I am a fan of football in the US. Perhaps because, as a young boy, I always wanted to be that guy who eluded all of those tacklers and scored the touchdown. Or dove for that 50 yard pass, snatching it out of the air before it hit the ground (or the rusty fence which served as one of the boundaries). Sometimes, playing football in the neighborhood, I got hurt; I sprained every finger in my hand, got bloody noses, scraped knees. However, it wasn't about violence or aggression. It wasn't about hurting the other team. It was about executing plays and running fast, and catching balls.
Professional football goes beyond the skills of the game and includes a layer of violence. Violence is not incidental. Rather, it has become part of the game. It is no surprise that there are numerous injuries in every game and tempers flare. It is no surprise that many players reveal some of that violence off the field. Does professional football reflect trends in our society, or is it just an aberration, a unique activity that attracts a fringe element of men?
This week, the NFL has had to deal with some high-profile players exhibiting their violence off the field. Men abusing women and children by hitting them. I don't know if this is symptomatic of our society, but the response of the NFL is: first, do nothing, then, minimize it, and finally, when you have no choice, say how horrible it is - but marginalize it. It's only a few people, right? Doesn't happen that much, right? What's troubling is that this sport, and others like it, make a huge issue out of the use of drugs, whether recreational or performance-enhancing. Maybe the use of the drugs is bad for the sport, but the issue pales in comparison with domestic violence. Should I care if a player smokes pot? I don't know, but I certainly do care if a player beats his wife or children. The NFL as an institution does reflect the behavior of other institutions in America: it promotes values that weaken our society and fails to demonstrate care for those who need it.