NFL Owners Don’t Actually Care

While Puerto Rico goes without power, and while the latest incarnation of Trumpcare failed to pass the Senate, Donald Trump has decided to focus on what is most important: picking fights with professional athletes. At a recent rally in Alabama he called NFL players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches,” and advocated for privately owned companies to fire them for not being sufficiently patriotic.

The NFL is not a sport I generally put all my eggs in — I pay more attention to MLB and college basketball — but it has turned into a major preoccupation of mine. While Donald Trump is off making America great again, Colin Kaepernick singlehandedly made the NFL interesting again.

In a showing of (fake) solidarity last weekend, certain NFL owners lined up, arm-in-arm with their players to show “unity” — whatever that means. Where Kaepernick just a year ago had a very specific cause, and used his unique platform the best way he knew how, the movement has now turned into good PR and photo opportunities for billionaires who don’t give a single shit about inequality.

There were seven NFL owners who donated a million dollars to Donald Trump once he secured the Republican nomination. So that we will never forget, here is a list of said owners:

  1. Woody Johnson, New York Jets
  2. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots
  3. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
  4. Dan Snyder, Washington Redskins
  5. Shad Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars
  6. Bob McNair, Tennessee Titans
  7. Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles Rams

It’s baffling how these same guys are getting praised for issuing statements — statements that don’t really say anything — and standing alongside their players, when in reality they were totally cool with the prospect of Trump being in office. The owners understood then what many working class Trump supporters are only coming to grips with now, that Donald was never on the side of labor and always on the side of his billionaire buddies.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is actual shit going on in the world right now. There is actual shit going on in U.S. territory. Facing the largest humanitarian crises since he took office, Trump has failed to provide aid to Puerto Ricans — also known as U.S. citizens. After campaigning on repealing and replacing Obamacare on Day One, Trump’s third healthcare bill has failed. The GOP effort on the so-called Trumpcare has been so bad that even Republicans don’t want to vote that shit into law.

This is the man those seven NFL owners were comfortable handing a million dollars to. And now that Trump has called out football players for kneeling, those same owners are double-dipping and taking credit for standing alongside the players. How does that make any sense?

If any of the owners actually cared, then they would sign Colin Kaepernick right this second. They wouldn’t be locking arms with players during the national anthem. They wouldn’t be sending out dumbass press releases. And places like ESPN wouldn’t be celebrating them as if they took a serious stand for Kaepernick’s cause.

Over at Deadspin, Tom Ley wrote an article titled This Is All Bullshit, where I think he hits the nail on the head:

The worst irony here may be the way the NFL’s new marketing initiative not only appropriates the protests, but perverts their meaning. Kaepernick’s protest and the ones that followed were divisive, and were meant to be: That was the point, to ask people to choose sides, and to direct their attention to what’s going on in the real world beyond sports. Goodell and the owners, in asking everyone to come together around the cause of the NFL itself, have done what they always do, and made what they’ve touched cheaper and smaller.

None of this is meant to make myself sound like a cynic; I shouldn’t have to explain to you that billionaires aren’t particularly interested in the plight of black people. It should be understood, for the simple fact that Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.

From Donald Trump’s perspective, this latest wave of nonsense is nothing more than a diversion from his own failures. He effectively made players kneeling during football games as the national conversation, simply to drive attention away from the fact that his entire presidency — but more recently the crises in Puerto Rico and failed healthcare bill — has been a failure at best, and a total disaster at worst.

Like all sports, football is supposed to bring people together. Even among the individual teams, players from all sorts of backgrounds come together with the single goal of winning a championship. It’s really kind of beautiful when you think about it.

So this is about the players, it’s not about ownership. As far as I’m concerned the owners are still the enemy, because what they represent is more in line with Donald Trump than the average American — the people with no voice who Kaepernick was bringing attention to in the first place.

I said it when I last wrote in detail about Colin, that his protest was not just a race issue. It’s a class issue. The players are the labor, and they are punching up at the ownership class. The owners don’t have anywhere to punch so they punch down. They sit back as cowards until it’s politically convenient for them to show support for their players. And now that they are involved, it has made this whole movement cheaper, like Tom Ley wrote.

This issue issue isn’t going away. If the league thought they only had to pay lip service this last weekend, because Trump called them out, then they are sorely mistaken. This movement is only going to get stronger, and louder in terms of numbers. The media have painted this recent showing as some sort of moment, or some form of solidarity between ownership and players. But that is not what happened.

