Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NFL and Domestic Abuse

Glad to see the NFL, hesitantly, put the brakes on domestic abusers. But, let's tell some truth here this morning.

Football becomes the dream of thousands of kids abandoned on America's Mean Streets. Some become standouts in elementary school, and then hit the Friday Night Lights, and everyone goes crazy about the kid who can throw the ball, who can tackle and send the other kid to the bench, who can run like mad and score, again and again. We lionize them, treat them like royalty, ease them through school, including college, pamper them, get them cars, a little extra cash in the pocket, take care of parking tickets, get them outta scrapes, make 'em heroes ... and then make them stars with the NLF draft, pay them huge sums of money, dazzle them with a wealth they've never known.

And, meanwhile, all along the way, everyone has pretty much ignored their dysfunctional behavior, just as long as they can put out and make us all "winners."

But what with social media and the mood of the nation, it seems that public interest is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to their mistreatment of women, to their abusive behavior and anger.

Slugging a woman in the elevator, knocking her cold, and dragging her out into the hallway like a sack of potatoes is NOT acceptable behavior, for anyone, including an NFL star ... and by then, it's likely too late to do much about the personality, the character, that's already been shaped by America's Mean Streets and the thrill of stardom.

If there's anything in our story right now that reveals the broken heart of American Life, it just may be the NFL story ... the expendables, the temporary heroes of Sunday Afternoon and Monday Night Football. Kids, that's all they are, and then young men who still behave like kids, and we wonder why.

So, let's remind ourselves that the scores are far less important than the players; that the young men we treat as gladiators are real people in need of help, that the women they marry are often in danger, paying a terribly high price for their own desires to find the good life, if not on their own, at least on the arm of an NFL star.

Hats off to the uncertain steps of the NFL, and hats off to the colleges and high schools who are attending to the social and psychological needs of these young men, who pay attention to something more than stats and money.

Hats off to anyone who sees them, not just as football players to thrill us with the great play, but young men often alone, angry, broken and sad. In need of serious help, not just to be used and then discarded when they can no longer play.

We can make a difference with them, with all of America's children, by cleaning up the Mean Streets, retooling our schools, and reminding ourselves on Sunday Afternoon and whenever else we watch football - it's not just about us and our entertainment; it's also about all those young men who play the game, and it's about their families, too.

More about them than us.

Strange idea, I know.

But maybe it's the truth.

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