Bob Franken: Nobody cares

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, May 12, 2015 8:18pm
  • Opinion

Is anybody the slightest bit surprised that, according to the investigator, it was “more probable than not” that an NFL team and its star quarterback were cheating? Professional athletes cheating? Be still, my heart. At least Tom Brady more probably than not came up with a novel way to do it instead of going the usual chemical route. His nonsteroidal offense was to order his minions to pump a little bit less air in the team’s game balls in a playoff game, because apparently squishy footballs are easier to throw and catch. That’s why the league has rules about that. But, it’s more certain than not that I don’t give a rat’s sass about “Deflategate.”

Ditto for the British election, in which the blithering Conservative Party defeated the dithering Labour candidates and in fact smited all those on the United Kingdom’s political center-left. Over here, on this side of the pond (which is the pretentious way to refer to the Atlantic), all of us pundits in our struggle to be relevant are cranking out columns and blustering commentary about what the U.K. election says about the U.S. upcoming elections.

First of all, the countries don’t have that much in common. Language? Obviously not. Whenever I’m watching British programs on the BBC (or their other major outlet, PBS), I can’t understand a word anybody’s saying. But they’re so civilized about it, which also sets them apart from us American riffraff.

Not only that, but the U.K.’s campaign season lasts just eight weeks, with no radio or TV advertising. After it’s over, the leaders of the losing parties just quit. Here in the colonies, we go nonstop, spending billions of dollars in the process, largely on broadcast commercials — although more and more of the pot is going to digital media, which is able to slice and dice the voters so accurately that we should have no illusions that the slightest bit of our lives remains private.

Also, few losers quit in the U.S. True, Mitt Romney apparently has decided not to make a third attempt, but the cast of recurring characters includes Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and even Donald Trump playing his usual games. And Hillary Clinton is making her second stab at it.

Speaking of her, there is one similarity to the Brits: We also seem to believe in dynasties. This will be the third time that we could see a Clinton vs. Bush competition. Hillary is no longer wife-of, and Jeb is trying to step out of the brother-of/son-of shadows. Each has his or her own high-level resume, and Hillary Clinton is trying to become this nation’s first female chief executive. Of course, jolly old England pulled that off a generation ago with the not-so-jolly Margaret Thatcher. And she did it without a family foundation that relied heavily on questionable foreign donations.

If we’re going to compare elections, we are probably much closer to the Israelis. Both feature appeals to the worst instincts of the voting population: prejudice, jingoism, a heavy dose of religious pandering. What they also have in common is some of the big-money contributors. Sheldon Adelson spends hundreds of millions of dollars in Israel for the Likud party, as he does in the United States for the Republicans, who are doing everything they can to fashion themselves as Likud-America.

All of this presumably matters more than whether some golden-boy quarterback gets suspended for the worst of all offenses — which, in the NFL, is getting caught. But as vital as the political considerations are for the well-being and future of our country, so few seem to care. Why would they?


Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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