Monday, December 2, 2013

The (s)Words of Antonio Smith and The Governor

(Note: This article contains spoilers for Seasons 3 and 4 of AMC's The Walking Dead.)

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do. No amount of hard work or time investment can make you a success. Well, let me be a bit more precise. You can reach your goals and produce your desired results. Some people will just attempt to undermine, deride, and nullify you with one simple statement because they want what you have, are unable to earn it themselves, and are unable to accept that you have it.

In case you ever want to employ this tactic against the New England Patriots, the keyword to use is "spy." Houston Texans safety Antonio Smith provided a perfect example of how-to following his team's 34-31 loss to the Patriots on Sunday. "Either teams are spying on us or scouting on us," he said in a post-game interview. Why does he think that? It seems the Texans used tactics that they hadn't in their previous 11 games yet somehow the Patriots were still able to cope with them well enough to win. Smith summarized:
"I'm very suspicious. I just think it will be a big coincidence if that just happened by chance. I don't know for sure, but I just know it was something that we practiced this week."
In Smith's mind the Texan's new tactics were so powerful they could only be combated by two methods: cheating or chance. The reality of his team being 2-9, riddled with injuries, and starting an inexperienced quarterback against an 8-3 team starting a future hall of fame quarterback and coached by a future hall of famer known for his ability to out-scheme his opponents, an ability most recently put on display the previous week when his team came back to win from a 24-0 deficit doesn't matter to him. Smith believes he deserved to win and since he didn't, he's going to find a way to say the loss doesn't actually count.

In 2007 the Patriots were the center of a huge NFL scandal called Spygate. You may have heard of it. You may have also seen the South Park episode where Bill Belichick, their coach, was mocked as a cheater. Even though most people have little to no knowledge of the details of the Spygate incident, our cultural acceptance of the Patriots as cheaters because "they spied on other teams" makes it easy for anyone to undermine their accomplishments. Smith demonstrated just how easy when speaking to reporters. By merely saying "spying," he brought the legitimacy of the Patriots victory into question. In essence, he played a trump card so he didn't have to accept what actually happened.

The Walking Dead episode "Too Far Gone" saw the series most recent and ruthless villain Phillip Blake use the exact same strategy. The tyrannical Governor of Woodbury in the post-apocalyptic world, Blake saw his small town crumble and subjects escape when he encountered the show's protagonists and their community-in-a-prison. Six months later, he had seemingly come to terms with the defeat and possessed new subjects and a tank. The prison (and victory) would be his because it was the best place to survive...if he could only convince his followers that they had the right to take what belonged to other people.

In the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead, people are much looser with their morals. Killing becomes an everyday occurrence. Mainly it's zombies that have to be dealt with. Sometimes though other people are so dangerous that killing in self defense is socially acceptable to such an extent that Stand Your Ground laws seem mild. In spite of this moral leniency, the one rule most characters can agree upon is you do not kill people without good warrant. Thus it's easy to see how labeling someone as a "killer" could give you justification to kill them and take their stuff--a dangerous thought if someone has stuff you want or a well-fortified place to live.

"The people in this prison, not all of them are bad, but most of them are thieves, murders," the Governor tells his new followers, "Now why should people like that have peace of mind when we're burying our own just about every day?" This argument convinces even the weakest-stomached member of his ground, a young woman who pretended she was ex-military when they first met. It's completely understandable why too. When other people are bad and you're good, why do they deserve to have better stuff, a better life, than you? The problem is, that specious argument is almost exclusively used by people who don't deserve what they're trying to take.

The young woman watched as the Governor revealed his true character--and that he hadn't gotten over the loss of Woodbury and the power he had there. Our protagonists in the prison offered to share their residence, suggesting they live in separate cell blocks until the two groups learned to co-exist. The Governor refused in horrific fashion sending the standoff into an unnecessary blood bath. The young woman crawled away from the battle saying, "We're not supposed to be doing this." When her girlfriend reinforced that they were, she replied, "He chopped a guy's head off with a sword." The Governor, unlike the protagonists and their peaceable offer, was too far gone. He didn't want the prison. He wanted to punish the people in it. They refused to live in line with the fantasies he tried to force on them whether by word or by sword.

Accepting defeat is often the most difficult process in life. It's also the most humbling. It allows you to honestly assess your mistakes and what went wrong. Denial, worse yet denial at the word of another person, only avoids the issue and prolongs suffering. When someone quickly dismisses another person, you have to ask yourself why it's so easy for him to do so. Why was it so easy for the Governor to call the protagonists in the prison killers? Why was it so easy for Smith to say the Patriots spied?

Smith probably thinks he's right about the Patriots and now so do many football fans looking to nullify the team's continued success. What they're avoiding, however, is the simple obvious fact that ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith yelled on First Take, "You don't have to cheat to beat the Texans." I'm not sorry to be the bearer of that bad news, and I'm not going to listen to someone looking for excuses to pretend otherwise. You shouldn't either.

People like that are too far gone.

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