On Monday, Jan. 2, Damar Hanlin, a football safety for the Buffalo Bills was playing in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals when he collapsed after tackling Bengals Tee Higgins, a wide receiver. They did CPR compression for nearly 10 minutes as people watched on national TV before he was taken away in an ambulance. The game was suspended with 5:58 left to play in the first quarter. The NFL later said the game would not resume.
But the question is, will this change how people view football or all sports?
It’s not just what’s happening on the field where multiple players have reported serious injuries including CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). This has caused people to have violent outbursts, sometimes with dangerous consequences. It’s been theorized that Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots may have been suffering from CTE when June 17, 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.
At the college level, many football players and other student athletes are treated so badly, I was surprised myself in college when I discovered the players couldn’t even get free pizza unless it had to go through a student-organized booster club. For many young people, athletics is they only way they’re going to survive public education. Some just aren’t too bright to make the grades because we’ve focused too much on testing. Others aren’t from the right families if you know what I mean. And growing up in the south, some are just black and the only way to avoid being considered part of the “bad students” is to go into athletics.
It’s the next evolution in Jim Crow to avoid having to recognize non-white people as human beings. If you can look at black people as good at sports (mainly football, basketball, baseball and track and field), they can serve a purpose to some people. I mean, why should they go to school? To learn? As Chris Rock said, “You got more respect coming out of jail than you do school.” And that’s just the way some people want to keep it.
Sadly, a lot of people are being pushed into student athletics by their parents or family who want them to continue a tradition. But all I’ve ever seen is child abuse. I covered sports and it’s one thing I will never sit idly by objectively covering. A 40-something man screaming at a 14-year-old isn’t building their confidence. It’s fucking child abuse and we need to acknowledge it. Yelling and screaming doesn’t solve anything. And from watching some of these coaches, they act more childish. They stomp their feet. They throw down their ball caps and headsets. They throw fits that any parent would’ve given them a “good old-fashioned trip to the woodshed.”
Yet, hundreds, if not thousands of people, sit a few feet away watching all this and do absolutely nothing. If you saw an adult yelling and getting physical with your your child in Wal-Mart, you’d step in and stop it faster than shit through a goose. But no one steps up. They’re going to watch and let a kid be held at by a fucking public servant who teaches civics or health classes. And they’re getting a lot of money to do this while other teachers have either having to use their own money or apply for grants for a few hundred dollars for school supplies.
Of all the students who play sports in high school, a lot don’t get college scholarships mainly because the coaches don’t help them. I’ve heard of stories of young people who were left counties away because they didn’t get a tackle or didn’t get the rebound that “cost the team the game.” Some schools may turn their eyes away from this, but others have done the right thing and done away with the coaching staff. It’s almost impossibe now with the Internet to keep things under wraps like in the olden days.
Getting back to the Bengals/Bills game, it could have went on. A lot of the players on both sides as well as staff were shaken up, but they could’ve continued. But they said no. I’m still surprised in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terror attacks that many athletic games at all levels were either canceled or postponed that year. On March 30, 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, the NCAA mens basketball championship game between Indiana and North Carolina still played. I understand there was a need to carry on, but they could’ve waited a day.
No, this time the game didn’t go on. How many people have gotten hurt in previous games and they’ve resumed play. Joe Theissman, quarterback of the Washington Redskins had his leg turn in a way legs don’t turn and the game carried on. Yet, how would this have affected the Bills and Bengals players? It’s a full-contact sport but it raises the question of whether it continues to need be, especially if the NFL isn’t going to do anything to help the players.
For years, the organization has lied and tried to hide the fact that it was dangerous. And for many athletes, playing in the NFL is the only thing they got going. They come from small towns where everyone knows they’re going to be working in some dead-end factory job if they don’t go out for sports. So, they get the attention and then go on to college and get more attention, just not the money they need. Then, if they do go on to the NFL, they will get a huge paycheck, which they won’t know how to invest wisely. All you hear is “He’s gonna buy his momma a house.” Yeah, and that’s a mistake.
The NFL has advertisements and they have obligations of their own, but they should be circumstances. Speaking of 9/11, I heard there would be lesser casualties but some employers on lower floors of the World Trade Center towers weren’t letting their employees leave because it wasn’t as serious as they thought. The teams told the NFL no and then the NFL decided to do damage control by reluctantly going along with it.
But the problem goes beyond the NFL and whatever you might think of its commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s a problem with the entire sports culture. I was having a conversation with a friend last week about the rivalries between Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fans. Ben Affleck refused to wear a Yankees hate in Gone Girl because he’s a Red Sox fan. Jack Nicholson refused to wear a Red Sox hat in The Departed because he’s a Yankees fan.
Yet fans are getting brutally violent at games. In December, a Raiders fan harassed a Patriots fan Jerry Edmond when he was at the game in Las Vegas. And it wasn’t just friendly rivalry, it was vicious. And it went viral as someone was filming it. However, it’s only the beginning, I’ve seen people get really ugly at people in the stands or on the sidelines. One good thing I liked about working in Georgia was the officials demanded a cerain decorum for media and guests on the sidelines. You couldn’t cheer. You criticize any calls or plays. You had to behave.
That all changed when I went to work in Oklahoma. I couldn’t believe the way people acted. It wasn’t just coaches yelling and screaming at players on the other sideline, it was the “guests” who really should be grateful they’re down on the sidelines. I’ve even seen the chain gang, who are supposed to be professional acting in bad sportsmanship. I was at a game one time where the other team wasn’t doing so well and had a bad season. A man is taunting the head coach from the stands telling him how he is collecting signatures to have him replaced.
It’s just a fucking game. And whoever says otherwise has low expectations of their own lives.
Looking at the movie The Sandlot, which is dated, it’s a time capsule of an era in which a bunch of kids from the neighborhood or all over town could just gather every day and play a friendly game of baseball without having a bunch of adults be leering from the stands with dollar signs in their eyes. There’s no more fun in sports anymore. Even at the P.E. level, it’s got to be the best of the best of the best. Why? Nothing is going to come of it. We change back into our school clothes and go on.
I’ve had too many people act too serious on what should be fun to never want to play sports again. The goal to win no matter what has been thrust upon us that we don’t realize that playing a competitive sport has to have a loser, and sometimes we’re on the losing team. It doesn’t mean we’re bad. Some people win just on flukes. It happens. But what we see in sports has spilled out into other things. Look at the Big Lie and the 2020 Election. It’s the same stuff I used to hear covering sports.
It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are upset over the cancelation of the game. They’re saying things like “Pray for Damar” at a sport where people are expected to be violent. Oh, the irony. A young man remains in critical condition and all these people care about is a game that won’t mean anything five years from now or even an year from now. What will matter is that it’s well past time some people said enough is enough is enough.
What do you think? Please comment.