What happened is Colin Kaepernick started something, and now that we’re here we know that this fire won’t be put out any time soon. Unless something drastic changes, and unless ownership puts real money behind Kaep’s original cause, this issue could very well turn into the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to the next collective bargaining agreement.

The players are more woke now than they have ever been, and it’s becoming clear there is nothing the ownership will be able to do about it.

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Picking football games (against the spread) in review

I recently wrote about 10 bets I would have made if I was (still) betting on football. This post is to take account of those picks.

  1. UNC (+1.5) over Duke

Actual score: Duke 27, UNC 17

Outcome: Loss

2. Old Dominion (+28.5) over Virginia Tech

Actual score: Virginia Tech 38, ODU 0

Outcome: Loss

3. Texans (+14) over Patriots

Actual score: Patriots 36, Texans 33

Outcome: Win

4. Falcons (-3) over Lions

Actual score: Falcons 30, Lions 26

Outcome: Win

5. Falcons/Lions over 51 points (-115)

Actual score: 30-26 (56 points)

Outcome: Win

6. Dolphins/Jets under 43 points (-110)

Actual score: 20-6 (26 points)

Outcome: Win

7. Bills (+3.5) over Broncos

Actual score: Bills 26, Broncos 16

Outcome: Win

8. Broncos/Bills under 39 points (-115)

Actual score: 26-16 (42 points)

Outcome: Loss

9. Packers (-8) over Bengals

Actual score: Packers 27, Bengals 24

Outcome: Loss

10. Bengals/Packers over 46.5 points

Actual score: 27-24 (51 points)

Outcome: Win


College football is not my friend. North Carolina led Duke 17-13 more than halfway through the 4th quarter, then promptly allowed a one-yard touchdown run before throwing a pick-6 to give Duke the final two scores of the game, and thus the 10-point win. The Blue Devils are 4-0 right now.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, was meandering along with a 3-0 lead well into the 2nd quarter. They looked sloppy on offense and seemed to justify the faith I had in them looking past ODU. Then… the onslaught began. They scored two quick TDs and went into the half with a 17-0 lead, then poured it on in the second half with three more scores. Virginia Tech is also 4-0.


NFL games were a little kinder to me. I posted a 6-2 record on Sunday, with my only losses coming in the Broncos-Bills over/under and picking Green Bay to lay 8 points against the Bengals. Every other bet was sound.

It wasn’t exactly Upset Week in the NFL, which is good for the elimination pool I’m in, but it could be described as Tease Week. Both the Patriots and Packers — the two biggest favorites in Week 3 according to Vegas — won by only a field goal and failed to cover the spread. (The Packers needed overtime to do so, while the Pats did it with a mere :20 left on the clock.) The true upset of the week came in Chicago, where the Bears (who were 7.5-point home underdogs) beat the 2-0 Steelers in OT.

The takeaway from this football weekend is the same as it is most others: never trust anything, basically. The Saints blew out the Panthers on the road; the Jets, perhaps the NFL’s worst team, won handily against the Dolphins; the Jaguars beat the Ravens 44-7; the Bills beat the Broncos by 10 points.

None of those conclusions were shocking, per se, but before the day I probably would have picked against them all on the moneyline.

There were only a few games that restored some sense of normalcy, but none of them came particularly easy. The Falcons (3-0) covered the spread by a single point against the Lions; the Chiefs (3-0) easily covered by beating the Chargers 24-10 on the road; the Titans (2-1) won by 6 against a confusing Seahawks club.

On the whole, a 6-4 record (60%) is something I will take under normal circumstances. Generally speaking, a 50% conversion rate is acceptable when betting on sports.

Picking football games (against the spread)

This might sound shocking, but I have not placed a bet on football during the 2017-’18 season.

While that’s a pretty swell thing, I do miss the act of betting on football games. I miss betting on two totally irrelevant teams, then watching the game as if it were the goddam Super Bowl or something.

So as I continue to be a good boy and stay away from the action, it doesn’t stop me from writing about a handful of games that would have been my picks if I was betting. As always, gambling should be for entertainment purposes only. All home teams will be in CAPS:

  1. NORTH CAROLINA (+1.5) over Duke

Once an afterthought in NCAA football, Duke is currently 3-0 and unbelievably a road favorite (!) against their arch-rival, UNC. The Tar Heels are only 1-2, with home losses to California and a pretty good Louisville team. The original Vegas line opened at Duke -2.5, so the public jumped on UNC and the line dropped by a full point over the last week. There is nothing scientific about liking them to beat the Dukies, as my only rationale here is never — ever — bet on Duke football when they are laying points on the road.

