What Glorifying Football Says About Us

by Diane Dimond on October 27, 2014

Football Fans Can't Get Enough

Football Fans Can’t Seem to Get Enough

This question is going to sound like blasphemy to some but here goes: Why do we glorify the game of football and its players the way we do?

I’m not really an NFL fan but I watch occasional games with my husband. I can take it or leave it but I know there are millions of others who live-breathe-and-eat the game. But, why?

In the aftermath of yet another round of NFL scandals I’ve been thinking about what the game of football, and the fallout from its disgraces, really says about us. I wonder what football’s influence has done to generations of America’s boys.

Young Boys Schooled in Aggression

Young Boys Schooled in Teamwork & Aggression

Kids as young as six suit up for Pee Wee league games and are taught that winning equals aggression and is rewarded with cheers and praise. Older boys who play football are the idolized big-men on campus, their heads often filled with dreams of playing for the pros. If their parents and coaches fail to instill real life lessons of good character along with the rules and strategies of the game all the kid may come away with is the idea that violence is acceptable and steroids may be just the thing to help them achieve their dream.

Take the group of high school players in Sayerville, New Jersey who became so pumped up on their own self-importance that they viciously set upon freshmen in their darkened locker room and sexually attacked. The boys called it hazing. The cops called it felony assault.

At Florida State Football = Scandal

At Florida State Football = Scandal

Criminal complaints against college football players happen nationwide. They range from public drunkenness to discharge of a firearm and sexual assault. There has been a scandal brewing at Florida State University where players have been accused of domestic violence, auto theft and rape among other charges. According to the New York Times, “Investigations have stalled and players have escaped serious consequences.”

Coaches, police and judges frequently look the other way as player transgressions pile up. If and when punishment is meted out it often seems far more lenient than regular folks get.

These kids get the idea that just because they can play a ball game they get to live life outside the law.

Indeed, the NFL players they watch on nationally televised games each week (now airing on Sunday, Monday and Thursdays) often seem to get away with thumbing their nose at the law.

Bloodied His Child With a Switch

Bloodied His Child With a Switch

Since 2000, dozens of NFL players have been arrested for drunk driving and on at least three occasions people have died as a result.

Pro players have assaulted strangers, their lovers and even their children as seen in the recent case of Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson who bloodied his four-year-old with a wooden switch. Many fans seemed to buy the star running back’s excuse that he had only disciplined the child the way he had been disciplined as a boy. As if that made it okay. Pending felony child abuse charges apparently weren’t sobering enough for Peterson. He showed up for a court date and was forced to admit (right before a random drug test) that he had just smoked marijuana.

And everyone who follows the NFL knows that the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice dodged charges after he sucker-punched his fiancé, knocking her like a noodle into an unconscious heap. Only after two damning videos surfaced and the public outcry became unbearable did the NFL Commissioner indefinitely suspended Rice from the game.

Makes Half a Mil & Steals Underwear - Go Figure

Makes Half a Mil & Steals Underwear – Go Figure

More recently, Joseph Randle of the Dallas Cowboys – a dude who earns $495,000 a year – was arrested for inexplicably shoplifting cologne and a package of underwear. The upshot? After quickly posting a small bond his spin team cooked up a PR stunt with MeUndies, an underwear company that announced a deal in which the admitted thief would donate $15,000 worth of clothing to needy kids.

Are these players stupid or do they simply believe there are no consequences?

The game of football can, of course, be a great tool to instill discipline and teamwork in young males. And the majority of NFL players are good and wholesome citizens. But what I worry about it that this billion dollar a year industry has polluted our young males’ idea of what it is to be a man. I worry about the culture of professional football and how it has infused so many of us with the ability to look the other way and shrug when crimes occur.

Like I said, this will be blasphemous to some, but I hope it spurs some deep thought about what the game of football has wrought.

DD NOTE: Thanks to reader Terry Wilmont for sending along this map which might explain why we focus on athletes performance and not their character.  All about the money??

