A Tale of Two Medias

I know the sports press gets a lot of shit for being starfuckers and for glossing over the sins of the giants in professional sports, and to some extent that is very much true. Having said that, I have long been of the opinion that the best written magazine in America is Sports Illustrated, which has standards for writing and accuracy in reporting that far exceed anything you will see in Time, Newsweek, US News, etc. The same used to be also true for Playboy, although not so much as in decades past when they had actual literary giants writing pieces. And yes, Virginia, there are actually people who read the Playboy articles. And I won’t even begin to describe how Rolling Stone blows away most of the rest of the longform political media.

At any rate, I think it is instructive to watch how the print and tv media are treating the current referee shitshow in the NFL and the political media’s coverage of the current Romney campaign. It took a full six months for the media to actually start calling Romney’s lies for what they are, and then only after he doubled and tripled down on the welfare lie. This, despite the fact that this has been the most deceitful political campaign probably ever, as chronicled by by Steve Benen’s relentless and largely unheralded efforts.

On the other hand, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico on Sunday Night Football have spent the night calling things as they actually are, which is to say, a disaster. No mincing of words. No both sides do it. Just- “these guys are fucking up. Lots.” And they are not the only ones:

Again, the sports media are not perfect, but I’m sorry, I’ll take Michael Wilbon and Bob Ryan and Ed Bouchette over David Gregory, Bob Schieffer, and Chuck Lane any fucking day of the week. At the very least, sports writers know how to cover an actual fucking horse race.

*** Update ***

I hope one of you can find the video for the ESPN post game show I just watched with Stuart Scott, Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Bill Polian. Steve Young repeatedly stated what we all know- the owners don’t fucking care because there is, in Young’s words, there is inelastic demand for the NFL. People are going to watch no matter what, and all the owners and the league care about are breaking the union. Dilfer also pointed out what a bunch of hypocrites Goodell and the owners are for all their bullshit about player safety and then putting high school refs on the field. Young was fucking awesome- “The owners don’t care. They don’t care about player safety. They care about breaking the union and the view the refs (labor) as a commodity and you can just throw anyone out there to officiate.”

Steve Young- a rich Mormon who fucking gets it.

*** Update ***

Here is the video of Dilfer, Young, Polian, and Scott:

Tell me Young is wrong. And I challenge you to find any political commentary on NBC, CBS, ABC, or anywhere else, that even challenges that for honesty regarding a situation. ESPN is the premiere sports network, and their team is calling out the NFL in no uncertain terms. Tell me the last time any of the networks or cable networks did the same thing in regards to politics.

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148 replies
  1. 1
    jwb says:

    As I said in the previous thread, I won’t watch an NFL game until they stop using scab refs.

  2. 2
    ploeg says:

    I agree. People might want the announcers to call out the owners explicitly, but it’s not the fault of the referees union that the owners put “sixth-rate referees” on the field.

  3. 3
    Redneck Jeebus says:

    Don’t get too ahead of yourself. One of the STL Cardinals’ beat writers made a “nobody knows what’s in ObamaCare” dig the other day.

  4. 4
    GregB says:

    Hopefully the strike will end soon because Romney is going to need a replacement staff pronto and those refs will certainly be an improvement to Romney’s current cabal of shitheels, malcontents and knuckle-draggers.

    Dr. Mengele would be a better spin doctor than Fehrnstrom.

  5. 5
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    I miss Paul Zimmerman. He would have ripped the NFL several new assholes over this crap.

  6. 6
    hhex65 says:

    and man, this Falcons v Broncos game has got to be the last straw on this

  7. 7
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Ed Bouchette at the PG rocks!
    Especially his weekly Steeper chat.

  8. 8
    Nom de Plume says:

    Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico on Sunday Night Football

    Yeah, and especially impressive when you consider that ESPN has a very lucrative contract with the NFL. Not that they’re in serious danger of losing it to someone else, but still. Can you imagine an equivalence in the MSM? Me neither.