The bet: $110 on North Carolina (+1.5) to win $100.

2. Old Dominion (+28.5) over VIRGINIA TECH

North Carolina’s only win of the year came, coincidentally, against ODU, and the final in that game was 53-23. UNC won by 30 points. Virginia Tech is superior to the Tar Heels, but the transitive property only applies to math. It means fuck all when picking against the spread, because the damn human element is involved. The human element here: next week VT plays #2 Clemson. What that means: there is a very real chance they look past an ODU team that they shouldn’t have any trouble dismantling. I expect them to win big against Old Dominion, but four touchdowns and a hook seems a little steep to me.

The bet: $110 on ODU (+28.5) to win $100.

 3. Texans (+14) over PATRIOTS

It’s no secret that New England is probably going to end up as the best team in the NFL again. Even after getting trashed at home against the Chiefs on opening night, they are the top-ranked team in the league according to both FiveThirtyEight and Number Fire. The head coach of Houston is a former assistant to Bill Belichick, and with his defense I think they can find a way to cover two touchdowns.

The bet: $100 on Houston (+14) to win $100.

4. Falcons (-3) over LIONS

Atlanta is probably the best team in the NFC again, and the Lions probably aren’t as good as their 2-0 record. (The two teams they beat are the Cardinals and Giants, who each look like bottom-feeders out of the gates.) If this game was in Atlanta the line would be at least a touchdown, I believe, and the fact that you can buy on the Falcons as a three-point favorite seems like a no-brainer.

The bet: $115 on the Falcons (-3) to win $100.

Bonus bets:

  • Falcons/Lions over 51 points (-115)
  • Dolphins/Jets under 43 points (-110)
  • BILLS (+3.5) over Broncos, under 39 points (-115)
  • PACKERS (+8) over Bengals, over 46.5 points (-110)

That’s 10 total bets. I will track the progress with another blog later this week.

Mostly, I need to get off politics. Other than my older brother no one seems to really give a shit about them, other than recycling tired right-wing talking points. What do I get out of informing myself if no one cares? I’ve been fucking starving for an honest conversation with someone likeminded, just to let me know there are others out there like me.

When I write about politics, it gets me more excited than when I write about anything else. I thought I loved baseball, basketball and football. None of those bring the same sense of satisfaction that politics do, probably because politics aren’t only for entertainment purposes. They have an actual impact on me. People can post on Facebook about Kylie Jenner being pregnant, or argue who between Drake and Kendrick Lamar is the more accomplished hip-hop artist. If they put even one percent of the same energy into paying attention to what actually matters, it would change the world.

Obviously this is a pipe dream. Obviously this is something that frustrates me. So the more effort of my own I put into trying to educate people, or challenge people, is time they would probably rather spend doing bullshit. Whatevs.

Sports is for entertainment purposes, and so when I write about sports the stakes are a lot lower. It’s more enjoyable. I’ve basically spent my life trading one vice for another, so if it is politics for picking football winners against the spread then that’s probably a win.

But we’ll see how the games go this weekend.

Equinox

As of midnight of September 21st, my best friend Trey has joined me in the ranks of 27 year-olds. Pretty silly age if you ask me. I want to say the last time we really gave a shit about our birthday was when we turned 21; since then birthdays have been pretty dumb.

For how unlike one another Trey and I are, we do share some strange similarities. A boring, un-superstitious person like myself would consider them to be complete coincidence. But if I were of a different mind, it wouldn’t take a whole lot for me to think our kinship was written in the stars.

Just as a couple examples: (1) both of our first names are four letters long; both of our middle names are six letters long; both of our last names are seven letters long. Kind of cool, right?

What’s more cool is that (2) my birthday is March 20th — the day of the Spring Equinox — and his is September 21st — the day of the Fall Equinox. Those are the only two days out of the year where there are exactly 12 hours of daylight, and exactly 12 hours of darkness.

Anyway, these things are random. They don’t really mean anything. But when you are kids, and Trey and I have known each other since we were 13 or 14, those random things that don’t really mean anything actually do mean something. And for whatever reason the two of us were pretty dead set on being best friends from the very beginning. I don’t remember how or when it happened. I don’t know if he remembers how or when it happened. I don’t think that particularly matters.

