Eygpt – The Super Bowl it Ain’t!

Hosni Mubarak supporters

Hosni Mubarak supporters ride horses during a clash between pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters.

National Public Radio is under some pressure to broaden its audience and develop more support – not money, but people willing to lobby on its behalf; Republican lawmakers are calling for an end to 40 years of federal government funding for NPR. They object on two levels, on a financial level all expenses should be more strictly controlled and on a political level, a government funded corporation competing against private corporations is not in keeping with the principles of a capitalist economy.   NPR is fighting back in some obvious and some not so obvious ways.  Certainly the broadcasting company is asking it supporters to contact their representatives and show support for NPR.  That is the obvious, the less that obvious is a subtle change in some of the programing.  There are two examples relevant to current events, world news and sports.  The corporation is committing to more international coverage, but not single-handedly, NPR uses reporters and reports from many other news sources to expand the range of its coverage; that includes, of course, an hour of BBC news, but it also includes using reporters from other major news organizations.  In particular the situation in Eygpt has brought the NPR coverage up almost to the level of Nightline during the Iran hostage crisis in its intensity and depth.

However, foreign news is not the only place one might observe changes in NPR, sports is another area in which it is expanding coverage.  All major professional championships are now fodder for NPR, and as we are a few days away from the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl is getting its share of NPRing.  Today there was a long, maybe a full hour, on the Super Bowl and sports betting.  Did I really write that, NPR talking about sports betting – gambling? Yep, that is what I said.  The discussion was a good general discussion about sports betting, the type of wagers and how to understand them and what opportunities might exist.  One expert said that some sports betting was getting easier, we now have much more data, up-to-the-date information on everything – that combined with vast army of emotional bettors make for better odds for the more thoughtful gambler.  He said something like, “the more you understand the rules and information available the easier it is to find a good bet.”

And that in a nutshell is the probably we all have now with Egypt – we cannot predict what will happen in Egypt, not who will win and not who will lose, not even when the game will be over, what it takes to score, the names of players or the rules of the game – nothing.  And we aren’t the only ones in the dark, so are the people in Egypt – there are no rules for this game.  Some of the players are wearing other team’s uniforms and other player’s numbers, scoring changes every day with the changing rules and players – and Alice thought it was hard to understand Wonderland!

The events in Egypt started as a Black Swan, an unpredictable event.  It has been erupting in stages from seemingly unrelated events.  Now it is evolving and evolving for reasons that we can intuit more than we can see – that is the changing players and teams.  There are people who were moved by Mubarak’s speech and wish to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait until September – and there are probably millions of those.  But they are not the people who attacked the other demonstrators today. We don’t know who they are, or where the got the horses and camel they used to drive the demonstrators.  Like instances of criminal behavior that have been reported, we don’t know who the people are and if they are supported by the government, other internal organizations or foreign interests.  More that one country or party in the Middle East has a vested interest in the chaos and change of power in Eqypt.

And here I would offer one more world of caution in our characterization of the demonstrators.  The American media is calling the original demonstrators, those in the “million man march” yesterday,  pro-democracy demonstrators.  As individuals they may or may not want democracy, we don’t know that – in fact in spontaneous  and crowd driven behavior it may not ever be possible to characterize the behavior – describe it we might, but characterize it we can’t.  They have not acted as iindividuals or members of organizations, they have acted as part of crowd.

There is another dangerous mis-characterization possible at the moment – that of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is not Hamas, Hezbollah or a puppet of the Iran extremists.  It is the oldest such movement in the Arab world and has always been more of a anti-colonialist party than a party to bring Sharia law to Egypt.  It is true that Ickwan (the brotherhood) was influential in the development of both Hamas and Hezbollah – but it is not cut from the same cloth. I don’t know what its agenda is, but it will be unique to Egypt, not a copy of another party in another company.

Having said all of that, I don’t mean to imply that anyone knows who the players (or a more organization develops the teams) are or what exactly they would do with full power.  This is much like a poker game at the moment with the players hidding the cards in their hands from the other players.  What we are seeing at times may not be what is really happening.  Instability is scary and this situation is unstable and scary.  I feel comfortable making only one prediction – we don’t know what will happen or when.  Betting on the Super Bowl is pretty easy by comparison, we know the teams, the players and the rules of the game; we can interview the players and the coaches to help us understand and we will get to watch the play.  The game will be played out in public with referees to ensure compliance to the rules and fairness of play.  None of those conditions exist today in Egypt.




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February 2011
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