Their Eyes Were Watching Godzillatron

Football is a religion, they say, and its god, these days, is the Godzillatron, the Adzillatron, the Jumbotron… like the deity, this massive high definition video screen with massive advertisements screaming at you from the moment you enter the stadium to the moment you leave, goes by many names…

Ever since 2009, when the University of Texas got the first one in the country, dozens of other American universities have gotten their own monster video display. The one proposed for a new stadium at the University of Nevada Las Vegas will run the entire length of the field.

What’s strange about the massively expensive Adzillatron is that everyone hates it; and indeed many people point to it as contributing in an important way to the emptying out of the university stadium. Where’d everyone go? Why are many students – even at places like the University of Alabama - not going to the games, or going but leaving early? Tons of explanations have been offered, but UD thinks that the phenomenon of the Godzillatron, while only part of the answer, is an illuminating focal point for any discussion of the terrific fiasco for which contemporary American university football is headed. Of course one has to toss into the too-disgusted-to-attend mix all the scandals – criminal, hemorrhagic, sexual, academic – plus all the overpaid coaches and castrated presidents blahblah… But the heart of university football is the stadium experience, and if that experience had been able to retain a shred of authenticity, the fiasco might have been averted.

Here’s what happens at a [Mississippi State] football game these days: 3rd & 7, we’re on defense, tie game, offense calls timeout. [Colubus Ortho Harlem shake, Kiss cam]. Everyone’s attention is drawn to the jumbotron, away from focusing on the task at hand – getting our defense pumped to stop the other team!

I don’t need a bunch of distractions. I’m there to watch a football game.

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[University of] Michigan football fans don’t just love football. They love Michigan football — the history, the traditions, the rituals — the timeless elements that have grown organically over decades. They are attracted to the belief that Michigan football is based on ideals that go beyond the field, do not fade with time, and are passed down to the next generation — the very qualities that separate a game at the Big House from the Super Bowl.

After the 2013 Notre Dame game, [our Athletic Director] said, “You’re a 17-18 year old kid watching the largest crowd in the history of college football with airplanes flying over and Beyonce introducing your halftime show? That’s a pretty powerful message about what Michigan is all about, and that’s our job to send that message.”

Is that really what Michigan is all about? Fly-overs, blaring rock music and Beyonce? Beyonce is to Michigan football what Bo Schembechler is to — well, Beyonce. No, Michigan is all about lifelong fans who’ve been coming together for decades to leave a bit of the modern world behind — and the incessant marketing that comes with it — and share an authentic experience fueled by the passion of the team, the band and the students. That’s it.

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Coach says: Thou shalt have no other Godzillatrons before me. Narcotic simulacral standardized screen gigantism is the heart of the postmodern doctrine being preached… Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled… But keep thine eye upon the Godzillatron which I have given to you and thine lip upon the fruit of the vine which also I have given unto you, and rest in the arms of the Lord forever… And yet in their ornery unpredictable way Americans are beginning to break away from the faith. They seem to be experiencing it as inauthentic. Not the true faith.

The Book of Mormon…

… and the university professor.

“Academic freedom is not sacrosanct. [...] It too must submit to God in a Christian college.”

A touch of Iran. Right here in the US of A.

What’s the …

diff?

‘Trustees expressed reservation, however, about turning its athletic facilities into a “price list.” Trustee Finis St. John IV suggested that some sort of oversight be established that would include the naming opportunity to be approved by the athletic director and/or university president. “Someone could create some mischief,” St. John said. “We don’t need to have it as a price list. There needs to be some level of approval on this and on the naming rights, that they be appropriate.”’

Everything’s for sale at the University of Alabama, including the opportunity to have your name appear in the chancel itself, Nick Saban’s most sacred private place.

Gilead Inc.

