|Image from "Solomon Simmons"|
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
We need national mandate to invent a new game
The emcee for the Thursday concert acknowledged the football right away in a light vein. He remarked that the televised spectacle might have affected attendance - something like that. I was startled because, frankly, I wasn't aware of the game. Give me a pat on the back for being so detached. We'd all be much better off taking some of our attention away from that infernal game. I congratulate myself.
I have been aiming written barbs at football the last couple years. At the same time, like so many other critics, I have had to admit that detaching completely is going to be a challenge. Many commentators have been observing with chagrin that we have developed this addiction of sorts to football. It is genuinely troubling.
Why this near monopoly on our attention? Why this opiate-like lure? In this age of seemingly limitless TV channels, why does the rest of the TV entertainment universe seem to capitulate to football? Where are the keen entertainment minds that might come up with an alternative?
Why does so much of the TV dial give us sludge, barely varying from one channel to the next? Have you ever noticed how the best entertainment on TV can be those half-hour infomercials for Time-Life music collections? Even if it's one I've seen before, like the one with "Bowser" of Sha-Na-Na, I'll want to watch until the end of the half-hour. And I'm not interested in buying it. Thanks to this show, we can see what Gene Chandler looked like, the guy who gave us that 1962 gem "Duke of Earl."
I also love the infomercial for the "Doo-Wop" Time-Life collection. I'm inclined to think "doo-wop" is an underrated or maligned musical form. It has been called "street corner harmonies." I think it's more sophisticated than that.
But, getting back to the point at hand, why have we allowed this ugly, violent sport of football, a sport that kids unfortunately emulate, to have gotten on such a high perch? Is there something Biblical about this? Are we nearing a judgment day wherein God will mete out some punishment or justice?
Were many of us willing to turn a blind eye toward Adrian Peterson's indiscretions? Were we naive in thinking this was simply a case about corporal punishment? My God, how do we know this wasn't a case of a toddler irritating an adult who then went into an irrational rage? The Vikings simply wanted him on the field. And we would be happy, then? Well, I'd be quite indifferent. I didn't even know the Vikings were playing on that Thursday night.
I'm still waiting for the entertainment industry to solve the problem of football's primacy. It shouldn't be hard. There is lots of money to be made. Certainly there are ambitious people who can come up with ideas. Maybe some sort of national proclamation needs to be made. It would be like when JFK gave us the mandate to "put a man on the moon."
Why is our attention riveted on certain sports - football and baseball primarily - that were invented so long ago? Why do we automatically defer to these sports on an ongoing basis? Baseball is perverse because the act of pitching automatically hurts your arm. There's no avoiding it. Whitey Herzog observed about this in a book. Pitchers are better cared for than when I was young. Teams have too much money invested in them, for one thing. It's not like when Billy Martin in his degenerative phase deliberately (in effect) threw out the arms of some young pitchers just to "win now."
Kids emulate "the bigs" in little league baseball, as American as apple pie, right? I remember being at a Hancock Little League championship game one year and being totally exasperated. I mean, hats off to the kids out there trying to play this game. But the pitchers couldn't throw strikes. There were passed balls. Balls hit with any sort of soundness into fair territory were rare. The right fielders could just as well have been sitting cross-legged and reading a book. There was no meaningful exercise afforded the kids. How vastly superior the experience of soccer would be. But baseball is "America's pastime" or something like that.
All hail baseball and football. Major league baseball is dangerous because of how batters can get hit by a high-velocity pitch. Fights break out over this. It's pathetic. Look what happened to Kirby Puckett.
Football takes such dangers to a much higher plateau. We are learning more about this all the time. A national mandate to devise a new sport would steer us away from the disturbing stuff. We need a sport that can galvanize us without turning the athletes into, in effect, gladiators.
The athletes grow up accepting the dangers because they see the adulation they can get when they do well. In many cases they see no better options. Junior Seau played linebacker in the NFL until his late 30s. And then he eventually took his own life because of the damage done to his brain. Same with Dave Duerson and others.
Is our addiction to televised football so strong, we turn a blind eye to these phenomena? Let's steer our kids to soccer here in Morris. Or, let the boys play volleyball in fall like the girls. I'll raise a toast to that.
Maybe it makes too much sense.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org