Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Money Talks, But

It doesn’t necessarily win elections or championships.

The Dodgers thought they bought themselves a pennant this summer and were short-changed. Almost doubling their payroll got them second place and barely. The Lakers seem to be following the same pattern, a collection of bloated reputations rather than fresh legs on hungry bodies.

Karl Rove squandered 300 million bucks on a loser. If you’ve got nothing to say it doesn’t matter how many times you say it. Maybe voters can smell rancid ideas coming from a robotic mouth. Even those Sabbath gas-bags on Sunday morning shows couldn’t make the case.

We live in a saturation of brands, not only corporate-hyped names of products but public figures are also branded from Oprah to Barbra to Clint and Kobe. Tiger is a fallen brand climbing his way back. Manny and A-Rod are yesterday. Mitt is the day before yesterday. Bibi and Barack are today. Hilary and Jeb could be tomorrow.  

In most matters I’m so out of it I don’t find out about today until it’s last year. There is nothing so perishable as the marketplace. Has there ever been a laundry soap that isn’t labeled NEW? Why are cars changed annually? Was there something wrong with last year’s model?

To be sure, neither a team nor a candidate nor the latest wireless wizardry without which life cannot be lived… gets very far without a ton of money. Because of this we love the underdog, the one who achieves more on merit than noise and splash. We root for the small-market team of no-names to show-up the bloated marquee types with all their swagger and bling.

Bottom line: We seem to require some name recognition but resent being over-sold. We like to pretend we’re not being manipulated. We don’t like losers but also like to topple the winner. We believe the myth of the Natural, who comes from nowhere and whose rise is meteoric. That person becomes us, humble and incorruptible, however briefly.

There are limits to power; witness U.S. misadventures from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The mightiest arsenal in human history is helpless against guerrilla warfare.

On the other hand Americans are still infatuated with power, from the Goldman Sachs’ boardroom to Tony Soprano’s backroom.  During the long descent of his slipping-down life Tony loses his hold on us. When Wall St. similarly falls with a thud it takes us all down like the story of my uncle who was wiped out in the crash of 1929.  Some banker jumped out the window and landed on his pushcart.

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