  9. 9
    Linda says:

    Here’s one way sports reporting is different than Other Reporting: immediate accountability. If you incorrectly predict who will win the big game, everybody points and laughs, and it will be in the time period right after the big game. In contrast, the Iraq War was a total fubar, and political cheerleaders for the war had a hard time admitting that they were wrong in real time, with no “time will tell” fig leaf to hide behind.

  10. 10
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Linda:

    Maybe we should get Tony Reali to Mute Kristol, Rubin, et al.

  11. 11
    Mark S. says:

    You’ve got a point. When Rush Limbaugh made his racist comments about Donovan McNabb, most sportswriters tore him a new one and he was fired shortly thereafter (with an assist from Oxycontin). On the other hand, when Rush makes a racist comment, oh, every day on his radio show, most political writers are lining up to suck his cock or saying he’s just an entertainer.

  12. 12
    Lori says:

    I don’t get it. It’s a colluseum, where huge crowds of people happily watch people get devoured by lions, sort of. The entertainment is watching guys hurt each other so badly they die young, with broken painful bodies and brains that don’t work. To me it seems like a pasttime people should be ashamed to admit they like. And the terrible thing somehow is that refs are making bad calls? Truly I think there’s something way worse going on.

  13. 13
    suzanne says:

    @Lori: Truth.

  14. 14
    Morbo says:

    The post game crew on ESPN is carving the refs up as well.

  15. 15
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    There are lots of sportspeople who can be right-wingers (I know Lou Holtz is, Ditka is, etc.) but I think you’re absolutely right that it’s more of a no-bullshit environment.

    And there are some good people in sportswriting. I think lots of people don’t like Rick Reilly for whatever reason, but he’s definitely not a starfucker. He writes about high school athletes and non-pros a lot, and as far as politics go, I have an anthology of his from 1999-2004 or so where he takes a bunch of potshots at the NRA, and wrote an (admittedly subtle) “The Iraq War is bullshit” column in 2003 or so. Now how come he knew it and the ‘foreign policy experts’ didn’t?

  16. 16
    Punchy says:

    @hhex65: This. Random games in random markets do not a impact make. But on a national stage of MNF, these guys seemed 6 beers short of a 6-pack. Just atrocious.

  17. 17
    ploeg says:

    @Lori: Thing is, whatever you think of the game of football, competent referees keep it from becoming an out-and-out brawl. If you don’t have competent referees, things can get a lot uglier in a hurry.

  18. 18
    smith says:

    @Nom de Plume:

    Not only that, remember a few years ago when ESPN caved to NFL pressure and canceled “Playmakers” their NFL-based scripted show? ESPN has always been extremely fawning towards the NFL, but even they can see the writing on the wall. Even they can’t ignore reality.

  19. 19
    Kevin says:

    And don’t forget, Charlie Pierce writes a bit for Grantland on ESPN.

  20. 20
    Suffern ACE says:

    I wonder if as a feature after the top ten plays of the week, they shouldn’t start tuning the top ten delays and blown calls as well.

  21. 21
    hhex65 says:

    @Lori: Oh, there is something way worse going on: Tebow is but one heartbeat away from starting at QB for the New York Jets.

  22. 22
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @hhex65:

    Heartbeat? I thought Sanchez was in better shape than that.

  23. 23
    Jager says:

    Cole SCOOOOOORES!!!!!!

  24. 24
    hhex65 says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: heh, remember Mo Lewis?

  25. 25
    Strontium 90 says:

    I think it was Fallows that said recently, that if you want to see good on air journalism listen to a good local sports radio broadcast. Here is Houston, we have several excellent drive time sports personalities that treat their listeners with respect, but don;t dumb things down for them. They assume people are knowledgeable and discuss accordingly. Fallows was saying that it was these qualities that were dorely lacking in political media

  26. 26
    Roger Moore says:

    @Nom de Plume:
    It’s not clear that the contract makes ESPN more vulnerable to NFL pressure. The contract is a legally binding contract. The NFL can’t just rip it up in a fit of pique unless it has terms that specifically forbid ESPN from making the kind of criticism they’ve been making. I can’t imagine that ESPN would let their announcers talk that way if it did, so I have to assume that it doesn’t and the NFL wouldn’t find itself in court if it tried to ditch a broadcaster who dissed their refs.

