Elephant On The Field
But who created it?
Disgruntled, dismayed, disillusioned. These are just a few of the discernibly appropriate terms that have scampered across my mind when faced with the many storylines of large-salaried, freakishly athletic, football players doing their absolute best to throw away everything they’ve worked for by being accused of domestic violence.
Football is a sport that rewards its athletes for feats of controlled violence and aggression. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that disposition toward such behaviour has, uncontrollably, transcended the white lines of the gridiron and taken up residence in the mansions and luxury condominiums of its athletes.
Having once been a member of the professional athletes’ minority, during my brief, but meaningful, tenure in the NFL and CFL, it is, however, beyond my comprehension why a job would predispose some to inflict damage on a loved one. These athletes are considered modern-day gladiators that endure the rigors of extreme temperatures and intense training regimens. They are applauded for being overly combative on behalf of their respective teams, all while signing large bonuses and cashing weekly game checks, in amounts of more than most of us make in a year. Seems like a great life, right?
As of press time, just over a dozen players in the National Football League (NFL) stand accused of assault on people deemed their mates, significant others or constant companions, if you will. From the complaints of former girlfriends, wives, and apparently even their children, it would appear that these men did not leave their tendency toward violence on the field. It’s either that, or “snitching” has become an epidemic among family and loved ones who are attempting to defame, defile and denigrate these young millionaires. But, to what end?
The NFL is a big source of rags-to-riches, made-for-TV stories of men, who persevered through financial hardship in their youth and, barely reaching adulthood, find millions of dollars thrown at them to become gridiron gladiators.
As with most professions, there is always a negative downside to what would seem to be glorious work. For the NFL and its athletes, this downside has manifested in the form of head trauma and, as of late, domestic violence. The correlation between head trauma, stress and domestic violence simply cannot be ignored. Meanwhile, more research is awaited before hypothesizing this as one of the root causes of this problem plaguing the league.
During my brief cup-of-tea stay in the NFL, I distinctly remember sitting through at least one or two sessions with my class of drafted and undrafted rookies being lectured about the ails of gold-digging women, ill-advised spending habits and the laws that define assault and abuse. Perhaps more intensive study should have been insisted upon for the last topic, because it appears that some of what was supposed to be instilled simply got lost in translation.
It’s tremendously easy for society to look down on these athletes who stand accused of this violent conduct off the field. Intensive research and investigation are needed to plumb the root causes of violence and why it has become so prevalent among NFL players. Punishment alone cannot always take care of the problem, for some offenders tend toward a pattern of behaviour that has become almost second nature. The state, and its governing bodies, has vehemently entered the homes of society and continued to dictate the moral obligations that one family member has to another loved one, without taking into consideration the way that family, or families, has historically dealt with poverty, stress and mental health.
The NFL is a big source of rags-to-riches, made-for-TV stories of men, who persevered through financial hardship in their youth and, barely reaching adulthood, find millions of dollars thrown at them to become gridiron gladiators. Except these gladiators aren’t being punished to death in ancient Roman stadia. Today’s gladiators are, however, condemned to live with the ever-present possibility their careers can be deleted at a moment’s notice. The end can come without warning, because of injury, or upon the arrival of the next up and coming athlete who runs faster and hits harder than they do.
Society is hell-bent on rewarding athletes like them for channeling violence and aggression on the competitive fields. As soon as such behaviour is seen as detrimental to society, they are detained, arrested and vilified. We create the monster, then easily turn and kill it when it attacks.
With the thought of everything being taken from them vividly present in the minds of these athletes, the runs become faster, the hits become harder. Ultimately, their lives become more complex constructs of a system built around aggressive actions on the field and punitive reactions off the field.
Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson are currently suspended by the NFL for allegations of domestic abuse, but will most likely play football on Sundays one day soon. Most recently, Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers has been released by his club for yet another domestic violence issue, this time in the form of an alleged sexual assault on a young woman who names him as the prime suspect. Their stories are retailed over social media and other outlets worldwide.
While their stories aren’t new, let’s not assume that the regrettable content will be the last we’ll ever hear of this issue. Society is hell-bent on rewarding athletes like them for channeling violence and aggression on the competitive fields. As soon as such behaviour is seen as detrimental to society, they are detained, arrested and vilified. We create the monster, then easily turn and kill it when it attacks. Is society to blame? Of course, we’re all to blame. We love the violence and praise the voracity to which young, athletic men venture to inflict damage on their opponents. Just like in the sordid world of hip-hop, we tend to gravitate towards the emcees that have a fascinating story that is plagued with drugs and violence, which is demonstrated in their music. We do the same with our athletes; ride their coattails and bandwagons until their lives are intersected with reality and cross the lines of the law. Rice will be reinstated and making millions for another team in the very near future, doing what he does best – dodging violent defenders while toting an oblong pigskin ball. Meek Mill has been released from prison and will also return to rapping about the violent streets of Philly, his sexual prowess, drugs, guns and dream chasing. We, as consumers, will soak it up and bask in their glory, waiting for them to slip up so we can move on to the next gladiator du jour.