I’ve made some semi-serious predictions for the past few years, often involving Sarah Palin (but not this year, darn it!). As in previous years, I’ll stick mostly to political stuff and some popular culture territory. So let me go out on a limb once again and make a few bold statements that are probably not true but whatever. Nothiing is really true on the internet, right? Except Buzzfeed.
It’s the beginning of the end for the NFL as we know it—Between the increasing evidence that even high school football causes irreversible brain injuries, that crowds are thinning out at team stadiums because ticket prices are too high, cities pushing back against the extravagant costs of building new playing fields, and a slew of bad publicity that players and coaching staffs are mean even to each other, we could be seeing the end of the machismo of this monopoly group. Just yesterday, Jovan Belcher’s mother filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs that they knew he was ill from repeated head injuries well before Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself last year. This is not even the beginning of a wave of suits against NFL clubs, given that the NFL just settled a class-action lawsuit in 2013 (which left many people unsatisfied) for hundreds of millions a dollars, nor is it the start of gruesome violence committed by former and current players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As one NFL official put it in the recounting done by Frontline last year, “If only one mother in ten decides she won’t let her son play football, that’s the end of the NFL.”
The death penalty in the US will come up for debate once again—There are two fronts in the war against the death penalty. For one, it has been abolished in eighteen states, putting pressure on the equal protection clause in the US Constitution, because the same offense in different jurisdictions could result in very different sentences. According to The New York Times’ recent opinion piece on this subject:
All 80 death sentences in 2013 came from only about 2 percent of counties in the entire country, and all 39 executions — more than half occurred in Texas and Florida — took place in about 1 percent of all counties.
The other front concerns the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the cruel and unusual punishment section. In the time since European manufacturers ceased sending the drug cocktail used in lethal injection in the US, wardens have had to come up with their own formulations, which haven’t been tested for efficacy, and more specifically, to ensure that there is no undue pain on the part of the prisoner as part of the execution process. The likelihood that either or both of these topics come up in 2014 is strong. And in a midterm election year? It’s been a long time since the death penalty as an issue was part of a congressional campaign. Even the pundits aren’t sure how it could affect the rhetoric of any races this summer and fall.
Some new media outlet is going to have the breakout hit of the year—Mad Men, let’s face it, is on the decline, AMC killed The Killing in its third season, and it hasn’t found a replacement standard-bearer yet. Netflix did very well last year with its original programs House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, so maybe its time for another smaller studio to come up with an edgy winner. Forget A&E, people, mired in copious amounts of offensive reality programming. Think Hulu. Think Downton Abbey meets Battlestar Galactica. Think really super BIG. It’s not going to come from broadcast television, much as everyone loves Scandal (settle down).
We’ve got another year of insufferable, reductive debate about Obamacare coming—If you held out any hope that people would shut up about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, start working on letting go, because it’s not happening. With an extremely short list of accomplishments other than a government shutdown in 2013, the GOP members of Congress have to hit the campaign trail with some kind of drum to beat, and a shaky web site and people complaining about losing their fake health coverage is that drum. We will see new biggest-ever levels of funding even in smaller House races because the GOP needs to hold that chamber, so expect every piece of misinformation to be plastered on our televisions starting this spring, mostly from the lovely not-so-well-regulated SuperPACs that will be designed to get your vote. It’s time to invest in a DVR and skip all the commercials.