    Also, too, that contract pays a ton of money. NFL leadership has proven itself to be such a bunch of tightwads that they’ll bring in scab refs over an amount of money that basically amounts to a rounding error in their annual income. Do you really think they’re going to risk a lawsuit over a broadcast contract that pays them a couple of orders of magnitude more than the amount they’re fighting the refs over?

  27. 27
    Nom de Plume says:

    @Roger Moore: @Roger Moore:

    It’s not clear that the contract makes ESPN more vulnerable to NFL pressure

    Sure, maybe ESPN’s lawyers negotiated something really good for them, in which case I would say that’s only further to the point, since it’s hard to imagine a “hard news” organization like CNN having such a contractual advantage over one of their advertisers.

  28. 28
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Strontium 90: I listen to espn talk radio now that it’s on the FM dial here in new York. I find it too similar to outrage political shows, to be honest. It is just as prone to narrative spinning as the other types if news. However, it does in the end have to rely on stats which are accurately recorded as well as standings. It’s would be difficult for a lightweight like Paul Ryan to keep the moniker as the republican brainy wonk or Gingrich the man of ideas if their work was measured in yards per game or WHIP.

  29. 29
    Rafer Janders says:

    Reminds me of this Noam Chomsky passage from “Understanding Power” that James Fallows highlighted a week ago to illustrate how there was often a higher level of intelligence and insight to be found in discussions of sports than of politics:

    “You sometimes find in non-literate cultures [the] development of the most extraordinary linguistic systems: often there’s tremendous sophistication about language, and people play all sorts of games with language.

    “What all these things look like is that people just want to use their intelligence somehow, and if you don’t have a lot of technology and so on, you do other things.

    “Well, in our society, we have things that you might use your intelligence on, like politics, but people really can’t get involved in them in a very serious way — so what they do is they put their minds into other things, such as sports.

    “You’re trained to be obedient; you don’t have an interesting job; there’s no work around for you that’s creative; in the cultural environment you’re a passive observer of usually pretty tawdry stuff; political and social life are out of your range, they’re in the hands of the rich folks. So what’s left? Well, one thing that’s left is sports — so you put a lot of the intelligence and the thought and the self-confidence into that. And I suppose that’s also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.”

  30. 30
    Geoduck says:

    Sports in the US, unlike politics, is Vitally Crushingly Important. People are taught this from birth. So of course, the people reporting on it generally have to a better job.
    EDIT: I see Rafer Janders beat me to it..

  31. 31
    butler says:

    @Lori:

    where huge crowds of people happily watch people get devoured by lions, sort of.

    You’re correct. Its “sort of” like that. Choosing to participate in a game you love and get paid lucrative amounts of money for doing it is “sort of” like getting executed by being fed to a wild animal.

  32. 32
    Comrade Luke says:

    Didn’t Steve Young speak at the 2000 Republican National Convention? And now he’s defending the unions?

    Wow.

  33. 33
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.”

    I’m not trying to derail, and I don’t dislike Noam Chomsky, but honestly, can we please try to get away from the ‘opiate of the masses’ stuff? Pro sports didn’t export people’s jobs and sell them crappy mortgages. Big business did. Surely it can’t be that hard to have a society that has a robust entertainment sector and treats regular people with respect and decency. Hell, this blog should be proof that people can be rabid sports fans and very politically aware.

  34. 34
    Eric k says:

    The owners unity may start to break if teams lose games because of blown calls. 1 game can be the difference between making the playoffs or not.

    One of the main reason there is instant replay is because in ’99 IIRC the Seahawks lost the last game of the season and missed the playoffs when refs mistook Vinny Testerverde’s helmet for the ball and gave the Jets a TD on 4th and goal. The teams who’d been holding out on replay recognized it as a “that could happen to me” moment.

  35. 35
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    Wow, Nightline seems to be taking Romney apart. But of course we still get the both sides do it, but Muir’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it. It was all of 2secs in a 12 minute piece.

    And can someone explain something to me, I’m NFL-stupid, but don’t players belong to a union (Association?), too? Isn’t it considered bad form to cross a fellow union’s picket line?

