Why and What’s the Reason For?

The “Batman Massacre” is going to have media traction because its a compelling narrative. It’s also something that happens on US soil to US citizens. Drone killing is far away, happens to “others” and is surpressed as a narrative by US corporate media.

These are random stories, although they don’t feel so random.

The Penn State scandal. The janitor who saw Sandusky with a boy in the shower. Didn’t want to cross Paterno…because, as he said, that would be like going up against the President of the US. The worker has no protection in the US. The janitor *would* have been fired. Penn State football was big business in an economically depressed part of the country (there are a lot of those ‘parts’). And a lot of big programs: L.S.U., Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Florida and Florida State, Notre Dame, et al.

Bruce Smith, hall of fame football player has joined lawsuit against the NFL:

“Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, who played 19 seasons for the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, sued the NFL on Thursday over concussions sustained during his career.

Smith’s lawsuit was among five concussion lawsuits filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where the concussion litigation is being consolidated. Four of the lawsuits are wrongful death claims.

There are now 112 lawsuits involving 2,770 former players, according to a review of each by The Washington Times

The lawsuits all claim similar issues that resulted from playing the sport. Concussions, multiple traumas to the brain, often advancing a dementia associated, usually, with prize fighters, but also problems of balance and behavior related issues, as well as depression and rage.

Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Shane Dronett….in total, seven former players have killed themselves. Two by shooting themselves in the chest, in order to leave intact brains, which they asked to be studied after their death.

All suffered dementia — CTE….Traumatic Encephalopathy.


Its probably impossible to even count the number of ex-fighters who have either died indirectly or directly by their own hand, due to brain damage.

Jerry Sandusky, started a Home for Boys.

Paterno was the hand of God….the single most influential football coach in US history. He was also the perfect icon for the narrative — the humble man of principle, who led his ‘boys” onto the field of battle, making them in the process, better men.

TV shows such as Friday Night Lights repeat the narrative with added bathos. For Paterno’s real story is obviously much much darker.

The NFL is far and away the most popular sports league in the United States.

The Aurora, Colorado massacre is a related trope. One needn’t at this point even get into the fascistic film — though Andrew O’ Hehir’s review feels pretty cogent, far as it goes. The batman franchise has always been the most fascistic of any of the DC or Marvel comics, and the most clear purveyor of vigilantism. It is also, in a sense, the most related to an Ayn Rand heroism (something O’Hehir taps into, also). The emotional range of a cucumber — thats a part of Rand’s characterization of heroism. Deadness. The obvious lack of compassion runs right alongside this. Ruthlessness, selfishness, single-mindedness.

Of course its more than this. Its the Society of the Spectacle, its the unconscious turned into a film strip. One detail of the Aurora massacre that struck me was that back at Holmes apartment, he had music playing loud on an automatic timer. How perfect a metaphor is that? The fact that everyone is on CCTV all the time, that “reality TV” (especially as its cost effective) is growing exponentially each year, and that a sense of cultural autism now seems to be reached in a good deal of the populace, the narrative for Aurora starts to feel very much like just more mass consumption. And it is. The Columbine shooter, Virgina Tech, and the fictional We Need to Talk About Kevin, are all fractals of this discourse of alienation. “Going postal” is part of the zeitgeist.

Joe Paterno — or his ghost — in some sense stands next to Dick Cheney and Ken Lay, as they gaze down on the Holmes performance, on Obama’s kill list being drawn up, and on Danny Boyle’s newest exercise in uber-capitalist spectacle fellatio — the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

At the Gran Olympico….the Olympic Stadium, Los Angeles, 1980….Lupe Pinter of Mexico defended his title against “The Bionic Bantam”, Welshman Johnny Owen. In the 12th round Pintor hit Owen with a short right cross. Owen lay on the canvas, unconscious. He never did wake up. The promotor’s paid $90,000 to Owen’s family, to help cover medical costs — as Owen was in a coma. They would pay no death benefits however. Owen was twenty four.

Bruce Smith can’t remember how to get home. Jerry Quarry can’t either. The janitor simply feared for his job, and must live with that cowardice, but he is also right, he was running up against a power that could destroy him and take food from his family table. Joe Paterno looms now as that nasty thin lipped bigoted authoritarian Uncle one always tried to avoid on Holidays. Just a nasty man. He also harbored the sexual predator Jerry Sandusky. In fact everyone at Penn State knew about Sandusky. It may be convenient to pretend not, but they did. They knew.

The codes for masculinity are intersected by class (as is everything) and race (almost everything is) and increasingly by the role set aside by Empire, by the Imperium, for its gladiator class — and the corporate TV and film product in which these codes are laid out repeatedly and seemingly endlessly.

White America, as a collective (assuming this works at all in a theoretical way) is suffering a crisis in perception…..the perception of the masculine. The truth is, the gladiators are the working class. Those guys are just well paid…with short careers, and clearly with a high probability of brain damage.

Years ago, I wrote a pilot for HBO on boxing. I spent a year at every gym and fight venue in California and Nevada. I must have met several hundred fighters. Not a single one wasn’t hurt in some way. Nobody wants to get hit. Freddie Roach said that to me once, I fought because my father wanted me to, and because I was good at it and could make money. But nobody wants to get hit.

