Is it just me or is football – the American variety, I should clarify, lest Europe be swept by another plague of soccer hooliganism because of this blog – the employer of a disproportionately large number of socially maladjusted freaks who either don’t know right from wrong or simply don’t care to acknowledge the norms that bind the behavior of the rest of us?
The NFL is, of course, the Holy Grail of football, drawing to itself the best athletic talent in the world and, all too often, some of the worst character individuals as well.
It would be easy to pick on Mike Vick right now, what with his recent conviction for participating in a dog fighting ring. However, with respect to the PETA crowd it’s hard to get overly worked up about the fate of a few dogs what with Iraq, Afghanistan, and all going on. To my knowledge Vick never harmed or threatened a fellow human. Yes, he broke the law. But the PC bloodhounds are snarling and snapping after him for their own sport, just as Vick’s fighting dogs went at each other and with a similar result.
It’s far harder to ignore the criminal shenanigans of one Mr. “Pacman” Jones who, according to the all-seeing eye of WikiPedia:
…has been arrested 5 times and questioned by police 11 times since he was drafted by the Titans in 2005. Many NFL commentators are quick to point out that Jones has more arrests than interceptions since being in the NFL.
One of the events was this little ditty:
On the morning of February 19, 2007 during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game weekend in Las Vegas, Jones is alleged to have been involved in an altercation with an exotic dancer at a local strip club. Cornell Haynes Jr. and Jones patronized the club on the evening in question. Haynes began to shower the stage with hundreds of one-dollar bills, an act known as “making it rain”. Jones then joined Haynes by throwing his own money for “visual effect”. Club promoter Chris Mitchell then directed his dancers to collect the money. According to the club’s co-owner, Jones become enraged when one of the dancers began taking the money without his permission. He allegedly grabbed her by her hair and slammed her head on the stage. A security guard intervened and scuffled with members of Jones’ entourage of half a dozen people. Jones then allegedly threatened the guard’s life. During this time Mitchell and a male associate left the club with a garbage bag filled with $81,020 of Jones’ money and two Breitling watches, which police later recovered. After club patrons exited following the original confrontation, the club owner says a person in Jones’ entourage returned with a gun and fired into a crowd, hitting three people, including the security guard involved in the earlier skirmish. The guard was shot twice, and one of the people hit, former professional wrestler Tommy Urbanski, was paralyzed from the waist down. Jones maintains that he did not know the shooter, although the club’s owner insists that Jones did.
One could go on and on listing the names of pro football players who have been in trouble with the law, including Ray Lewis and Rae Carruth, both of whom were charged with murder a few years back, but why bother? I think you get the idea, which is that for every class act like Tony Dungy or Walter Payton, or Texas’ own very cool but under-skilled David Carr, there is a Pacman Jones ticking like a time bomb waiting to explode.
The irony is, of course, that these rotten apples are paid millions to be bad-asses and strut their stuff on the field. All they have to do to live their entire lives in the kind of luxury that few people can dream of is play the game they love for a few years. But too many of them cannot learn to color between the lines during the off-season or even between games and end up like Vick, the Pacman, or worse.
As pathetic as it was watching Vick finally admit that he’s not above the law, what really bothers me about the criminal element in football is what happens at the lower levels of the game. There are only 2-3000 pro players in the U.S. at any given moment – how much trouble can they cause?
Actually quite a lot, if one considers the ripple effect of their influence.
In college football, for example, football players who have absolutely no business being on a college campus based on their academic prowess (pardon me while I choke…) are treated like demigods by their intellectual betters and fanatical sponsors alike. These players are pumped up on so much artificial self-esteem that it’s hardly surprising that so many have been guilty of criminal misconduct vis-a-vis members of the opposite sex. The classic case took place in Colorado where Gary Barnett presided over a culture of rape that practically screamed, “You’re a football hero – you deserve it! Heck, you’re doing her a favor by raping her with your godly gridiron groin!”.
As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s just as much or more wrong with high school football as their is with the college game/business. Several high school football coaches have been arrested for having sexual relationships with students in recent years. Although dated, the Houston Chronicle published a lengthy writeup on the subject in 2001.
The Chronicle article clearly shows the problem is NOT limited to football or even to male coaches. Even so, my point is valid, especially in a state like Texas where a high school football coach in a small town is like a demigod in his own right. He’s an older, usually chunkier version of the star athlete on campus, just as important and even more powerful because coaches are almost always placed in positions of authority over classrooms as well as their players on the field.
For me this is what takes the cake – the fact that the education process is diminished, even corrupted by schools that insist on using football and other coaches to teach in classrooms as if they were capable, competent, interested educators.
Too broad a brush? Perhaps. But if you find a coach who demonstrates all three of the characteristics I listed above, by all means hang on to him or her – that coach is a rare individual. Even in a best-case scenario, coaching takes an extraordinary amount of time, time that’s going to come from somewhere. Coaches have to sleep and spend time with their families. Unfortunately, too often the classroom is what is compromised when coaches teach.
Suffice it to say that this post would make me a rather unpopular fellow and derail my campaign for the school board before it even starts if the folks in my home town happen to read it. Should they, I doubt if what I have to say would change a single mind. But another football season is starting and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American children will be given a sub-par education this year. And for what? So their town can feel better about its shortcomings by opening a can of whup-ass on the school in the next burg down the road?
Wow! That’s really showing ’em, to say nothing of the Indian and Chinese kids who are studying their booties off overseas and practically licking their chops at the idea of coming to the States to take the jobs that we’re not preparing our own kids to do.
In a way this is a hard post for me to write because I actually like football and many other sports. My kids play sports in school. I played them too and the best times I had in school were sports-related, bar none.
Nevertheless, if we’re going to make athletics the existential religious experience they’ve become then we should be willing to pony up the whole cost of the game. That is, pay coaches to coach, teachers to teach, and never the twain shall meet. This is especially true in regard to football coaches.
Cross-posted at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.