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What Jackie Wallace Said, And Less Important Super Bowl 52 Trash Talk

Here we all are, at the end of yet another NFL, and other, football season. Like parting,the Super Bowl is always such sweet sorrow. It is the ultimate American football game, and yet it is also the end. Sure, there is the pretentious and ever petulant star driven NBA, and, sure, pitchers and catchers are reporting within days for those who think the boys of summer really belong in the pre-spring.

But, this weekend, is the Super Bowl. Even in an insanely Arctic like location as the 6º stupidity of Minneapolis, it is the biggest event there is. Sure, Goodell and the @NFL needs to encourage every franchise city to rape their taxpayers for a publicly funded stadium, but placing the biggest event in American sports in insanely inhospitable locations is a craven price to pay and play.

Enough of that though. It is now Super Bowl weekend. Eagles and Patriots. There are a ton of compelling stories athletically.

Yet none of them stack up. None even hold a candle, to the story that NOLA photojournalist Ted Jackson published today about Jackie Wallace:

One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.
He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought.

Jackie Wallace played in three Super Bowls. He was not just a good player, but a great one. Yet Ted Jackson found him in a fetal position underneath a bridge in New Orleans. Yes, there was a heartwarming redemption story:

But the best was yet to come. Three years later, I sat working at my desk writing photo captions for some run-of-the-mill story. Above my desk, a large glass wall separated the photo lab from the newsroom. As I worked, I was startled by a sharp rap on the glass. I looked up to see Jackie Wallace’s 6-foot, 3-inch frame towering over me, dressed in a three-piece suit with his arms stretched as wide as he was tall.
Beaming with his gap-tooth grin, he exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?”

But, no, it did not end there. It went very dark. These are the NFL stories none of us want to hear. But their presence and message are all to clear. Let them whisper in your ear. Please, I implore you, read Ted Jackson’s account on Jackie Wallace. It will rip your guts out, and you will be better for that.

For Act II, I want to point out a seriously awesome contribution from my friend Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, and legitimately so, “I nearly quit watching the NFL. The humanity of Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long brought me back”:

For Chris Long’s former high school football coach John Blake, there is one moment — and one image — that really showed the world what the Eagles defensive end is all about. And it wasn’t Long’s headline-grabbing announcement that he’d donate all his 2017 game paychecks to worthwhile causes, including two scholarships to send underprivileged kids to his Charlottesville, Va., alma mater, the St. Anne’s-Belfield School.

It was the preseason game back in August when the 10-year NFL veteran stood up for the national anthem and — in a gesture of solidarity and support — put his arm around his teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who was raising his fist to protest racial injustice in America. It was no little thing, as Long became the most visible white supporter of the protests that have roiled pro football for the last two seasons.

“What Chris was trying to do, basically, was to say that we need to listen — he’s got a point, all of these guys who are doing this are doing this for a reason,” said Blake, still head coach at the Virginia prep school. It was a brave political statement around the time when no less than the president of the United States was berating any athlete who protested during the anthem as a “son of a bitch,” but that arm-wrap also set the stage for all the giving-back good deeds that Jenkins, Long, and, increasingly. their Eagles teammates did in the Philadelphia community in the days that followed.

It does not end there. Will Bunch’s discussion of what Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles has done, and how he has conducted himself, is even better.

While Jenkins drew flak from some for raising his fist during the anthem, he was also forging close ties with the Philadelphia Police Department, not just meeting with top brass but riding around with rank-and-file officers to learn how cops and the communities they serve can develop better trust — a real-world strategy for reducing shootings by police. While some angry fans, with Donald Trump’s hateful “son of a bitch” rant burning in their ears, chortled that protesting black athletes didn’t even know what they were protesting for, Jenkins made a mockery of that ignorant claim. He was busy writing a searing series on criminal justice in the Philadelphia Citizen, traveling to Harrisburg to lobby lawmakers on “Clean Slate” legislation to wipe clean the records of low-level nonviolent offenders, urging sweeping reform of the broken bail system, and calling on Pennsylvania to release inmates given life-without-parole sentences as juveniles. One such ex-offender who did win his freedom recently, Kempis Songster, will be in the stands at the Super Bowl — because Jenkins paid his way to get there.

Seriously, go read it.

Okay, enough for the emotional moralizing. Though I think it is a more than decent time and platform to do so on and from. Let’s get down to the Wild Night:

Lot of people yak about the high holy commercials. Save for a couple (Hi early Apple!) I think they are WAY overrated. So, let us talk for a moment about the halftime shows. As Vulture does with many bands and things, they have drilled down to an all time ranking of Super Bowl halftime shows.

