HEAD OVER HEELS: Samohi's Will Taylor tackles Beverly Hills wide receiver Harry Green during last week's game. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@www.smdp.com)

CURIOUS CITY — GO LONG DOWN THE FROZEN FOODS AISLE AND I’LL THROW A ROPE. I admit it, I can be a pain in the butt sometimes. I’m that guy who will complain, if I feel a principle is involved. Calmly but firmly, injecting a sense of humor if possible, not going to extremes, but I do believe if you always say nothing about what’s wrong you can have no expectation that it will change for the better.
My family didn’t even raise an eyebrow when I said I was going to return the 20-pack of Dr. Pepper I just bought, because when I tore it open to stock the fridge and pulled out the first can, there was a great big “NFL” and the outline of a hulking player wrapped around 2/3 of the can, staring at me.
Ordinarily I would have been perturbed but might have shrugged and thought, I’ll put up with these, try not to notice and next time make sure I get less morally offensive packaging. But now, this week, is different.
I have always disliked football. Yes, it has athleticism and some amazing performances, but at its core it doesn’t have the grace of other sports. It’s all hit and run, by extremely large men.
It’s more Roman coliseum than Olympic stadium. It’s a blood sport, as far as the fan reaction it is calculated to invoke. Hit ‘em harder! Concussions? You wimp, it’s part of the game. Not to mention what it does to the gladiators’ bones. Watch the opening sequence again of “North Dallas Forty.”
No other sport besides boxing is more based on hitting your opponent as hard as you can, with no regard for injury. Yours or the other guy’s.
With recent revelations about head injuries, plus statistics for ex-NFL players for memory loss, diminished life expectancy, depression, suicide rates, dementia, debilitating effects from a steady stream of team-injected painkillers, and more, it’s become clear what kind of performer NFL teams require for excellence. So is it any wonder they and their commissioner Goodell try to sweep all the bad stuff that seeps off the field into the real world under the rug and certainly don’t see it as a problem, given the athletes they’ve molded to play this game? We are talking billions, at stake here.
It’s the same physicality and mentality that makes slugging your girlfriend unconscious or beating your four-year-old black and blue and cut and bleeding with a tree branch switch not much of a surprise.
All this is background to the antipathy I felt holding that Dr. Pepper can, and not wanting 20 of them in my house. Von’s refunded my money with no fuss, but here’s what got me.
The manager-of-the-moment seemed clueless as to why this would be an issue for me, or anyone. Not derisive, offended, incredulous or amused, just… mildly curious. “That’s on every can, you know,” she informed me.
“All of them?” I asked. “Coke and Pepsi and 7 Up?”
“Yes,” she replied, then seemed puzzled what to say next. “It’s the NFL ‚Äì football. It’s very popular.” Like I might possibly be from Mars and not aware of this.
“Well, it’s a lot less popular now, with what’s been going on the last two weeks,” I countered. (A hope, not a fact.)
No reaction, no response, like, suit yourself, I have no idea what’s bothering you but I’ll refund your money.
I asked her to pass along my return and my complaint to higher management. She seemed confused by the request. “We can’t tell the companies what to put on their cans…”
“I know,” I said, “but I want your company to know there are customers who find this offensive.”
I doubt she did mention it to anyone. But I was surprised at the neutrality of her response. Is it possible she did not know anything about what dominated the news for the previous 10 days? Hadn’t even heard anyone talking about it? Or she knew but still couldn’t figure out why anything NFL would bother anyone? No scandal, nothing troubling here?
In the middle of pondering this and writing about it, I received a note from my friend Diane with a piece by Charles Simic titled “Age of Ignorance,” from the New York Review of Books. It starts out, “Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise… What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect.
“An educated, well-informed population …would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country.” Uh oh, here we go, into la-la conspiracyland. This is intentional, planned, engineered?
But doesn’t this explain a lot, of other nagging questions? “There’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened… A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.”
Simic has been teaching college-level American Literature for 40 years. He posits that our current state of the celebration of ignorance “is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past.”
He implicates cable TV and the Internet “but to have it believed requires a badly educated population unaccustomed to verifying things they are being told.
“Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.” Oh, smack, fellow Charles.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” – Edward R. Murrow
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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