Monday, November 14, 2011

So here's what I think about football.

A few of you asked and a few of you should probably not read any further because here's where I expound upon football and why I've always hated it and why the recent Penn State atrocity gives one a modicum of license to tell it like it is, at least if you're me. Plus, I have the urge to just tell it like it is, for me. The for me is purposeful, so don't get your panties in a bunch (is that the expression) or go thinking I'm all self-righteous and pretentious (although I can be).

It's what I think. And it's going to be a helluva rant.

I am repulsed by football and always have been except for a brief shining moment when my much-beloved high school boyfriend (hey, Clarke) played it, and the shining moment was not the football-playing but the dates afterward with the boy I loved. I suffered through a few Atlanta Falcons games with my family and many University of North Carolina alcohol-fueled end-zone sitting in the boiling autumn sun with more dates games, but The First husband hated the game as much as I did and The Current Husband is Swiss and thinks it's stupider than anything else in America, so there you go. I've had a history of hating football, and it hasn't stopped yet.

My boys periodically pester me about playing it, and I'm not budging. I tell them NO because of my perhaps irrational fear of head injuries. I tell them that I'm just not up for the risk and having not one but two kids with neurological problems. I know that some of you might think this insane. I also tell them that I think football is a stupid spectacle, and that would include the Super Bowl and the insane amounts of money spent and consumed. Honestly? The Super Bowl, to me, is equal in barbarity to the Roman gladiator games of old. The commercials and all the hoopla about them just add to the sickening disgust. (I told you this was a rant).

Here's what else. I think the Penn State horror show is emblematic of American culture in this, the third millenium where every single thing is a commodity, to be bought or sold or valued in economic terms. I've spoken about this ad nauseum as it pertains to people with disabilities. Those of us in those particular trenches, in fact, anyone who has any kind of healthcare issue, must frame our fight in economic terms to soften the blows, to gently influence, to persuade, to get anything. One must make the case that it costs less to help a family to take care of their child or elderly parent at home than to place him in an institution. Those who oppose the death penalty often say it costs more to put someone on death row than to give them life in jail. Money speaks and it speaks incredibly loudly. There was money to be made when American troops were sent to Iraq ten years ago. I'll only mention the commodification of healthcare -- the industry of depression -- treating patients as consumers, etc. etc. etc.


Those heinous acts at Penn State happened because one perverse man with a sick, sick mind, was protected by those in power because of the economic repercussions of the scandal. Sure, there's a bit of social scandal thrown in there -- the cult of personality and sports, the protection of one's job, one's reputation -- but I think of football as an industry and the wheels must be kept greased, the benefactors satisfied, the wins bought, the show must go on.

You can protest all you like about the entertainment factor of football, what a great game it is, how these boys have worked hard their whole lives to participate, and that might have been true at some point, but it's not true today -- in either college or pro ball. It's about the money, and the monster that lured numerous boys into the hallowed locker rooms of football and then proceeded to rape them was supported by the sick apparatus of American sports. I'd throw in all college and pro sports, actually, and while I don't despise baseball or basketball, like I do football, I hate the whole industry of sports in general. The spectacle of thousands of people protesting and supporting the coach of that team was another emblem of our culture gone awry. For a minute, I thought that all those guys in charge should have just killed themselves -- sort of like the Japanese do, I think, when they've been shamed.

I think the football program at Penn State should be shut down. That would honor the victims and begin to right the wrong. But that's never going to happen because most of us will continue to plead the case that a few bad apples shouldn't spoil the bunch. An attitude that's as American, now, as apple pie.


  1. I don't know how it was for you, but for me that was an extremely satisfying rant. If I was in bed, and if I smoked cigarettes, I would light one up right about now.

  2. i completely agree with every single word, elizabeth.
    thank you.

  3. Ditto! And it was never entertained that we'd let the boys play. Soccer is our game. Alas, the big money isn't there so you don't see it on t.v.--not enough "breaks" to allow for ads.

    I agree that Penn State's program should be shut down. That much couldn't have gone on without many, many, many knowing about !


  4. Honey- you are NOT the only one who feels this way. The only reservation I have about the whole thing is that I know how much my husband benefited from playing basketball in college. Because of that, he got an education. Because of that, he got to live in Europe for a few years- things he NEVER would have been able to do without the college basketball.
    AND, I will say that playing sports (well) is part of who he is. It is part of his self-confidence.
    But as to the importance of football in our culture? I have no idea why it is like this. None. I have lived in a town where football is beyond sacred for thirty-seven years and I have been to two football games and I hated them both.
    And you DAMN well know how I feel about the whole Penn State thing.
    Beautiful rant, Elizabeth. Beautiful.

