Something about Tom Brady was different. New England sports diehard Jerry Thornton realized this when the cover of the February 18, 2002, edition of People magazine caught his eye. “Why I Had Plastic Surgery” blared the big-blocked letters. But it wasn’t Greta Van Susteren featuring her new “talk of TV” look that grabbed his attention. Thornton was fixated by the top right corner: a space occupied by a visor-wearing quarterback who until now had been a pop-culture anonymous. “Those lips, that chin, that Super Bowl win!” read the accompanying tease with Brady’s photo. If Celtics icon Larry Bird had gotten a “That wispy mustache, those tiny shorts—the best in sports” treatment, Thornton couldn’t recall.
So, here’s a story. You probably saw it in the news, in the dueling op-eds, in the outrage that swirled around it. But the story is still worth revisiting as a microcosm, a little diorama, of our cultural situation. This past July, The Nation published a poem by Anders Carlson-Wee called “How-To,” narrated by a panhandler offering advice to other panhandlers, explaining how to gin up sympathy among the passers-by.
The House election in Iowa’s First Congressional District pits Republican congressman Rod Blum against Democrat Abby Finkenauer, a member of the Iowa House of Representatives. The closely contested race will prove crucial for determining which party will control the lower chamber of Congress next year.