What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of a blog-a-thon celebrating The Great War, or as we Americans call it…World War I. This is an event hosted by a classic film well worth your time known as Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. The title is no lie, and that love shows in her writing. Check it out today, along with the rest of the blogs recommended in the Dubsism Blogroll.
If you know anything about military history over the last 50 centuries, you know that with sole exception of the first half of the Napoleon era, any story involving the French Army will be one of arrogance and incompetence colliding at super-sonic speed. “Paths of Glory” is no exception.
The crux of the story begins with a French general’s plan to break out of the trench-bound stalemate of World War I. Pinned down my murderous German machine-gun fire, the French soldiers can’t even get out of their own trenches to mount an attack. In order to give them some incentive to leave the relative safety of those protected positions, the French general orders his artillery to fire on his own troops.
When the French artillery commander refuses to carry out this order unless he is given it in writing, the general decides to charge the entire battalion with cowardice. Since the logistics of trying several hundred men at the same time aren’t feasible, the French tradition at the time was to draw the names of three soldiers by lot, put them on trial, and ultimately to execute them.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Picture the French general who is willing to fire on his own troops as idiot extraordinaire National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell. The scenario works like this. Much like the French Army in 1916, the National Football League is digesting itself through it’s own hypocrisy and incompetence. I think we all could bet pretty safely that Goodell is the kind of guy who can’t face the reality that he’s at least part of the problem.
You can tout whatever reason you want for the NFL’s television ratings doing a tank-job, but it’s painfully obvious that Kommissar Goodell has no idea what to do about it. Much like the character of General Mireau, Goodell projects his own incompetence and veritable impotence on to everybody around him because his ego prevents him from coming to terms with his role as Chief Fuck-it-Up Officer.
Both Mireau and Goodell fundamentally misunderstand the problems which face them. Despite the fact they are huddled in trenches under fire, Mireau believes in the invincibility of the French Army, and that his supreme leadership can conquer all. His ego is only out-matched by that of Goodell, who while subscribing to the doctrine of football’s infallibility fails to understand that his own arrogance is at the heart of all that ails the NFL.
How else can you explain a guy who tells fans “they need to be better educated” about the league’s numbingly stupid rules about “catch-not a catch?”
The Director’s Cut – The Bonus Analogy:
Originally the hidden sports analogy was all about the arrogant and incompetent leadership shown by NFL Kommissar Goodell. But this movie could easily be used to illustrate a whole new level of Goodell’s assholery.
At first in this film, the Goodell-like character General Mireau is against attacking the heavily-defended German position known as the “Anthill,” considering it to be virtually suicidal. But once there was a promotion involved, Mireau has no problem ordering his men to go over the top.
For 17 years under previous NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, there was peace in the labor-relations valley. After two contentious strikes in the 1980’s, his tenure as commissioner was known as the “Pax Tagliabue.” Roger Goodell was a ranking executive during this prosperous time in the NFL. Despite that, Goodell jumps at the chance to take on the risky proposition of trying to break the NFL player’s union once the prospect of being the next commissioner is dangled in front of him. Like Mireau, Goodell cares little about who suffers at the potential for his own personal gain.
And also like Mireau, he fails miserably.
The Moral of the Story:
Whether it’s 1916 or 2018, never underestimate the danger of incompetent and arrogant leadership.
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