You have to hand it to ol’ Bocephus: when Hank Williams Jr.’s 22-year run as Monday Night Football’s poet laureate came to an inglorious end in 2011, the country musician who brought Godwin’s Law to cable television wasn’t phased out in favor of Brad Paisley or some other younger, cheaper replacement. He was simply fired. Which hardly happens anymore.
Take Faith Hill. On Monday, NBC announced that the “Sunday Night Football” opening theme singer was out, and that Carrie Underwood was in. Hill is a long-legged, bleached-blonde, Grammy-winning pop country queen; Underwood is, well, ditto. Squint your eyes, apply a bit of makeup and CGI magic, and the two are more or less indistinguishable. Except for one crucial factor: Underwood is 15 years younger than the woman she’s succeeding.
And that, of course, makes all the difference.
This is how modern America works, and how work works in modern America: you are useful and valuable right until the point that you can be jettisoned to make room for someone who costs less, and maybe hopefully produces more. Or better. Or just good enough. Someone who is typically younger. More pliable. Less likely to demand onerous things like health insurance, a livable wage or an afternoon off to catch a child’s soccer game. None of this is overt ageism, and frankly, I’m not even sure it’s sinister. It’s just good business — good business being the ruthless pursuit of maximum efficiency.
In other words, the ethos of our socio-economic era.
Conspiratorial speculation aside, there’s no evidence suggesting that veteran NFL punter-cum-gay rights advocate Chris Kluwe was cut this week for being outspoken. There’s ample evidence suggesting he was cut because the Minnesota Vikings used a fifth-round draft pick on former UCLA punter Jeff Locke, saving themselves about $1 million. (Oh, and where did Kluwe play in college? UCLA.) Next man up. Such is the way of things in professional football — see the New England Patriots essentially swapping Wes Welker for Danny Amendola, or the failed replacement referee experiment — and increasingly everywhere else, too. It’s Oklahoma City parting ways with James Harden and Memphis bidding Rudy Gay adieu. American tech companies leveraging H-1B visas to offshore jobs without actually offshoring them. Foxconn — yes, that Foxconn — replacing
factory floor serfs human workers with robots. Heck, it’s Bruce Willis breaking up with Demi Moore, and then dating a 20-something actress that looks just like her. It’s the story of every industry that can pull it off, particularly journalism. Goodbye, middle-aged feature writers, hello young n’ hungry post producers! (Hey … wait a second … gulp). In the pursuit of profits, productivity and squeezing a few extra points out of the margins, everyone is expendable. And barring another miraculous 30-year credit bubble, I don’t see that changing.
So cheer up, Faith Hill. You didn’t do anything wrong. You just became the iPhone 3. Eventually happens to all of us.