So the nation that expressed shock and outrage over O.J. Simpson is now at a loss for words. Again. Well, sports fans, put down your beer and listen up.
I don’t understand you people, really. How can you all get so excited about the achievements of strangers, leer at commercials objectifying women, scream with bloodthirsty joy over the life-threatening images you see in front of you every Sunday, and then act surprised when one of the participants commits a crime?
I live with three boys who enjoy playing and watching a ton of sports. From World Cup to Wimbledon, football to baseball, and everything in between, they know more about athletes and stats than most people care to discuss. I don’t fully comprehend it all and for the longest time, I didn’t care. You want to know why? Because I have good kids doing well in school and my husband occasionally completes his honey-do lists the first time I ask.
In other words, they’ve earned one afternoon a week.
Out of all the sports they enjoy, football is probably my least favorite.
Live and in person, it’s expensive, and to say it lasts forever isn’t exactly accurate — it lasts much longer. Watching the game on television is better because I can leave. I get annoyed with commercials that too often belittle women. I don’t approve of idolizing spoiled athletes who are indulged and overpaid. But this is exactly why I periodically enter the family room on Sundays, from September through February, to offer insight and wisdom where potato chips go to die.
“He’s no hero. He catches a ball for a living. Try explaining to teenagers how the Versailles Treaty led to World War II. That’s your hero.”
Now, in the aftermath of the Ray Rice scandal, I’ll admit that our dinner table conversations are getting a bit more complex. More so than even our discussions about racist team names and mascots.
Like the rest of the nation, we’re talking about the unholy union between alcohol, men, sports, and violence.
These can be uncomfortable conversations, of which I’m a big fan, because such talks usually reveal something important. It had been a while since we covered why men hurt women, why women stay with such men, and how unacceptable it all is. These are great issues for any parent to discuss, especially when the children are teenage boys.
What we haven’t done? Boycotted the game altogether.
I’ll admit I considered it. I approve of boycotts and actively support more than a few of them. In general, I have taught our boys that we vote with our participation and pocketbook, so by all means, refusing to eat veal or shop at Hobby Lobby is effective if you don’t want to support something that goes against your values.
But sometimes staying with certain social institutions says more than leaving.
If all thoughtful, considerate, non-violent men exit the stadiums and leave their couches to protest the NFL, who does that leave behind? Instead, maybe the answer is staying to watch and being a different kind of fan. Perhaps that will change the culture of a sport, which started out barbaric, and help it evolve into something more respectable.
Those who scoff and turn their nose up should stop and consider themselves for a moment. What’s your story anyway? OK, so maybe you aren’t a football fan, but think about other activities you participate in.
Do you kneel down in church sometimes, eat bread pretending it’s someone’s body and then give a donation? What do you think your money is going toward? It’s helping to defend priests who’ve had sex with children.
Why don’t you leave? Why are you there every Sunday?
Or are you someone who clings to the ideology of a particular political party and despises anyone who might disagree? Hey, Democrat, you support a party that held up segregation as a standard and believes schools should be based on where you live, not how you learn. Hey Republican, you belong to a party that voted against equal pay for women and fights against equal rights for homosexuals.
Football, religion and politics are a lot alike — the players aren’t the only ones getting dirty. That covers just about all of us. So please, by all means, boycott when it makes sense, but sometimes you should stick around and improve something simply by virtue of your presence.
Catherine Durkin Robinson is a political advocate and organizer, living in Tampa. Column courtesy of Context Florida.