Trey and I have been there for each other. There hasn’t been anyone like him in my life, and likewise I haven’t supported anyone like I’ve supported him. There is that whole thing about relationships, and taking people for granted, and how after a while the guy in a relationship stops doing the things that made the girl like him in the first place. And that’s real shit. I know I’m using an analogy to guys and girls, which doesn’t directly relate to my best friend and I. But it’s nonetheless a relationship, and the fact is other than family members there is no one I’ve known as long as I’ve known him.

Most things boil down to pride, especially with Trey and I, and I think we are both so aware that we constantly try to prove our value to the other. It’s not an effort or a chore. It’s just something we do.

I look up to Trey in a lot of ways, and not only because I’m 5’7″ and he’s over 6 feet tall. He makes me a better, smarter person. That is more important than my political outlook and all of my favorite sports teams combined. There just aren’t very many people throughout my life who have had the same impact.

Trey is still a kid. He still has a lot to learn. But just like the stock market, or betting on sports, I have always been playing the long game with him. For half my life I have bet on him to be a winner, mostly because there is no other reasonable outcome I could think of. He doesn’t read books. His math skills were never much to write home about. He didn’t go to college.

But that has no impact on my view that he is one of the smartest people I have ever known.

Trey is going to do big shit with his life, and I’m excited to play a part in seeing him get there. I am absolutely convinced that someday we are going to look back at our 20’s as a weird and confusing era in the grand scheme of life, but also that they were some of the most critical moments. The stage where we started to understand our place in the world, and using it as fuel to get us wherever it was we needed to go.

Bill Maher is fucking up

When I think of Bill Maher, two things come to mind:

  1. I have enjoyed his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, for as long as I can remember. Even before I had any clue about politics, I thought he was a funny guy.
  2. It was on his show that I first heard Bernie Sanders speak.

It’s easy to forget that Maher actually endorsed Bernie during the 2016 Democratic Primary, for whatever that’s worth. Since his show came back on the air in January — un-ironically the day Trump, a guy he constantly rails against, took office — it has been one week after another filled with corporate Democrats and Trump-hating Republicans on his panel. To my knowledge, having watched every single episode this season, the only Progressives he has carried are Senator Elizabeth Warren, hip-hop artist Killer Mike, and Dr. Cornell West. That’s all.

So what effect has that had?

For starters, Maher’s show has devolved into what you would typically see in mainstream media. A constant theme on Real Time has been Russia, and Russian hysteria, which is a loser issue for Democrats and a story which to this point has yet to yield any hard evidence. Trump and Putin and Russia have been jacked up at high volume, drowning out any serious conversation about what went wrong for liberals and what can be done to fix the very real issues they are currently faced with.

The overwhelming majority of people on his show represent the center, be it Clinton Democrats or traditional, anti-Trump Republicans. It’s like a big party where everyone confirms their own biases. They recycle the same blame game: it was Russia’s fault; it was James Comey; it was Bernie Sanders; it was people who voted for Jill Stein; it was racism; it was sexism; according to them all of these items were to blame for the Democrats losing.

The one thing it wasn’t, of course, was Hillary Clinton’s own fault for running a terrible campaign.

The problem is there hasn’t been enough pushback from the other side. No, I’m not talking about the pro-Trump people. Maher is more than comfortable bringing on Roger Stone, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jeffrey Lorde, and the editor of Breitbart — people who shouldn’t have the platform to be normalized. I’m saying there have not been enough Progressive voices to call bullshit, to admit that a Progressive absolutely would have defeated Donald Trump. That Progressive policies are the future of America.

Fortunately you don’t have to take my word for it. Las Vegas sports books already know the answers to the questions of 2017. According to Bovada, there are five favorites to win the 2020 presidency:

Donald Trump: +250
Elizabeth Warren: +700
Bernie Sanders: +1200
Mike Pence: +1200
Joe Biden: +1800

This list should make alarm bells ring in the heads of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. The two candidates directly behind Donald Trump are each Progressive, as opposed to, say, Kamala Harris or Cory Booker, who are at 20-to-1 and 25-to-1, respectively.

It sends a clear signal that Vegas, who is usually pretty fucking spot on when predicting futures bets, believes that either Warren or Sanders — whomever decides to run — will win the Democratic Primary in 2020.