    Or does that not apply to sports?

  36. 36
    Redneck Jeebus says:

    When someone says that they know more than Nick Saban or Bill Belichick, we disregard them as being idiots. There is no way someone who never played football above 8th grade would be able to coach an NFL team or even win one game. Sportswriters have a certain amount of respect for coaches. They ask lots of questions, but they never go so far as to insinuate that John T. Hayseed from Bumfuck, AR would be able to devise a strategy for scoring points against the Steel Curtain. No serious sports fan thinks he can coach a game.

    Compare that to politics, where people who haven’t taken a science class since 8th grade think they know more about the climate or science than someone who actually went to school for it. And the amount of people who think they know more is quite large.

    It’s pretty scary how dumb our population is.

  37. 37
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    I don’t know Steve Young’s overall politics (though kudos for saying what John quoted up there), but for a lot of people, there’s a difference between defending people you like who happen to be in a union and defending “The Unions.” Of course, I don’t need to tell you all that-that’s the Big Problem with labor and working-class politics in America. And maybe Steve would say the same thing about teachers and postal workers. I honestly don’t know.

  38. 38
    Comrade Luke says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Maybe he’s just defending the players, because he thinks they’re going to get hurt as a result of this? I dunno.

    Regardless, it will be interesting to hear the talking points wrt unions once this finally gets settled.

  39. 39
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Eric k:

    I at least hope it was off of his head at the time.

  40. 40
    Redneck Jeebus says:

    @TaMara (BHF):

    Crossing the picket line as a pro athlete is generally frowned upon, yes.

  41. 41
    smith says:

    Young’s wife spoke out in favor of gay marriage and was against Prop 8. He didn’t offer any opinion but his wife claims he supported her views on the matter.

    Young also suffered several concussions which ended his career. He’s very sensitive to the player safety issue.

    But I have no idea what his true politics are.

  42. 42
    suzanne says:

    @butler:

    Choosing to participate in a game you love and get paid lucrative amounts of money for doing it is “sort of” like getting executed by being fed to a wild animal.

    God forbid we examine the underlying patriarchal social systems that create an environment in which we pay gigantic people with a relative paucity of intellect exorbitant sums of money (more than we pay teachers, police, firefighters, etc.) to smash into each other to satisfy our bloodthirst.

  43. 43
    suzanne says:

    @butler:

    Choosing to participate in a game you love and get paid lucrative amounts of money for doing it is “sort of” like getting executed by being fed to a wild animal.

    God forbid we examine the underlying patriarchal social systems that create an environment in which we pay gigantic people with a relative paucity of intellect exorbitant sums of money (more than we pay teachers, police, firefighters, etc.) to smash into each other to satisfy our bloodthirst.

  44. 44
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @suzanne:

    ‘A relative paucity of intellect,” huh? What makes you say that?

  45. 45
    trollhattan says:

    But, since unions are bad, m’kay, the referees must be crushed and if a season is sullied because game outcomes are altered and moar players are injured, well, you gotta break some eggs to kill the commie union omelet. M’kay?

    Zombie Reagan demands it.

  46. 46
    The Dangerman says:

    At what point does it become a workplace safety issue? After someone high profile gets a knee blown out after some odd play (there is more holding and pass interference, both defensive and offensive, than I can recall ever seeing). And, if it is a workplace safety issue, who comes in to work the mess?

  47. 47
    BGinCHI says:

    Perfect paradox:

    The Village media think they are referees covering politics as a sport and the sports media see that any endeavor that has tons of money and power is all about politics.

    Can’t we make a trade?

  48. 48
    suzanne says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: What makes me say that many football players aren’t too bright? Watching them give interviews, for one. Brain damage, for another. And spending their careers doing something that doesn’t materially improve anyone’s lives except for their own, generally in the form of mansions and sports cars.

