This is a morass from which I must extricate myself

Posted on September 8, 2014


The purpose of football is violence.  It is at the heart of the sport.  It is the reason the sport exists.

I did not, as a child, play flag football.  I did not play flag football because I saw no point in playing football if I wasn’t allowed to hit people.  The contact, the collision the violence was the reason I loved the sport and the reason I wanted to play.  My hometown didn’t have full contact football available until a child was in 7th grade.  I didn’t find out about it until I was going into 8th.  I played for 4 years and would have played 5 if not for a car accident and a concussion that nearly killed me.

I played defense because I wanted to hit people.  Again, as far as I was concerned the point of football was to hit people.  I played fullback on offense were, again, the point was to hit people.    I was good.  Good enough that I would have been playing Division II ball.  If not for genetics I probably could have played Division I-A or I.  I say this because I need to show that I understand and loved the sport.

I don’t love it anymore.  My children will never play it.  And after this weekend they won’t see it in our house this year.

America loves this sport.  It loves the violence and the passion.  It reaches down to something visceral.  It speaks to the mob and mob wants its gladiators and it wants its gladiators beating each other bloody.  It wants its gladiators to beat each other bloody and it wants them to do so as effectively as possible so it must begin training those gladiators early.

America is diseased.  We are a nation more than half in love with death and violence.  Our nation’s favorite sport is a reflection of that disease.  It is no surprise that the most armed nation that isn’t an active war zone, the nation most in love with its military, the nation most willing to drop bombs on others is in love with a sport that glorifies violence like no other.

We make excuses for the excesses of the league.  We hold the violence at arms length.  We know the sport destroys those who participate.  We know it cripples and maims and kills.  We know this.  We hide from it.  We cloak our enjoyment of the player’s suffering and misery.  We say that they know what they are getting into and that they are adequately paid and that they are paid to play a game.

The things that happened in the roman coliseums were called games.

This what I know from playing football.  When I was there, on the field, I loved it.  I loved every second.  To play football, I think, one has to love it.  You have to love it or it has to be your best chance at something better because it HURTS.  It is constant pain abated by a few hours of adrenaline.  I never made it past high school and I was a walking injury from the beginning of August until the middle of November.

And that there is the heart of it.  Football destroys its players like no other sport and we can’t hide behind the fact the professionals who play know what they are getting into because they don’t.   And the boys who play the game don’t.  And the children who play the game don’t.

They don’t know because the non-profit company that has 9 billion dollars in annual revenue, with a CEO that makes north of 40 million a year has actively prevented them from knowing.  These things in and of themselves should be enough to make a sane and rational person turn away from the sport.

But that isn’t all.  There is the exploitation of players at the collegiate level.  There is the fact of no guaranteed contracts in the most violent outside of the fight game.  And fighters are paid for every fight.  There is the racism built into even the names of teams.  The rampant, institutionalized homophobia.  The acceptance of behavior that is intolerable in any other workplace in the country.

Then there is the league’s treatment of sexual and domestic assault.  This country fails miserably in it prosecution and prevention of these crimes and this country’s favorite sport is no different.  The Ray Rice situation throws this into stark relief.

Everything about this situation, from the initial accusations, to the refusal to press charges, to the barely extant punishment of the perpetrator, to the victim accepting blame for what was perpetrated upon her, to the fallout today is reflected in our society at large.  The NFL has been quintessentially American in eventually doing the right thing when they had no other choice.

This is a snake pit.    If Roger Goddell had seen that video and decided two games was sufficient punishment then he needs to resign today because he is not fit to be in a position of power and disciplinary decision making.  If he did not see the video as league sources intimated to the NFL’s trusted mouthpieces in the press then he deserves all the scorn and ridicule they will heap on him.  And though I feel that today’s actions by the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL were appropriate punishment for a public figure who inflicted an act of violence on a helpless victim I know that Ray Rice should sue the league for violation of the CBE.  The league and Roger will win because they have 9 billion dollars of revenue and some of the best lawyers on the planet but in process we will find out what league knew and when they knew it.  We will find out if the league was so arrogant to think we would never see the video and be outraged or if they were so incompetent as to pass punishment without first knowing the extent of the crime.


I had already decided to divorce myself from professional football.  I wasn’t going to watch any games this year.  I wasn’t going to read the articles on ESPN about games past or upcoming.  I was still participating in fantasy football because it’s a social commitment but after this week I will be done with even that.  Ray Rice and the league’s actions regarding him have poisoned the well enough that I will not participate even in a peripheral activity.

I hope I am not the only one.

That is all.



Posted in: Politics, Social