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No Pepper Games: Other Men's Sacrifices

Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 5/21/2012 10:50am

A lecherous old banker meets a girl at a party. He's instantly smitten, and offers the girl a million dollars to sleep with him. After some moral agonizing, the girl agrees. The banker says, "Okay, would you sleep with me for ten bucks?" Says the girl, "What do you think I am, a whore?" And the banker says, "We've established what you are, honey. Now we're just establishing how much."

The more I read up on the NFL's concussion problem, the more I feel like the girl in that joke.

I'm a football fan. Always have been. Figured I always would be.

In a National Football League where the average career lasts 3.3 years Junior Seau played for 20. He was a rush defender for the ages, with a slashing, aggressive style. He could show up in your backfield before the opposing QB finished handing off the ball. He appeared in two Super Bowls, and finally retired in 2009.

Football has a five-year waiting period to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. In 2014, Seau will be a shoo-in, no-question, stamp-your-ticket-to-Canton, first-ballot Hall Of Famer.

Mr. Seau will not attend the ceremony. He killed himself with a gunshot to the chest on May 2nd.

Before the facts were in, before the corpse was even cold, the hand-wringers came out. "Football's too violent. The players are getting concussions. Look at the brain damage."

First, we know nothing about why Junior Seau took his own life. We may never. What torment overcame his soul that night is a mystery that will lie buried with him.

"But," say the couch-fainters, "we can't let these young men sacrifice themselves for our entertainment."

We sacrifice young men all the time. Young men are our most renewable natural resource.

The talented, the large, the fleet - these sign up to be sacrificed for our games.

The poor and unconnected, these we sacrifice for our wars.

This has been the way of things since the first hunter-gatherer committee meeting decided to call themselves "civilization." It is rooted within us. The purpose of being human is not to preserve the piece of meat the soul comes encased in. The purpose of being human is to expend that being in a greater cause than oneself.

I am not saying that it's right. I'm saying that it's true.

It was ever thus.

The lives of the gladiators were sacrificed for the Emperor's amusement.

Muhammad Ali sacrificed his nervous system on the gloves of Frazier, Foreman, and Spinks. Dale Earnhardt Sr. sacrificed his life for a pass on the last turn at Daytona.

Sacrifice takes all forms. A woman once went up to Vladimir Horowitz, the concert pianist, and said "I'd give my life to be able to play like that." He replied, "Madam, I have."

Any great endeavor requires sacrifice.

The problem is football players don't know what's happening to them until years later. Common sense should tell you that all that getting hit in the head can't be good for you. We're only recently finding out how bad the effects are, and how long they last, and how irreversible they are.

This is not trivial football news. The players have long suspected that the NFL knew about this long before the public was made aware. The lawsuits from ex-players have begun to circle around the league like X-wings around the Death Star.

The NFL is big enough to withstand any lawsuit, but what of the smaller colleges? The Pee-Wee leagues? What mother is going to sign up little Timmy knowing that the wages of Pop Warner is mood swings, depression, memory loss, violent tendencies, and death?

The whole player supply system could be in danger.

As for the fans, the NFL still has our loyalty, but the effort required to turn a blind eye is getting greater with each passing revelation.

I am a football fan. I have always been a football fan. Fall without Football is almost unthinkable. Next fall, knowing what I know, I will still watch the National Football League.

I watched a number of the 268 games Junior Seau played in. I saw all of his playoff games and both of his Super Bowls. I was entertained by Junior Seau's neurological trauma.

I take my dollars and my viewership, and I willingly and knowingly support a game that kills men. I'm a fan of a game that men die to play. What does that make me, a murderer?

And the banker says, "We've established what you are, honey. Now we're just establishing how much."