Quotulatiousness

February 7, 2017

I pity the Atlanta fans, but they’re reliving the Vikings fans’ emotions from the 1998 NFC Championship

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

For the record, I disagree with this take from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: I hated Atlanta for about two seasons (at most) after the demoralizing 1998 NFC Championship game outcome. (However, I still hate the “Saints”…)

The Atlanta Falcons, leading by a touchdown (and two-point conversion) 28-20 in Sunday’s Super Bowl, reached the New England 22-yard-line with less than 5 minutes to play after a remarkable catch by Julio Jones along the sidelines. At that point, all Atlanta *probably had to do, at the very worst, was run a few plays that didn’t lose yardage, attempt a reasonable field goal using a pretty much automatic kicker, and watch the time melt away while New England pushed uphill in desperation against a two-score deficit. If that set-up sounds familiar, dear Vikings fans, it should. Eighteen years ago in the NFC title game, the Vikings led these very same Falcons by almost exactly the same score (27-20) and pushed into Atlanta territory in the closing minutes *probably needing just a field goal from a very accurate kicker to salt the game away. (*Probably in both cases because you never know, but still). And, of course, we know what happened in next in both cases. Last night, Atlanta ran a series of plays that pushed the ball backwards — a sack and a penalty being the most damaging — and got driven out of field goal range. Instead of a Matt Bryant try — he missed just three field goals all year, and only one from inside 50 yards — the Falcons punted. New England predictably took that gift, marched down the field and tied the game. The Patriots then won in overtime. In the NFC title game following the 1998 season, Gary Anderson — who hadn’t missed a field goal all season, a fact that is seared into our brains and adds to the pain — missed his try wide left. Atlanta used that gift to march down the field and predictably tie the game. The Falcons then won in overtime. Vikings fans who secretly (or openly) have been wishing for some sort of revenge for that moment 18 years ago found it Sunday, albeit courtesy of a Patriots team that plenty of fans love to hate.

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover offers words of comfort to ailing Falcons fans:

Not a lot of fanbases could mentally process what happened to the Falcons and come out sane on the other end. Vikings fans have been doing it since the 1960’s. And we’re here to help

Dear Falcons Fans,

Hi. I’m kind of at a loss for words for you guys, but I want you guys to know that you’re not alone. As Vikings fans, we’ve been there. Yes, every year one team loses the Super Bowl, and it sucks, but rarely is a loss this brutal, a collapse this complete; a disbelief this consuming that leaves you in a stupor. And right now it’s a feeling you don’t think you’ll ever get over. You’ve probably even considered cheering for another team after last night.

that’s just reactionary and stupid. You’re a Falcons fan, and you don’t change fandom because of one game. Even if that game was last night.

They say time heals all wounds. ‘They’ are wrong. Some things you will not ever get over, and this will be one of those things. And that’s okay. But time does put distance between what happened yesterday, and as the years pass, time also adds perspective, and will give you an appreciation of what was one hell of a 2016 season.

Even though there’s no way you believe that right now. I understand. I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, and processing sports grief is what we do. If I may have just a couple minutes of your time, I think we can help.

Right now you’re feeling a mix of grief, anger, and disbelief, and it’s all justifiable. Virtually no one blows a 25 point lead late in the third quarter, and never on football’s biggest stage. Seriously, how rare was this feat?

That’s just brutal. And in the Super Bowl. Reading that, you’re pissed off all over again, and you think back to one or two plays that, if they go the other way, you win the Super Bowl. After Julio Jones’ eleventy third ridiculous catch, all you had to do was run the ball three times, kick a FG, and it’s over.

But that didn’t happen. And the Falcons lost. And it might have been the worst loss in NFL history, certainly in Falcons history. I’m going to be brutally honest with you, and you might not want to hear this, but this game will gnaw at you for the rest of your life, and you’ll never truly get over it. Most games, yeah, eventually you move on and shrug your shoulders over.

But there are moments that you will never, ever truly put aside, and it doesn’t matter how many championships or big games your team eventually wins.

February 5, 2017

What a finely crafted Super Bowl ad can convey to different audiences

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ESR linked to this Audi ad analysis saying, “The author may not have intended it this way, but this brilliant analysis could be part of the continuing “Why Trump won” series. Because eventually people get fed up with the contempt, and they push back.”

