15 September 2014

Hands Off

I didn't watch the Packers game on Sunday.  As a shareholder and lifelong fan living in New York, it's rare to see my team on TV.  But truth be told, my stomach turned at the gnawing thought of enabling that low grade tolerance for immoral violence that wore away at my conscience as the day hurdled toward the late afternoon kickoff.  I couldn't "just do it."

Ray Rice is a Baltimore Raven and Adrian Peterson is a Minnesota Viking but I knew enough about the game to know that Green Bay has had its own troubles with sexual violence.  In 2000, its star tight end Mark Chmura was accused of assaulting his family's 17 year old babysitter; and frankly, I get a headache trying to figure out this whole "baby mama" thing with Packers cornerback Sam Shields.

Understatement of the Year:  The NFL has a sex and violence problem.

Runner-up for Understatement of the Year:  ISIS is evil.

Back to football.

As a former student athlete whose greatest achievements were sunset by the time I turned 16, I've always fostered a relatively healthy distance from the over-valorized role that athletes play in our society.  Still, the mere physicality, discipline and psychological fortitude required of champions is admirable--and ignites in the mind the epic dimensions of a child's imagination.  Spectacle.  Grand Arc Narratives.  Greatness.

And I've even inculcated fandom in the kids.  Touring campuses last winter on a college tour, we took in a Wisconsin-Michigan basketball game.  Three years ago on a winter road-trip, we took in a Packers-Bears Christmas night game.  Despite their late season collapse, the Brewers Baseball Club continue to receive our devotions, even after Ryan Braun's half-assed apologies for PED use.

So I get loyalty.  You stick with those you love when they're down.  Got it.

But what are our obligations when they cross the line?  When athletes violate--egregiously--the covenant of devotion between themselves and the fans who support their careers?  Violence against women and children is serious enough to merit a one-day blackout, no?  How much does our fawning enable?

Like:  How about one NFL Sunday soon the fans don't show up?  Hit the league hard.  Where it counts--in the wallets of the owners who enable themselves, with a wink and a handshake at contract talks, the rampant violence that has come to define the league for what it is.  Big guys getting paid a lot of dough to inflict punishment on and off the field.

Is painting faces, wearing over-sized jerseys, grilling meat in a parking lot, eating salted corn-products, and consuming artificially sweetened soft-drinks and beer SO IMPORTANT that we can't do without it for one day in order to send a message that we find violence perpetrated by large men against women and children to be morally revolting?

Seriously.

And I'm just talking about the fans.

What definition of teammate necessitates tolerating this?  I'd like to see an athlete brave enough to step forward and say aloud:  "Yo.  This is bullshit.  Keep your hands off women and kids."

That would be heroic.




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