Which leads me back to Maher. He has been vocal in criticizing those who voted for Jill Stein, and of those Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to unify behind the Democrats. He thinks they should simply unite in opposition to Trump, as if that is priority number one in people’s lives.

Progressives want the same thing as Bill Maher: they want to win. They want to take back the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. But there is only one way that can be accomplished, and it isn’t by blindly following the same losing horse from 2016. Americans already rejected that.

The way to attract voters is to offer them policies that help their lives. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that the only thing Democrats have to do to win back seats in the Senate and House in 2018 is to run on Medicare For All. That’s it. I can shelf free college and Social Security expansion and an increase in minimum wage for another day. Just give us something.

The fear is, if the Democratic Party does nothing and continues to gamble on their We’re Not Trump messaging, or their Russia fear mongering, that Republicans will lose no ground in 2018. Dems will be wiped out yet again, which would arguably be more embarrassing than losing to Trump in the first place.

If you care about winning, then you should care about the base of the party. The real lefties. If you care about winning, then you should care that the base of the party is on the verge of taking its talents elsewhere, a thought that should make the establishment shit their pants.

That makes this equation fairly simple. If you believe that Bill Maher is right, then you probably think Progressives are being selfish and irresponsible. If you agree with me, then you probably think the Democrats don’t deserve our votes.

Politicians are supposed to represent the people, not the other way around. If you want me to vote for you, then you need to come get my vote. It is not my responsibility, and certain not my fault, if you lose. Your job as someone running for public office is to campaign for votes. So either give the voters what they want and win, or refuse the will of the people and lose. It’s really fucking basic.

Millennials now represent the largest voting block in the United States, and we have shown ourselves to be a pretty dangerous beast. As a group of voters — roughly from age-18 to age-40 — we have proven to be both (a) significantly more left-leaning than our parents, and (b) more idealistic than any generation in history. We believe in science. We believe in equality, whether it’s social, sexual, or economic. We believe god doesn’t exist more than any generation. These are not radical positions.

This is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans, because neither party represents our interests. In a way it has created this large and confusing pool of political free agents, which is the only way a 75 year-old Socialist Jew from Vermont could ever get so popular. Millennials don’t care what Bernie Sanders is as a personality figure. They care about his policy ideas.

I once went to Bill Maher as a refreshment from the nothingness of mainstream news. As I keep coming back, week after week, I realize he is not the contrarian I always looked at him to be. He is more or less what is expected of someone on TV, willing to capitalize on the low-hanging fruit that Donald Trump presents him, as well as punching down at the voters who couldn’t stomach eight more years of fake liberalism.

What I used to like about Maher is that he wasn’t afraid to defend minority positions if he thought they were right. Now he seems more focused on shitting on Donald Trump, at least when he isn’t attacking Trump and Sanders supporters.

Yet, I keep coming back every week with the hope that Bill Maher can move past this losing strategy. I hope that he would trust his original instinct with Bernie and the promise of a new deal for Americans. After all, he and the Democrats will need our support if they want to win in 2018 and 2020.

I shouldn’t have to tell you what’s going to happen if Democrats continue with this false narrative, that Stein voters were the problem, or that Bernie supporters are the problem. It did not work in 2016, nor did it work during the several special elections that Republicans have won.

But you know what they say: if something doesn’t work, keep doing it and expect different results

More NFL Stuff

There are reasons I still pay attention to the NFL, even though I do sort of envy the people who can just drop it on principle. As a typical American I do have diehard loyalty to my team (the Kansas City Chiefs), and I do love me some fantasy football.

The fact is I don’t write very much about football, neither college nor the pros, because I don’t really know anything about it. In baseball I can see what a guy is earning annually, and how he is performing on the field, and make a semi-accurate value judgement on if he is a good or below-average player. The math is pretty clear on this. In football I really have no idea how the contracts work — other than the money not being guaranteed — and I can’t tell you why player X is a better value than player Y.

Yes, I can explain to you the difference between a West Coast Offense and a Spread Offense, or a Pistol Formation vs. an I Formation. I can tell you the difference between a 4-3 scheme and a 3-4 scheme, or zone coverage vs. man-to-man. These are obvious to anyone who has played Madden at some point in their life.

But since I don’t understand the economics, and since I can’t project players with any real accuracy the same way I can in MLB, I don’t try to be that guy on my blog. I genuinely aim to be a know-it-all about as many things as possible, but there is a reason I generally limit what I write about to baseball, politics and gambling.

