It just seems like a lot to absorb in less than a week. I remember back in the day, when football players used to signal their disdain for societal norms by getting nailed on narcotics violations. (I also remember the day before the day, when it was actually considered inappropriate to get nailed for violations of any sort, and pro football teams cultivated an image of wholesome athleticism and all-American manliness. That was before the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s, back when Joe Namath actually seemed racy.)
There was a time, after the big football colleges all went through their NCAA hazing ritual of Recruiting Violation Roulette, when pro football players seemed to always be arguing with coaches, leaving teams in a snit-fit, and getting suspended for dumb stuff that wasn’t related to controlled substances. Yeah, they were kind of divas, some of them. Annoying prima donnas who looked, no matter what their teammates said, like the guys everyone wanted to pants and no one wanted to room with.
But they were still, well, guys. Maybe there were some of them who acted up, an awful lot like they had never been required to exercise any, you know, personal discipline; but their social vibe was still guy-dom – and not just guy-dom, but regular guy-dom.
Somewhere in there they started shooting their feet in nightclubs and being accused, over and over again, of rape. No guy-ness there. Something hollow and wrong. Wheels getting a little wobbly on the bus. If you remember the low-res black-and-white days of misogynistic patriarchy, when Donna Reed was hog-tied and forced to cook in high heels on the set of a TV show, you remember that back then, that kind of outlaw stuff got you kicked out on your can. No tolerance. No therapy. No understanding. Had to think of the Image of the Game. The Game was very felony-phobic.
No more. Today the NFL has evolved. I thought Rush Limbaugh was going a little over the top last week, with his latest “chickification” monologue about the NFL (it had something to do with pink breast cancer ribbons, although I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, and I confess I don’t slurp up social outreach by the NFL anyway, before, during, or after the actual games. I watch Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael, and Jimmy, and then I watch the games – for the football, believe it or not). But Rush, as he so often is, was right. Hilariously, he uttered his word, “chickification” – establishing the theme for the 2010 season – and the NFL promptly requited him by becoming a Lifetime Original Movie.
Fiction could never have dreamed it up. In one week, we learn that poor Brett Favre made, shall we say, inappropriate advances to an employee of the Jets organization a couple of years ago, when he was making the “Jets stop” in his quest to serve with every team in the League before retirement. The sadness of watching a great quarterback implode in slow motion, out in the middle of the street in rush-hour traffic, ought to be enough for this one week; but no. Not only must we be told about the tension and angst in the Vikings locker room, but we also have to hear that Randy Moss and Tom Brady got into some kind of altercation, back before Moss was traded, over Moss’ beard and Brady’s hair.
Apparently, Brady told Moss to cut his beard and Moss told Brady he looked like a girl because of his hair. Incredibly, they weren’t joking around. Granted, Brady has been looking like David Cassidy with a chin implant, but when he and Moss start throwing punches over something like that, you know the ghost of George Halas has left the building, and the only ones hanging around now are the wraith of Lizzie Borden and a few of Cinderella’s housecleaning mice.
There are some real stories in the football being played this year. Some hardworking players and brilliant coaches out there working magic and winning ugly. Boys who’ve become men and realized their dream. Guys who love the game and are grateful to get to play it for another season. Ridiculous, unbelievable catches, perfect blocks, off-the-charts-executed open-field tackles. Great football, highly critiquable football – it’s all going on out there on what we used to call the gridiron. But the media spotlight is on the center ring, where the fourth-grade girls in shoulder pads are pulling each other’s hair, tattling on each other, and squealing in agony over how their notes to the dreamy cute kid, which no one was ever, ever supposed to see, were found by the teacher and shown to their parents.
Wish I had something more insightful or conclusive to say about all this. I suppose if anyone needs a timeout, it’s the sports media, who wouldn’t know “seemliness” if they found it dead in their lunchbox. And if anyone cares, the Jets are leading the Vikings 15-13 in the fourth quarter of a rather ragged Monday Night Football match. Favre making with the fumbles. AD and LaDainian even with about 75 yards each. Nick Folk out of his deep funk from the Cowboys, 5 for 5 and nailing them through the uprights to contribute all 15 of the Jets’ points. (Update: Jets just bagged a TD with 4:30 left.) No word on Tom Brady’s hair.
Just to be clear: I’m sure the NFL will come about. The game has heated up; it’s now 22-20 Jets, with 2 minutes left, and life is good. You can’t keep good football down. But the dark side of the Force is trying awful hard to.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.