The Whatever Digest, 9/5/18

Good morning! Let’s see what we’ve got today.

That Nike Ad: In which Colin Kaepernick’s face gazes out whilst the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” floats right around his nose. It’s been eliciting polarized responses, as it was almost certainly absolutely intended to do, and in the meantime is doing very well for both Nike and Kaepernick in terms of mindshare.

I was asked if I have any thoughts on the whole thing. My thoughts:

1. I’ve been generally for NFL players using the mandatory patriotic period before the game to protest, so it’s not like I was ever angry with Kaepernick et al for doing so, so the fuming, spitting rage a whole bunch of (white) folks feel at the man’s visage has completely missed me. Likewise it’s fairly obvious that his exile from the NFL has been about (from the owners point of view) warning uppity players to keep their heads down — great job there, guys — so the sentiment of the ad is likewise not all that controversial to me.

2. That Kaepernick is controversial at all — well. There’s a very high correlation between Kaepernick hatred and racism, whether that racism is overt or latent. So if you or someone you know is in a fuming outrage about the ad or Nike at the moment, some internal examination is probably in order.

3. As others have noted, it’s nearly impossible that an organization as media-savvy as Nike was not aware that angry, racist-in-some-manner-or-degree (white) folks would lose their shit over the ad; they factored it in, did the media research, and came to the conclusion that a) angry racist white people were not their general sales demographic, and/or b) that they could afford to lose the angry racist white person market for long-term gains to be made in a generally younger, multicultural, non(or at least less overall)-racist market down the road, and/or c) Nike’s market these days is global in any event. And you know what? They’re probably right about that.

4. Likewise, Nike was probably not so foolish as to not figure there would be a call for a “boycott,” and in fact I would go so far as to say that Nike probably counted on it — there is little better advertisement for Nike in its desired mostly young, mostly urban, mostly multicultural audience than a bunch of angry racist (white) people destroying Nike merchandise they already paid for and own. Also, Nike owns more of the sports apparel world than just Nike. I saw a comment from someone smugly saying they would never wear Nike again and have switched to Converse, and then someone pointing out who Converse is owned by.

5. Oh, and, the right-wing gloating about Nike’s market share taking a dip because of the ad? Well, here’s Nike’s 12-month stock chart:

That eentsey downturn at the right? From the ad. Meanwhile, 12 months ago Nike’s stock was 26 dollars less a share. If I were an investor in Nike, I wouldn’t be all that worried.

6. With all of that said, can Nike be reasonably accused of over-egging the pudding with the “sacrificing everything” bit? Kaepernick is still well-off, still a notable figure, still a free man with an endorsement contract with Nike and so on. He didn’t sacrifice everything like, say, Muhammad Ali sacrificed everything by protesting the draft, in which Ali was stripped of his titles, denied a license to box, had his passport withheld and was convicted of dodging the draft, a conviction that would take the Supreme Court to overturn.

“Or the troops! They gave everything! Don’t forget the troops! The troops!

Sure, okay, fine, the troops, although honestly the deployment of the troops as a silencing mechanism by conservatives is a rhetorical trope we need to examine thoroughly at some point, although that time is not now. But the question still stands: Did Kaepernick, in fact, “sacrifice everything” by standing for something?

Well, I don’t know. If you had a job, and you decided to risk it by standing for something your bosses found inconvenient, and indeed you were sacked and (very probably) blackballed from working in that particular field ever again, would you say you had sacrificed everything? Would others say it? Would it matter if you tailored your protest (as Kaepernick did) to be respectful, only to have it decided after the fact that it wasn’t respectful at all? Would it matter if you were vilified and hated by an entire segment of the population, up to and including the President of the United States?

I think it’s obvious that Nike went for a dramatic formulation in its ad copy because, surprise, it’s ad copy. And you can grouse about whether the ad copy should be taken literally if you want. But Kaepernick sticking to his guns to the point of being made an object lesson by NFL owners to other players is significant enough that I’m not going to sweat a smidge of ad copy hyperbole.

7. That said, I think the formulation of the ad at the top of the post is even more accurate. Remember Bing-Bong, y’all.


Krissy sent me an email this morning with the header “kingdom of the spiders” and warned me to be careful stepping onto the back deck today, so naturally I had to go out and see. And indeed, there are lots of spider webs out back today, including one especially ambitious one that spans the steps from the deck to the concrete path to the garage. The culprits are a bunch of orb weavers that have sprung up in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had a rainy summer, so we have lots of bugs, and that’s good news for the local spider population, which has boomed to match.