  5. I loved this rant and maybe that would surprise you because you know I like the game.

    Like many things in my life, I may like or perhaps maybe even love certain aspects of it, take my religious affiliation for instance, but I abhor, other areas of it as well. I think it is about sometimes finding the balance and the middle ground. Much like so many other components of my life.

    I cannot even begin to tell you the depths of my sadness and disgust over the Penn State tragedy.But you know me and you therefore know my feelings.

    So two more things: I am a tomboy for sure but I do not like watching basketball, but I like watching Joe playing it. But professional and college, no go and don't get me started on the Lakers. And my boys,no matter how they beg or Joe begs, will will never play. Flag maybe. Contact. Never.

    Then there is "Friday Night Lights" .. still miss that show. Or maybe it is Tim Riggins I miss. Hard to tell.

  6. amen to every word.

    my son wanted to play football freshman year of in high school. he went out for the team and realized on day one he hated not only the game but also the cult of the game. he finished the tryouts and didn't make the cut. he was happy not to have quit but happy not to have to play. i was happy never to have to deal with the prospect of his playing football ever again.

    (but he's reckless in other ways. rugby for example. speed and no helmets.)

    those penn state officials who looked the other way should all go to jail. every last one. the broken humanity of those little boys, most of them black and poor, did not occur to them, not when weighed on a scale against the almighty dollar.

    how the fuck did they sleep at night?

  7. I could not agree more with your rant and purge about the "sport" and the culture of only disagreement is that your irrational fear of head injury is not irrational and is quite rational and has been proven real in many instances.

  8. 1. I did not know there was a First husband.
    2. We are of the same mind on football. Too me it is barbaric, & I've never understood the revelry in the representation of battlefields.
    3. I've slipped once or twice over the years thinking it might be a good thing for my 6ft4 250+lb teenager to play football, but thankfully he's a pacifist like his mom.
    4. This news from Penn State makes me cry.

    I've missed your blog so much!

  9. I don't hate football. I used to get a real rush, looking at those gorgeous, muscular young men in their uniforms, when I was their age. Now, I think it's way too commercial, and the running game is not even as much fun to watch as it was in the old days due to the way the game is played today, but I won't go there, because I'm trying to stay with your rant.

    I feel about baseball the way you feel about football. Don't like it, never did, and had a bad 1st-marriage-related experience with it, so that just sealed the deal. But I don't dislike the players of either of these sports.

    I DO dislike pedophiles, and the people who harbor them. I DO dislike the moneyf*ckation (that's a new word - you saw it right here) of college athletics, and I think it's bound to invite corruption. Whether or not that was the reason for the cover-up at Penn State, I don't know.

    I DO KNOW, as a woman who was repeatedly molested when I was under the age of 10 by a church-man who was in a place of power, how difficult it was for people of our parents' generation to face the horrific fact that it happened. NO ONE thought of calling the police - certainly not I. The perp (in my case) is dead, and though I know there are at LEAST 3 of us (and you know if there are 3), because he is dead, the church refused to publicise or even investigate our revelations.

    I think the one good thing to come out of all of this Penn State business is the fact that people who had any questions will NOW know: THE FIRST THING YOU DO - YOU STOP IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. THE SECOND THING YOU DO: YOU CALL THE COPS. That is something everyone should know.

  10. There are LOTS of things I could talk about regarding competitive sports in general. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. There's honestly a sort of sick feeling that fills up the pit of my stomach when they're mentioned, or viewed (especially on television). This Penn State business is SO SAD and I just feel like so many lives have been wasted/ruined that they should do the right thing and shut down the rest of the season. Sports and money are bedmates, though, so that will never happen.

  11. I hate sports. In Canada I am somewhat of a freak because I hate hockey. The money that goes into professional hockey is disgusting. One Canadian goalies was signed to a $64 MILLION dollar contract. There have been days when I can' afford to buy food and some dipshit makes $64 million. That does not include endorsements for advertising.

    At any rate, I like you more because you hate football. :-)

  12. Of course I agree with you and all of your gentle readers ... and, um, hello, first husband? I'm working up my own rant and will hold forth in the coming days.

  13. P.S. - part of my sentence got deleted: "you know if there are 3 of us (victimes) across a decade, there are certainly many more."

  14. Amen! I couldn't agree with you more on all counts, and I'm encouraged to see so many others feel the same way. I have many miserable memories of sitting on uncomfortable stadium seats in the broiling Florida sun watching some boring, endless game with my father. Ugh. All I wanted to do was go home to the air conditioner and read a book.

