Editors' Note:The following is part of a major interview that was recently conducted with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Given its timeliness, this part of the interview is being published now (see also the article, "Tips for Tim Tebow," written by Bob Avakian to accompany this excerpt from the interview). We are looking forward to publication, in the near future, of other parts of this interview, and the interview in its entirety.
Q: One aspect of the new synthesis that you were just talking a little bit about—and it's obviously a key aspect of the new synthesis—is a much deeper recognition and appreciation of the role of art and culture in making revolution and transforming society, and so I wanted to maybe shift gears a little bit and talk about some of that. And I guess one place to start is that you were telling me that you have something that you're working on, something about Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule"—so I don't know if you wanted to get into some of that.
BA: Well, first of all, before turning to Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule," I do want to briefly make clear that prior communists, and in particular theoreticians and leaders of the communist movement such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao, had a significant appreciation for the role of art and culture in relation to revolution; but, as I touched on a little bit earlier, there was a tendency—maybe this is a little oversimplified, but it does get at something—a tendency to see art and culture too much one-to-one with the political revolutionary movement. To see it as a part of the machinery of the revolution, in a more linear or direct sense. Not that they didn't appreciate this at all, but perhaps there was a tendency working against fully appreciating the way in which the realm of art and culture has its own dynamics and has to explore a lot of different questions or phenomena from a lot of different angles, including new and unusual angles. Some art and culture should be directly related to the struggles of the day, so to speak—there's a definite need for that—and some of it should be addressing more explicitly political questions, and ideological questions directly related to the contrast of world outlooks, for example. But some art and culture needs to be, so to speak, more indirect, not one-to-one or in any kind of immediate sense tied in with the major political and ideological questions of the day. Now, in an overall and ultimate sense, art and culture does give expression to one worldview or another, and it does become part of the arena of ideological and ultimately political struggle, even where it is given a lot of rein to go in a lot of different directions and is not so directly tied to political and ideological struggle. There's a difference between being ultimately related to this and being directly and more linearly and one-to-one related to it. So that's one point I wanted to make at the start.
Now, to turn to Tim Tebow. Since, for many years now, he has prominently promoted fundamentalist Christianity—including by literally wearing references to Biblical verses on his face during football games when he was a prominent "star" in college—I was thinking it might be a good idea to send Tim Tebow some quotes from the Bible that he should promote and popularize—ones that get to the essence of what the Bible is about—like the passages in the Bible that call for the oppression of women, for slaves to be obedient to their masters, or those which insist that children who are rebellious should be put to death, that women who are accused of witchcraft should be executed, that homosexuals should be executed, that women who are not virgins when they get married should be executed in the town square, that people who practice religions that are opposed to the supposed one true God should be slaughtered, with the women raped and the heads of babies bashed in. Or the Biblical verses in which Jesus thinks that epilepsy is caused by demon possession instead of understanding it scientifically, which is pretty piss-poor for the son of god, if you think about it. And on and on. I think there are a number of verses like this that I would like to forward to Tim Tebow, along with a copy of Away With All Gods!, to provide him an opportunity to get a true understanding of what the Bible really represents, and have a chance to get up off of all of this reactionary shit and stop spreading a bunch of Dark Ages mentality and morality, when there's already far too much of it in the world. Whether Tebow himself can be moved in this way, I can't say for sure—it certainly doesn't seem very likely—but in any case it is important that a real understanding of what the Bible actually represents, and all the very real horrors it promotes and indeed insists upon, be brought to light. 1
But as for Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule," let's get into this subject this way. It's clear that "somebody up there" likes Tim Tebow. I'm not referring to a non-existent god, and I'm not referring just to somebody in the ownership and management of the Denver Broncos, for which Tebow plays. I think of a comment by Michael Cooper when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in the NBA back in the early 1980s: During one of the championship series that they seemed to have in those times as an annual spectacle, between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, when the Lakers lineup was announced, right before the start of the first game, instead of doing the traditional "high-five," the Lakers players did a "low-five" (slapping hands down low instead of up high). And I guess for the people in the NBA offices it was something like what Richard Pryor once described, in terms of the reaction of certain white people upon seeing Black people doing something that those white people didn't understand—whenever Black people get together and are doing something like that, Pryor observed, these white people say, "Hey, there's a whole bunch of 'em, what are they doing, what's going on here, what are they up to, are they plotting and conspiring?" So, it seems the NBA executive office had a similar reaction: "Uh-oh, what's this thing they're doing? We just got used to the high-five, now they're down 'low-fiving' like that—is this some kind of dangerous thing they're doing here?" So, according to Michael Cooper, the Lakers players were told that they could no longer do this low-five. And when asked who told them that, Cooper answered: "somebody higher than the team and lower than god." So when I say "somebody up there likes Tim Tebow," I'm thinking of somebody "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god."
