Weekly Thoughts 2

An NFL-centric look at the week

Part 1: A Crack Appears

The NFL has gone through a controversial couple of weeks – with some its biggest stars being accused of domestic and child abuse, a potential cover up scandal regarding a video of domestic abuse, and the always looming discussion about concussions.

In terms of popularity, football is essentially only consumed by one nation – the United States. But what football lacks in breadth it makes up for by being the most consumed sport in television (also television in general).

Those who love it likely enjoy its hard hits and spectacular plays, their Sundays spent consuming 10+ hours of men colliding at high velocities while others avoid tackles with stiff arms and spin moves. As the sport has made the move toward safety, many football fans complained at these newly instated rules meant to protect players. Most football fans are advocates for the violent sport – that’s what these athletes are getting paid for right?

Yet the conversation surrounding football is headed toward further safety measurements. With science always improving and more player health awareness, the effects of football will be studied, more lawsuits will occur, and the NFL will be forced to act further. This, along with the aforementioned abuses and cover up could be the first cracks appearing that will knock the NFL from its American sports throne.

Years ago if you would have told me that there was a chance football could disappear or be relegated to a minor sport, I would have called you crazy. This is no longer out of the question. If the NFL continues to be seen as a cesspool of immorality not only because of its players actions, but also by those who actually run the league, people will no longer be willing to ignore its concussion problem or other iniquities. And people have begun to question. Peter King, NFL insider, and Sports Illustrated writer asked his readers the question “Do you still like football?” after last week’s horrendous showing. If King is growing weary, others could easily catch on.

Another reason football could collapse is due to its lack of an international presence. Football has not caught on with the rest of the world, no matter how many London games get scheduled a year. Baseball has Korea, Japan, and plenty of other countries across the Americas. Basketball has leagues all over Europe and Asia. Hockey and soccer are already global sports, more renown abroad than in the US. Soccer may never catch on completely in the US, but as it grows, it surely steals viewers away from the NFL. The NFL remains stationary and in a globalized world a global presence is necessary.

This begs the question – can football be fixed? Well, maybe. First, it must escape this year, doling out punishments to abusers and likely getting rid of Goodell in order to bring reform 1919 Black Sox style. Precautions to head injuries should continue to take place until the culture of the sport changes from a place where collisions are cheered on as if it were a video game and appreciation should turn to the other wonderful parts of the sport that do make it worthwhile.

Lastly, Mike Pesca of Slate’s The Gist podcast suggested on a recent episode of the show that perhaps violence to women occurs so rampantly in the NFL because it is a place largely devoid of women (go to 20:50 for his take on the womenless culture of the NFL). The NFL certainly is a male-centric culture and is one that is naturally violent, so his points do make sense. I am a believer that the more we interact with people who are different than us, particularly on a equal level, the harder it is to intentionally cause damage to them or discriminate against them. Violence is usually accompanied by some sort of dehumanization. What would a more womanized NFL look like? It’s hard to say, but to break through the NFL’s tough guy culture certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

Part II: The NFL Sparks Discussions of Corporal Punishment

Adrian Peterson was accused of abusing his child in what he would later claim to be something fairly normal in the way that he was raised. This opened up a larger discussion surrounding religion and discipline, namely through William Saletan at Slate (apparently I need to widen my news sources…) and Matthew Paul Turner’s op-ed at CNN. Saletan decries spanking as something that prevents understanding and increases violence, while Turner goes after a sect of people that believe the Bible encourages corporal punishment. Both are an interesting read and inspired me to reflect on my own experiences.

I grew up getting spanked. We had a paddle that was specifically used for spankings – I can still picture it in my head. Despite – or because – of these spankings, I turned out fine. For better or worse, I don’t remember how much I got spanked, but it seemed to work appropriately (or perhaps my fear of transgressing in any manner was built into me via wooden paddle). My parents didn’t abuse it, my dad never pulled out his belt to whip me with, I don’t remember any aggression or Biblical references accompanying the spankings. It was always a punishment for wrongdoing and once it was done, it was done.