I’m not in the least squicked out by spiders, and I appreciate the job they go killing the crap out of the insects that do bother me, so by and large I’m perfectly content to let the orb weavers do their thing around the house, as long as they do it outside. With that said, I think the ambitious one, the one at face level to anyone trying to walk up to our deck using the steps, will probably have to go. Sorry, Ms. Orb Weaver. Location is everything.

And no, no pictures for this particular spider web. The dew has evaporated and it’s hard to photograph. Also I know some of you are spider-sensitive. But if spiders and spiderwebs are your thing, I have a lovely photo album of some from last year, here.


Oh hey, look, a new Steve Perry song!

As a very very long-time Journey and Steve Perry fan, the fact that Perry is coming back into the spotlight after almost a quarter-century away pleases me immensely, and what I’ve heard of the upcoming album Traces has been pretty good. Perry’s voice is a bit more crackly than it was in his heyday, but it would be, wouldn’t it; anyone who expecting a nearly 70-year-old man to have the same litheness of voice as he had in his youth is, shall we say, burdened with expectation. But what is there is Perry’s particular sense of musical phrasing and pacing, which is right where it’s always been. Lots of people have tried to sound like Steve Perry, but very few actually get it right, and Perry’s own sense of musicality is why. It’s singular.

This particular song, I will note, is co-written by my pal Dan Wilson, the former frontman for Semisonic and the fellow who co-wrote the Adele’s absolute monster hit “Someone Like You,” which helped her (and him!) pick up All The Grammys a few years back. When the song list for Traces came out and I saw his credit, I immediately DM’d him “YOU WORKED WITH STEVE PERRY AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME,” which he found pretty funny. Yeah. Funny. But I’m delighted that they got to work together, and that the song they worked together on is a keeper. I’m looking forward to the rest of this album, and having Steve Perry back in the world of music.

39 Comments on “The Whatever Digest, 9/5/18”

  1. Got me thinking, what is a group of spiders called? Ended up googling for clarity, apparently, it’s a “cluster.” As in, “Fuck! There is a cluster event of spiders on my back porch.”

  2. The entire market yesterday was, depending on what index you look at, flat to down. And the emerging markets indices are, well, 2008ish looking. Which is to say, I don’t think the Kapernick thing had much if any effect on Nike’s stock price.

  3. The Krazy Kaepernick Kontroversy is being produced by a massive multibillion-dollar multinational corporation headquartered in Whitopia, Oregon.


  4. Someone should look and see if Trump has a Nike putter in his bag.

    Or does golf not count in the boycott.

  5. Thanks for your thots on Colin, Nike’s new ad, etc. I agree with what you’ve written.

    As someone who lives to your left one state over, assuming your front door faces north, I too am surrounded by the arrival of the Autumn Spiders. I have 32 windows in my house and I think there is a large brown Autumn Spider outside of each window with several by the kitchen windows due to the patio post light. This morning I counted eight webs on my metal driveway fence. In the morning sun, it was quite a Halloween-y sight.

    I don’t want them in the house or on me, but I do enjoy their habits. They aren’t fond of us human beans and will draw up as small as possible in the middle of the web or, if it’s almost morning anyway, they run to their daytime safe place. If they close up shop for the day normally, as opposed to hiding from me passing by, I have noticed that they cut the web loose and leave only one line to begin on in the evening. At least, the ones by the kitchen windows do that.

    For someone who was terrified of spiders as a child and younger woman, I am amazed at my interest and appreciation of them now. But again – NOT in the house or heaven forbid, on me.

  6. As a more or less conservative type person I would love to blast the idea that the whole Kapernick hated = racism thing as hogwash. Unfortunately as an honest person, I cannot. He was never that good of a quarterback outside of a specific RPO format that does not translate well to most other teams but it does seem weird that he is still out of the league. However what really sells it for me is that the same thing is happening to Eric Reid, a very good safety who is likewise unemployed.

  7. Can someone explain to me how kneeling is disrespectful? Sitting would be disrespectful, but kneeling is a symbol of subservience and submission; I don’t understand how it can be disrespectful to the military, the country or the flag. I can understand an argument on how it’s disrespectful to cops since it’s Kapernick’s protest against police brutality, but the reason he’s kneeling instead of sitting is explicitly to respect the military and the country.