The Internet is in the proverbial tizzy about Audi’s “feminist” Super Bowl advertisement, in which the automaker comes out in favor of equal pay for women.

At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a “brave stand” in support of an issue that was decided long ago. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. “Father, have I missed the battle?” Well, Audi, you’ve missed the war; if there’s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, it’s not evident from what I’m reading.

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

January 24, 2017

“After a drab regular season and shoddy postseason, the NFL owes us a dramatic Super Bowl”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jim Souhan on the survivors of the AFC and NFC title games last weekend:

The New England Patriots will play in the pre-Minneapolis Super Bowl. Tom Brady will try to become the first quarterback and Bill Belichick the first coach to win five Big Bowls.

The historic implication: With a victory over the Atlanta Falcons in two weeks in Houston, the Patriots can prove themselves one of the most dominant franchises in NFL history, if not all of sports.

They will face a franchise, Atlanta, which lost its only Super Bowl appearance, after upsetting the Vikings in 1998. The Patriots will be expected to win, perhaps will be expected to dominate, and yet the most interesting aspect of episodic dynasty is that they rarely dominate in the games that have made their reputation.

In six Super Bowls featuring Brady and Belichick, the Patriots never have won or lost by more than four points. Their composite score in those six games: 135-129.

In Atlanta, they will face an offense that has surrounded star receiver Julio Jones with worthy skill-position threats, which enabled quarterback Matt Ryan to have his best season, one in which he probably will be named the league MVP.

Belichick is known for taking away an opponents’ best weapon, but the Falcons’ dominance and health, combined with the Patriots’ Super Bowl history, hints that Super Bowl LI will be dramatic.

January 11, 2017

Colby Cosh boldly speaks out for a tiny minority of Canadians

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

For some reason, Colby Cosh has decided to drag out Rocinante to defend the rights of Canadian broadcasters to continue substituting the same fricking commercials they play all year during the Super Bowl:

I am here today to speak for the voiceless. To embolden the powerless. To raise awareness of the nation that lives unseen among us. I am referring, of course, to the invisible SimSub race: Canadian Super Bowl viewers who may actually prefer to have Canadian commercials broadcast on TV along with the football game.

For years we have remained in the shadows while opponents of “simultaneous substitution” dominated the conversation. The antis won a great victory in 2015 when our federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, ruled that the Super Bowl was a unique TV event — one in which the expensive ads on the originating American broadcast were conceptually inseparable from the rest of the show. The Super Bowl ads, the CRTC said, ought not to be obscured by boring, artless commercials for Canadian tire stores and investment accounts.

The first Super Bowl broadcast to be non-simsubbed by CRTC fiat is scheduled for Feb. 5. But Bell Media, which bought the Super Bowl TV rights expecting to be able to show bad Canadian commercials to Canadian viewers, is joining up with other threatened interests to ask the Liberal government for an extreme, last-minute ministerial intervention in favour of another year of simsubbing. I am trying very hard not to describe this as a “Hail Mary pass”, but, well, there is a reason that metaphor is popular. And Hail Mary passes sometimes work.

I am kidding about the existence of a pro-simsub constituency — kind of. The CRTC made its decision partly because everyone agrees that the substituted advertising is always disappointing. It gave the commission the opportunity to do something populist that would reverse its own political reputation as a force-feeder of dismal CanCon, a drearifier of Canadian media.

February 3, 2016

Brace yourself for the predictable bullshit about “trafficked” prostitutes at the Super Bowl

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Reason, J.D. Tuccille explains why the usual media coverage of underage/trafficked/sex slave prostitutes being shipped in to cater to the depraved masses at the Super Bowl are so much hysterical nonsense:

When the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off in San Francisco, experts warn us to expect Cam Newton and Peyton Manning to face burial under a tidal wave of human flesh — not the opposing team’s defensive line, as you might expect, but a writhing mass of sex slaves inundating the Super Bowl and the Bay Area.

Or so government officials and moral panic types would have it.

“Super Bowl host cities typically see a jump not just in tourists, but also in some crimes, including human trafficking and prostitution,” San Francisco’s KGO warned earlier this month on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an annual event held every January 11.

