Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NFL-Level Violence Gets Its Start at Home

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NFL-Level Violence Gets Its Start at Home

Article excerpt

There's a reason that football is the most popular sport in America. The National Football League perfectly embodies our contradictions as a people laboring under the illusion that we're a meritocracy, albeit a brutal one.

Football holds a mirror to our strengths and weaknesses and balances our impulse for savagery with a sense of fair play. It showcases our assumptions about race and class, as well as our anxieties about gender and sexuality. It is upon this field of blood and testosterone that American manhood is defined.

Since its founding in 1920, the NFL has operated like a national Rorschach test. The league can justifiably brag that it was more progressive than any other major American sport when it came to integrating the ranks of its players. It took far too long, however, for quarterbacks and coaches of color to be welcomed into its top ranks.

Meanwhile, the cabal of team owners remains depressingly monochromatic, but that's more a function of late industrial capitalism and inherited wealth than merit on these plutocrats' parts.

The NFL's myths and official narratives reinforce notions of masculinity for the average spectator that boil down to this: Whoever has the most power on any given Sunday wins. From peewee leagues to college bowls to "Monday Night Football," violence becomes a virtue once it is cultivated and directed toward a desired end - putting more points on the board than the other team.

Hitting women and children is an unnecessary distraction from the sanctioned violence for which NFL players are well compensated, despite a 30-35 percent likelihood they will sustain brain trauma from concussions.

That's why it is almost laughable when people speak of somehow rooting out football's culture of violence in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. Violence is literally football's raison d'etre. Getting rid of it would be akin to somehow rooting out the absence of light from the color black. …

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