Americans have, as a society, become obsessed with trivial pursuits, writes columnist Tom Regan. That’s not necessarily new — but the advent of the Internet and social media has kicked this cultural trait into hyper-drive. An excerpt of his new Seeking Orenda column, Bread,circuses and a deflated football
This is where we have come to.
In the past week, the government of Yemen collapsed, which has serious ramifications in any one of a number of areas: the growth of al-Qaeda, Shia versus Sunni relations, the interrupted rebuilding of a fractured society. The president gave a state of the union address that highlighted his decision to take on the GOP controlled Congress. Kurdish fighters drove ISIS out of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. North Dakota says three million gallons of potentially toxic salt water, created by a fracking operation, spilled into a creek, reigniting the debate about the safety of these operations. Legislators in Alabama are threatening to arrest any one performing a marriage of any kind as a protest against a recent ruling that found its ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
But America is obsessed with a story about deflated footballs. One of the teams in the upcoming super Bowl,the New England Patriots, has been accused of slightly lowering the pressure in the footballs to make it slightly softer and provide a better grip for the quarterback, Tom Brady. The topic of how many pounds per square inch a professional football needs to be inflated has focused the attention of a large section of the country in a way that talk about the deficit, or health care or the closing of Guantanamo Bay never could. At one point this week, the story lead the national evening news broadcast of the major networks, and was ubiquitous on cable channels.
You could blame the country’s preoccupation with the football story on a number of factors – it’s January and people are bored after the holiday season, or perhaps the popularity of the game with many Americans especially during Super Bowl week.
But there is different force operating here. We have, as a society, become obsessed with trivial pursuits. … continue reading*
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