With that being said, I don’t think I will spank my own children. Nor do I generally believe corporal punishment to be a positive (though I will certainly conduct research). My wife is Swedish – a place where spanking is illegal and there is no precedence for it. To a Swede corporal punishment is synonymous with child abuse. And really it can be hard to tell the difference.

When you look at one parent spanking versus another where is the line drawn? When is it discipline and when is it abuse? There is no way that you can define it. Spanking is a violent act. In order to define it, the conversation would have to turn to how hard you can hit your kid or how often. To me this is not productive. Good people with good intentions can make mistakes; good people can succumb to bad intentions.

Should spanking be a thing? I say no. I am sure good can come from it, I really am, but the amount of bad that can come out of it, plus the fact that it is nearly impossible to decipher the good from the bad, pushes me over the edge.

I’ve been there, I’ve grown up around spanking that was probably done as healthy as could be done, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather parents hitting their children not be seen as acceptable.

Part III: A Timeline of a Football Match (The Breaking of a Heart)

5:20 – All right! Football baby! 1-0 49ers taking on the Bears. First game at Levi Stadium, Marshall and Jeffery are hobbling, and the Bears lost to the Bills last week. Easy 2-0.

5:40 – Blocked punt! Whaaaaat!?!?!? #SLAPHANDS


6:50 – TOUCHDOWN!!!! Oh wait… Penalty? Anquan Boldin touched a guy? Awww man. Referees are such bummers.

7:00 – Hey that might have been a touchdown, let me wait to see if there were any penalties…………………………………………………………………… Oh good, we scored!!!!!!

7:10 – Penalty on Justin Smith for 6 yards, 1st down Bears. Aw shucks.

7:15 – Penalty on Cox for 5 yards, 1st down Bears. Aww shucks.

7:19 – Penalty on Dial for 15 yards, 1st down Bears. Awww shucks.

7:22 – Touchdown Bears. 17-7, oh well we’re probably still the best team in the league.

8:00 – Field goal by Dawson on the opening drive, yeah we’re definitely going undefeated this season.

8:10 – Penalty on Lemonier, 5 yards, 1st down Bears. Aw shucks.

8:14 – Penalty on Johnson, 5 yards, 1st down Bears. Aw shucks.

8:20 – Touchdown Bears, 20-14. Well you know our offense is unstoppable right now! No problem man, no problem.

8:30 – Oh Kaepernick that was a bad pass!

8:35 – 21-20 Bears lead. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

8:37 – Why must man toil the way he does? The sun rises and the sun sets but the days are meaningless. Life. is. meaningless. Where are you God in my misery?!?

8:40 – Ohh Kaepernick that was a bad pass!!

8:44 – You know Rust Cohle was absolutely right, he absolutely was, he was the truest detective, yes he was.

8:55 – 28-20 the Bears are now ahead. Ohhhh boy.


9:05 – Oh come on Kaepernick throw it to hi—- awww $*&!

9:06 – Why would I ever choose to watch football. Or sports. No one should do this, no one should EVER DO THIS. Football is the worst thing that humankind ever came up with. Worse than Maroon 5. Worse than water chestnuts. Worse than lukewarm water. Worse than a skipping DVD….


9:20 – My wife looks at me, she asks me if I’m okay. I don’t respond. ‘You look like you just found out a loved one died.’ You just don’t understand!!!

oh football.


I am a huge football fan. It is certainly my favorite sport to watch, might be my favorite sport to play, and definitely is the one I follow the most. Every Sunday since I can remember has been filled watching the 49ers (or other teams) play. It is an obsession and a passion.

This love of the game has been putting me at a dilemma as of late. The news about the Jonathan Martin story, which exposed not only the knack for bullying within the NFL, but how deep this “warrior culture” (as Brian Phillips put it) runs has put a proverbial pebble in my shoe for the love of the game . This, combined with the information about concussions, the suicides, and the general violent nature of the sport have got me questioning its value in my life.

During the last 49ers game, 3 players were removed for injuries, 2 of which suffered concussions. This, combined with the fact that they lost and that it was probably the most boring football game I’ve ever watched (the Panthers squeaked out a 10-9 victory), made it hard for me to see just what I loved about the game.