  8. Hey look, it’s that “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” guy! The famous “power chords” wouldn’t have had the impact without his voice on top! Is it me, or does that added raspiness in his voice make him sound even more like Rod Stewart?

  9. @Bryanlarsen

    If someone considered white supremacy a basic American value, then protesting white supremacy would logically be protesting American values, which could loosely be parsed as disrespecting the flag or disrespecting the anthem.

    I don’t *know* what motivates these people, but that models fairly consistently, is all I am saying.

    Personally I think protesting white supremacy is standing up for America’s most cherished values, and that there is no better place to do than than in front of the flag, and no better time to do that than during the national anthem.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  10. The thing most people don’t seem to realize is that the Supreme Court long ago ruled that one is not required to stand or salute the flag if they have moral or religious reasons not to do so. The Constitution guarantees this right. Too, the proper use and handling of the flag are laws that are regularly broken by faux patriots. Clearly this whole thing is just plain stupid.

    Anyway, great to hear Steve Perry again! Can’t wait to share that with my bride. She’s been a huge fan for as long as he’s been around. Thanks!

  11. I have assumed that the anger at NFL kneeling is because Trump and his ilk want obedience, or can’t abide disobedience (and because disobedience from black people is a reminder of circumstances of partial equality they wish were not so). They can’t get respect, because they won’t and can’t earn it. They aren’t interested in ameliorating the conditions leading the protests – Republican policy on racial issues has veered from “La! La! La! I can’t hear you!” to actively courting bigots. They aren’t particularly concerned for soldiers (the alleged objects of disrespect), since neither party (I think) has really tried to act in their interests.

    Unfortunately, I don’t buy much Nike gear, so I don’t do them much good, however much I appreciate them annoying bigots and nutweasels (at least their choice of enemy is sound).

  12. Trump, who campaigned on telling his audiences they won’t need to let the “Political Correctness” people push them around any more, has been insisting that the NFL fire Kap for his political incorrectness.
    I had to fly last week, and got on the airplane behind the Santa Clara University volleyball team. The women and their coaches were wearing Nike gear, and I thought grumbling thoughts about commercialism. Then a day or two later the ad came out – Go Nike! :-) (I don’t wear their shoes, but that’s because stores don’t carry them in wide, plus I tend to buy cheap sneakers and not wear them often, not because of politics.)

  13. Pedro – there’s a lot of mediocre to crappy quarterbacks running around to throw one away (the Browns have had a hard time finding one, for example, though the remaining aspects of their talent recruitment leave something to be desired). If his quality were the reason for his exile then it would make more sense, but it does not appear to be. He probably isn’t Tom Brady but he is likely at least average, which in the NFL is generally a long-term sinecure.

  14. Here’s a million dollar idea for Nike: next ad is a soldier in uniform with the same slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

    All the folks currently rushing to boycott Nike for “disrespecting the troops” would have to run out and buy new Nike wardrobes to show their “support for America,” and Kaepernick could take the opportunity to explain that he’s fine with that, because his protest was never about disrespecting the troops. Who knows, a public stand *for* the troops from Kaepernick might actually move the conversation from being about him to being about what he was originally protesting in the first place…

  15. Obligatory xkcd regarding the spiders on John’s deck. Krissy gets back and sees John wrapped in spider silk and suspended from the ceiling.

    On the plus side, the spider doing the typing has nailed John’s style.

  16. CK’s protest is against police brutality and has never been “about him”. He’s a great American and his display of personal dignity by rising above the crap artists attacking him is an example of real American courage. He’s a leader for a new generation.

  17. I remember when it was cool to hate Nike because they used Asian sweatshop labor to produce subpar products.

  18. Brian Greenberg:

    Someone already tried that, using Pat Tillman, expressly to criticize Nike for the Kaepernick ad. There was irony in that.

    Also, you’re wrong about that being a million dollar idea. Neither Nike nor Kaepernick wants to be seen responding to or honoring what is in fact a fake and cynical dichotomy offered up by people who are either disingenuous for political purposes, or have been gulled by the disingenuous. This isn’t an argument with Kaepernick on one side and “the troops” on the other, and it would be foolish for Nike or Kaepernick to accept that framing, since among other things the people pushing that framing would then use it to cudgel them both. Kaepernick’s already been very clear what he’s doing and why. It doesn’t matter to the people who want to put a different frame on the discussion.