 

MAPofEarningsin USA

Wilmont writes: “This should put your theme in perspective. It’s no wonder this country finds itself in harsh, social, political and intellectual discordance in the search for ethical and moral guidance.”

 

 

 

 

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Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:44 am

ABQ Journal Reader James Loynd writes:

“I was very upset with your editorial about football because you are right.”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:46 am

ABQ Journal Reader Henry Hesse writes:

“Diane…your story re football is very much to the point..perhaps you might have expanded it to include other sports as well, but I do understand that football is surely in the sights right now. It all harkens back to a time many years ago. I was a pretty big kid..weighed 12 lbs when I was born…and was one of two guys who first reached 100 lbs…surely a football prospect. We didn’t have all the kids’ football programs back then..we just gathered up a few guys and girls and played in the front yard..and our games were those of legend, of course…but..one day I was running a sweep around left end and stepped in a hole, turning an ankle severely, and actually chipping a bone.I was about 13..thus ended my football career..my Mom stated that it was probably a good thing, because football might “ruin” me…maybe this was what she was talking about…”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:47 am

ABQ Journal Reader Alex Grether writes:

“Diane. I liked your article on Pro Football. I live in the poorest state [N.M.] Many of our parents care more about football than they do their kids. Certainly they care more about football than their kids education. I am an investor & over the summer I watched negotiations for the NBAs next contract. Time Warner & Turner wanted to retain the TV rights to broadcast these games. Now both these enterprises are not profitable & carry huge debt. They got the contract renewed. AT TRIPLE THE PREVIOUS CONTRACT. TRIPLE. TRIPLE. Now my first concern was will this bankrupt these companies? It shall not. The next day THEY LAID OFF 1500 PEOPLE! Makes me sick. How would you like losing your job for a basketball game?? College football is the most sickening of all. I have seen students vote to raise tuition 11% to rebuild the stadium. [Adams State University in Colorado] I will never again give them money. Ever. Thanks for your article. Truly isn’t this criminal?”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

ABQ Journal Reader Allen Berlin writes:

“Ms. Dimond,
You make a point in your column about the glorification of football amid the many scandals taking place among it’s celebrity participants. How about leveling the playing field, however. (Pun intended.) World-class soccer goalie, Hope Solo, physically assaulted her nephew and bloodied his ear. Then, she also assaulted her sister who tried to intervene. She is awaiting a court appearance, yet is still a member of the United States National Women’s Soccer Team and has not served a single game’s suspension. What about her influence on young girls? Or is it only males whom you find fault with?”

Allen Berlin
Albuquerque, NM

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:55 am

DD replies to Mr. Berlin:

Nope, it’s not just male athletes I find fault with. Hope Solo’s alleged aggression also worries me for the effect it has on her young female fans. But I dare say soccer – specifically female soccer – hardly has the influence and reach of professional football.
The courts will judge Ms. Solo and Mr. Peterson and the rest…~ DD

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

Twitter Pal rachel_sams writes:

“Excellent column by @DiDimond: What does the glorification of #football say about us?// Would love to see league leaders focus on creating a system that rewards good behavior & doesn’t protect bad”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

Twitter Pal nuevosoul writes:

“Although football sometimes reflects the worst of American maleness, it oftentimes reflects the best too.// It’s important to note that the there isn’t a monolithic homogenous football “culture” per se. cont.// There is however, a monolithic football money making machine in the NFL. We all know how BILLIONS affect values.”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Facebook Friend Nancy Robel writes:

“You will never eliminate the need to compete in society, but once money is laid down on the win, it becomes a whole other ballgame. That’s where the abuses, drugs, and irresponsibility are seemingly encouraged. And some of these athletes only have their physical prowess to be successful. The schools don’t always promote a successful academic accomplishment that will carry them after the game chews them up and spits them out. The standards of conduct that are in place just need to be enforced. But aren’t we fighting this uphill battle in every aspect of our society? The masses know what is right but the privileged few don’t seem to have to play by the rules.”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Facebook Friend Marilyn Kaskel writes:

“Thank you! I’ve been saying that for years. Where’s the outcry?”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Facebook Friend Jane Ofarrill writes:

“It’s all about the money.”

