Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crime, Violence, Arrests, and the NFL: An Uneasy Convergence

After the arrest in Massachusetts of New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez for murder, the newspapers were filled with headlines regarding the number of NFL football players who had been arrested in 2013.  With the year just barely past the halfway mark, NFL players have been arrested for, among other things,  gun charges, attempt murder, assault, DUI, Public intoxication, drag racing and resisting arrest, burglary, battery, a prostitution sting, child abuse and domestic violence.

In many cases, you have young men barely out of their teens who suddenly find themselves with lots of money and little, if any, adult supervision.  It seems to me that some have adopted a gang culture mentality, complete with guns, tattoos and an intimidating attitude that we see portrayed in the entertainment media.  In a sport that prides itself on hard hits and physical violence, it's not hard to see how some players might lose their perspective here.

I'm also troubled by the comparison to football games and other sporting events as 'going to war' and 'combat.'  When I was growing up, most of our fathers served in World War II and Korean War and had seen real combat in the South Pacific, Europe and the Korean peninsula.  Many had seen untold carnage and death and lived with those memories.  It would never have crossed anyone's mind in those days to have referred to any sporting event as a war or combat.  Just as today, that comparison cheapens the sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces who gave so much in Vietnam and Iraq, and are still giving in Afghanistan.

My last comment is on how much sports have changed in my lifetime.  Today I see college players signing million dollar contracts.  As a young boy, I remember that most professional ball players in the 1950's and 60's had to have off-season jobs to supplement their incomes and support their families.

Take for example Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts.  He was the originator of the two minute drill and led his Colts to a come from behind victory over my New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game. To this day, many still call it the greatest football game ever played.  It's the game that put professional football on the map.  If I ever wanted one quarterback to lead my team down the field with the game on the line, it would be Johnny U.  He was the greatest quarter back I ever saw.

During the off-season, Johnny Unitas laid linoleum.    

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