And the reason I say that is because it's clear that Tebow has, at this point at least, inconsistent and mediocre skills, to be charitable, as a professional NFL (National Football League) quarterback. Yet he has led all these "miracle" comebacks toward the end of games, where his team has not been doing anything all game long on offense but then suddenly comes from behind, and wins right at the end, or ties the game up at the end of the fourth quarter and sends it into overtime, where they, once again, miraculously pull out a win. Somehow, in these situations the defense of the other team suddenly forgets how to play defense. Somehow, for example, the defensive backs, who are supposed to "cover" the offensive players ("pass receivers") who are trying to get "open" to catch a pass—somehow those defensive players forget how to "cover" the receivers, leaving them wide open to catch passes from Tebow, who is anything but an accurate passer, on any consistent basis, and has a hard time completing passes to his "receivers" unless they are wide open.
The point is that there seems to be some sort of program involved here—once again, beyond just the team and beyond just Tim Tebow and the circle around him and his agents. Marketing Tebow commercially is certainly part of this, but beyond being part of a marketing strategy, this promotion of Tim Tebow is serving an ideological purpose. It's serving the purpose of projecting the kind of reactionary Dark Ages religious fundamentalism that Tebow represents and insists upon spewing forth and imposing on everybody—it's a matter of giving that a lot of free rein and wide expression. Having Tebow come out as a "winner" on the football field—and particularly having him pull out "miracle comeback wins" at the end of games—is crucial in order to give Tebow credence, to make him more effective, in spreading his reactionary religious fundamentalist viewpoint (after all, this is America—and nobody will listen for long to a "loser"). In fact, a recent survey indicated that nearly half of the people polled in this survey believed that intervention by god had something to do with these "miracle comeback wins" that Tebow has been credited with producing (and even if a survey of this kind might involve an unusually high percentage of people who are Tebow fans and religious fanatics themselves, it still reveals something about what is "up" with this whole promotion of Tebow).
So, it seems clear that forces "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god" feel that this is not only good for marketing, but it's important ideologically to spread this religious fundamentalism through a major cultural figure, a sports icon that they've worked to create in Tim Tebow. The reasons for this should be obvious if you think about it: Here you have a crisis in society, upheaval in society, resistance mounting, deep questions starting to be grappled with more broadly about the whole way of things and the whole direction of society—and one of the main means through which powerful sections of the ruling class see for cohering the society and holding it together on a reactionary basis is precisely the spread of religious fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism in particular. And that's why we've seen such a flowering, if you will—which is really a misnomer since this is something really putrid, but let's just call it a flowering—of religious fundamentalism in such a major way over the past several decades in the U.S., and once again intensely so in recent years.
It's not that there weren't already people who adhere to fundamentalist religious views. Even without encouragement from "on high" (among the ruling circles of society), there would be this phenomenon of religious fundamentalism in this society, given that this kind of religious viewpoint has been promoted since the beginning of this country. You can think of things like the Scopes trial (the trial of a teacher in Tennessee in the 1920s, who was charged with violating a law in that state which prohibited the teaching of evolution) and the ways in which reactionaries have tried to prevent people from learning about evolution, right up to today. That is just one sharp example of what I am referring to. But the point is, in more recent decades—and now, once again, in a sharp way in recent years—there has been a concentrated effort, by powerful and influential people, to cohere this kind of religious fundamentalist belief into an ideological and political force, and to exert and magnify its influence in society in that way. Scattered and dispersed as just a bunch of individuals, such a phenomenon would have far less influence. But as a more cohered and organized force, which is given powerful backing and financial resources—as this Christian fundamentalism is in the U.S.—it becomes a whole other phenomenon with much more major impact.
So into this fits Tim Tebow. Now I follow sports as closely as I can, and it's very interesting: Tebow played a few games as quarterback for the Denver Broncos last year but he was beaten out for the starting position during "training camp" before this season began. Yet a clamor was raised and a campaign orchestrated to have Tebow become the starting quarterback for the Broncos. And when the Broncos were doing poorly at the beginning of this season, the guy who beat Tebow out as the starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, was dumped, demoted, and Tebow took over as quarterback (and then Orton was eventually let go and ended up with another team). But in any case, they brought Tebow in, and he started having these "miracle" wins, which I referred to earlier.
