For one brief moment Thursday afternoon it was as if a life preserver had been thrown to every weary, locked-down soul with a strident opinion:
The Jets signed Kaepernick.
A flicker of hope. Colin Kaepernick hadn’t played in four fraught years and optimism was dwindling. America, a country now as divided physically as it had been ideologically, could finally argue bitterly again.
And this one was a real catch. So many news cycles. So many angles. So many new reasons to loudly disdain social media contacts and quietly disdain relatives.
It would have been a two-week hellscape stretched out to four, with a disorienting thump of story beats that would have made everyone vomit! Including:
- What does Trump think?
- What does Cuomo think?
- Has Kaepernick maintained social distance?
- Trump chides Kaepernick for failing to maintain social distance.
- Mark Ruffalo responds, for some reason, calling the president a “punk.”
Of course this report was not true, and at once our nation’s collective heart sank. It was a craftsmanly troll, executed using a Twitter handle, SuperToughScene, that was not remotely confusable with an official SportsCenter account, as its user icon purported.
Ordinarily these things are easily spotted and quickly dispelled, but this one lingered. Its success was no accident. Consciously or not, the fake’s author exposed the comfort this country desires most deeply as it journeys back toward normal life: bickering.
There is a theme common among New Yorkers recalling the city’s post-9/11 convalescence: The feeling of a return to normalcy as heralded by strangers shouting at each other and fighting for petty reasons. Whether participant or ogler, confrontational exchanges are how America calibrates its emotional pulse.
So it is no surprise that despite high risks of traumatic brain injury, bickering on the internet is America’s sport. Like all athletics, it now feels the atrophy of a competitive lull. A Kaepernick signing would have been the rough equivalent of a Super Bowl, with untold boosts to the nation’s healing process.
And sports stories for days.