In the era we’re living in, no institution, no particular business and no pastime seems securely anchored.
If four of a dozen Atlantic City casinos close, it means casino gambling is in trouble.
If stalwart newspapers like The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The New York Times shed hundreds of employees in the space of several years and their advertising revenue plummets, the newspaper business is a shell of its former self.
And if the National Football League turns away in the face of players abusing their wives and girlfriends — and if scores of former players are walking around with badly damaged brains — even pro football could find itself on the ropes.
Now, I don’t care about casino gambling, so that pending crisis doesn’t bother me a bit. And having had a front-seat view of the newspaper business’s ebbing fortunes, I’m pretty much inured to that business’s predicament. (God help The New York Times, though, because I’ve got a significant stock-market bet on its ability to figure out how to succeed in the Internet Era.)
But this National Football League mess…whoa, that is an eye-opener.
As I was watching the Royals’ game tonight (“Big Game” James came through again!), I saw the NFL headlines scrolling along the bottom of the screen.
In addition to the newly released video of former Ravens player Ray Rice sucker punching and knocking out his then-girlfriend in a hotel elevator, the “screen crawler” carried more bad news: San Diego Chargers’ center Nick Hardwick is out for the year with a neck injury, and John Abraham, a “sack” artist for the Arizona Cardinals, is out for the season — and maybe forever — because, at 36 years of age, he is suffering from “severe memory loss.”
Thirty-six and his memory is shot!!! Holy shit, I wasn’t even married at 36…
Personally, I am going to try to not watch one minute of any Chiefs’ game this season. I’m off to a good start because last weekend I was in Louisville, Ky., for my 50th high school reunion and wasn’t the least bit tempted to even try to find out the score of the Chiefs’ game. (What? You say they lost and their best defensive player is out for the year with an ACL tear? I can hardly believe it.)
Over the years, I’ve gradually lost interest in the Chiefs, not just because of their string of bad years but also because the game-day atmosphere at Arrowhead — set by ill-mannered drunks, for the most part — has degenerated so badly.
I used to go to one game a year, but last year, for the first time, I didn’t go to any. And now, with the head injuries and the league’s mishandling of the Rice case, I’m ready to give the NFL the boot. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do on all those upcoming, cold November and December Sundays, but I guess I’ll start by going to even more women’s college basketball games than I do now.
You can put me in the same corner as Steve Almond, a Massachusetts-based writer who, in August, wrote an article titled “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” In the article, Almond argues that the sport “legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia.”
“If you really look at football, it’s very troubling on a whole bunch of levels,” he said. “I believe we’re at a moral crossroads, but change is gradual.”
A Boston Globe story about Almond’s boycott and the growing concerns about pro football quoted a fan named Irving Kurki, who said he’d come to the realization that “it’s wrong to be entertained by a process whereby people are injured and their lifespans are shortened.”
Kurki told The Globe that so far he had not suffered from withdrawal. “I was a smoker once, too, and I gave that up,” he said.
Well, I gave up cigars more than a year ago. Plus, being a former Catholic, I didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent for many years.
So, I’m steeled and braced. Put me on the bench, coach, I’m ready to sit out.