  49. 49
    Roger Moore says:

    @Nom de Plume:
    You’re missing the point. The NFL is a content provider who is being paid by the network for the games they put on, not an advertiser who is paying the network for airtime. The NFL complaining about the way ESPN is talking about their refs is more like the producer of a hit TV show complaining about the network that broadcasts them airing a star’s dirty laundry on their entertainment news show. They can complain, but they can’t use it as an excuse to pull their show off the air and try to sell it to another network.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    @TaMara (BHF):

    Thanks to 30 years of Republican policies, a lot of the time unions are not permitted to strike in favor of other unions. It’s entirely possible that the players cannot legally refuse to cross the picket line due to their own contracts with the NFL.

    Might be interesting to see what happens if players start coming down with the football equivalent of the “blue flu,” though.

  51. 51
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @suzanne:

    Ah, I see. Silly me, I thought you had statistics or something.

  52. 52
    Roger Moore says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    Shorter Chomsky:
    Bread and Circuses

  53. 53
    butler says:

    @suzanne: Examine it all you want, I won’t stop you.

    But I think the answer is pretty simple: people like to watch football, enough to watch a lot of it on TV and to shell out a good chunk of money to see it in person and for related merchandise, and in order to attract and retain the best talent the teams pay relatively huge salaries to the players.

    Its the same with anything. A-list actors can pull 20+ million a flick because people will pay money to see them act in make believe picture shows. Martha Stewart made a billion dollars because people like to watch her make cookies. As much as I appreciate the WBNA, the league simply doesn’t draw the same attention and revenues and thus the players make a lot less. You eat what you kill, simple as that.

  54. 54
    fleeting expletive says:

    Just jumped on the computer here, so haven’t read anything beyond the post title. I hope I’m not the first assholde to say “medias”? Dude.

  55. 55
    Corner Stone says:

    @suzanne:

    God forbid we examine the underlying patriarchal social systems that create an environment in which we pay gigantic people with a relative paucity of intellect exorbitant sums of money (more than we pay teachers, police, firefighters, etc.) to smash into each other to satisfy our bloodthirst.

    Me no get it. Words too big. And shit.

  56. 56
    Geoduck says:

    @TaMara (BHF):

    And can someone explain something to me, I’m NFL-stupid, but don’t players belong to a union (Association?), too? Isn’t it considered bad form to cross a fellow union’s picket line?

    First, the referees have been locked out, they aren’t on strike. And I read somewhere that the players’ union agreement specifically forbids them from joining other strikes.

  57. 57
    smith says:

    @The Dangerman:

    That’s what several NFL players and sports commentators have brought up. Remember, Goodell suspended the Saints coaches and players because of “BountyGate” and accused them of trying to injure players.

    Yet here he is allowing 6th-rate (and that’s being generous) officials to officiate a brutal, fast-paced game.

    The players are going nuts out there. I think I saw more headshots and outright muggings this past weekend than I’ve seen in 3 previous seasons combined of football. And very little of it is getting called. And the dirty players are licking their chops.

    As someone on one of the sports boards I’m on said: NFL games this season have been like a room full of rambunctious second graders being in a class with a first-year substitute teacher. And the teacher is too young/new/scared/inexperienced to do anything to stop the acting-out.

  58. 58
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Might be interesting to see what happens if players start coming down with the football equivalent of the “blue flu,” though.

    Shit. They get game checks in the six and seven figure ranges. They aren’t about to forfeit one to support a $60K a year old slow white dude.

  59. 59
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @fleeting expletive:

    “Assholde”? Dude.

  60. 60
    suzanne says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: All right. Here ya go. Average score for the general population on this intelligence test was 24/50. Average NFL score was 20.

  61. 61
    butler says:

    @suzanne: Thanks for stopping by, Dr. Murray.

  62. 62
    Corner Stone says:

    @smith:

    I think I saw more headshots and outright muggings this past weekend than I’ve seen in 3 previous seasons combined of football. And very little of it is getting called. And the dirty players are licking their chops.

    Anybody who watched NBC Sunday Night Football and saw Rodney Harrison drooling to get back in uniform should be concerned as to what the hell is going on.

  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    @suzanne:
    Can we cut the crap about how little teachers get paid relative to professional athletes? The total amount we spend on education is far, far more than we spend on all forms of education, much less what we spend just on sports. It’s just that we have found a way to provide most of the sports the country wants with a relative handful of pro athletes, while we still need millions of teachers to teach everyone. If a few thousand teachers could provide the vast majority of the educational requirement for the country the same way that a few thousand athletes can provide the majority of the sports entertainment, we could afford to pay star teachers better than we currently pay star athletes.

