I probably haven’t watched an entire NFL game since Hillary Clinton last received cunnilingus from a man. This isn’t self-praise, but simply an admission that the Akron Cobalt and Schenectady Shitbirds hold little claim to my attention. But we all have our diversions, and few would stand tall against determined mockery.
Obviously there are sensible men who consume sports for mild entertainment or camaraderie with their fellows; both of which are perfectly healthy impulses. Then there are those like my neighbor who paint their entire backyard in team colors and spend every Sunday in a Halloween costume screaming at two-dimensional referees. In this way, it has been an unquestionably potent narcotic used to sublimate man’s native tribal instinct into something utterly benign to his antagonists.
That preamble dispensed, I came upon this piece on pro football, which I found to be customarily insipid…all except for one passage. The writer quotes an anonymous player who asserts that…
20 percent of NFL players are in the league because they love it, 30 percent for the cash, 49.99 percent because they don’t know anything else [I’d guess that figure is quite a bit higher]. Then there’s that last 0.01 percent. Those players who hate the NFL despite the fact they play in it.
Hate, now we’re getting somewhere. The emotion that makes a man something more than a latrine. Here is how it’s described by the player.
Resent it. Loathe it. Hate what it does to our bodies, how it breaks us down, tearing our ligaments, shredding our knees, turning us into old men while we’re still in our twenties. Hate what it does to our minds, how it makes us forget things like where we put our keys and eventually who the hell we are. Hate what it does to our lives, how it separates us from our friends and family, treats us like high-priced slaves who can be bought and sold, telling us it loves us one second, then tossing us out like trash the next. Hate the whole idea of “Football as a Way of Life.” All the garbage of us being “warriors” on a “battlefield,” that somehow we’re Real Men or Heroes because we play this stupid game with a little scrap of leather on a hundred yards of fake grass.
I am aware of no statutory compulsion to play football. And few cheeks will moisten at the plight of prima donna multi-millionaires who can only spell cat with the aid of tracing paper. Consider these five year-old figures:
• Average NFL player salary: $1.9 million
• Median NFL player salary: $770,000
• Average NFL career length: 3.5 years
Obviously star compensation heavily skews the mean; with median figures being so comparatively modest that Zuckerberg himself might even stoop to pick up the cash–if an H1-b would carry it. Though even a pedestrian career gets a man out in his mid 20s with a $2.7 million gross. Probably enough to keep most NFLers solvent from now until Presidents Day.
And yet I can’t help but to admire the unusual lucidity of his sentiments. He harbors no illusions of glory in his role. He is well-compensated corporate chum. The sole purpose of which to bloody the water for sake of attracting ad revenues. It’s almost a ritualized self-sacrifice. He understands no money will return the full function of his mind and body. Yet he succumbs to bitter resignation at his inability to renounce it. The crippled would pay millions for their health; he accepts millions to be crippled. I suppose there’s a symmetry in that. I also suppose that some cohort could be enticed to leap into volcanos. After all, are you going to turn down that much money?
But mostly I admire his understanding of a heroism that transcends fame or money. And the awareness it isn’t found chasing a bouncing ball.