This past weekend, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the Super Bowl. I know I had hopes of a great game, hilarious commercials and an entertaining half-time show. The reality was that it was a good game, the commercials were not that funny, and the half-time show was entertaining but long. Super Bowl Sunday reminds me a lot of New Year’s Eve. The reality never seems to live up to the expectations.
During the broadcast on Sunday, I did make some observations, especially with respect to the commercials. Many of the commercials were about cryptocurrency and gambling. It was mostly uber-wealthy athletes and entertainers hawking gambling and crypto as ways to make us all feel better and get rich without having to do a lot of work. Matt Damon and his pitch phrase “fortune favors the brave” makes me laugh every time I hear it. I used to associate bravery with the likes of Neil Armstrong, Lewis and Clark or even Indiana Jones but now I have to include some random guy on his phone buying Dogecoin.
I’m not judging crypto or sports gambling but commenting more on the motivations behind the commercials. Clearly, the advertisers think that they can reach a customer base that is very interested in their product. To me, it says that there are a lot of people with an interest in finding a way to achieve quick financial success. Similar to what happened in the late 90s with the dot.com bubble and what always happens in Las Vegas, I fear that many will be disappointed down the road.
This week’s selection is:
Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury by Evan Osnos
While abroad, Mr. Osnos often found himself making a case for America, urging the citizens of Egypt, Iraq, or China to trust that even though America had made grave mistakes throughout its history, it aspired to some foundational moral commitments: the rule of law, the power of truth, the right of equal opportunity for all. But when he returned to the United States, he found each of these principles under assault. In search of an explanation for the crisis that reached an unsettling crescendo in 2020―a year of pandemic, civil unrest, and political turmoil―he focused on three places he knew firsthand: Greenwich, Connecticut; Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Chicago, Illinois. Reported over the course of six years, Wildland follows ordinary individuals as they navigate the varied landscapes of twenty-first-century America. Through their powerful, often poignant stories, Osnos traces the sources of America’s political dissolution. He finds answers in the rightward shift of the financial elite in Greenwich, in the collapse of social infrastructure and possibility in Clarksburg, and in the compounded effects of segregation and violence in Chicago. The truth about the state of the nation may be found not in the slogans of political leaders but in the intricate details of individual lives, and in the hidden connections between them. Following the lives of everyday Americans in three cities and across two decades, Osnos illuminates the country in a startling light, revealing how we lost the moral confidence to see ourselves as larger than the sum of our parts.