"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Thug Life

Over at Grantland, Charlie Pierce takes on the NFL:

Think of all the illusions about the National Football League that the revelations of a bounty program in New Orleans shatter. Think of all the silly pretensions those revelations deflate. The preposterous prayer circles at midfield. The weepy tinpot patriotism of the flyovers and the martial music. The dime-store Americanism that’s draped on anything that moves. The suffocating corporate miasma that attends everything the league does — from the groaning buffet tables at the Super Bowl to the Queegish fascination with headbands and sock lengths while teams are paying “bounties” to tee up the stars of your game so they don’t get to play anymore. What we have here now is the face of organized savagery, plain and simple, and no amount of commercials showing happy kids cavorting with your dinged-up superstars can ameliorate any of that.

Which is why Roger Goodell is going to land on the Saints, and on their coaches, as hard as he possibly can. It’s not so much that they allegedly paid players to injure other players. That’s just the public-relations side of the punishment to come. Goodell can see the day when one of these idiotic bounty programs gets somebody horribly maimed or even killed, and he can see even more clearly the limitless vista of lawsuits that would proceed from such an event. But what the Saints will truly be punished for is the unpardonable crime of ripping aside the veil. For years, sensitive people in and out of my business drew a bright moral line between boxing and football. Boxing, they said, gently stroking their personal ethical code as if they were petting a cat, is a sport where the athletes are deliberately trying to injure each other. On the other hand, football is a violent sport wherein crippling injuries are merely an inevitable byproduct of the game. I always admired their ability to make so measured — and so cosmetic — a moral judgment. This was how those sensitive people justified condemning boxing while celebrating football, and, I suspect, how many of them managed to sleep at night after doing so.

Fine column.

[Photo via Painting Canvas]


1 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 5, 2012 4:11 pm

One punishment won't be the be-all to end-all. Depending on the extent of it, it might take a permanent banishment to get through to people who are making sick amounts of money in a sport where we've convinced ourselves that grown men are willingly sacrificing themselves for a greater good (and when things go bad for the player or don't go the way people want them to off-field, then it reverts to "a business"). I'm not condemning the violence so much (it's a contact sport after all), it's the hypocrisy that accompanies and condones it to such an extreme level that gets me.

When I was born, the doctor predicted that I would be a football player when I grew up. Mom put the kibbosh on that immediately. Although I was allowed to play neighborhood streetball and touch/flag football growing up, I was never allowed to join organized leagues. Mom said that a kid my size would be target all the time. I used to regret this, watching a lot of my friends play on the squads in jr. high and high school, and I regretted it even more when I saw how much money good players coming out of college were getting when drafted. But that subsided when I saw the real business of pro football and how cut throat it is from a player standpoint (good luck if you're not from a major program or not a freakishly talented undrafted free agent), and now that I'm onlder I have to consider myself very fortunate for having navigated through life without being pressured to use what many assumed was an athlete's body in ways that I would regret at this age: constant pain, concussions (well, the seizures led to a couple of those anyway), memory or motor function loss, etc. It wasn't meant for me regardless, but Mom saw that early on and I'm grateful. Not to minimize anyone else who has gone that route because I respect a person's passion, but again it wasn't for me and I have no regrets anymore, especially in light of all this.

2 RIYank   ~  Mar 5, 2012 4:28 pm

Good for Charlie Pierce. I think he's right on every count here.

What national sports writer is as good as Charlie Pierce? I'm probably forgetting some good ones.

3 Shaun P.   ~  Mar 5, 2012 4:44 pm

[2] He's an excellent writer period, on all kinds of national issues, IMHO.

Joe Pos - all of the Paterno/Penn State situation aside - is also in his league, a different kind of writer but boy oh boy, do I wish I could write as well as he does.

[1] I will not let my son play football, period. I'm convinced that the danger is far too great.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 5, 2012 5:00 pm

Charlie came up through the alternative press at the Boston Phoenix. Then worked for the Herald and later the Globe. Also, he became a star takeout writer at The National, along with Johnette Howard and Pete Richmond, to name a couple, and then later worked for GQ, SI, and Esquire. He's a good one. And his book "Hard to Forget" is excellent:


5 RIYank   ~  Mar 5, 2012 5:47 pm

[3] Joe Pos, of course, yes.
[4] I know, also NPR, oddly enough, "Only a Game".

6 Normando   ~  Mar 5, 2012 5:53 pm

[5] Speaking of NPR, Pierce is great on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

7 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Mar 5, 2012 8:35 pm

[3][5]Joe Pos is wayyyyyy too mushy and naive for my tastes. He's funny writing about infomericals and abd Cleveland teams but that Penn State stuff just showed he's maybe not the sharpest cat out there..

CPP is incredbile. Only recently discovered him and love his work, both on sports and the election campaign.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver