“Bill, I know football, man”

I spent the hours before the Super Bowl stuffing wings in my mouth as fast as I could, so I missed this Fox News interview with Barack Obama conducted by Bill O’Reilly. That’s probably just as well, since the sight of me sputtering wing bits onto the screen was best left for, um, the first interception.* A lot of people are afraid to interrupt the President of the United States so they can finish his sentence, but O’Reilly is not a lot of people. He is one irritatingly smug person, who responds to an invitation to the White House by saying “I don’t want to ruin the party for you guys” and routinely follows the President’s opinion by offering his own. After Obama finishes explaining his position on the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in a representative Egyptian government, O’Reilly adds, “Those are some bad boys. I wouldn’t want those guys anywhere near the government.” Somehow, the President manages not to say, “Maybe that’s why no one ever elected you to do anything, you jackanapes.” The whole interview is a study in restraint, except for one moment near the end. After he has been accused of socialism—after he has been told that his close friends think his personality has changed and asked if it bothers him that people hate him—the President loses his composure when O’Reilly suggests that he doesn’t understand football.

The snap comes at the 13:30 mark. Shortly before that, O’Reilly embarks on a campaign of insinuation, starting with, “Now will you actually watch the game? I know you have a big party tonight; J-Lo is gonna be here.” That’s already a fun question to ask anyone who has just finished a fairly nuanced comparison of two pro football teams that cites injuries to specific players, but O’Reilly doubles down, asking the President if he “knows” football. “You’re actually going to watch the game?” he says, after Obama has expressed his intention to watch the game. “You’re going to sit down and watch it? You know blitzes, you know coverage and stuff like that…”

At that point, the President says, “Bill, I know football, man.” It’s a small snap. Unlike certain people, Barack Obama does not freak out when he is irritated. But when the President of the United States calls you “man,” stop fucking with him. It’s like when an octopus changes colors.

Bill O’Reilly does not, however, stop fucking with him. Instead, he says, “I know you’re a basketball guy,” and the whole thing comes together in a neat little package. The major threads of inquiry thus far have been: do you support the Muslim brotherhood? have you changed to suit popular opinion? does it bother you that the majority of Americans oppose your biggest policy achievement and you personally? In short, the President is not like us, and when he does something that is like what we would do, he is faking it. Here are the last two years of Fox News in one easily digestible package

In that context, Obama’s “man” is an appeal to what remains of O’Reilly’s humanity. He is more machine than human now, twisted and evil, but the President hopes there is still some good in him. O’Reilly has just spent what is probably the most significant interview of his life trying to get the President to screw up and alienate the American people—that is, to alienate himself. For fifteen minutes, O’Reilly has pursued the line that Obama is not like Everybody Else, and now, on Super Bowl Sunday, he demands that the President admit that he does not like football.

I submit that the telling characteristic of the liar and the scumbag is that he insists everyone else is lying and bagging scum. He has to in order to get up in the morning. When Obama says, “Bill, I like football, man,” he is attempting to move their interaction from the realm of the interview—where asking the same incredulous question three times in a row is a form of argument—to the realm of the interpersonal, where that sort of belligerence is unconscionable. O’Reilly refuses to enter the realm of the personal, however, because the realm of the interview is the only place he might possibly be construed as an okay person. That’s where everybody lies and asks insinuating questions and tell us other people what they’re really like.

Let us imagine, for a moment, that Bill O’Reilly is not a professional television personality, but rather the guy who lives next door to you. After he asks you what you think of the Super Bowl, and you say that the injury to Maurkice Pouncey is likely to magnify the Packers’ speed advantage, he asks, “But are you actually going to watch the game?”

At this point, you realize that your neighbor is not actually interested in talking to you; he had some plan for your answer going in, and he is basically having this conversation with himself. Perhaps you remember that moment as you are drifting off to sleep, full of wings, and wonder what your neighbor Bill is thinking just then. Does he regret blowing the opportunity to be your friend? Does he feel sad and lonely? Or is he just waiting for one of your trees to grow over the property line so he can call the city? How do you feel, knowing you live next door to a person like that?

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  1. My opinion of Bill O’Reilly actually changed perceptibly after reading your recent post about him. Whereas before I had just thought of him as an egotistical asshole and congenital liar, his refusal to understand tides makes me think that he is actually so narcissistic that he is practically brain damaged. By this I mean it doesn’t occur to him that anybody else (including scientists or the president) might be better informed or more intelligent, or that he could be wrong about something, which prevents him from learning new things.

    It brought me back to the famous “we’ll do it live” clip of O’Reilly exploding on the set of Inside Edition. The immediate cause of his uncontrollable rage is the phrase “to play us out” (in reference to music playing as the show ends or goes to commercial) which he doesn’t understand. I used to wonder how somebody who had worked in television for years could possibly be unfamiliar with that phrase, and why he couldn’t figure it out when his producer tried to explain it. Now I see that he didn’t understand “to play us out” for the same reason he doesn’t understand tides–he was refusing to figure out anything he didn’t already “know.”

  2. Personal favorite moment: 13:59 in the video when Bill O O O O’Reily (Auto Parts) says “I hope you think I’m fair.”

    Watch Obama’s face.

  3. The big question: Why does the President of the United States grant an interview to the Baiter in Chief of Fox “News”?

    Is it to give this ass a chance to exasperate him into “talking black”?
    (I know football, MAN)

    I’d have preferred a laughing, “I guess they don’t make hearing aids for ears that big, Bill,” (more good natured, manly chortling)

  4. I just think it’s pretty sweet that BOR was willing to take a few moments off from not even pretending not to enjoy the smell of his own farts to remind the American people that black people may play football, but only white people understand it. Though the application of “bad” to “Muslim Brotherhood” is arguably a salient point, at the end of the day Africa isn’t a very important country.

  5. Liz- agree. And I love how you said that “Africa isn’t a very important country”. Sounds like how a dipshit would say it, because I’m sure he cares so little about Africa that he thinks it’s a country. Just like Fox’s political correspondent/grizzly mom, Palin, thinks it is.

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