, Clemson’s coach decided to go for the win. No matter what happened next, one play would affect the life history of every young man on that football field.

While a few of these players may go on to earn millions of dollars playing professional football, most of them will not. Some of them were playing their final game. They were not paid money to play. They played because it was their skill, their, craft, their…art. Decades from now when most people have forgotten who they were, they could tell their grandchildren they either won or lost a game on the final offensive play. When the quarterback snapped the ball, football fans everywhere held their collective breaths. So did the players on the sidelines. So did the coaches. So did everyone who has ever understood what it means to have your life affected by five seconds.

Clemson’s quarterback threw a touchdown for a 35-31 Tigers victory with one second left. Clemson players cried tears of joy. Alabama’s players crumpled to the ground in heartbreak. Television pictures will forever capture dueling images of those basking in confetti and delirious joy only feet from those in agonizing pain. 

This is the epitome of art. It is also the greatest metaphor for real life since God created human beings.

That is football. Rather than mock the millions of people in Normal America who watch football, Ms. Streep would be better served by thinking before she speaks. She won awards based on raw vote numbers. If numbers alone mattered, many millions of people prefer football to her acting.

The highest rated programs of all time are Super Bowls. Football games earn millions more dollars than her movies.

She entertains a slice of the American public. Football entertains more people than Streep ever will. This is why the Golden Globes take place only after the NFL playoff games have concluded. Even Hollywood knows that they would be virtually completely ignored if they tried to compete with football.

Shakespeare once said, “The play is the thing.” Ms. Streep, the game is the thing. It is called football. Football is America, and America is football.

It is not a game for the coddled elites. It is a game of, by, and for the people. Like life, football is the ultimate team game.

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