OPINION COLUMNS

The NFL? It’s us

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Isn’t it ironic that the NFL is suddenly taking such a – well, beating – over players beating up their wives, girlfriends and children?

Isn’t violence what the NFL is all about?

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

OK, it’s controlled violence – good, clean, non-aggravated assault on the field, between the whistles – but still, isn’t this a sport that makes rock-star millionaires out of violent men?

And isn’t the NFL absolutely and completely the product of the American culture?

I’ve never been to a professional football game, but I admit, I’m a fan of high school and college football – the guys who are still playing for the school, fighting for their hometown or alma mater.

I grew up a Golden Tornado. My kids were Hornets. Now I root for Eagles and Bulls, Bulldogs and Dragons, Panthers and Yellowjackets and Texans.

Very few of them ever become Horned Frogs, Longhorns, Aggies or Red Raiders. Fewer still go on to be Cowboys, 49ers or Seahawks.

Professional football long ago ceased to be a game played by normal people. Unless you’re extraordinarily big, or fast, or both (or a kicker) the only football you’re playing on Sunday afternoon is pass-and-two-below out on the lawn with your cousins.

But high school and college have become a farm system for the NFL. We identify, early on, the biggest, fastest and strongest. We build them up, pump them up, repair their knees, treat their concussions – do whatever it takes to keep them on the field.

For the few who survive and thrive, there is indeed a payday. If they’re really good, they earn millions, and some get even more just for wearing this shoe or that shirt, drinking this sports drink, driving that car.

They play in billion-dollar stadiums with their images up on a screen 40 feet high, 100,000 screamers in the stands and millions more watching at home. And each time they take the field, they’re just one injury away from being cast aside.

Is it any surprise that a few of these kids – most in their early 20s – can’t handle it?

Frankly, I’m shocked so many handle it so well.

Forget Ravens running back Ray Rice, who famously punched out his girlfriend (now his wife) on an elevator, and Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who left welts on his 4-year-old with a switch.

Not counting those two, 27 NFL players have been arrested just since the last Super Bowl.

The list of crimes goes beyond domestic assault. New England tight end Aaron Hernandez is charged with murder, Cleveland’s Ausar Walcott with attempted murder. Former Cowboy Adam Jones, now playing for Cincinnatti, allegedly assaulted a woman at a nightclub.

Yes, he’s gone, but recently-acquired linebacker Rolando McClain, the star of last week’s Cowoys game, has a rap sheet that includes assault, discharging a firearm, reckless endangerment. And lineman Josh Brent is out after serving time for intoxicated manslaughter for killing a teammate. How long before he’s back on the field?

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of good guys in the NFL – good sons, faithful husbands, loving fathers. Those aren’t the ones we hear about.

We recognize that every community has a few bad apples. Even Jesus’ small group of apostles had a betrayer in the bunch.

But a significant number of NFL players are just thugs – bullies. They’d be in trouble no matter where they ended up.

Earning big bucks in a league that celebrates violence – that probably doesn’t help.

Want a little more irony? In all my time watching football, the harshest judgement, longest punishment and most vicious criticism I’ve ever seen leveled at a player was reserved for a guy who was cruel to dogs.

A quote comes to mind about reaping what you sow. Because we are.

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Messenger.

One Response to “The NFL? It’s us”

  1. Rusty White says:

    Bob,

    Good post, but I believe you missed one aspect that has ruined “Americas Game”. That being the “root of all evils” money from commercials! Sadly in my opinion greed has taken much away from the sport, and it is not the players greed, but rather those making “BILLIONS” off both the game and the players!

    Their greed has so much control over the game, that they even have the power to stop and delay the game! Thereby killing any momentum while changing the tempo of EVERY GAME! What is even worse it is not just in sports, watch your evening news, if it be national or local. They have more “minutes” for commercials and self promoting clips than they do time for “real news”!

    For me they have pretty much ruined our national sport and sadder our trust in a “supposed” independent news. How can they claim to be independent, when they all go to commercial breaks at the same time on every channel? while having the same “supposed” news stories on every channel??? I for one wish we could go back to when the games were played with “NO” commercial interruptions and the news was just that, NEWS ONLY!!!

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