Normally, I love all the moving parts. I love offensive linemen opening up holes for running backs to burst through. Quarterbacks dropping back and hitting the open receiver. Watching the linebacker chase down the quarterback or the corner make a play on a ball. I even love the big hits that safeties give receivers or when the defensive lineman gets free and goes after the unsuspecting quarterback. From casually playing and watching over the years, these plays fill me with excitement. But now these are being overshadowed by deeper problems.

When you look at the violent nature of the sport in general, the longterm consequences of the hits to the head, the militaristic way that teams are run, and the potential that all of these have to affect players off of the field (which there may or may not be evidence for) it becomes harder to support. I love sports and what they can do for people, but does football take this away? I am increasingly not able to find anything that I value both on the field and off. At what point do you abandon something you love because of what it is doing? This is always a tricky question when it comes to people, is it as tricky when it’s a sport?

Writing for Grantland, the aforementioned Brian Phillips discusses this tension and how football becomes a sort of substitute for our gentle lives, a vicarious way to feel tough. He writes:

“I love football — it’s so much fun, it’s beautiful, it’s thrilling, it’s an excuse to drunk-tweet in the mid-afternoon — but it has also become the major theater of American masculine crackup. It’s as if we’re a nation of gentle accountants and customer-service reps who’ve retained this one venue where we can air-guitar the berserk discourse of a warrior race. We’re Klingons, but only on Sundays. The Marines have a strict anti-hazing policy, but we need our fantasy warrior-avatars to be unrestrained and indestructible. We demand that they comply with an increasingly shrill and dehumanizing value set that we communicate by yelling PLAY THROUGH PAIN and THAT GUY IS A SOLDIER and THE TRENCHES and GO TO WAR WITH THESE GUYS and NEVER BACK DOWN. We love coaches who never sleep, stars who live to win, transition graphics that take out the electrical grid in Kandahar. We love pregame flyovers that culminate in actual airstrikes.”

What if I don’t watch football to participate in this warrior mentality? I’m still complicit right?

And listen I know that football would continue without me. I know that these players are participating on their own will (though I’m sure some feel as if they have no other option). I love the sport, I do. I think it is a beautiful game (sorry soccer). Does the beauty and creativity and athleticism of football outweigh the ugly violence or is this brute competitiveness at its core?

For now I continue to watch. I mean, its all but ingrained into my soul. However, I tread lightly. I watch without the loud cheer behind a player getting crushed. I push for continued player safety, not lamenting all the rule changes that “tame” the sport. I support any pushes to make the locker room a safer place for players psychologically. I probably won’t let my future children play until their brains are more fully developed. I will continue to question football as the sport and society progress, with time answers will become more clear, maybe we will discover – is football too broken to be fixed?


I feel as if I have been abundantly contrarian the past week. I wrote a post that attempted to take down the beach. I posted an article on my Facebook that was anti-Breaking BadI am offending people’s sensibilities left and right, but I don’t want to be a contrarian. I’m a normal guy too! They say the proof is in the pudding (and I like pudding) so here it is, things I like that you probably like too:

I like Disneyland! I agree with their “happiest place on Earth” statement!

I think Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” is a pretty rockin’ song!

If I had to rank all of the holidays, Christmas would likely be number one.

I think pizza is pretty fantastic (though I can’t fathom how pepperoni inexplicably became the go to pizza topping in America)

I both enjoy and despise Kanye West which seems to be the general consensus surrounding him.

I have a Facebook account and think I spend too much time on it.

I like football and baseball! I’m a red-blooded American!

Chocolate chip cookies are probably the best cookies out there (but pies>cakes).

I like Starbucks (for milkshake-y, sugar loaded dessert type drinks).

I too get into swimming and beach volleyball every four years.

I read all the Harry Potter books and found that I quite enjoyed them. I also read and liked the Hunger Games.

I get pretty mouth watered over a steak.

See, really when it comes down to it, I’m just a normal guy. Maybe I don’t like the beach, think hot chocolate isn’t good, and disliked Braveheart, but underneath this rough contrarian exterior I’m really just an average Joe!