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Facebook Friend William Drummond writes:

“Jameis Winston? The face of collegiate football.”

Note to readers: Jameis Winston is quarterback on the Florida State University Seminoles. He has been accused of sexual assault. So far no criminal charges have been filed but at this writing he faces a University hearing on the allegations. Winston plans to declare himself for the 2015 NFL draft soon.- DD

Diane Dimond October 27, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Twitter Pal remnant0888 writes:

“@DiDimond Agreed! Can’t stand sports gods glorified!”

William R. Delzell October 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm

That was a good column!

None of the outrages that you list surprise me, though. I first became aware of such anti-social actions associated with football over 43 or 44 years ago when Harper’s and other leading essay magazines did expose’s on Football’s growing militarism and machismo and its comparison with then President Nixon’s obsessions with Vietnam and the anti-war protesters.

The only time that I ever genuinely liked football was back in grade school in Nashville, Tennessee, before I was aware of any violence associated with that game in particular. Only when I failed to make the team in elementary school that I gradually begin to sour on the game. I soon after developed interests in different types of extra-curricular activities like the French club, the Glee club, drama, and other sports like tennis and volleyball.

My next stage of disillusionment with the game would not occur until I entered the eighth grade when several students and administrators, because of my tall height, attempted unsuccessfully to get me to go out for the team. “Hey, how come ur not playin’ football?” was their constant refrain. I finally scared them off by suggesting that they find somebody who really WANTS to play the game and who takes winning more seriously than I. I told them they may not find me all that reliable a player, besides, I had too much homework. They grudgingly backed off.

The next disillusionment occured not long after when I not only got hassled by some people but when I saw the major football players bullying other people including their girlfriends. When I attempted unsuccessfully to intervene when one of the players was roughing up his girl, not only did he but his GIRL FRIEND as well berated me in vulgar language to mind my own business. While it did not surprise me that the football player himself would get on my case, I never expected his girl to show the same hostility toward me, using the same type of language as her boyfriend. I never saw anything like it! The principal and other administrators/faculty didn’t seem to care either.

Some of these same football players who would give lip service to being good sports during pep rallies were also the same bullies that terrorized other students, both male and female. While I certainly had my share of bullying, at least I had a strong support network that included my immediate family and close friends. So at least I had a cushion that many bullying victims did not have.

I remember at our youth church activities program, one football player and his girlfriend were upset that the girlfriend’s brother refused to play football as he was more interested in music and art.

My involvement with the Nashville anti-war and civil rights movement would also further my disillusionment with the game when especially football’s leadership expressed extreme right wing, pro-war, views that I found repugnant. When I joined my high school’s counter-culture movement in the late sixties and early seventies, I saw for the first time ever a large number of Nashville high school students, at least at my school, become strongly disillusitoned with football and a major drop in student attendance to games. The football team had to get other locals to fill up the empty seats!

My final stair to disillusionment occured when, shortly after graduating from high school in 1970, I attended a game with friends who, this time, sat next to the dug-out instead of way in the upper rear of the bleachers. It was at this game that I witnessed something that horrified me. When a badly wounded football player hobbled to the dugout moaning in extreme pain, his mother and father shouted obsentities at him for being a “wuss” instead of showing any genuine concern for his welfare and health.

I have never returned to the football fold since!

Diane Dimond November 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Twitter Pal remnant0888 writes:

“@DiDimond Agreed! Can’t stand sports gods glorified!”

Lenny Pappano April 11, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Interesting article. I wonder if we couldn’t dissect many other professions — ones which have far greater impact, like journalist fabricating stories, police shooting unarmed citizens, or government spying en mass on its citizens. Just sayin…

Diane Dimond April 11, 2015 at 9:31 pm

Every profession is made up of fallible human beings, Mr. Pappano. So the answer is YES! Difference here is none of those other professions is so glorified by adults and kids alike. ~ DD

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