Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Not The Football, Stupid: It's The Dangerous People Who Misplay The Game Of Life

My partner asked me the other day why I don't really watch football anymore. There is the time factor: how many of us in academia can really set aside whole afternoons or evenings just to watch games that would be 2/3 as long if they weren't packed with ads? Then there is the concussion factor. I also stopped enjoying professional boxing when I realized that I was watching the very tip of an iceberg of men (and now women) who were being slowly battered into disability and early death in the hope of making slightly better than a working class living as an athlete.

Then there are the steroids, and the enforced obesity in certain positions, since super-sizing yourself is required for success at every level of football. There is the "these men-are-a$$holes" factor, which ultimately caused me to stop watching ice hockey, since it suddenly struck me that normal athletes do not see knocking someone out, tripping him, or breaking his nose as a viable response to someone else reaching the puck first. That my own home football team hired a convicted dog torturer as its quarterback only added to my suspicion that football is leaving me behind somehow.

However, this story in today's New York Times about Jets receiver Braylon Edwards, who was charged with a DUI after testing twice the legal limit, takes the cake. Edwards, a talented receiver who pleaded no contest to an assault charge last year, got drunk at a charity fundraiser and drove away in his car. He was arrested on the West Side of Manhattan.

“We are very disappointed in Braylon’s actions this morning,” Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement later Tuesday morning. “The Player Protect program is in place for our organization to prevent this situation. Braylon is aware of this program and showed poor judgment.

“We are reviewing the information with the league and will impose the appropriate disciplinary measures.”

Edwards’ lawyer, Peter Frankel, would not directly address the charges, but he said of Edwards, “His primary concern is getting back to the Jets and doing what he does best.”

Representatives of the Jets also highlight Edwards' "poor choices" and "bad judgement" in not calling the Player Protect car service, which is fully outfitted with a TV and sound system. Intoxicated players are expected to call this service.

However, there is nothing in the story that suggests that a player getting drunk, and publicly drunk at that, is a problem for the Jets, except that it puts the player himself -- and the team's success -- in danger. Furthermore, I am astonished that no member of the Jets management or any one of Edwards' representatives has mentioned the danger to other citizens that this man posed when he got drunk, got behind the wheel of a car, and turned that car into a weapon.

Why has the New York Times failed to comment on this aspect of the story?

Over and over we see the destructive outcome of athletes drinking to excess in public places, something that releases a kind of privileged arrogance in these overpaid, over-sized men. Read this account of Ben Roethlisberger chasing a woman into the bathroom, his friends holding the door shut until he was finished his half-a$$ed sexual assault, and ask yourself if it would have happened had Big Ben not been drunk out of his mind.

Edwards' arrest, so says this headline, "has cost him the start against Miami," as if the Jets starting a second string receiver is a critical public concern. What if Edwards' drunkenness had cost someone else his health or life? If the negligence of the NFL in the matter of concussions does not persuade you that this sport requires a fundamental rethinking, its lack of concern for the rest of us should.


sburris said...

As a long-time sports fan, I feel your pain. But count your blessings--I'm a professional cycling enthusiast, where PED's reared their ugly vials early on.

There are success stories in professional sports, and so that's my balm . . . rather desperate, I confess.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I believe that the overwhelming sense of entitlement possessed by sports stars and celebrities is what causes them to react this way to drunkenness. The majority of people who drink and become intoxicated in public manage not to drive drunk, assault people, etc.

AYY said...

I don't watch football much either, although I think that the concussion (and generic injury) problems, the Michael Vick conviction, and the corruption of college athletics (the feeder to the NFL) are more serious than the Jets' statement.

In fairness to the Jets I don't think you can blame them because the statement as quoted in the NY Times doesn't mention the danger to other people. Errors of omission in this sort of thing are less serious than errors of commission. For all we know the general manager might have thought that everyone would have understood that the reason he was disappointed and thought that Brayton showed poor judgment, was the danger to other people.

Also we don't know if the league will impose a punishment, or if the contract limits the discipline that can be imposed on Brayton for off field misconduct.