    Nike and Kaepernick are the ones already driving this, in other words, and everyone else is responding to them. There’s no reason at all for them to give up that perceptual high ground.

  19. Observing the whole “owning the libs” phenomenon, I now root for large corporations to do something to peeve these people. But it has to be something major, like Ford or Century 21, I want to see alt-Righters burning their pickups and houses while I exclaim in fake horror: “Oh Noes. Please don’t own me again.” But cutting holes in your over-priced socks, that’s a start.

  20. A friend sent a thing showing Rod Serling asking us to imagine a country where a sneaker ad is more controversial than a mass shooting.

    That is Donald Trump’s America.

  21. Athletic apparel is highly image-driven–what you’re buying is a logo, after all. Back in the “I Like Mike” Air Jordan era Nike had the image of hard-core sports, pushing your limits as far as you can. Then everyone and their sister started wearing Nike, and it lost it’s cachet. UnderArmor came along, and replaced Nike as the hard-core jock brand with a gloss of rebellious coolness as well (I always attributed much of the initial cool factor for UA gear to the gangbangers in “The Wire” being dressed out in their logos. Smart marketing move there!). But Since those days UA is now just another brand, and their sales reflect it. So in the world of athletic apparel–UA, Nike, Adidas, Reebok (typecast as the brand for middle-aged housewives taking Zumba classes at the Y), Champion, and the few others there’s a constant battle for space inside everyone’s head.

    I think this was a smart move for Nike. Puts them in front of those under 30 who by and large support Kaepernick (and that’s where to desired market is; it’s not 60 year-old semi-retirees who are the demographic upset at the protests), re-establishes the brand as edgy, and has generated enormous press.

    And it makes me want to go out and buy a Nike shirt or two.

  22. John, I know you don’t mean what a lot of people mean when they say “now isn’t the time” about something. So, as a serious question, why do you think this is not the time to deconstruct the “but the troops!” gambit, and when do you think would be the time?

    @ bryanlarsen: Kneeling in protest has a history behind it. And it should be noted that when that photo was taken, the action was also decried as being “disrespectful” (although not “of the troops” specifically; that’s a contemporary refinement).

    @ Privateiron: Well, Levi Strauss & Co. has now allied with the people advocating for sane gun control. That should be popcorn-worthy.

    More generally, we as a country appear to be moving in the direction of a long–term split between (for lack of better terms) Equality America and Bigot America, and increasingly there’s going to be pressure on companies to declare their allegiance to one or the other. If it doesn’t devolve into an outright civil war, a lot of it will play out economically.

  23. Lee:

    Now isn’t the time here because I was talking about something else and I didn’t want to go off on a tangent.

    But obviously anyone else can talk about it in their own space at any time.

  24. Hasn’t President Trump already pillaged veterans and families of veterans who said things he didn’t like (let alone John McCain), without much of a rush by the Republicans to defend them? If that’s accurate, then what is really meant is that Republicans don’t have to show respect to what they (claim to) value, only other people. I don’t think I’d want to play on that “intellectual” battleground, either.

  25. @ John: Ah, okay — I read your statement more globally than you intended it. But if you’re taking suggestions for Digest entries, I’d be very interested in seeing your take on that trope.

    @ Hap: Somewhere recently, I saw a very well-reasoned argument to the effect that Republicans really, seriously believe that the rules are different for them and for us, and that’s why pointing out their blatant hypocrisy just… bounces. To them, it’s not hypocrisy at all to hold us to a standard they don’t follow themselves; that’s just how the world works.

  26. And the attempt to enlist the dead Pat Tillman backfired when his biographer pointed out that Tillman’s political views would have led him to support CK.

    There is absolutely no reason why CK should have to defend himself against a lie, and suggesting that he should smacks of the ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ mode, which is commonly used by the maliciously minded.

  27. re:spiders; Yeah, I was disappointed that groups of spiders are known as clusters or clutters. It would be appropriate if spider groups were a ‘strand’ or a ‘fate’ of spiders.

    re: Kaepernick::Nike ad & people destroying their own property over it; The right going out to buy French wine and post pictures pouring it out in the gutter was also a thing during Bush43’s Gulf War II. The idea of ‘Owning the Libs’ by the rights resulted in counter-suggestions of “Obama says drinking bleach is bad!” and “Liberals use Oxygen when Breathing!” About nobody on the left sees these as anything but humor.

