Image result for prison barsI see that football owner has now apologized for a second time that “inmate” comment. A few more-or-less related comments:

I don’t know that Mr McNair engaged in a malaprop (prison and asylum don’t quite sound the same) as much as a Freudian slip. I don’t know the man, and I only read the context of his comment. Neither a prison nor an asylum is a very attractive place to be. The NFL seems to present itself as a bit more sane–even more fun–than that. If owners really do feel they’re in prison, it’s a very gilded cage indeed. I also note that at least one player has come out publicly stating apology 2.0 was unconvincing. Here in the Pac NW, most Texan players did what they haven’t been doing since others picked up the president’s gauntlet: protesting.

There may well be something seriously wrong with football. Something more wrong than declining ratings or some fans’ perception of slightly more boring. A football career adds hundreds of thousands to some millions to an athlete’s portfolio as it takes off an average of fifteen years of his life. A price to get out of poverty? A price for fame–even sharing one-fiftieth of a stage? I sure hope it stays a game for those involved. I can’t say I’d trade a decade of my life for a million dollars. But I have to admit there have been moments when I would’ve been tempted.

Football players have been portrayed in some circles as losers. Recently, things like  domestic abuse tarnish individuals and athletes as a whole. If a player were to develop a drug addiction to play through the pain–I can understand how that might happen. American doctors are trigger happy on the Rx scrip. Bringing home an abuser mentality? I stand with a lot of people who don’t get that. But I also know other professions have come up as “losers” on the front of beating significant others.

Owners wring their hands over the protests. They know the business value of their possession is slipping a bit. It’s understandable that billionaires operate in a different level of earth’s atmosphere than the rest of us–even the millionaire players. Personally, I don’t perceive that a team can be “owned” by anyone. Players play the game. Fans and supporters cheer. They have the physical and emotional ownership of the games. I can see how property can be owned: a stadium, a training facility, or playing equipment. But such things can just as easily be administered by a government, a public trust, or even by players. Some of those things are. Some of them start out as public things but are later given as gifts to “owners.” But who knows? Maybe community ownership is untenable in modern money-mad society. Some sports have faded to black in the history of humankind. What’s to say football won’t follow them in another generation or two. Owners of the game can’t seem to wrap their minds or money around concussions, their overblown sense of entitlement, or the larger issues of race, police, and prisons in the US. They’ve been shown up by the players as less than golden citizens.

Fans seem to stand against the players kneeling. Curious–kneeling is a rather respectful way to protest. But the perception is that it is non-conformist. And the president has certainly made it an issue. If the home team begins to do well–and make the Super Bowl–I bet the boycotting would fade off.

The president comes off as a loser in all this. He’s going head-to-head with competitive athletes. Football players aren’t shy about knocking out their opponents. If Mr Trump appeared on the field in the opposition line-up, they’d flatten him too.

I’m fine with players finding a public service voice–even if many of them are just posturing to win a battle against the president. But in reality, this is just one of a number of sideshows in American culture these days. Serious issues go untouched while another brand of inmate doodles around the fringes and sets up to enrich an upper class that acts independently of a mainstream society, much of which is in need in various ways.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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