Yesterday I played football (soccer) for the first time in years, if by “played football” you mean “ran around breathlessly for an hour hoping nobody would pass to me in case I messed up”. Today I walk like a 90 year old, and this is my excuse for doing nothing more energetic this evening than trying to get my head around the sport that the natives call football and you probably call American football.

It is the first game of the football season and something of a local derby for the San Francisco 49ers, if you consider the 400 miles to Los Angeles to be local. It’s a particularly big deal because this is the first time the LA Rams have played an NFL match in 21 years, as the Rams franchise moved to St Louis in 1995, leaving LA without a football team. This year they’re back in LA, but I have no idea whether their fanbase is wholly new, made up of people who just took 21 years out of the sport or includes diehards who’ve made the 2000 mile journey from St Louis.

Refreshingly, this big national sports event is on free-to-air TV here. I assume this is because 25% of a typical three hour broadcast is adverts (only 8% is live play, 11% is *replays* of the live play; most of the rest is categorised as “standing around”).

This being election season, many of the adverts are political. California is such a solid part of the Democrats’ blue wall that neither presidential candidate wastes any money actually trying to campaign here. San Francisco only gets involved when Clinton needs to top up her donations from Silicon Valley. No, the political adverts saturating my airwaves are for a variety of local and statewide propositions.

Direct democracy has lost a few fans in the UK recently, but over here if it’s the question to every problem. There are 18 measures on the ballot this year, including those relating to marijuana, pornography and either repealing or slightly changing the death penalty. The amount of airtime each one gets is based entirely on how wealthy the proponents and opponents are (one of the least-funded propositions is actually a measure to oppose this plutocratic absurdity).

This means wall-to-wall coverage for supporters of Prop 52, a noble-sounding bipartisan healthcare funding measure, which just happens to be supported by the deep-pocketed health insurance lobby. Less positively, an advert featuring a young mother concerned about what percentage of a new tobacco tax would go towards actually helping people stop smoking (why she is concerned about this detail is never explained) is funded by… the tobacco industry.

My favourite is a citywide measure to put a small soda tax on sales of sugary drinks. Looking at the literature pushed through my door every other day, I’ve been led to believe that this “grocery tax” is going to push small store owners out of business and cause all of my groceries to cost more. I’m so grateful for the manufacturers of sugary drinks for generously funding the campaign to bring this to my attention.

Nine years on, I've swapped the Yankee t-shirt for a Giants cap, but the Baconator is still going strong.

A post shared by Rob Cowen (@robcowen) on

 

These leaflets and TV adverts are wasted on my anyway: I don’t have a vote. There’s an actual real-life fascist, backed by the KKK, on the presidential ballot and I’m forced to trust that the legal citizens of this country don’t do something very stupid indeed. I had similar hopes about the UK a few months ago and look how that turned out…

Anyway, I’ve been half-heartedly tapping away at this blog post for two hours now. In that time, the hour-long football match on my TV has managed to get to the start of its fourth quarter. The 49ers are winning 14-0.

Yes to the 49ers, Yes to 62, No to Trump.

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