There was a time, not too many years ago, when I was that frothing idiot spilling beer excitedly over touchdowns and spectacular plays while Adi watched me with no comprehension of football’s grasp. The few years I spent in Philadelphia I temporarily converted to the city’s religion, the Eagles. As it was Philadelphia the city loved their team loudly proclaiming their superiority and starting fights but they also turned on a dime over the players. No one laid into Donovan louder than his own fans it seemed. Eventually, sometime after moving back to New England, I stopped rooting for the Eagles after they hired Michael Vick. This drew some confusion from other football fans. They inquired as to the issue. I said plainly I didn’t want to root for a team who hired a man who killed so many dogs. They stated, correctly, that he had done his time. I agreed but I didn’t want to root for the asshole. Just because he spent time in jail doesn’t negate his actions. They still happened. It was not tabula rasa, those dogs still suffered and died. They’d argue with no regard for my viewpoint (that I like dogs and people who aren’t jerks more than football) that I should get over it and root for my team. And thus I uncovered some of the problems with football. Football fans are dicks.
Football fans are great apologists. As long as it’s their guy. Teams are filled with so many rapists, violent spousal abusers, homophobes, bullies, child beaters, cheaters, liars, and unrepentant assholes you can easily fill a fantasy football team filled with convicted felons. It would probably be a solid team.
So we have a bunch of football fans who forgive the atrocities of their players, this is not terribly uncommon form how we often treat actors and pop singers. Maybe the league might take notice and stand above such pettiness. Or not, probably not. The NFL has a simple tactic. Ignore it as long as possible and outwait the critics. They seem to focus more angrily at enforcing players to make a certain amount of contractual appearances to the media than have players stop hurting people. I am aware that being great at football does not automatically qualify a person to be a well-rounded role model but it would be nice to try.
A lot of football players end up penniless after they forget to change their spending habits after retiring. It might behoove them to act a certain way so they can work afterwards. I can deal with assholes, T.O. was a massive asshole. But when he was on the Eagles he was my asshole (that sounds so much worse now that I’ve read that back). But seriously stop being such merciless shitheads. It will be awfully hard to become a spokesperson for a company after sending unwanted pictures of your dick to random people… no… never mind. Those wranglers look great I guess.
Not all the players are jerks mind you but there sure seems to be a bunch of them. But that’s only part of the system. Fortunately owners and coaches are above all that. It’s not like they’d permit racism or ignore public outcry and keep a deeply offensive name for a football team. Okay so maybe they might. But it’s really expensive to change logos and print new items. It’s not like the NFL teams are constantly updating their stores and fans are buying new version of jerseys… okay maybe they are. The Redskins could make a positive spin by changing their name. They could hold a contest for the new team name. Gather a whole bunch of good press. Hell, they could donate a whole bunch of money to Native American causes after raising money. But fuck that, this is America and we like our football.
But that’s just one guy. He might be alone. Well, how about a revered football guy like Mike Ditka. Yeah, he’s totally racist, maybe like racist light (only 46 calories but still filled with all that bitter hate you love) but still way more than acceptable. Maybe it’s just me but espousing racism seems like a bad idea when there are walking human slabs of muscle who have been training to demolish other walking slabs of muscle walking around who might take umbrage at your unkind words. These are very big dudes who get paid and rewarded to violently ram into other big dudes. Did you know they are coming out with a new police procedural drama coming to a station near you? It’s called “Mike Ditka Casual Racist.”
These guys are all jerks but they’re getting paid a whole bunch of money. It’s not anyone’s fault that they often end up with nothing right? Except for the whole concussion and brain damage thing. Linemen, on average, are around 300 pounds (the internet told me this so it may be true) and this 300 pounds wants to make you stop in your tracks like the go to jail card in monopoly. Do no pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go straight to fucking pain town with a side order of memory loss, internal trauma, shortened lifespan, and a host of other problems. But they only get so often and not always to the head. Maybe like once a game. No, more? Okay maybe like three times. No? Well why don’t you just tell me Virgnia tech study I found on the internet?
“Football players were struck in the head 30 to 50 times per game and regularly endured blows similar to those experienced in car crashes, according to a Virginia Tech study that fitted players' helmets with the same kinds of sensors that trigger auto air bags.”
Oh, that seems like a lot. Also that whole car crash thing sounds pretty bad. I wonder what they estimate the tackling force might be? What’s that internet? Oh it‘s only “1600 pounds of tackling force”. That seems only moderately life threatening.
Thank goodness these same practices don’t permeate sports at a younger level like high school. It would way worse for developing brains to absorb that kind of repeated trauma. Or high schools could totally drop the ball. Even when good coaches and trainers take care of their of their charges we still have a bunch of kids who cover up their injuries to continue playing as they fear they’ll lose their spot. It’s not like getting a second concussion during a certain time period after your first could kill you. Actually it can and it does. Concussions are some scary shit and medical science still isn’t all that great about it. We’re making progress as this issue is gaining more support but we are in the dark ages compared to other fields.
Okay so it’s really dangerous, especially for our youth athletes, it’s steeped in racism and violence but hey it teaches unity and how to be a team player. Nothing else is bad about football. Well there is the whole cheerleaders who are treated like shit. These ladies are paid barely anything for the privilege of wiggling seductively on the field. But there seems to be some change on the horizon for that due to some recent law suits.
But why do these scandals keep popping up and sliding out of our memory? Young men are dying or shortening their lives in football leagues but little is done. Maybe we shouldn’t allow football to expand outside the states. But hey, what’s more American as of late than that all permeating sense of apathy? Maybe America deserves the sport.