Sorry to upset you with a politically incorrect take while you’re already dealing with that National Tight End Day hangover…but as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I was hoping Tua Tagovailoa couldn’t play on Sunday Night Football.
Now, as a classy guy, I’d rather it have been because he was the best man at a destination wedding…but if it was because of injury, that would’ve been fine, too. Beggars (and bettors) can’t be choosers.
“What about the spirit of competition?”
“But to be the best, don’t ya gotta beat the best?”
It’s football. They’re running into each other on purpose. And allow me to be the first person to point out “they’re” bigger, faster and stronger than they’ve ever been. It stands to reason, then, the injuries are worse than they’ve ever been, too. Getting hit by a Mini Cooper (or 215-pound meanie Jack Lambert) going 15 miles an hour would be bad…but getting hit by an F-150 (or 250-pound Micah Parsons) would hurt even more.
From here on my couch, though, I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person to say I’m weary of the maudlin hand-wringing and performative confessions of guilt for bearing witness to plotted collisions. Can’t I just watch the violence in peace?
Listen, I’m no tough guy. These injuries are gross. When was the last football weekend you didn’t see at least one guy get backboarded? Beyond a gut reaction of disgust, though, exactly how much am I supposed to react when some of the colorfully-festooned combatants get hurt?
Do I hue towards the league’s infrastructure and the world wide web’s users, who take to public forums to make sure you know they feel something simply must be done? (Who needs actual empathy when you can just tweet out prayer hands?)
Okay, I agree: Something should be done. So do it. Fix it. Short of using robots, the injuries won’t ever be fully eliminated, but things can get safer. Sit guys down after they take a blow to the head whether or not they want to sit, and stay consistent with the practice even if that headshot occurs in a high-leverage moment of the game. Be like Aaron Rodgers and wear the jumbo helmet. When a guy who dates a witch understands a brain bruise can’t be wished away, follow his lead.
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I guess I could follow the lead of NFL broadcasts. I’ll just need to drop my voice by an octave and use a serious tone for some real talk about brain bruises. And maybe a few of my pals can join me in a semicircle as we soberly acknowledge those are real people out there. One of the guys might even get choked up, and that’s okay, because we’re real people, too. And it’ll definitely all feel more poignant if someone can jump on the piano and play the down-tempo, solo version of a network’s football theme music. It’ll show how much we really care.
I don’t like seeing human beings laying unconscious and/or with their limbs pointing in directions they’re not supposed to point. (Why? Because I have a heart as big as the ocean.) What I’ve had it with, though, is the attending broadcaster’s required lament, “This really puts things into perspective.”
That broadcaster will wisely shelve references to “Coming out and punching someone in the mouth”, “blood and guts football”, fighting for every inch”, and “the war in the trenches” for next Sunday. Y’know, ’til the violence is okay again.
Mt Pious a great place from which to look down on the rest of society…but allow me to take the moral ground back by pointing out people probably shouldn’t need to see someone’s physical wellbeing shattered to gain perspective. I will concede an intentionally-violent-activity-as-national pastime makes things murky…especially when it’s so vastly appealing multi-billionaires partner with each other to project the visuals into our homes in order to take full advantage of our sometimes-dark addiction.
Goes without saying, but football isn’t on an island here. Boxing and MMA (combat sports!) and hockey goons and pro wrestling and sanctioned slap fights seem to suggest a fair percentage of our society is okay with the resulting damage of sports.
Last week, after conflating his football life with a military deployment, Tom Brady had to apologize…and rightly so for obvious reasons. But to be fair, sports and military comparisons aren’t that big a stretch.
Courage is required for both, and – while creating familial wealth for the next century doesn’t stack up defending the survival of one’s homeland – there’s a certain selfless nobility in risking one’s own wellbeing in the name of something bigger, even if that thing is the bank account. (Must be quite a thing telling your parent he or she never has to work again as you hand ‘em the keys to their new house.)
Speaking of which, would you trade an indeterminate amount of your life expectancy for generational wealth? I don’t know if I would – like I say, I’m not a tough guy – but if these guys are, why should I get the vapors about it? Throw soup on them in protest? Should I try talking them out of it? No one else is. Not the owners or their partners, and certainly not the players themselves. I’ve asked a lot of them. Believe it or not, they’ve considered the risks.
Bottom line, if my team wins largely because the other team’s star quarterback is out, I will dig deep and summon happiness. But if networks and team owners and broadcasters don’t like the human cost of football, they have an easy way out: Stop showing it. (Spoiler alert: They won’t.) And if watching gives you the vapors, you should stop watching.
In other words, enjoy the games this weekend.
Speaking of which…
BEST BETS EVER OF THE WEEK
(6-6 last week; 46-35 on the season)
Iowa St +1.5
Notre Dame +3
Ohio St -15.5
Enjoy the games, and remember: I hope your team wins…unless they’re playing my team.