    And of course it's not about the game anyway. As you said, football -- both college and pro -- is all about money, money, money, money.

  15. Awesome. Is it still a rant when it's all true?

  16. I"m not a fan of professional sports either, although I think sports is a misnomer, as you said it is an industry. And what happened at Penn State is awful. You stand up for kids, always. You stand up until you can't stand up anymore. You stand up until things get fixed, until the bad shit stops.

  17. An excellent rant, and you do make some interesting points. But as a fan of the game, I think I'm more idealistic in that I don't think all of sports is about money. I live in rural wisconsin and I see how small town sports teams give the kids a sense of responsibility and accountability and determination and striving towards goals. I see kids become part of a team that is bigger than themselves, kids learning to work together towards a common goal, learning to work through the dynamics and conflict that arises in any sort of group. I see kids who need a physical outlet for all their energy find a place where they can express their emotions and be physical and go home at the end of the day feeling good about themselves. I believe that to throw out all of football because of the problems with these large money-making institutions is cynical and throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Penn State scandal is horrific and we'd all like to have seen that play out differently, and the abuse that took place was wrong and the cover up was wrong, but I don't think that the entire community of "football" is as black and white as some think. I know I'm in the minority here on your blog, but I just had to share my two cents. I hope no offense is taken.

  18. Your rants are always eloquently written. I won't weigh in on football, because I don't really like or watch any sports. Well, maybe ice skating or swimming. I also have just the one daughter, and she wasn't interested in group sports growing up. (The only football I've ever watched at all has been in shows like Friday Night Lights, which we just finished watching on Netflix - had to laugh at Heather's comment about Tim Riggins ;)

    But seriously, the Penn State scandal, like other "people in power covering up wickedness" scandals, is abhorrent. I think as long as there is money to be made and power to be wielded, and evil in the world, we will witness such horrendous things. But I also agree with Karen, in that I hope there will be fewer victims because there is now a greater ( I hope ) openness to stand up and shout, "NO!"

  19. I just read portions of this out loud to my husband. The almighty dollar does indeed control everything. Football is a stupid sport and the control it has over this country is crazy.

    My son did play his freshman year of high school He didn't like it. I sat in the stands with my hands over my face thinking 'we don't have room for another wheelchair'. Not fun

    As for Penn State, it is horrific beyond words. Everyone of them needs to be fired. Everyone of them. Not a shred of morality in the whole group.These are the heroes?

    I saw one person write about Paterno: anyone who stands by and does nothing to protect children being hurt is not a hero, no matter what else he has done in his life.

    Sums it up for me. This showed the character (or lack thereof) or all the individuals involved and I agree with you that economics was driving that bus. Economics and evil.

  20. Barb - Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree with many of your points, particularly those having to do with youth and sports. However, I never said that I thought "all of football should be thrown out." I happen to hate the game and don't encourage my sons to play it, but I'd never go so far as to say it should be banned. I don't think it's cynical, though, to say that all of college and pro sports revolves around money -- I think it's naivete to think otherwise. It's an industry that kids are basically groomed for in high school. I'd venture to say that it's a rare person who is thinking of the love of the game over the money, and by the time they reach the upper echelons of sport, they must come to the realization that they are the pawns of the big brokers (just look at the NBA right now.).

  21. Oh, and about Tim Riggins -- I watched that show like a fanatic, and Tim Riggins was my Man.

  22. i should write a post on why I hate soccer, and why I've never let my boys play it.

  23. I have an absolute love for watching football, most likely because for me, it speaks of a lovely connection between my child self and my older brother and my father, with whom I desperately wanted to share anything - anything. And since I didn't possess a penis...

    That said, I am appalled at the industry it is. The coach of the University of Washington football team (not even that good for several years, and certainly not national champion quality) makes more money than the governor of the state of Washington. That may not be a very salient representation, so let me put it this way. You could pay six elementary school teachers or ten home healthcare workers or God knows how many minimum wage workers with his salary. And the defense is that "football brings lots of money into the local community." Now tell me that they honestly thought about that when "calculating" his salary. I don't think so.

  24. Great rant!
    I'm a bit removed geographically but have looked briefly into the Penn State shame. I liked your gladiator pic because it reminded me that these kinds of sports seem to connect with the sex and death thing. Not good sex, I hasten to explain, but the kind that is an abuse of power. In Australia and NZ we've had much the same kind of shame but they have involved women and gang rapes. Part of the 'code' apparently.
    It is a dysfunctional culture as archaic as the gladiator ring.

    (and in Oz the saying is 'knickers in a twist')

    Love your work.



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