    That said there have been pictures of people trying to ‘Own the Libs’ by sticking their heads in engine exhaust in ‘Rolling Coal’ pictures.

  28. I really should catch up on what Dan Wilson’s been doing – all I know of his work is one of the Trip Shakespeare LPs (Are You Shakespearienced?) from when I lived in the Twin Cities some 30 years ago.

  29. As much as I agree with Kaepernick’s feelings and support his right to protest as he has, he made himself a lightning rod and shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t want to be a ground wire for him. And good for you, Nike.

    I really wish I could keep spiders out of my house, but I live in the edge of the woods. They’re everywhere.

  30. I just watched the first Kaepernick ad and must say that it was rather uplifting. Of course, it is a lot of smalz trying to sell stuff but still not bad at all

  31. I’m fine with most spiders, but as a kid the big black and yellow spiders we got in northern Ohio scared the crap out of me ( I believe). They liked to build in open spaces, so they would be across paths in the woods, between trees, and just about anywhere you were likely to try and want to walk.

    i could also do without the black widows we have in NorCal, since I find them in just about every covered place outdoors. You very quickly learn to use a stick to clean out any cover you open on a valve or pool skimmer.

  32. The first rule of fascism is this: dissent must not be allowed.

    A black man silently kneeling in protest of racism must be twisted into being an attack, a crime, anything so long as it pressures the dissent to stop

  33. Speaking purely as a citizen, the notion of using the national symbols to protest an obvious injustice seems like an utter no-brainer. “Equal justice under law”? Not? Live up to your promises, flag. Live up to your aspirations, song. Duh.

    It’s as a GI, though, that this insane football-anthem-protest-hate really gets up my wick. First, because by sheer statistics the vast majority of the people shrieking about how this is an outrage that spits on The Troops were never Troops themselves or had any intention of being A Troop.

    And, second, because I WAS A Troop, and if you’re using my Troopiness as a club to beat these protesters with then you’re a total dick making a total dick move. It’s not your call to make.

    (As a side note, you’d better hope that flags and anthems AREN’T about The Troops, because if they are you’re living in Falangist Spain or Fascist Italy, not The Land of the Free.)

    And even if they were, you can count at least THIS Troop out of your little ragegasm, because IMO anyone who hijacks my time in the tree suit to belabor a peaceful protest against judicial murder is a worthless oxygen-thief unworthy of my, or any of my brothers’ and sisters’ “service”.

  34. I guess we see this differently. I do not believe that an ad featuring a soldier would be a “response” by CK, or Nike, to anybody. I think it would be a way to *reinforce* CK’s message that his protests are not about the troops and never have been. In my opinion, Nike and CK have the opportunity to state plainly that the concept of “sacrificing for your beliefs” is just as applicable to a football player who loses his job over his beliefs about injustice as it is to a soldier who loses his life over his beliefs about defending the country. This is what CK (and his allies) have been saying about the protests all along, and this seems like a “media moment” that can be used to reinforce that (very powerful and perfectly valid) message.

    Regarding “the conversation being about him”: I understand that the protest was never about him. But the conversation about the protest has been (again, in my opinion) far too much about him and far too little about the cause he sought to highlight. This isn’t CK’s fault at all (his professional struggles and the constant carping by the President and others make for a much sexier story than a discussion about racial injustice). The ad campaign can be a tool to reverse that trend.

  35. I find the ways segments of our country view soldiers and veterans today deeply uncomfortable. Their are almost a religious fetish or object of worship while in many cases the actual human beings are mostly not even seen. As a result, I typically avoid mentioning I’m a veteran in most discussions. I’ve noticed a lot of other veterans share a similar discomfort these days.

    I initially wrote a much longer comment that was becoming ‘ranty’. I guess I feel more strongly about this topic than I had realized. My central point, though, was that I do not appreciate people trying to wrap their racism in the uniform I wore. Our ideals matter, even if we have always fallen short of them as a country. And those of us who served, swore to defend those ideals. Kaepernick has been doing precisely what we swore an oath to ensure he could do. The consequences of taking a stand are unpredictable because they are out of your control. You never know how much, if anything, you will have to sacrifice most of the time. I’m sure he would rather be playing football. Nothing in his actions somehow dishonors any soldier or veteran. The response of the racists does. Yes, you have the “right” to exist as a racist in our country as long as you don’t act in a legally prohibited way to harm others, but stop smearing it on those of us who actually did serve.