We go through life certain of many things, ever-confident in our grasp of some fundamental tenets of our existence. Never mind that half of what we know is probably wrong, and that the concept of human ignorance makes a heck of a lot more sense than human understanding. We live in a dynamic universe of which we occupy an infinitesimally small piece, live for in a very short period, and probably sit on the lower end of its intelligence spectrum.
Regardless, we all exercise this cognitive dissonance, and it’s probably for the better. Like stereotypes (or judging a book by its cover), undue faith in our own knowledge allows us to function. We’ve seen what it’s like for a large group of people running around insecure, unable to commit, and constantly questioning themselves to the point of decision paralysis; no one wants to see the 2012 Republican primary electorate in action again.
Among my many core beliefs (the truth of which I am absolutely certain) is this whole notion that collective action enforced by a central body generally kinda sucks. It sucks for both moral (Bill and his buddies shouldn’t be able to tell Steve what to do), and practical (Bill and his buddies, on balance, won’t actually know what’s best for Steve nor how to bring it about) reasons. This belief has, annoyingly, worked its way into much of my social, private, and professional lives. It’s basically the operating system behind anything I say or think. You can sway me on the merits of a movie I hate or a book I love, but the OS isn’t going anywhere.
So perhaps, rather than the product of continued and documented ineptitude, this week’s announcement that Thaddeus “Thad” Lewis will be the Browns’ starting quarterback was a message from the universe reminding me of how little I know.
Lewis will become the 18th starting quarterback for the Browns since their return to the league in 1999. Cleveland will likely finish with a 5-11 record and little hope for the future. Brandon Weeden showed that he has a good arm, likely forged by years of shoveling coal on trains in the Wild West as a child. He’s also displayed a tendency to make awful decisions with impressive regularity, and his draft status will prevent the team from bailing as they should. The would be savior, Colt McCoy, is in coach Pat Shurmur’s dog house. After refusing to play the third year pro in any meaningful game, Shurmur made McCoy run the two minute drill amid a blowout and against two of the league’s best pass rushers, leading to another injury. The season is lost and the future is bleak.
So here’s where the operating system is called into question: why can’t somebody do something about this? I’ve watched this team fail, flounder, and flop about for my entire life. Aside from my family, fraternity, and dog, I haven’t been this emotionally attached to anything. Plenty of northeast Ohioans would echo this sentiment.
Free will and independence are great, but a lot of times they lead to sub-optimal outcomes. They can lead to suffering; they fail to account for negative externalities from otherwise autonomous actions. Case in point: tomorrow, I will watch a man who was nothing more than a caretaker quarterback in the A-C-(freaking)-C wear the orange helmet that represents my hometown.
Where’s the justice in that? Why can’t Roger Goodell step in and give us Peyton Manning for a week? Or even Kirk Cousins? Washington has TWO good quarterbacks. They don’t need both! We’ll be lucky to score ten points, adding shame and misery to what will likely be an already bad post-New Year’s hangover.
It of course occurs to me that the bad consequences of the NFL’s somewhat free structure are mimicked in our somewhat free country, and on a far more important scale. The principles that I am so sure of often lead to some really bad stuff. I can preach all I want about liberty, but Steve’s freedom to choose can lead to Bill’s lack of freedom to get a job or feed his family. No amount of volunteerism is going to change that terrible fact.
So congrats, Thad Lewis: you’ve caused me to rethink everything, if only temporarily. My conscious mind appreciates it, even if my subconscious will drag me back into my old habits before the weekend is over.