Permanent Offense

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.

Not Our Kind

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.