Aside from my students, there is very little else that allows for more reflection than football. As much as I’d like to view it as the lighthearted collision of human bodies that it is, the social aspect of football lends it to being a pretty profound study of human interaction. Group identification, community observance of rituals, public evaluation of private lives….It really is one of the most entertaining parts of my life. Combine a particularly interesting football week like this one with social media and BOOM! I’ve got just enough material with which to create another blog (vent? rant? tirade?). Either way, I’ve used some pretty crafty alliteration to outline for you my musings on humanity as based on this week in my favorite sport.
Bullets — I think I get it from my father, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Correction: I like to give hurting people the benefit of the doubt. Mental illness is very real, and it robs some of the ability to make logical decisions. That is why when Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself this weekend, I was sad. Instead of anger at his selfishness, I thought about how very sick he must have been, how devastated his family and teammates surely are, and how terrible it is that his daughter will grow up with this sort of baggage. But most of all, I saw tragedy. Like Othello-style literary sadness. A character who is so talented and young with such potential but throws it all away. So as the media and some of my online acquaintances began to dissect his personal life, I did what I do…. I began to think. While I don’t condone his actions, I still feel Jovan Belcher is deserving of some compassion, even with the way he died. He’s not honorable, shouldn’t be glamorized, and certainly loses his status as an athlete to look up to, but he was human. And human sadness deserves a little verbal cease-fire, right?
Blabbermouths — Oh, Bob Costas and his random editorializing on gun control when talking about Belcher’s death…. I want to send him mail about the congestion on my twitter and Facebook feeds, but I know it’d get mixed in with the hate mail from the NRA, so it’s useless. And you know how I am. I have over-thought this issue until it’s not even about gun control. It’s not even about Bob Costas or the sacred societal observance that is Sunday Night Football. It’s about people’s reactions to one another. Disclaimer: I do think it was inappropriate for him to speak about such a hot button topic at such a sensitive time. The sensitive time, however, was Belcher’s death NOT Football Night in America. He gets paid to analyze football, and if he wants to analyze other things, he should choose another outlet. Like a blog. Hahahaha. End disclaimer. So people freak out that Costas is blaming guns. They are outraged at him, the NFL, NBC, anyone who is not equally as outraged as them. These gun people mean business. But here’s my deal. If he had taken a moment to pray about Belcher on air, would anyone have been angry? If he had mentioned other sensitive topics like black-on-black crime or mental illness or pressures put on young athletes? No. Why are guns the only thing in America not up for discussion? And let’s get real. People weren’t upset that Bob Costas was crossing a line, they were upset that it was a line they don’t agree with. Why, oh why can people not handle an opinion that differs from their own??? You should be able to hear another human, even Bob Costas, say something you don’t agree with and let it go in one ear and out the other. Plus, let’s face it. It’s Bob Costas, and his opinion isn’t worth that much anyway. At least I didn’t think so until Sunday night. Then suddenly everyone cared.
Bummers — For lack of a better simile, I’m going to use food language on this one. The University of Arkansas spent months showing their fans a menu of delicacy coaches. Lobster, fillet mignon, escargot….. The public considered every entre, couldn’t wait to get their meal, and this afternoon, UofA delivered a cheeseburger. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good cheeseburger. Cheeseburgers win awards. They make a heck of a meal. But when you’re ready for lobster and you get a cheeseburger, you’re bound to be a little disappointed and confused. Thankful for the meal, glad to have the ability to eat, pleased to be able to afford the cheeseburger, but still wanting lobster. That is the problem. Not that Bielema isn’t just the guy to turn the meal around, but he’s NOT lobster. And not that we wouldn’t be satisfied with a good crab salad, but he’s NOT lobster. The problem with the announcement today wasn’t the selection, it was the announcement itself. Fans are still hopeful, and most seem cognizant that we couldn’t go anywhere but up. Nevertheless, it’s been a little of a bummer. Real fans have been through worse and will make it through this. Maybe the lesson here is to put a reign on my expectations. It’s easy to focus on how things are going to be and “what if” about ideal situations, but that really is setting oneself up for disappointment…or slightly bummed confusion.
Bullies — I lost my head and decided to voice my bummer. (When will I learn?!?) I should go ahead and mention that I didn’t even call it a bummer until this blog. I called the announcement “anticlimactic.” That’s it. Again I saw this ugly side of people who can’t handle an opinion different from their own. I should probably mention that I’m fairly stubborn. I can talk and joke with you about a lot of things and not be bothered by the fact that we disagree. The one thing that will infuriate me, though, is if I feel like people are trying to change my mind about something. My opinions are not up for debate. I have not asked anyone to convince me of anything. I like to make up my own mind on things, and I view others forcing their views on me as bullying. You do not win friends and influence people by badgering them. No one has ever come to a conclusion because someone belittled them into agreeing. We could all stand to learn the difference in discussing and arguing, influencing and bullying. And I could probably use some thicker skin.
One day I will make a post about the fun and camaraderie I’ve experienced growing up as a football fan. But until then, I’ll trust the people (most of them football fans or know-it-alls or BOTH) around me to keep giving me material about which to write. And isn’t this much more productive than sending mail to Bob Costas?