The nitty gritty on compensation starts on page 27 of Gilead’s proxy document. Its compensation mix for Gilead’s executive group is skewed towards equity awards that are over 200% of base salary and annual bonus opportunity. On page 34 it’s noted that Gilead’s CEO John Martin took home more than $90 million making him one of the 10 highest paid CEO’s in the country. His 5-year compensation exceeded $250 million, top man in the pharma sector. Generous options and stock grants fueled by marked equity appreciation in Gilead told the story.

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There is no qualm in Gilead
To make the top man whole;
There is no qualm in Gilead
To heal the CEO.

Sovaldi costs a thousand
Martin’s work is not in vain,
He took that balm in Gilead
And made it pay and pay.

There is no qualm in Gilead
To make the top man whole;
There is no qualm in Gilead
To heal the CEO.

If I can’t earn like Martin
If I can’t take his take home
Then take me home to Jesus,
And say I died alone.

Deeper into Junk

UD has followed benighted Yeshiva University closely on this blog, since the school embodies many of the wrong things you can do with a university. Yeshiva’s downfall (literally – Moody’s just lowered its rating yet again, to an abysmal B3) has mainly to do with corrupt trustees – a motley, incestuous (in terms of investing the school’s money in one another’s funds) crew until recently dominated by none other than Bernard Madoff and his partner in you-know-what Ezra Merkin… But even with one of them in jail and the other busy fielding twelve trillion lawsuits against himself, there’s still Zigi Wilf (“The bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself,” [the judge ruling against Wilf in a recent fraud case commented.] and a whole bunch of his buddies… Yeshiva is the ultimate example of what UD characterizes as the provincial, good fellas university, brought low by long-established oblivious dumb insidery ways. At the very least Yeshiva needs to dump its overpaid and useless president. But there’s no talking to Yeshiva. It’s just going to tank.

Yeshiva University’s bonds are the most traded in the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal market today after Moody’s Investors Service lowered the New York City school deeper into junk status.

At least $41 million of fixed-rate Yeshiva debt traded as of 11:30 a.m. in New York, the most of any issuer, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Tax-exempt bonds due in July 2034 traded at an average price of 93.4 cents on the dollar, up from 92.3 cents when they last traded Feb. 24. The exchange of at least $25 million for that maturity is unprecedented since the revenue-backed securities were issued in 2004.

God, Demigod, and Man at Penn State

From a review of a new documentary about one of America’s most bizarre locales.

After [Penn State's Jerry] Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child abuse, Penn State was treated as a national pariah, hit with a $60 million fine and forced to forfeit 13 years of football victories, based on the premise that it had put athletic accomplishment above ethical conduct. As if that were somehow unique among American universities! Here’s the parallel: People in Happy Valley tried to blame Penn State’s problem on Jerry Sandusky, and people in America tried to blame college football’s problems on Penn State…

… I’m not claiming there’s some obvious solution to the hive-mind, groupthink, blame-the-media mentality we see in “Happy Valley,” which seems like a constitutive element of human psychology that’s not limited to Penn State or college football or America.

… [N]obody in Happy Valley wanted to hear anything bad about the demigods who ran their beloved football program, until it became necessary to pull down their idols and cast them out of the temple.

Father, Son, and Holy Pay-out…

… the trinity of America’s Christian diploma mills, the three-point theology of our creedal unaccrediteds, the pivot-point ministry of our basketball brethrenUD loves to watch dribblers for the deity at work on her soul.

These college students “focus,” says one team’s coach, “on bringing glory to God in whatever we do,” and losing games by hundreds of points is what they do to bring undecideds like UD to the Lord.

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But the scoffers! O lord, the scoffers!

They are blocking UD’s prayer shot.

Want to make some money? Start a divinity school offering a Bachelor of Theology degree in Pastafarian Studies, and round up some buddies. Troll the coaching forums or hang out at the Final Four, tell coaches you’re the USM Noodly Appendages head coach, and you’ve got an open date on some Saturday in November. Book the game, show up, lose by 100, and cash your $50,000 check.

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To grapple with the theological implications of all this, go here.

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UD thanks Dave.

