Then I started high school and joined the marching band. As a member of the band I was required to attend every home game, and even some of the away games. The more I watched the sport, the more I loved it. When we relocated to Northern Virginia, I quickly adopted the Washington Redskins as my home team. Through the ups and downs, since 1978, I've always supported them.
In future weeks my blog will feature interviews with some great authors: Lucy Middlemass, Simon Paul Wilson, and Liz Dejesus. While I wait for those scheduled interviews to occur, I've decided to fill this week's blog post with reflections on the state of professional American football.
Why do I love football? I find it more entertaining than all other sports. Baseball and golf move too slowly. Basketball and Hockey are too fast; I can't keep my eye on the ball/puck. Tennis is two-dimensional, which is not as exciting as other sports. Football has strategy, like chess, but in real-time. It features fantastic feats of athleticism. There is risk, because the players might get injured, like an action-adventure movie. It's well-defined, with rules and referees. I just love football.
In general, sports are an important part of life. In Gordon Russell's, The Social Psychology of Sport, he outlines all the different ways we use sports to fulfill our basic needs. By applying the aspects of sports to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, he explains how sports allow us to form social bonds, develop self-esteem and confidence through athletic success, and achieve recognition from others for our accomplishments in sports. He even explains why sports can alleviate frustration and stress from other aspects of our life by allowing us to assert ourselves physically against an opponent.
American football takes it one step further, because spectators can vicariously feel the same sense of self-actualization as their adopted team players. In his 2006 blog article, "Why do Men Love Football", Pastor Rich Vincent adds that football appeals to men's territorial instincts, allows them to participate in a military-like event, and "provides a window of meaning in an uncertain and chaotic world."
In short, football is supposed to be a good thing. It should be a safe outlet for controlled assertive behavior. It should allow us, the spectators, to relieve stress and resolve conflict without death or serious injury. To my mind, the players should be more controlled and relaxed off the field because they exert so much energy and assertiveness during the games. Notice I did not use the word 'aggression', because by definition, aggressive behavior includes the intent to harm another person.
Patrick Rishe, in an article written for Forbes titled, "Breaking Bad: The Economics, Sociology, and Psychology of Law-breaking Behavior by NFL Players," brings several disturbing elements of the NFL to light. Mr. Rishe quotes the following:
Dr. Steve Ungerleider, a psychologist at the University of Texas, notes that academic literature has long pointed to a disproportionate amount of violent criminal behavior in NFL athletes. “What you see in football players, from a young age is that they are trained to hit hard, be aggressive and take severe damage. Not only are they bigger, stronger, faster, but they’re coached to hit harder and in many cases, illegally.”He also quotes Dr. Lawrence Wenner, the Von der Ahe Professor of Communications and Ethics at Loyola Marymount University, asserting that NFL players are "privileged, protected and given special treatment...devoting disproportionate time to athletic activities, and not fully developing as a human being."
Mr. Rishe even cites statistics on the cultural differences in attitude toward violence between African-Americans and people of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, noting that two-thirds of NFL players are African-American.
None of that excuses what has happened the past two weeks in the NFL. There must be a distinction between behavior on the field and off it. As long as the NFL and the NFL Players' Association continue to degrade and demean women and children, as long as they condone league members committing acts of criminal violence off the field, we as fans and spectators have a moral obligation to show our disapproval. Both Roger Goodell, National Football League Commissioner, and Eric Winston, president of the players' association, are grossly disconnected from mainstream society and clearly clueless about how disgusting these acts of domestic violence seem to the average viewer.
Society offers us one appropriate response: shunning. That's why there will be no football airing in my house tomorrow. My son will not wear his Redskins t-shirt to "Support Your Favorite Team" day at school on Tuesday. We will not buy products from companies that support the NFL. Until detailed, appropriate policies are in place to immediately condemn players who commit criminal acts of violence off the field, both within the league and the players' association, my family will shun NFL football.
It is a sad, but necessary action if we expect the NFL to change whatever systemic problems lead to this type of widespread negative behavior. I urge others who agree with me to do the same.
Take a stand, America. Shun NFL Football.