Honestly, I take issue with a LOT of their rankings. There are two I do not, however. The first is their top rank for Prince in 2007. In the driving rain, Prince was beyond awesome. That was indeed the best.

The second best, however, to me was Diana Ross at Super Bowl XXX which Vulture has at only number 6. I will have to admit, I am far from impartial as that was at Sun Devil Stadium and I was there about fifteen rows up from the floor. Diana was unreal, and the helicopter thing was simply insane. Were the acoustics etc. perfect? Nope. But Diana Ross owned the place. I wish I could describe it, but I can’t do better than that. It was more memorable than the game, and remains so to this day (Aikman and Cowboys beat Neil O’Donnell and the Steelers in a fair, but not that close game).

So, the Pats are taking on the Eagles. Who wins? For all those saying it is a slam dunk, remember, the Pats never win by much or clearly in Super Bowls. They may be the dynasty they are, but the margin in the Super Bowls, whether they win or lose (Hi Eli!) is always small, at best. This looks to be another one of those. Nick Foles is better than people give him credit for, and, AGAIN, if Doug Peterson turns Foles lose and lets him rip, this may be a far different game than most people and oddsmakers think. I see it as a pick em 24 hours ahead of time. Enjoy!

Okay, in the musical selections for this week, I may have substituted Jackie Wilson for Jackie Wallace. The joy with which Van Morrison plays on Jackie Wilson and Wild Night seem right for the joy Jackie Wallace played with in his prime. Let’s remember that, and think of Jackie and all the aging stars of our youth. They brought great joy then, time to give back that appreciation. Enjoy the Super Bowl one and all.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Superb Owl: Keeping Eye on Fans and More?

If humans could see the full spectrum of radiation, the San Francisco Bay Area shines bright like the sun this evening — not from lighting, but from communications. The Super Bowl concentrates more than 100,000 people, most of whom will have a wireless communications device on their person — cellphone, phablet, or tablet. There are numerous networks conveying information both on the field, the stands and to the fans watching globally on television and the internet.

And all of the communications generates massive amounts of data surely monitored in some way, no matter what our glorious government may tell us to the contrary. The Super Bowl is a National Special Security Event (NSSE), rated with a Special Event Assignment Rating (SEAR) level 1. The designation ensures the advance planning and involvement of all the three-letter federal agencies responsible for intelligence and counterterrorism you can think of, as well as their state and local counterparts. They will be watching physical and electronic behavior closely.

Part of the advance preparation includes establishing a large no-fly zone around the Bay Area. Non-government drones will also be prohibited in this airspace.

What’s not clear to the public: what measures have been taken to assure communications continuity in the same region? Yeah, yeah — we all know they’ll be watching, but how many of the more than one million visitors to the Bay Area for the Super Bowl are aware of the unsolved 15 or 16 telecom cable cuts that happened over the last couple of years? What percentage of local residents have paid or are paying any attention at all to telecommunications infrastructure, or whether crews “working” on infrastructure are legitimate or not?

Planning for a SEAR 1 event begins almost as soon as the venue is announced — perhaps even earlier. In the case of Super Bowl 50, planning began at least as early as the date the game was announced nearly 34 months ago on March 28th, 2014. The Levi’s stadium was still under construction as late as August that same year.

And the first cable cut event happened nearly a year earlier, on April 16, 2013 — six months after Levi’s Stadium was declared one of two finalists to host the 50th Super Bowl, and one month before Levi’s was awarded the slot by NFL owners.

News about a series of 11 cable cuts drew national attention last summer when the FBI asked for the public’s assistance.  These events happened to the east of San Francisco Bay though some of them are surely inside the 32-mile radius no-fly zone observed this evening.

But what about the other cuts which took place after April 2013, and after the last of 11 cuts in June 2015? News reports vary but refer to a total of 15 or 16 cuts about which law enforcement has insufficient information to charge anyone with vandalism or worse. A report last month quotes an FBI spokesperson saying there were 15 attacks against fiber optic cable since 2014. Based on the date, the number of cuts excludes the first event from April 2013, suggesting an additional four cuts have occurred since June 2015.

Where did these cuts occur? Were they located inside tonight’s no-fly zone? Will any disruption to communications services be noticed this evening, when so many users are flooding telecommunications infrastructure? Will residents and visitors alike even notice any unusual technicians at work if there is any disruption?

Keep your eyes peeled, football fans.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.