“The good news is that we are continuing our efforts to fight human trafficking,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said the same day. “The bad news is that the problem continues to increase.”

Gascón made his comments at a press conference deliberately tied to the big game, in anticipation of a wave of “trafficked” sex workers descending on the area.

That term – not “prostitution,” but “trafficking” — is a deliberate choice, selected to confuse people accustomed to the plain language established over the long history of the buying and selling of sexual services. The reason why is obvious. While the trade in sex was once frowned upon in itself, that’s no longer necessarily the case. A YouGov poll published this past September found Americans almost evenly divided, with 44 percent favoring legalization of prostitution, and 46 percent opposed. That’s up from 38 percent support for legalization in 2012. Amnesty International is among the organizations seeking to recognize people’s right to, in the organization’s words, “the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.”

Opponents of commercial sex find themselves on the wrong side of shifting public opinion, so they pull a little rhetorical sleight of hand to get around that inconvenient word “consensual.” The implication of the “trafficking” terminology is that prostitutes are slaves — and they’re being hustled off to a major sporting event near you.

“Coercion is much rarer than ‘trafficking’ fetishists pretend it is,” insists Reason contributor and former call girl Maggie McNeill. “The term ‘trafficking’ is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative.”

February 5, 2015

How not to do media relations, NFL style

Filed under: Business, Football, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Unusually, in one of his last Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns of the season, Gregg Easterbrook actually talked more about football than usual:

In the run up to the Super Bowl, Marshawn Lynch received a huge amount of attention for insisting he just wanted to be left alone. If he’d actually just wanted to be left alone, he would have gone to the podium, offered a few sports platitudes — “the Patriots are a fine, fine football team” — and everyone would have left him alone. By making a great show of appearing in very dark glasses and ignoring questions, Lynch drew attention to himself. Which, one presumes, was what he wanted all along.

Many pro athletes don’t like having to face the media; Bill Belichick* doesn’t like to, Roger Goodell doesn’t like to. Their contracts require them to, because professional sports fundamentally are a form of entertainment, and fans find the media conferences entertaining. (Lord knows why.) Many players came from high school and college environments where the local sports media consisted mainly of homers: scandals were downplayed, the toughest question was, “How do you explain your brilliant success?” At the NFL level, players can be surprised to encounter sharp questions and hostile tones.

Not, certainly, because NFL games are more important than prep or college contests — NFL games are strictly entertainment, the outcomes are irrelevant to society. It’s just that at the NFL level, the sports reporters are at the top of their profession, too. They ask tough questions. Most players and coaches learn it’s the path of least resistance to play along, even when the questions veer into the absurd. Smart players and coaches discover that beginning a media conference by bantering with reporters about their careers rapidly turns them from attack dogs to lap dogs.

Then there are the players who would radiate hostility toward the sports media, such as Lynch. In 2009, he was suspended by the league for three games. Lynch seemed to expect sports reporters would act like team publicists and change the subject; instead he got abrasive questions. Since then, including last week at Super Bowl media events, he has accused the sports media of printing lies about him: “You all can go make up whatever you’re going to make up.” I’d venture a guess Lynch actually does not know what the sports media is saying about him because he doesn’t read the newspaper. He may prefer to believe himself the victim of some vast sports-media conspiracy.

The odd thing is that Lynch has a sense of humor, as he displayed in his Skittles parody. If he’d only show that humor at a media conference, the ice would melt. Instead he says things like this from last week, when he was supposed to take questions: “I come to you all’s event, you shove cameras and microphones down my throat. I ain’t got nothing for you all.” Reporters and spectators don’t get angry at Lynch when he expects them to attend games: for him to get angry when he’s expected to fulfill a contractual obligation involving cameras and microphones shows bad manners. At media conferences Lynch acts like a spoiled brat, which reflects poorly on him and his team.

When Thurman Thomas couldn’t find his helmet at a Super Bowl, then the Bills lost, for a while he was angry at the media because reporters kept bringing this up. One day he walked into a media conference with a basket of miniature helmets that he handed out to reporters, and told a couple jokes about himself. For the rest of his career, Thomas had the sports media eating out of his hand: When it was time to cast Hall of Fame votes, Thomas got a landslide of votes. Somebody in the Seahawks’ organization should tell this story to Lynch.