Point is, I still watch football. The only times I generally talk about football, however, are in a negative light. Over the last few years there have been three main bullet points I have focused on:

  1. CTE, and the fact that the NFL doesn’t really give a shit about player safety.
  2. Domestic violence, and the fact that the NFL doesn’t really give a shit about players who beat their wives or children.
  3. The blackball of Colin Kaepernick for protesting cops killing unarmed black kids.

Any one of these topics is worthy of a boycott. But if you look at everything the NFL does through the prism of capitalism, and making money at any cost, they all make too much sense.

Money answers the social justice question, and if the league gives a damn about the plight of everyday black kids. Money answers if they care about women or not, because they are still profiting off the sales of pink jerseys while employing countless domestic abusers. Money answers why they don’t care about the longterm safety of their own players.

I reconcile these things, even as one of the best players on my favorite team — Tyreek Hill — nearly choked his pregnant girlfriend to death when he was in college. That really happened, and yet I still cheer for him since he helps the Chiefs win football games. I do so with the rationale that every other NFL team has at least one scumbag of their own. It’s sad, but true.

I watch the NFL in spite of everything I hate about it. And, strangely, I’ve probably paid more attention to it over the last 12 months because it has justifiably been under attack. Maybe I’m sick — but there is something about watching the super wealthy sweat, and the absurdly rich institution of the NFL get tangled in its own web, that makes me happy.

After the Chiefs throttled the Patriots 42-27 on Thursday night, I went on FiveThirtyEight — you know, those guys who were so good at predicting the general election last November — and made my picks against their algorithm. The results turned out better than I was expecting:

The last time I finished 99% better than the field was when I used to take those standardized math tests in elementary school. I remember three years in a row — from 4th grade through 6th — I got a scholarship from Johns Hopkins University for scoring in the 97th percentile or better. That was cool.

Week One was not typical in that regard; I doubt very much I will score this well in the next 16 weeks. It just happened that I hit a perfect 6-for-6 in games I put a 100% confidence on, and the only games I lost — Cincinnati and Houston — I put a lower confidence in than did FiveThirtyEight. Now if only I could do the same thing with the stock market.

So what does any of this mean? I don’t know, exactly. Maybe I am hate-watching the NFL and it’s making me a more informed football person. Maybe a wedge doesn’t truly exist that would pull me far enough away from my favorite sports teams to make much of a difference. I can bitch about the NFL until the cows come home, but if my eyes are still glued to the games, and to my fantasy football app, then who is the dummy in this situation?

The NFL is not going to exist in 30 years, and professional sports will be a better place when that happens. For the time being, though, even with the longterm brain damage and domestic violence and blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, I’m still here. At least I pay attention to what really matters. That has to count for something, right?

The fight that matters

Labor Day was a few days ago, and like just about every other holiday I was at work. For the last four years I have basically missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, as well as the 4th of July and so on.

These are only minor concessions I’ve had to make in order to be a dealer. And while I would enjoy having Thanksgiving and Christmas off — mostly for the food and football, I’ll admit — it’s kind of understood that casinos are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and year-round. Someone’s gotta do the work. The labor must go on.

It’s ironic that I have to work on Labor Day, sure. But on Monday I was proud to, because it might be the most important holiday that I never knew as anything other than a day I didn’t have to go to school when I was younger.

Recently I watched a Jimmy Dore video on YouTube — about Labor Day — and realized for the first time that it meant more than all the good-feeling holidays I’ve always known and loved. The holiday has a story behind it, which you probably could have guessed and, like me, probably never put the time in to learn.

From the video:

Labor conditions were pretty hard, lots of new immigrants were coming to America. They were reasonably unskilled but often quite cheap labor, and they were exploited for such. So, the typical work day could be 12 hours. They often worked six days a week, sometimes seven days a week. Child labor was not allowed but it wasn’t regulated, and so kids as young as 6, 7, 8, 10, worked in the mills and the conditions were not terribly safe. There were terrible accidents that occured.

The first Labor Day was September, 1882. The founder probably was Matthew Maguire. He helped to organize a major march and demonstration to affirm labor’s rights. And 10,000 people marched. That was a Tuesday, that was the first Tuesday in September.

What triggered a national Labor Day in 1894 was a rather dramatic strike that took place. The pullman workers in Chicago went out on strike. The federal government intervened, because the pullman cars — basically there had been a boycott of them — stopped the American railway system from operating. So the federal troops were called out to crush the strike. People were killed, it was a terribly violent strike. It was not a happy day for labor.

