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May the Force Be with You

going to rescind his career, hound him from Washington, and make him live in abject humiliation for the rest of his life. What they find are two legs sticking through the rich linen folds of a tablecloth. A great snoring comes from within. Someone has managed to fall asleep under the table. Naturally, there is consternation. Who the hell is this guy? Someone parts the linen folds and has a look. He comes up smiling. And as the word spreads, everyone is smiling. The snorer, it turns out, is John Riggins, running back for the Washington Redskins and Super Bowl MVP. What’s important here is what happened next. Everything that should have happened didn’t. Security did not come and haul away this vulgar, stupid man. No one sniffed his disapproval. The world did not recoil in horror. No one in this status-conscious town trotted out their contempt. No one leapt to restore the honor of the president. In fact, everyone just smiled. Everyone simply nodded, smiled, and said, “Well, that’s John Riggins for you,” and that was the end of that. Not only was Riggins not ridiculed or vilified for this gesture, he was celebrated for it. As it turned out, everyone loved it. They were charmed as hell. Riggins fell asleep listening to the president. Wonderful! Riggins, it turned out, had done nothing to embarrass himself. Snoring through a presidential address was apparently something glorious, entirely in character for Riggins, and perfectly endearing. And why? Partly, it made everyone think of the old joke about “where does an elephant sleep?” In Mr. Riggins’ case it was, of course, “pretty much anywhere he wants to.” There was also the sense that the guy who brought home the Super Bowl had the keys to the city. If he wanted to sleep while the president was talking, well, that was okay. After all, next to the Super Bowl, Washington hadn’t really accomplished anything for years. But what really protected Riggins from ridicule? What really made the gesture so profoundly endearing was that it tapped deep into the very cultural foundations of American maleness. This little nap beneath linen was immediately seen to play out the most

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Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

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