Welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. Today, I offer some teasers about the upcoming Gotham television show (see below), ponder why I’m still watching NFL football games, and offer a book of the week by Caitlin Kittredge, who’s writing the fabulous and creepy Coffin Hill for DC’s Vertigo imprint.
What Did They *Think* Was On That Tape?
I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about my love of NFL football games for a while. First, there was the growing knowledge about the physical, long-term cost to players, next was the over-the-top expansion of the NFL to Thursday, a move that might be good for ratings but hardly allows the players to physically recover from a game just four days ago. And, of course, there’s the proof that many NFL players are less than role models, as can be seen by those arrested on various charges.
Then came the incredible mis-handling of the domestic violence case of Baltimore Ravens’ running Ray Rice. Rice was known to have assaulted his then-fiancee, now his wife, in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino earlier this year. There was tape of him dragging the unconscious women out of the elevator. On the legal side, Rice entered a pre-trial intervention program that could result in a clean record.
On the NFL side, he was suspended for two games.
Two games? For knocking another human being unconscious while other players had been suspended for six months to a year for testing positive for marijuana? That hardly seemed right. At the time the original suspension was handed down, sports columnist Peter King hinted that maybe the NFL knew what happened inside the elevator and that it somehow mitigated things. Implying, of course, that the victim might have contributed to the fight. Which sounded suspiciously like blaming the victim to me.
After a public uproar about Rice’s lenient suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced he’d gotten it wrong and changed NFL policy to a six-month suspension for a first domestic violence offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.
Then came the tape. TMZ released video of what happened inside that elevator. It’s a very disturbing tape and I won’t link it here but you can google it, if you haven’t seen it already.
Suddenly, everyone was appalled. Oh, no, that’s terrible. Rice’s team cuts him. The NFL suspends him indefinitely.
What the hell did hey think was on the tape?
Were they somehow able to justify Rice knocking the mother of his child unconscious in their minds because there wasn’t video? I don’t know. I suspect the NFL office, the Baltimore Ravens front office, the coaches and his teammates had convinced themselves it probably wasn’t that bad until they saw video and, yeah, it was that bad.
So Rice is suspended indefinitely. And Goodell now has to answer reports that the NFL had the in-elevator video all along, even though Goodell claims no one “to his knowledge” in the NFL office saw the tape. That “to his knowledge” is lawyer-speak for covering your ass.
There are many reasons I love the NFL.
I love watching the coaches try to out-guess each other. I love watching the game within a game. I’ve learned to focus not only on the ball but also the routes the receivers are running, which offensive lineman are pulling, which defensive lineman are bowling over the blockers, and why plays either work or break down. I have a secret (and utterly hopeless) dream of someday being an announcer. My son thinks I’d be good because I often say something about the game only to have it repeated seconds later by the announcers. Or notice things they don’t.
And I love the unpredictability of it all. You can’t make stuff like this up.
But now there are many reasons for me to hate the NFL, too.
There are the growing number of players who suffer with a brain disease like CTE or from other physical ailments that seriously impact the rest of their lives or even kill them, meaning players are literally dying to entertain me. There are also the players like Rice, or Lawrence Taylor (who I once idolized) who was convicted of having sex with an underage hooker, or Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot now on trial for murder.
I know, every profession has bad apples. There are surely huge swaths of wonderful men who play and are involved in football. But it’s getting increasingly harder to ignore the bad stuff, especially when it’s clear what the NFL is really concerned about is looking good so it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.
It’s a business. And it’s becoming an increasingly callous one.
My fandom is wavering.
Gotham: You Won’t Miss Batman
I received a screener of Gotham’s pilot last week. It’s very good. My main concern, about the casting of Jim Gordon, was alleviated quickly as Ben McKenzie is excellent in the role. However, Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock may steal the series from him. One, because Logue is great. Two, because sometimes it’s more interesting to watch a complicated, slightly wrong character struggle with choices than a clearly good one, like Jim Gordon.
But Gordon and Bullock have great chemistry together and Fox exactly gets the look and feel of Gotham right. It’s obvious no expense was spared on sets. There is one addition to the inevitable murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne that will surely raise eyebrows among comic fans. However, they will be happy to see Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen, and Montoya fans will be pleased to see that she’s clearly a lesbian in this show. That hasn’t changed.
There is also a bisexual character but to reveal who it is would be too spoilery as yet. The one flaw in the pilot is Fish Money (Jada Pinkett Smith) who is far too over-the-top in her role, almost as if she’s in a different show.
You should watch this.
Book of the Week: Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge
The main character of this book is a human women who becomes a hellhound to collect souls for her demon master. She’s been doing it for one hundred years and the first we see of Ava, she’s hunting down someone. Of course, he’s a horrible person, so our sympathies in this one are with the hunter and not the hunted.
Ava is an appealing character, put mostly in situations way over her head, like being caught between a Russian mobster with abilities to control the dead and her demon master, and then she’s pulled into a war with, well, Fallen Angels.
The story moves along at a breakneck pace. As a reader, I never felt safe and stayed up late one night to finish it. I cared deeply about Ava and the man she comes to love and how things would turn out for both of them.
This is a fascinating world, with a well-developed supernatural setting that includes Kittredge’s version of Hell. I highly recommend it for readers of urban fantasy. It’s out on October 28th but already available for pre-order.
And you should also buy Kittredge’s Coffin Hill comic for some great modern gothic horror.