Government, the politicians, wanted labor on their side. And so as a concession, they then passed legislation authorizing a Labor Day — the first Monday in September from then on.

If you are reading this then I am guessing you are not part of the top one percent of wage-earners. In assuming that, it means that you are the labor. Congratulations! You and I are on the same team.

I mentioned in my last article, the one about Colin Kaepernick, that the real fight is not amongst ourselves. The super wealthy pay top dollar to divide everyone up by race, religion, sexual orientation, et. al, so that we will continue to ignore the only true struggle. The only true struggle is between those at the very top, and everyone else.

Growing up, I think in my head I always considered myself as one of the elites, or bourgeoisie in Marxist contexts. This was obviously unfounded, since I attended nothing but public schools (paid by taxpayer dollars) and my parents vacillated between lower- and middle-middle class. I wouldn’t call them humble beginnings, because I had a good childhood and money was rarely an issue for my parents, but compared to those at the very top I am nothing. I am no one.

So I take pride, now, in being the opposite of what I imagined myself then. I like to be on the side of the workers, or labor. It’s more fun to be the underdog.

Since Ronald Reagan, and George Bush after him, and Bill Clinton after him, and George W. Bush after him, and Barack Obama after him, the labor class has been decimated. Reagan was the king of deregulation and weakening the rights of workers and unions, but it’s not like the Democrats did much better. Republicans will forever be jealous of how easy it was for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to pass right-wing legislation. They could never dream, especially now that Trump is in office and people are awake, of actually accomplishing what they really want to accomplish.

That is to privatize Social Security, Medicaid… basically every federal program passed since FDR was president. If they really had their way, they would abolish the minimum wage and outsource every job to other countries. In a capitalist economy, the only god worth worshipping is growth. To obtain growth, it is always the labor that suffers.

This blog is in support of the workers, and of the labor class, and as such I think it’s high time that unions make a serious and meaningful comeback. When so many industries are dying and so many jobs are being lost to countries where corporations can pay poverty wages, there must be an appropriate reaction to correct the imbalance.

As a start, workers from Wal-Mart and Amazon should absolutely strike for a better deal. That alone represents something like 2.5 million workers in the United States, and it can’t be understated just how much their organizing would change the fabric of the country.

This only seems fair. Especially when the Walton family owns more wealth than the bottom 30% of Americans — roughly 100 million people — and when Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is the richest man on the planet. Call me radical, but I think they can afford for their workers to share in those profits.

Like most items, I fear most Americans have no idea that the rest of the world has it much, much better. The automobile company Nissan has 45 plants worldwide, and 42 of them are unionized. Can you guess which country the other three plants belong to? It’s us. Of course it’s us.

I work at a fairly cushy job for what it is. I work three or four days a week and earn a little more than double the national average. Yet, virtually every other department at the casino where I work — which employs more people than any other business in the Coachella Valley — starts at minimum or sub-minimum wage. (The land is sovereign, so the tribe does not have to abide by the minimum wage in California.)  It also isn’t surprising that many of those low-wage earners are immigrants, and speak little to no english.

These people are and always have been the backbone of the American economy, all the way back to the very origin of Labor Day — and slavery before that. They are those that work the hardest and receive the least in return. In the clearest terms possible: these are the people I have in mind when I write articles like this, because they are the most vulnerable among us. And while I am absolutely in it for number one, and would be lying if I ever said otherwise, it isn’t difficult for me to put myself in their shoes. There need to be more voices for those that have no voice.

I think it’s the only righteous stance to take, but I don’t assume such a position because it’s righteous. I make this case because it’s better for everyone. When you put money in the pockets of the working class, they spend it. They pump it back into the economy, which creates more demand and thus more jobs. When the super wealthy get to keep more of the profits, they stash them away in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. The economy never sees that money. It serves no one.

This is also the reason I support an increase in the minimum wage, and Medicare for all, and other Federal programs like free college. When the people have more money to spend, everybody wins. And in the richest country in the world, there is enough cash to go around.

So, unions. Labor. Unions need to make a comeback because the ability to collectively bargain will increase wages, setting in motion the economic model I mentioned above. The labor can do this. It just takes information, people understanding that they hold the power over the giant corporations that abuse their work to get exceptionally rich.

Like I said, we’re the underdogs in this fight. But with some ability to organize and a little bit of passion to see it through, it’s a fight the labor can and should win.