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Update on one of America’s universities:

- Their website doesn’t load and they don’t have a Wikipedia page

- They do have an regularly updated Twitter:

Are u interested in playing basketball or volleyball for the Champion Tigers? Call 501-623-2272 for more information on our sports programs!

- The person that Twitter says is the school’s president, Eric Capaci, is also listed as the school’s head basketball coach …

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Okay, try this.

Take this painting of Saint Sebastian …

St_Sebastian_3_Mantegna

… and imagine him pelted with basketballs rather than arrows. This puts Champion Baptist squarely in the martyrdom tradition.

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Wow. This here’s getting to be a big national story real quick. Google News is going razorback wild!

Now ol’ UD‘s gonna make a perdiction. You jest set there and listen.

Champion Baptist University is in Arkansas, and you don’t gotta read too much University Diaries (put the word ARKANSAS in my search engine) to know that pret’ near the whole state of Arkansas is one big fat insult to the word university. So this here latest thing don’t help.

Airgoe, UD makes the following perdiction. We’re gonna be hearing from Mike Huckabee any minute. Somebody’s gotta step up and defend the state, and that’s gonna be – gotta be – our next president. Y’all hold on and see if I’m not right.

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Attendance: Just a smidgeon over two hundred souls. ‘Course now it’s famous, everybody’s gonna claim they was at the game.

And I know you’ve heard this before on this blog, but I’ve just gotta say it one more time: The whole spectacle was paid for by you and me. Your education taxes at work.

“The Torah is like …

… an onion, with layer upon layer…”

And it ain’t just the Torah, as the ultra-orthodox of Israel have discovered.

An ad agency put a billboard up in their neighborhood; the billboard promoted awareness of violence against women.

On that billboard, the agency put the photograph of a woman.

They did this knowing that the nice people in that neighborhood would immediately walk over to the billboard and rip the image of the woman to shreds.

But these men are Torah scholars! These men must know about the onion!

Less than 24 hours after the poster went up, just as [the ad agency] had predicted, the face of the woman in the poster was ripped off … revealing a message that read, “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25.11.03.”

Not to worry, though. I’m sure the haredim will set fires under what remains of the billboard.

The only answer to this, uh…

… editorial glitch in a Harvard journal is Sarah Silverman’s bit in a recent interview with Scott Simon:

I grew up in New Hampshire and there are not many Jews in New Hampshire, but I didn’t feel so different until maybe, like, around third grade. Kids started blaming me for my people killing Jesus. I remember, like, even then thinking, like, it’s not like we killed baby Jesus. I mean, man, like, he had quite a run. He was 33. And, by the way, you’re welcome. If we had not killed him, he wouldn’t even be famous.

The Books of Mormons

From a New York Times column:

“It is a fair thing to point out,” said Shannon Hale, a Mormon who writes young adult fiction, “that there have been very prominent Jewish writers that have received a lot of accolades, and worldwide the number of Mormons are comparable to the number of Jews, so why hasn’t that happened?”

Ms. Hale’s theory is that literary fiction tends to exalt the tragic, or the gloomy, while Mormon culture prefers the sunny and optimistic.

“When I was an English major, then getting a master’s, most of the literary fiction I read was tragedy,” said Ms. Hale… The books she was assigned treated “decline and the ultimate destruction of the human spirit” as necessary ingredients for an honest portrayal of life.

UD‘s not sure she’d put it like that. Take a novel always ranked Number One and unlikely (if the NYT column is correct in its descriptions of Mormons) to generate enthusiasm or writerly inspiration among most Mormons. Take James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s not a tragedy; as Joyce Carol Oates points out here, it’s a comedy.

The highest and most spirited comedy is by necessity democratic — even anarchic. It celebrates life: the livingness of life, not its abstract qualities. Where [T.S.] Eliot saw the contemporary world as futile because disruptive of the past, Joyce, the realist-fantasist, the unparalleled mimic, gave life to these clamorous voices without passing judgment on them.

