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The answer is to shut up and play

Suddenly, the NFL is in the news again, because one of its superstars couldn’t keep his mouth shut on a question he should never have agreed to answer.  And the NFL is apologizing and kowtowing and being sensitive and shit all over the place.

As usual, Roger Goodell screwed the pooch by leading the chorus of apologia.  He was insufficiently specific and was immediately set upon by certain black players for his vagaries of expression.

I have a different attitude about this.

I see the NFL as an entertainment monopoly.  It hires the best athletes it can find to play what amounts to a boy’s game with a ball (don’t snicker, all pro sports are the same) in huge arenas with tens of thousands of people watching and cheering (and booing) them on.  This is similar, to be honest, to the games played at the Colosseum in Rome, two thousand years ago.  No, really, stick with me, here.

The only real differences between our modern pro sports spectacles and, say, the games played at the Colosseum in Rome two thousand years ago, are:

  • Modern players are paid huge amounts of money to play these boy’s games
  • Modern players don’t play to the death (frankly, I sometimes think this is a mistake)
  • Modern players aren’t actually slaves, which a lot of the ancient gladiators were
  • Animals generally aren’t involved, other than as team mascots

In order to create these spectacles, in both instances, very large, very athletic, and (usually) very smart people were encouraged to sign up to play.  Back in Rome, the encouragement was often, “play or die.”  These days, it’s “sign this contract for a bunchatonamoney and effectively enslave yourself to the NFL [or whatever league covers your pro sport] and your agent.”  And what, you don’t think NFL players are smart?  You have to have smarts to play a game that’s effectively a war game in miniature, folks.  The day of the big, dumb hulk playing pro football went out the door years ago.

The only thing they’re not smart about is knowing when to keep their fat yaps shut.  Like most celebrities who have too much money and too much time on their hands, they think it’s their duty to step up and speak on the social issues and ills of the day.

Sometimes they get it right — Drew Brees was NOT wrong in his initial statement — but then they break under pressure and apologizing for making a statement that was absolutely honest and non-triggering to anyone other than people who hate this country.  And that’s what Brees ended up doing, apologizing for saying something as innocuous and admirable as “I would never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”

Again, remember:  Only someone who hates this country and all that it stands for would raise hell over that statement.  Yet Brees got pummeled by not just the usual suspects in the press, but by other athletes and MEMBERS OF HIS OWN TEAM.

And Goodell, who hasn’t made a good decision since he rescinded his own policy of no tolerance for drug fuckups in the NFL, once again blew what could have been a teachable moment and probably wouldn’t have lost him a single fan (indeed, it might have gotten some back who left over the Kaepernick lunacy) by making some vague bullshit statement about the league’s attitude about how the league had failed to listen to players in the past, and that players should have the right to protest peacefully.

Which of course earned him scorn from black players for being mealy-mouthed and not specifically addressing black players’ issues.

With all due respect (and note that means I have little), what the fuck, Felix?  Black players in the NFL never had it so good.  You get paid a huge amount of money to play 16 regular-season games a year in a sport at a level most Americans couldn’t hack for sixty seconds.  You’ve got millions of fans and you’re considered hot stuff in your local NFL market.  Even if you’re a low-level player, someone out there is a big fan and figures you’re going to be great some day.

And the bottom line is, you’re playing a GAME for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES.  And you’re doing it because someone noticed you at an earlier level, high school or college, and you thereby gained admittance to a very small and very rich fraternity.  All based on the fact that you have a very athletic body type and the smarts to make the right move at the right time.  Granted, stipulated, not going to argue about that.

What you apparently don’t have is the smarts to know when not to blow your good thing by making statements that piss off half the people in the country.  Or perhaps you do, but sometimes, like the Indian guide who is never lost, but acknowledges “sometimes the path wanders,” your brain goes off somewhere to take a break, your mouth wanders on autopilot, and you say something on camera or into a live mic that reflects what you really believe but know you dare not say publicly lest you be crucified for it.

Drew Brees found this out when he got hoist onto the cross for his patriotic statement.  And then didn’t have the balls to hang there and say, yes, this I believe, this I would die to defend.  What are the Saints going to do?  Fire him?

The same problem infests every aspect of the entertainment world (yes, sports are entertainment, get over it).  I’m not going to waste my time going through all the examples we’ve seen over the years.  Laura Ingraham even wrote a book about it, Shut Up And Sing, when the music industry blew up over the Dixie Chicks stupidity over George W. Bush.

Entertainment celebrities aren’t important enough for any of us to give a shit about their opinions on issues of the day.  They have been hoist onto a pedestal because of some special talent they have that the great unwashed generally don’t (although I’d argue I can sing better than a lot of people who make money at it, but that’s just my opinion and you’re free to ignore it).

The dirty little secret is, just being hoist onto that pedestal doesn’t give them special insight into anything but what they happen to be on that pedestal to do.

Thus, their opinions on the issues of the day should not be given any more weight than those of your barber or bartender.

And they need to be taught this lesson by seeing their popularity and their income dry up when their fans have finally had enough, and say, “I don’t give a shit what you think about George Floyd, shut up and do that thing you do.”

Which is why (to get back to Roger Goodell and his football league) I have not watched an NFL football game for four seasons and don’t plan to be watching any this fall, either.

Exit thought:  Condoleezza Rice would have made a better NFL commissioner, hands down.