The most popular sport in America causes irreparable harm to many of its participants, some of whom will stammer through sentences after they retire, lose their memories and have their dinners served to them through intravenous needles.
And again we watched in record numbers, because our medieval need to see the biggest, fastest, strongest men in the world launch themselves like missiles at each other and engage in brain-jarring collisions always defeats the part of our conscience that says enjoying a car accident in pads and helmet is wrong.
If they’re modern-day gladiators, we’re little more than howling, new-millennium Romans — with better-stitched togas and viewing angles. Now armed with more information than ever about football and brain injuries, we think long and hard whether our kids should strap on a helmet and pads.
But we’re glad other parents’ kids do and we conveniently forget that all 110 men voluntarily putting their cartilage and brains at risk on Sunday night are someone’s sons.
Welcome to the Mardi Gras of sanctioned violence, where the two most spine-rattling teams in the NFL collide this weekend on the field that spawned Bountygate, in a city still itching to deck Roger Goodell the way that arrogant judge-and-jury of an NFL commissioner decked their Saints.
For what, they ask in anger? Because some of their players and coaches tried to make a few extra bucks to hurt a guy from the other team and, if they were lucky, cart him off the field? That’s football, Chinstrap Nation screams.
Goodell should just crawl under a hotel pillow and show up for the trophy presentation Sunday because he can’t win. In many ways, he illustrates the quandary of a country questioning its relationship with the sport.
After Obama’s statement to the New Republic, the NFL released its own, maintaining its commitment to the safety and health of its players in an environment that has spawned multimillion-dollar litigation claims against the NFL by dozens of its former concussed players.
But here’s the rub: Almost a year after the Saints were hit with the most punitive suspensions in league history, it’s back to business as usual.
Goodell’s ruling didn’t stand up to an independent arbitrator who happened to be the former NFL commissioner. Sean Payton signed the richest annual coaching contract in league history after his suspension for going along with the pay-for-pain scheme was overturned. Gregg Williams, the mastermind players said ran a similar bounty program in Washington, is just awaiting Goodell’s “indefinite suspension” to be lifted so he can become Tennessee’s new defensive architect.