February 2, 2015

Super Bowl commercials Canadians didn’t get to see

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I may have missed a few, as I didn’t get to start watching the game until near the end of the first quarter, but of the ones that Forbes included in their round-up, I recognize only the Doritos, Coca-Cola (ugh!) and #LikeAGirl ads. We certainly got more than our fair share of Ford F-150, Nissan, and The Keg ads, however. I’d show more, but a surprising number of the ads now show warnings similar to this

Superbowl ads we can't watch

I’m sure they’ll eventually clear the border, but part of the point of the advertisers paying the big bucks for the Super Bowl timeslot is the immediacy.

January 31, 2015

1970 time capsule – Super Bowl IV

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00


NFL 1970 Super Bowl IV – Minnesota Vikings vs… by wayne-johnson

July 25, 2014

Time capsule from the future – the end of the 2014 NFL season

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:37

I’ll admit that I’m optimistic about this year’s edition of the Minnesota Vikings, but I’m expecting the team to end up with a record somewhere in the region of 7-9, 8-8, or even 9-7 in head coach Mike Zimmer’s first season leading the team. I’m apparently among the minority of fans in this regard, as Vikefans.com have got their hands on a video that clearly just fell through a rip in spacetime, as it’s the pre-game show for this season’s SuperBowl game:

Somebody’s been drinking the acid-laced purple Kool Aid again…

H/T to Vikings Territory for the link.

June 22, 2014

“Draw Play” Dave on how Minnesota got the Super Bowl in 2018

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

I probably don’t need to say that the Super Bowl is a big ticket item … that much must be clear even to people who don’t have any conscious awareness of the NFL. Part of the push for a new football stadium in Minnesota was the hope that the new stadium would allow Minneapolis/St. Paul to bid on (and hope to win) the competition to host the Super Bowl in the newly completed stadium. The NFL being what it is, this meant a lot of “sweeteners” had to be offered to entice the league up to the deep freeze of Minnesota in the middle of winter. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Minnesota in winter, so maybe I’m just being swayed by pro-winter propaganda, but I believe it gets a tad cooler in the land of the ten thousand frozen lakes than it does in, say, Miami.)

“Draw Play” Dave Rappoccio admits he’s a bit late to this story, but I rather liked it anyway:

Click to see the full cartoon

Click to see the full cartoon

Again, older news that I never got to, but deserved a joke.

Has anyone actually looked up the requirements for cities to host the Super Bowl? The NFL is shameless in how is screws cities over and I can’t believe cities sign up for it.

May 21, 2014

QotD: February in Minneapolis

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:17

It’s not surprising that the Wilfs, the Vikings and downtown Minneapolis business leaders want the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Their pockets will be lined, and with more than fur.

The question is why the average Minnesotan would want the Super Bowl here in February.

We don’t invite friends and relatives to Minnesota in February. Why would we invite the world?

Especially the portion of the world that wields laptops and cameras?

You remember February, unless your therapist has helped you block it out. February is when we suffer from cabin fever and cold sores, when we lock ourselves indoors with a fire (whether we have a fireplace or not) and stare at screens until our skin matches the blue fluorescent glow emanating from the TV.

And those are the good days.

I’ve spoken to visitors who are forced to travel here during winter. They ask why we live here. They laugh at us. When Jerry Seinfeld did a show in downtown Minneapolis this winter, he referred to our skyways as “Habitrails.”

The rest of the country cannot fathom why we put ourselves through this, and let’s be honest: We can’t either when we’re in the throes of winter. We all just pile on layers and pray that, this year, summer will fall on a Saturday.

Jim Souhan, “We’re back on center stage, with frozen warts and all”, Star Tribune, 2014-05-21.

Minnesota’s new stadium to host Super Bowl LII

Filed under: Business, Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:21

As I noted in an update to yesterday’s post on Bud Grant’s 87th birthday, the NFL has awarded the hosting rights for Super Bowl LII in 2018 to the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota - Home of Super Bowl LII

Pretty clearly, the winning edge during the bid process was the attraction of having a brand new stadium in which to hold the event, which is why even the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans came in second in the bidding. (That, plus the fact that New Orleans has already hosted the Super Bowl ten times…)

At 1500ESPN.com, Judd Zulgad talks about the winning bid:

Depending on whom you listen to, the NFL’s decision to award 2018 Super Bowl to the Twin Cities on Tuesday is either going to bring great financial gain or it’s going to be a nuisance that’s not worth the time and money that will be spent to host the game.

