Saturday, September 20, 2014

The NFL & Our Culture of Violence

Warning: rant in progress
As the spectacle of domestic violence and the NFL plays out on televisions across America, I'm guessing I can't be the only person in this country who finds this drama a little bit sick.

Even Dr. Phil is in on it now; a sure sign that the circus is in town for real.

Here are my thoughts, such as they are:
  1. The NFL doesn't give a shit about domestic violence. The NFL cares about profit and fans. So far, no one, and I mean NO ONE thinks fans are going to stop going to games or watching NFL football because some of the players punch their wives in the face or hit their four-year-olds with sticks. If you are upset that some NFL players are as violent at home as they are on the field but you are still watching and/or going to games, shut up. 
  2. Football in America is all about violence. If you don't believe me, attend just one pee wee football game and watch the parents get into fist fights and foam at the mouth swearing on the sidelines, as their confused five-year-old boys toddle a ball up and down a big field, hoping to be admired and loved. If you happen to be one of those parents, shame on you.
  3. Don't tell me you don't know that high school and college football players are considered rarified, privileged creatures who can do no wrong even as they degrade and demean others off the field, commit atrocities and, well, do great wrong whenever they are so inclined. Not every player certainly, but how long have these young men been held up to the community as shining examples of perfect manhood, while year after year some of them rape and harm 'townies' and any female they consider to be a sub-creature, which, basically, is almost any female. These women are shuffled away by authorities and if they do press charges they are deemed sluts. Nice. As if engaging in violent gang sex doesn't demean men, only women. 
  4. How many football players come from the upper classes? A few. Some quarterbacks. But most of the muscle comes from the black community and the working class. These men are gladiators. We can call them football players if it makes us feel better, but if you can't see through this you are deluding yourself. We make sure they play on broken bones and torn ligaments. When later in life they end up with permanent, traumatic brain injury, we throw them away. We figure it's fair because some of them make a lot of money for a short time.
Sports doesn't have to be like this, but it is like this, and has been for a very long time. 

Don't get me wrong. I watch football and sometimes I even enjoy it. But I don't nurse the delusion that I am watching squads of heroes. 

I know what sports in America is, I've seen it up close and personal most of my life, being related by birth to a 'sports hero' and local legend. It never has been what some people want to believe it is, and it seems to me that a better approach than screaming and crying when your heroes let you down is grow up a bit and see the world for what it is. 

Not that the world has to be what it is. 

We don't have to raise boys by knocking them around and bullying them into 'toughness'. We don't have to make it clear to them that the boys who matter most, the boys who are admired most, are the boys who can be mean as hell and pretend to be nice. As a culture we could instead demand good sportsmanship, kind behavior, scholarship, and accountability, but we don't. 

We want our guns. We want our macho saviors. We want to know that, as a nation, we can bomb into oblivion any country that shows us disrespect no matter how ineffective that strategy proves to be. If we have to watch a black man on TV, we want to see him mow down a squad of other black men, not give a Presidential speech, not host Cosmos. 

Every day we convey to our young men that might makes right and violence earns respect, demanding conformity and shaming anyone who falls short. 

As long as we glorify violence, we will get violence. 

The violence in the NFL is a mirror. There is nothing 'in there' that isn't out here in equal if not greater numbers. And if we really cared about that, we'd change it.

But we won't.

You know it. I know it. 

So let's stop pretending. It's disrespectful to the women who absorb the blows.