Monday, November 16, 2009

More Than Words?

Monday morning in Kansas City was so very different, yet so much the same. The weather went from a sunny November to the cold, rainy winters I was used to as a kid. And just like the November Monday mornings of the 90s, the city would wake up fresh off a Chiefs win. But there were no feelings of hope, no optimism in the air. I woke up, turned on the radio, and all I heard was this:
It's embarrassing to have a head coach cursing like that on national television.

He's out of control.

I couldn't even watch the game with my children in the room.
Yes, head coach Todd Haley has an affinity for the F word. (Couldn't find good video of the game, but here's a classic Haley-to-Croyle interaction that paints a good enough picture.) This time around, Dwayne Bowe got the brunt of the punishment, and the entire city's sensibilities have been offended. The team won, which nowadays is cause for excessive celebration, but the only talk of the town is how coach Haley is immature and offensive. But the only F word these "fans" are really hurt by is this one: football.

In "Eating the Dinosaur", author Chuck Klosterman notes that in 1905, eighteen players died while playing football, and that the violence of the sport almost caused President Theodore Roosevelt to ban the sport. The game was seen as a bloody mess between neanderthals. The gladiators of modern times. This had been the reality of football from its inception, until recently, where violence is seen as the root of all evil.

In the last decade, the rise of concern for the safety of sports has been dramatic, with football on the forefront. Studies on concussions and the effects of banging heads for thirty straight years have been headlines in newspapers and topics of books. The verdict: playing football hurts, both short term and long term.

How is it then, that in the Age of Information, that we are just now learning what was deemed common sense for a century? Football is brutal. It is only for men. It's ruthless and unforgiving and will make you drool all over yourself by the time you are fifty. This isn't breakthrough science. I've known this since I was a child. During Oklahoma Drills in practice, when I was ten, we used to bash heads. And I even knew then that this was not for the timid. Hence, the writing gig.

But NFL Commissioners Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue made a fortune on selling the American public that football was a game, not the rough and tough display of violence that it really is. And they bought it like it was a Shamwow. The perception of the NFL is completely different than its reality. These superstars may make millions on have reality shows and funny Twitter accounts, but make no mistake: these are hardened men that sacrifice their lives for the short starburst of glory. And that is what sports is all about.

This brings me to Todd Haley. He curses, he yells, he screams. He drops F-bombs like a sailor. Well, guess what. He is football. He is dirty, degrading and mean, which is everything the NFL stood for. This game is not for Gen X, Tipper Gore or soccer moms. Football was designed for men with no regard for their bodies who curse, spit and routinely try to end the lives of their opponents for the chance to one day hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

As Lombardi said himself. "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious." This isn't a game. It is war. Deal with it.


Heartlandjeff said...

Good artitcle. I still don't think Haley has "it". Wouldn't be suprised to see him gone after this season. The F-bombs don't give him the carisma he lacks.

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