Making the argument either way is easy.

It’s no different than the spin that was put on building the Xcel Energy Center, Target Field or the new Vikings stadium.

The pro-stadium folks point to the benefits of the venues, and the fact they either attract a team or keep one in town, and the anti-stadium groups rail on the amount of public money that is invested in building a playground for billionaire owners and millionaire athletes.

But what can’t be argued is this: Hosting events such as the Super Bowl, or this summer’s All-Star Game, are what make a city, and state, big league in the public eye.

Patrick Reusse, my colleague at 1500 ESPN and a longtime Star Tribune sports columnist, did a blog for the paper in 2013 that attempted to trace the use of the phrase, “a cold Omaha.”

Reusse wrote that Hubert Humphrey was credited with having said the Twin Cities would become “a cold Omaha” without the presence of major league sports. This dated to 1976, as the back-and-forth was picking up about the Vikings and Twins needing a new home to replace Metropolitan Stadium.

That new stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, would open in 1982 and host numerous big events, including the 1992 Super Bowl, before meeting its demise this year.

As a Vikings fan, I’m delighted that the team’s new facility will be front-and-centre during the 2018 Super Bowl media blitz (although the non-football-fans among the taxpayers of Minnesota may be less than happy with how some of their tax dollars have been used to build a sports complex for billionaires to be used by millionaires). The optimists in Minneapolis may hope that 2018 will be the first time ever that the Super Bowl champions can be crowned in their own stadium, but that’s unlikely (not impossible, but it hasn’t happened yet).

Update: Speaking of optimists, here’s The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover, right on schedule.

After 40 plus years of pessimism and waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s time to get positive about this team, the new coaching staff, the new stadium, Teddy Bridgewater, and hosting a Super Bowl. Why?

The stadium was dead in the water. Better luck next time, Minnesota. Maybe next year. Then not only wasn’t it dead, it passed in record time for a bill moving through the legislature.

The Vikings blew their chance to get a potential franchise quarterback in the draft, after they had an opportunity to get one early on. Better luck next time, Minnesota, maybe next year. Then Teddy Bridgewater fell in to their laps.

New Orleans was going to get that Super Bowl bid. Better luck next time, Minnesota. Maybe next year. Then they won. And oh yeah…FUCK THOSE GUYS.

Franchise changing moment, turning the corner, things looking up — use whatever phrase you want. I am of the belief that the events of the last couple of seasons (new stadium, new coach, last few drafts) are milestones in the history of this franchise, and twenty years from now, when we look back on it, we’ll look at these events and say:

“Here. It all started right here.”

May 19, 2014

Gillespie – Don’t let the FCC ruin the internet!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:51

Nick Gillespie thinks that the uproar about net neutrality may end up with the worst of all possible solutions by letting the FCC control the internet:

Reports of the imminent death of the Internet’s freewheeling ways and utopian possibilities are more wildly exaggerated and full of spam than those emails from Mrs. Mobotu Sese-Seko.

In fact, the real problem isn’t that the FCC hasn’t shown the cyber-cojones to regulate ISPs like an old-school telephone company or “common carrier,” but that it’s trying to increase its regulatory control of the Internet in the first place.

Under the proposal currently in play, the FCC assumes an increased ability to review ISP offerings on a “case-by-case basis” and kill any plan it doesn’t believe is “commercially reasonable.” Goodbye fast-moving innovation and adjustment to changing technology on the part of companies, hello regulatory morass and long, drawn-out bureaucratic hassles.

In 1998, the FCC told Congress that the Internet should properly be understood as an “information service,” which allows for a relatively low level of government interference, rather than as a “telecommunication service,” which could subject it to the sort of oversight that public utilities get (as my Reason colleague Peter Suderman explains, there’s every reason to keep that original classification). The Internet has flourished in the absence of major FCC regulation, and there’s no demonstrated reason to change that now. That’s exactly why the parade of horribles — non-favored video streams slowed to an unwatchable trickle! whole sites blocked! plucky new startups throttled in the crib! — trotted out by net neutrality proponents is hypothetical in a world without legally mandated net neutrality.