Now, listening to all this, some people might say: "Are you really trying to tell me that there's some kind of conspiracy, that what happens in a football game is not determined on the field by what the players and what the coaches do, but somehow something else is going on—is this another conspiracy theory of how there are powerful forces that are manipulating things?" Well, yes. It is definitely the case that this happens in sports, particularly (though not only) professional sports, and there are very good reasons to believe that this is what's happening here, with Tim Tebow.
As I said, I follow sports as closely as I can, including football, and I noted that shortly after Tebow became the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos this season, they were trounced by another team, the Detroit Lions. And, to use the metaphor commonly employed in "football parlance"—a very revealing metaphor—Tebow was "sacked" many times by the Lions' defense (this means that when he went back to pass the ball, the opposing team broke through and tackled him behind the line of scrimmage before he could throw the ball). And they intercepted a Tebow pass (meaning that, instead of the pass being caught by the "receiver" on his team, to which Tebow was trying to throw the ball, a defensive player on the other team caught the ball instead), leading to serious setbacks for the Broncos. The Lions routed the Broncos, and Tebow looked miserably poor as a quarterback on a professional football team. But on top of that, it seems that on a number of occasions when these defensive players from the other team would "sack" Tebow, they would then mockingly do a version of "Tebowing"—which has become a widely promoted phenomenon—referring to the fact that Tebow will be seen on the sidelines bowing in prayer during the course of, or at the end of, a game. So these Detroit Lions defensive players would come in and tackle Tebow for a loss, and then they would do a mocking version of Tebowing. And it seems very clear that this was deemed highly undesirable, and unacceptable, by those powers "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god." It was after this game with the Detroit Lions that the Broncos suddenly went on a whole string of "miracle comeback wins," helped along by defensive players on the opposing teams who somehow suddenly forgot how to play defense. (As I recall, there was one game, before they were demolished by the Detroit Lions, where the Tebow-led Broncos came back to win in overtime, but it was after the game with the Lions that the Broncos went on a string of "miracle" comebacks.)
Again, it seems pretty clear that "somebody up there" didn't like the fact that not only was Tebow being shown up to be not that good, but that "Tebowing"—which was being promoted as a mass phenomenon—was being mocked. Couldn't have that. So, all of a sudden, Tebow and the Broncos went on this string of "miracle" comebacks. No more mocking of Tebow and "Tebowing."
Now, again, some people might say: "Oh c'mon now, this is just another conspiracy theory. You really think powerful people care that much about things like football?" Yes, they do. Because football is an important part of the cultural realm, and it has mass influence in this society. The Super Bowl (the national championship of American professional football) is a major event, for example—watched by literally hundreds of millions of people, if not more, around the world, as well as in the U.S. And football certainly does have a major influence, particularly on guys and "guy culture"—which is not a healthy culture—it's a male chauvinist culture, for short, which incorporates the celebration of violence, real as well as ritualized violence. I'll leave for another time a whole discourse about football and violence—that's another story. As I said, I do follow football and I have to admit that I like a lot of the athleticism involved. There is a beauty to that. But there are definitely things about the culture surrounding football, including the culture of violence that's an integral part of it, that is very negative.
Returning more directly to Tebow, for those people who say, "this couldn't be happening that way, there couldn't be that kind of conspiracy"—I have two words for you: "tuck rule."
What does this refer to? Back in the National Football League playoffs that followed the 2001 season—note well, 2001—the Oakland Raiders were involved in a playoff game. The Raiders, by the way, are the designated team to be penalized and dumped on by the hierarchy of the rest of the NFL. 2 The Raiders were playing the—now, pay attention—New England PATRIOTS. That is worth repeating: the New England PATRIOTS. And this was in the playoffs after the two thousand and one season—2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks.
The Raiders-Patriots playoff game in 2001 was a close game, hotly contested in the snow in Boston. It came down to the final few minutes, with the Raiders leading by 3 points. The much vaunted Patriot quarterback, Tom Brady, went back to pass... he was rushed and tackled by an Oakland Raider defender... he dropped the ball (what's called a "fumble" in football)... and the Oakland Raiders fell on the ball—recovering the fumble and thereby getting the ball back. All they would have to do then was to "run out the clock" (keep possession of the ball while time ran out), and they would win the game, advancing in the playoffs, and eliminating from the playoffs—the playoffs following the 9/11 events in 2001—the New England PATRIOTS.
