by liberal japonicus
That's a way that Alzheimer's has been described, so I hope I'm not twisting it out of shape and making anyone feel bad when I say that this news story had me think of that phrase.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before driving to the team's practice facility and killing himself in front of team officials, Kansas City police said.
To explain a bit, growing up, I was a sports fanatic, particularly for football, and now I see the sport from afar and it seems to be slowly, but surely, moving away from other sports, to a place where it will be more like pro wrestling, a sport that is simply a spectacle.
Of course, you could say that football, and all professional sports are just spectacles, and certainly, it's something that partakes of our modern desire for celebrities, and often rewards people for behavior that we wouldn't tolerate if it were in our own families, or at least turns a blind eye. And there is a lot of truth to what Chomsky says, in Manufacturing Consent, when he says:
Take, say, sports -- that's another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it -- you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about -- [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.
You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? [laughter] I mean, I don't know anybody on the team, you know? [audience roars] I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn't mean any -- it doesn't make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that's why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.
I don't agree with all of that, and the act of playing on a team, even a pick up team, and synching with the people there, as well as finding out how to use your body is something that shouldn't be dismissed as irrational jingoism, especially when studies show that people who are more active live longer, healthier lives.
However, it seems that football is on a path towards obsolescence, like one of those 18th century sports that was contested long ago, but now, no one would even bother trying to play except for a lark. To try and tease out the strands that make me feel this way, the constant shadow of steroid use, with Lyle Alzado being an early example, and merging into that, the question of concussions and their impact on the health of players. I thought that it was a quarterback that said 'I play football so my son won't have to', but googling suggests it was Jets linebacker Bart Scott. Then it was the replacement referee fiasco, which didn't result in any injuries, but that was only luck. Parallel with this is the bizarro world of college football, with Penn State, conference reorganization and an organization that works to basically tap the atheletic talents of athletes without suitable recompense. (in this regard, the O'Bannon lawsuit, though he was a basketball player, plays into this). The article also closes with this
Other NFL players who have committed suicide in recent years include Denver Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley, Tennessee Titans receiver O.J. Murdock and retired star linebacker Junior Seau.
Perhaps this is again a question of viewing things from a distance. And by juxtaposing Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide with questions of steroids and concussions unfairly suggests that those were an issue, when I have no idea if they were or not (and I link to this article, about him). And perhaps there have been similar incidents in other sports, so I'm assigning this undue importance in some way.
It is also true that basketball, which, before the coming of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the 70's, had a reputation as being a black sport that was full of coke heads, was able to refurbish its image to such an extent that the NBA is an international sport (this season, 12.5% of the players are international), and even officiating scandals don't seem to trip up the league.
But this isn't really about Jovan Belcher, just that his death has me thinking about football's future as a sport. I have a feeling that sports fans aren't really thick on the ground here at the mothership, but in the ebb and flow of sports popularity, it does seem like football is slowly fading away.