  64. 64
    suzanne says:

    @butler:

    But I think the answer is pretty simple: people like to watch football, enough to watch a lot of it on TV and to shell out a good chunk of money to see it in person and for related merchandise, and in order to attract and retain the best talent the teams pay relatively huge salaries to the players.

    That’s not an answer, at least not to the question, “Why do people spend so much time, money, and emotional investment on a game in which they have no material stake in who wins, and no one’s lives (other than the players themselves) will be affected by the outcome?” You can’t just answer that question with, “Well, it’s popular, so WHADDYAGONNADO?”.

  65. 65
    SixStringFanatic says:

    @smith: unruly second graders? Nah, man, I think seventh graders are the worst on substitutes. At least in my memory as an occasionally unruly child.

  66. 66
    Violet says:

    So according to the links John highlighted above, everyone seems to think there is a big problem with the scab refs–players can get hurt more frequently and end up with worse injuries, games can be lost due to blown calls, games are delayed, etc.

    If everyone agrees, why aren’t fans boycotting the games until the owners bring back the regular refs? Completely empty stadiums, no one watching games on TV…that would get people’s attention. At the very least, advertisers would be unhappy that no one was watching those ads they’d paid big bucks to air during games.

    Is there no attempt to organize a fan/viewer boycott? It’s the only thing the average fan has at their disposal that might actually do some good. Talking about it on Facebook isn’t going to do much.

  67. 67
    smith says:

    @SixStringFanatic:

    True. 2nd graders will just run around like they had too much sugar. 7th graders might actually throw something at the teacher.

  68. 68
    eemom says:

    the underlying patriarchal social systems

    dayum, if I didn’t know better I’d think I was reading the bright and shiny first paper of a college freshman taking 20th Century Feminism 101.

    Oh wait, I am….

  69. 69
    Comrade Luke says:

    Would some front pager PLEASE go to the NYT site right now, download the Romney photo and post it?

    It’s Hall of Fame worthy.

  70. 70
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @suzanne:

    Shit, why is there entertainment at all, if that’s the way you’re phrasing the question? I don’t have a ‘material stake’ in how a good book or movie ends, but I still get emotionally attached. And? Are we supposed to abandon everything outside of advancing some political class war?

    I’m sorry, but I’ve always thought that people who advance these arguments are more interested in sanctimony than affecting change. If football vanished tomorrow you’d move on to Nascar or MMA.

    And that ‘intelligence test’ you cited earlier? Again, so? It’s an artificial Q&A type intelligence test designed to measure a certain kind of skill. That’s not the last word on ‘intelligence.’ Sure, I wouldn’t trust most NFL players to perform brain surgery, but I wouldn’t trust most anyone to do that. It’s a 4-point difference, with certain subgroups scoring just as well as various white-collar professions. That doesn’t prove much to me.

  71. 71
    Brachiator says:

    Sports writers and fans are acutely attuned to anything that might impede their enjoyment of the game. So, they will turn a blind eye to a player juicing to be more explosive or productive, but they will turn an eagle eye on a replacement ref who may make a crappy call that hurts their favorite team.

    Too bad that Mitt doesn’t own a football team. Some of the writers and fans might pay more attention.

  72. 72
    suzanne says:

    @eemom: Why don’t you save yourself a few keystrokes and call me fat again? I know the seventh-grader inside you is just dying to impress us all.

  73. 73
    fleeting expletive says:

    I said I was the asshole for bringing up a stupid latin declension point in a fascinating thread about football and unions and shit. I jumped in w/o reading and I myself think that was an asshole thing to do. Shouldn’t have posted nuthin’. Sorry.

  74. 74
    butler says:

    @suzanne: Probably for the same reason people enjoy movies, or music, or literature, or TV, or stand up comedy or whatever. Its entertaining. In every contest there’s potential for some drama, some comedy, some tragedy and some amazing athletic performances. Throw in some tribalism, civic pride and emotion and you have a compelling mix that a lot of people enjoy as entertainment.