But wait a minute. The play is being "reviewed upstairs." This is how things are done in the final 2 minutes of an NFL game: officials sitting somewhere above the field have the responsibility for reviewing plays, on a TV monitor, showing the play from different angles. They look at the play to make sure that the "call" by the officials down on the field (for example, whether a player "fumbled" the ball) is correct. But, in this case, "upstairs" refers not just literally to the officials sitting up in a booth above the field who are responsible for reviewing plays in the final 2 minutes of the game. "Upstairs" here also refers—to paraphrase Michael Cooper—to people "higher than the game and lower than (a non-existent) god." In this case, first of all, it wasn't even clear why there was a "review"—since, even in the final two minutes in an NFL game, plays are reviewed only if there is a legitimate question about whether the "call" by the officials on the field was correct. And in this instance, there didn't seem to be any doubt—it was very clear that there was a fumble and it was recovered by the Oakland Raiders. So, why was an obvious fumble even being reviewed in the first place? Brady was tackled while standing up, the ball dropped out of his hands, it was recovered by the Raiders—what's to review? Second of all, the review took a very long time—much longer than normal—and then all of a sudden it's announced by the referee on the field, getting the word from "upstairs," that, lo and behold, what you thought was a fumble wasn't a fumble after all. Wait a minute: We saw him being tackled, and he dropped the ball. How could that not be a fumble? He wasn't moving his arm forward to throw the ball, so it couldn't have been an attempt to pass—he was just holding the ball—it had to be a fumble. What do you mean no fumble?
Well, some obscure part of the rule book, called the "tuck rule," was invoked. Here we're going to get into some fine points of the mechanics of football, but it's important, so stay with it. What they invoked, in overturning the ruling of a fumble, and giving the ball back to New England, was that there's a rule that says: If the quarterback brings forward his arm to start to pass the ball, and then decides not to pass it, but doesn't bring the ball all the way back to his chest (doesn't "tuck the ball in"), then, while his arm is still extended somewhat, holding the ball, that constitutes part of throwing a forward pass, and therefore if the ball is knocked out of his hand in that situation, it's not a fumble. Bullshit!
Bullshit on two levels. First of all, that's an impossible rule to have, or to apply, because it would mean that every time a quarterback started to throw the ball, if he didn't see anybody to throw it to, and he was worried about being tackled and fumbling, he'd just have to hold the ball out like this (in front of him) and never bring it back to his chest, and then if they tackle him and he fumbles, you invoke the "tuck rule." Never happens. You can look at miles and miles of film and video of professional football and you can see quarterbacks holding the ball out like that, and then losing it, or having it knocked loose, and it's called a fumble, as it should be.
But what happened in this case? Note this well. Not only did they conjure up and invoke this "tuck rule" but, even if you strictly applied this ridiculous rule (which is never applied and never invoked) the truth is—and you can see it clearly by watching the replay or looking at the still pictures of this play involving Tom Brady—that he, in fact, had brought the ball all the way back to his chest ("tucked it in") in exactly the position it's supposed to be in, in order for it to be ruled a fumble. So, on two levels, this was outrageous bullshit. First of all, they dug around and came up with this ridiculous "tuck rule," which never gets applied in any other circumstance. That's why it took so long reviewing the play "upstairs"—they had to go dig around for an obscure rule. Second of all, even according to this ridiculous rule, it was still a fumble. And yet the ball was given back to New England. Then New England moved down the field and kicked a 3-point field goal, sending the game into overtime, and the PATRIOTS ended up winning the game in overtime.
And then what happened? This may be familiar to people who have lived through the experience of "weapons of mass destruction" that didn't exist in Iraq, but which every significant official of the Bush regime insisted did exist. In that case—in the invasion and occupation of Iraq—they said: Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, that's why we have to go in there. It's a danger to us. We don't want the next thing we see to be a mushroom cloud over the United States, said Condoleezza Rice. We know he has them—north and south and east and west—said Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney insisted: There's absolutely no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. And on and on with these deliberate and calculated lies. They went in, waged a war, looked all over, and couldn't come up with any weapons of mass destruction. Then the mainstream media, which had been consistently complicit in propagating these lies about weapons of mass destruction, changed its story: The claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction turned out not to be true, it was admitted, but it was declared to be just a matter of "faulty intelligence"—when in fact, it was a concerted campaign of systematic, conscious, and deliberate lying to try to rationalize and sell a war that they decided to wage soon after Bush took office. And they definitely decided to seize on the "opportunity" of the 9/11 events in order to wage war against Iraq and eliminate a regime that they had previously worked with but now wanted to get rid of, because it was no longer useful to them in their calculations.