Apart from addressing a problem that doesn’t yet exist, if you are going to pin your hopes for free expression and constant innovation on a government agency, the FCC is about the last place to start. For God’s sake, we’re talking about the agency that spent the better part of a decade trying to figuratively cover up Janet Jackson’s tit by fining Viacom and CBS for airing the 2004 Super Bowl.

February 2, 2014

Some of the Super Bowl commercials Canadians won’t see on TV

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:13

The audience for the Super Bowl is split between fans of the game (who actually care about the outcome) and fans of the ads (because this is the biggest TV audience, advertisers pull out all the stops and generally try to be genuinely funny). In Canada, thanks to our TV regulations, most of us will see the broadcast of the game itself, but we won’t see the same commercials as our US neighbours … we’ll get the same assortment of crummy ads they’ve been showing since the start of the season, with a few of the US ads as a “teaser”.

Fortunately for those who aren’t interested in the game itself, but like the commercials, the lead-up to the Super Bowl usually includes web release of many of the ads that will air during the broadcast. Here’s a selection put together by the Guardian, including a “behind the scenes” of an ad that won’t get shown … because it was never made:

Go behind the scenes of the Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Brown Ale almost made with the mega huge celebrity who almost starred in it. See more at http://www.IfWeMadeIt.com

The VW ad is rather amusing, too:

Story of the day – the invasion of the Super Bowl prostitute army

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:45

You’ll undoubtedly have heard that the New York and New Jersey area has been swamped with an invasion of sex workers (many of them under-aged) who have been trafficked into the area to “service” the fans in town for the Super Bowl. You’ll probably have heard the same thing about every major sporting event over the last few years. What you won’t have heard is any actual evidence that this really happened. That might be, as Maggie McNeill says, it’s a media myth:

Major events such as World’s Fairs and the Olympics always provide an excuse for governments to “clean things up” in the host cities before the guests arrive. Police sweep people the leaders consider undesirable, embarrassing or just plain unsightly out of public view (and into jails or exile for the duration). The victims vary with the time and place: the poor, the homeless, unpopular minority groups, drug addicts and gay people have all been among them. The list always includes sex workers; even in countries where prostitution is legal (such as Greece or Brazil) the moralists feel compelled to purge the most visible manifestations of the sex trade from areas where visitors might encounter them. Xenophobia is also heightened by such events, as those so predisposed fear the prospect of strangers coming to town, bringing with them outlandish and alien forms of sin and crime. Together, these two factors may be the origin of one of the stranger (yet more persistent) myths of our time: the idea that some Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots, tens of thousands strong, wanders about the world from mega-event to mega-event, unimpeded by the usual logistics of transport and lodging which should make the migration of such a large group a daunting task indeed.

The legend seems to have first appeared in conjunction with the 2004 Olympics in Athens. That’s telling because, though the rebranding of sex work as “sex trafficking” was already underway in prohibitionist circles in the late 1990s, the moral panic seems to have begun in earnest in January of 2004. In the months before the Olympics Athenian officials went through the usual cleansing procedure, raiding brothels for largely bogus violations of zoning restrictions. A Greek sex workers’ union complained that by making it difficult to work in legal brothels the city would increase illegal prostitution, and this was twisted by European prohibitionists into “Athens is encouraging sex tourism.”

By the end of the year, the growing “anti-trafficking” movement was using bad stats to claim that “sex trafficking increased by 95 percent during the Olympics.” Within a few months, anti-sex worker groups made the bizarre prediction that approximately 40,000 women would be “trafficked” into Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Of course, nothing of the kind happened. Despite increased police actions (including raids on 71 brothels), the German authorities only came up with five cases of exploitation they believed to be linked to the event. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which closely investigated the myth in its 2011 report “What’s the Cost of a Rumour?”, was unable to find a credible source for the “40,000” figure; it seems to have simply been made up. But it has doggedly persisted since then, accompanying virtually every major sporting event including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2012 Olympics in London. Despite massive police crackdowns (costing about £500,000 in London), no significant increase in prostitution (coerced or otherwise) has ever been found during these large events.

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