Alright, so here we have Aurora, Colorado — aerospace the primary industry. Industrial suburb of Denver. Sixty per cent white, twenty five per cent black. Mean average income $46,000. City profile suggests more rapid growth than Denver itself. Proximity to Denver International Airport being a primary reason.

Happy Valley, Pa. Home of Penn State University. Actually a home rule center of the larger Centre Country — a Metropolitan Statistical Area. Population forty thousand and change. Eighty per cent white. Mean average income for a household is $23,000.

Down the road is the Rockville Correctional Center…or state pen. Local joke: Penn State and State Pen.

Penn State is by far the largest employer in the region. Joe Paterno WAS Penn State. Joe protected Sandusky.

Aurora, Happy Valley, Bruce Smith, and Dave Duerson.

Or, Terry Long, former NFL player, who drank anti-freeze and died at the age of forty five. Or John Grimsley or Ted Johnson, or Junior Seau.

Long had been depressed for months before his suicide. He complained of head aches, dizziness, and blurred vision.

Batman Rises. Chris Nolan’s final part of his DC comics trilogy. The perfect ruling class vigilante. Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne’s rightful inheritance. A remote mausoleum on a hill. A gated home for one of the very rich. Andrew O’ Hehir says

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the “Dark Knight” universe is fascistic (and I’m not name-calling or claiming that Nolan has Nazi sympathies). It’s simply a fact. Nolan’s screenplay (co-written with his brother, Jonathan Nolan, and based on a story developed with David S. Goyer) simply pushes the Batman legend to its logical extreme, as a vision of human history understood as a struggle between superior individual wills, a tale of symbolic heroism and sacrifice set against the hopeless corruption of society. Maybe it’s an oversimplification to say that that’s the purest form of the ideology that was bequeathed from Richard Wagner to Nietzsche to Adolf Hitler, but not by much. Whether you think Nolan is endorsing or condemning that idea, or straddling the fence with a smirk on his face, is very much up to you.”

Its the Fountainhead meets DC comics — though they met at inception, in truth.
The DC and Marvel super-heroes were always meant for pimple faced adolescent boys. Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne…by night, I am a masked avenger. I take justice into my own hands — no matter the rule of law. The infantalizing of the US political spectacle.

The Pat Tillman story deserves mention. Former NFL defensive back, college football star, gave up millions of dollars and joined the US military only to die under “curious” circumstances from “friendly fire”. Tillman had also turned politically, dramatically, toward an anti-war position. Even if, as some accuse, Tillman was murdered intentionally by fellow soldier, the narrative remains intact. The Arizona Cardinals football team has named the plaza surrounding the new University of Phoenix stadium “Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza”.

Not the “War is Illegal Tillman Memorial”. Or the “I was shot in the Fucking Back Like a Dog” Plaza.

Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.

1963, Davey Moore left the ring after a brutal fight with Sugar Ramos. Moore was knocked out in the tenth round. He was interviewed after the fight. Then he walked to his dressing and fell over, dead.

“The autopsies of the soldiers – who were an average age of 32 – showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss, depression and other Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.”

“Dr. Anne McKee reported that autopsies of four US soldiers who died in Afghanistan showed similar brain trauma to that seen in professional boxers and recently, in a number of former NFL players.”
CBS News.


  1. Wow. Lot to think abt. Especially appreviate the ppint that prp athletes are labor. Thus public outrage re their wealth….as with fashion models…but np equivalent fury for the team owners much greater earnings…the owners who do nothing. Who have no talents. Amazing ppl can be abnoyed by what ballplayersake…even in the safe sports fact is at least they really excell at something. But the brutality of football..now with these guys so fast….the mpact if corner and receivrr…they are sp big and so fast collisiom is just like. Nothimg in any other sport even boxing.

  2. john steppling says:

    molly — yeah, its i think with the NFL, the under cover issue of the last lock out. The league knew these law suits were coming. Im not sure they had any idea the extent…I dont think anyone did. Its the timing, that first generation of NFL players (more or less) are now hitting mid to late fifties….the first steriod generation I should say…..and suddenly, a HUGE % of them are coming down with the effects of these collisions. The physics of collisions were something not understood or thought about. And yeah, its always funny to hear about how players in any sport are over paid. They play for ten years. Thats it, IF that. Owners do nothing….its a plantation system.

  3. The average NFL career is 3 years. Most get no pension, or even healthcare. They are recruited out of usually poor high schools into SEC or Big 12 football factories. Most never make a buck playing football and come out physically wasted and without a degree. Even in the NFL most non quarterbacks or kickers end up broke and broken. Bruce Smith and Seau were the “lucky” ones.

    But still so much of America hates seeing “wealthy” black athletes asking for a just system.

  4. john steppling says:

    yeah,,,,3 yrs….but thats because so many wash out first season. But you’re right that the avg is quite low. Also, the statistics on college injuries is never revealed. HUGE numbers of kids never get past one season, sometimes….in college. Its not just head injuries — guys like mike webster ended up with chronic spine issues, and arthritis…all football related.

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