So, what did the mainstream media do then? Well, besides claiming the whole thing was just a matter of "faulty intelligence," it was said: Yes, it's true that there weren't any weapons of mass destruction—but, anyway, everybody thought there were. Which is another lie. "Everybody" did not think that. Most notably, the inspectors from the UN who were on the scene in Iraq were reporting that they weren't finding any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. At the very time when Bush and his whole retinue were repeating these lies, including Powell at the UN, these UN inspectors, who were on the ground in Iraq, were reporting repeatedly that they were finding no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction. They even made a report after Colin Powell went to the UN and lied before the whole world about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Powell brazenly declared: We have the definite proof, this is not speculation, this is proof. Then Hans Blix, one of the main inspectors, gave a report to the UN, as he was required to do, and he said: We have checked out Colin Powell's allegations, and we can't find anything to them—there's no evidence—these claims by the U.S. government aren't backed up by any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In other words, Powell just got up and lied, presenting shoddy and fabricated "evidence." Mr. Morality, Colin Powell, you know. This was not the first time that he had been involved in war crimes. You can go back to Vietnam and the My Lai massacre during that war—when U.S. soldiers slaughtered, in the most perverse ways, hundreds of Vietnamese people in the village of My Lai, most of whom were women, old people, and children. Colin Powell, who was an officer in the U.S. military at that time, was involved in an attempted cover-up of this egregious war crime. And you can go to the first invasion of Iraq by the U.S. in 1991—when, among other things, Colin Powell, then a high official in the U.S. military, lied to cover up the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqi civilians in an air raid shelter which was deliberately bombed by the U.S.
Perhaps it seems we've gotten far afield from football and in particular the incident with the "tuck rule" and how this relates to Tim Tebow. But, the point is, there is an analogy. What did the media do in the "tuck rule" situation? They said: Well, yes, it's too bad, it was really unfair to the Raiders, but what could you do? That was the rule. Even though it's a stupid rule, and it's not usually applied, this is a playoff game and you do have to go by the rules—and there is a "tuck rule"—and so, therefore, Tom Brady, the quarterback, didn't fumble, it was an incomplete pass, so it was correct, even though it was unfair.
That is analogous to saying: Yes, it turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but everybody thought there were, or it was just "faulty intelligence." The fact—and the reason I say there is an analogy here—is that, in the case of the NFL playoff game involving Oakland and New England, and specifically with regard to the "tuck rule," if you looked at the actual evidence—that is, the replay on video and the still pictures—you could see that, even according to the ridiculous "tuck rule," which is never applied in any other circumstance, it was a fumble. It fit the definition of a fumble, even according to the "tuck rule." So what was really going on was that some powerful people were determined, secondarily, that the Raiders wouldn't get very far in the playoffs—but primarily that, shortly after the events of 9/11 in 2001, the New England—what?... the New England PATRIOTS—had to advance in the playoffs. And, in fact, the PATRIOTS went on to win the Super Bowl that time.
And this is analogous as well to Tim Tebow and the backing he's getting from "upstairs." I raise this to say—for those who claim, "things like this don't happen, conspiracies like this don't take place in sports"—that, besides all the evidence I've cited for how it happens repeatedly in professional basketball, in my talk "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters,"3 this also happens in other professional sports, including the National Football League. It happened with Tom Brady, the "tuck rule," and the New England—wait for it... the New England PATRIOTS—and something analogous is happening now with Tim Tebow and the promotion of the medieval Christian fundamentalism of which he is a fanatical advocate.
A Final Note Added By Bob Avakian:
The interview, from which this article ("Tim Tebow and the 'Tuck Rule' ") was taken, was conducted before the NFL playoffs this year (2012). As it turned out, after beating an injury-riddled Pittsburgh Steelers team, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos were trounced by the... New England Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady. Perhaps there is irony in this, but it seems that it was acceptable for the people "upstairs"—"higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god"—for Tebow and the Broncos to lose to Brady and the PATRIOTS. In any case, these people "upstairs" certainly should feel gratified that they have already gone a long way in fabricating an icon in Tim Tebow, fueling an irrational mania around this icon, and promoting everything outmoded and reactionary that is represented by this.
1. See "Tips for Tim Tebow." [back]
2. Footnote by BA: To explain the extent, and the reasons for, the rather overt discrimination against the Oakland Raiders, directed from the highest levels of the National Football League, is beyond the scope of what can be gotten into here, but this discrimination is a fact. And yes—"full disclosure," as the expression goes—I'm an Oakland Raiders fan, insofar as I'm a professional football fan. Nonetheless, it is true, the Raiders are the designated team to be dumped on by the rest of the owners and the hierarchy in the NFL. They are, for example, the most penalized team in all of professional football—and not because they commit more penalties, but because more penalties are called on them. [back]
3. "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters" is one of 7 Talks given by Bob Avakian in 2006. Audio of these talks is available at bobavakian.net. [back]