True, the novel follows dispirited Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom as they drag their asses through Dublin; yet although both men feel themselves to be in decline, there’s nothing destructive about their shared fates this particular day: They are fortunate enough (thanks to Bloom’s kindness) to meet each other, and to forge a compassionate and perceptive fellowship. They celebrate the livingness of life, singing, gazing at stars, reciting poetry, telling jokes, sharing memories, and of course going outside and peeing together:

At Stephen’s suggestion, at Bloom’s instigation both, first Stephen, then Bloom, in penumbra urinated, their sides contiguous, their organs of micturition reciprocally rendered invisible by manual circumposition, their gazes, first Bloom’s, then Stephen’s, elevated to the projected luminous and semiluminous shadow.

Similarly?

The trajectories of their, first sequent, then simultaneous, urinations were dissimilar: Bloom’s longer, less irruent, in the incomplete form of the bifurcated penultimate alphabetical letter who in his ultimate year at High School (1880) had been capable of attaining the point of greatest altitude against the whole concurrent strength of the institution, 210 scholars: Stephen’s higher, more sibilant, who in the ultimate hours of the previous day had augmented by diuretic consumption an insistent vesical pressure.

What different problems presented themselves to each concerning the invisible audible collateral organ of the other?

To Bloom: the problems of irritability, tumescence, rigidity, reactivity, dimension, sanitariness, pelosity. To Stephen: the problem of the sacerdotal integrity of Jesus circumcised (1st January, holiday of obligation to hear mass and abstain from unnecessary servile work) and the problem as to whether the divine prepuce, the carnal bridal ring of the holy Roman catholic apostolic church, conserved in Calcata, were deserving of simple hyperduly or of the fourth degree of latria accorded to the abscission of such divine excrescences as hair and toenails.

I don’t think it’s the gloomy aspects of modernist novels like Ulysses that seem at odds with Mormonism; rather, I suspect it’s precisely these novels’ non-abstract, non-judgmental, earthbound, ongoing livingness – their straightforward and candid capture of the way we actually think and feel and act from moment to moment – that’s jarring.

‘In April 2012, student activists passed out packets at a campus town hall meeting with information on the school’s financial troubles, and then asked Joel about his salary, asserting that he had taken a recent raise. “I really resent answering this question,” Joel responded, before asserting that he earned $750,000 a year, not the $1.3 million that the student quoted. Joel also said that he had not taken a pay raise in five years. (Joel’s estimation of his own salary is suspect. According to publicly available IRS filings, his total salary in 2011, not including deferred compensation, was $1 million.)’

A Forward piece on Yeshiva University continues:

Its undergraduate schools admitted 84% of applicants for the 2012 academic year, far more than Brandeis, which admits just 39%, or nearby Fordham, which admits 43%. Y.U.’s acceptance rates have long been relatively high, but they climbed in 2012 as the number of applicants dropped. The undergraduate schools received 2,169 applications on the eve of the recession for the 2007-2008 school year; in the most recent cycle the number was down to 1,633. At the same time, tuition for students living on campus has jumped from $44,000 in 2008 to $53,000 in 2013.

Joel refused to comment on his grow-your-own-salary/avoid-responsibility-for-anything leadership philosophy. The Forward did pull up this explanatory remark from a recent public event.

“What I’ve come to realize as a president of a university… after 10 years as president, God rules the world. … I can do my part to partner with God, but ultimately God rules the world.”

Bad university presidents pass the buck. Scorched earth presidents pass the buck to God.

Rather than rule in favor of the Belgian haredi community’s demand….

… that the government pay them tens of thousands of dollars every day as punishment for having mandated that they teach their children the country’s core curriculum, a court in Atwerp has not only refused to pay them anything, but has reiterated that they must teach their children that curriculum.

What’s Doing at Brigham Young?

The university is reviewing footage of students throwing trash at people.

All’s fair in love and Holy War.

Throwing trash at the ref doesn’t really make it, though, does it? Look at the footage. Bunch of white streamers. Does nothing.

Wait til the state mandates carrying your gun to sporting events. Now you’re talking.

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