September 17, 2014

Evolving on the NFL

We knew nothing!
When news of the Ray Rice domestic-violence-in-an-elevator story broke, my initial inclination was to defend the NFL as a separate entity from Ray Rice.  The NFL was not in that elevator.  The NFL did not knock out Ray Rice's fiancee.  The rush to judgement about a cover-up was to my mind a distraction from the main issue - domestic violence.

The attack on the Washington Redskins because of their choice of name was in my mind a waste of time.  It still is.  Until I see native Indians out in throngs protesting, I'm attributing the need or desire to change the name to liberal guilt.  It's not a guilt I share.  I wish to wrong no one, or insult anyone but this does not appear to be an insult as far as native Indians are concerned.  Or at least to most of them.  So it's a non-issue.  And there should be no domino effect with the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Edmonton Eskimos or any other North American sports team.

The issue with concussions was something that would work itself out.  The NFL doesn't need it's stars or former stars all suffering brain damage because of the game.  Fixing that is a self-interest necessity.

But with Adrian Peterson intentionally or not putting his son in jeopardy, there has become a critical mass of problems and the NFL cannot ignore it.  The problem so far has been that the problems were largely ignored or downplayed.  The problem with the reactions of the NFL commissioner are that they are so knee-jerky as to be a de-stabilizing force.

I don't want to see the NFL disappear, and I don't believe that it's a game for Neanderthals and those who like Neanderthals.  But it's players have started to seem to be pampered, out-of-control thugs.  In a way, they reflect the coarsening of the broader culture (guns, drugs, disinterest in the welfare of others etc.) with respect to the youth of today.  Except of course, on steroids (dual-meaning not intended).

The NFL if it wants to maintain its level of prominence in American culture will have to change for the better.  How that happens is not clear - a commissioner change is simply too cosmetic to make a real difference.  And a real difference is whats needed, not just enough to avoid the glare of a negative spotlight for a while.

This is the NFL's chance to lead, in a positive, visible and meaningful way to be a force for good.  That may be putting too much on the NFL.  Indeed, it's not something the NFL has to do.  But it is an opportunity, not just a challenge.  And it is an opportunity the NFL should seize. 

At least that's where I have evolved to on the current image of the NFL.  That, and the fact that I really don't want to see a Seattle Seahawks repeat in the Superbowl this year.

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