    “Why do people spend so much time, money, and emotional investment on a game in which they have no material stake in who wins, and no one’s lives (other than the players themselves) will be affected by the outcome?”

    Clearly you’ve never had a 3 team parlay or a fantasy football playoff spot riding on a garbage time TD.

  75. 75
    jayackroyd says:

    Fallows wrote recently that the only instance of media where the purveyors take their audience seriously, don’t talk down to them, and don’t assume they’re worthless idiots is sports talk radio.

  76. 76
    SmallAxe says:

    good for Steve Young, direct descendant of Brigham Young. He’s extra sensitive about player health as he should be. I was at his last game right behind the 49ers bench in AZ when Aeneas Williams knocked him out for good at least in the NFL with a brutal hit, will never forget it and obviously neither does he.

  77. 77
    butler says:

    @suzanne: Furthermore, its not an either/or proposition. I love football, but I guarantee a lot more of my income was directed to my local school district and police precinct last year than I would dream of sending to any sports franchise.

  78. 78
    eemom says:

    @suzanne:

    I never did call you fat, you dumbass little twerp. Still awaiting your apology.

  79. 79
    Redneck Jebus says:

    Suzanne, are you saying that we should re-examine our fondness and love for sports? I don’t get it: there are no deeper meanings here. Most people like football because the action is quick; it contains a large amount of strategy and it can be thrilling.

    What pro athletes do, in many ways, is an artform. We are seeing the most physically dominant people put on a show. Do you think it’s ridiculous that people spend large sums of money on ballets, musicals, paintings and Thomas Keller meals?

  80. 80
    suzanne says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Look, I get that we all need distraction. Pro football seems to have a pretty ugly side to it, though. Glorification of human qualities and attributes that aren’t supposed to really matter (this it shares with the worst kind of exploitative celebrity gossip/Kardashian-watching). A huge risk of physical injury to the people playing it. Football is not unique in any of these respects, but relative to the amount of headspace it seems to occupy, I think it’s worth inquiring why this entertainment specifically is so popular.

  81. 81
    Jamie says:

    @suzanne: Watching sports has improved my life.

  82. 82
    MattR says:

    @Violet:

    If everyone agrees, why aren’t fans boycotting the games until the owners bring back the regular refs?

    Three main reasons. First, people are addicts and can’t give it up. Second, there are a large number who are excited the league might break the refs union. Third, and probably most importantly, people have already paid for the tickets and did so long before they knew there would be replacement refs.

  83. 83
    jayackroyd says:

    @suzanne:

    Seriously? Two reasons. 1) Because the game outcomes are in doubt. A huge majority of entertainment presentation is predictable. One of the great successes of the NFL is that it really is the case that on any given Sunday the better team may not win. 2) The soap opera. I think this applies to baseball more than other sports, but all of them are about the interactions of players, coaches and ownership as they go through the vicissitudes of the season. You’ve got bad boys, good boys, wisecrackers, kneelers–all kinds of characters, who are operating without a script, but inside a narrative. It’s what reality tv aspires to, but can’t do because without a script the content isn’t dense enough–and the producers are too gutless to actually go scriptless.

    A movie and theater buff I know remarked that the plot point at the end of the first book (I don’t know where the HBO series ended, which is what he was watching) of Game of Thrones completely hooked him, because it demonstrated that the RailRoad was willing to do anything. It’s like that.

  84. 84
    VincentN says:

    I think people are kinda dancing around suzanne’s real point about people hurting each other for our entertainment. Filmmakers and writers typically don’t get concussions giving us entertainment. And there are plenty of sports that don’t involve direct contact and collisions. Tennis, baseball, basketball, etc. So what is it about football that is so compelling despite the risks and dangers to one’s physical and mental well-being?

    With that said, it’s not like the dangers of playing football are unknown. If a person freely chooses to play it, is aware of the risks, enjoys it, and is well compensated for it then I don’t see it as some exploitative thing. And this is coming from a guy who couldn’t care less about football.

  85. 85
    suzanne says:

    @jayackroyd: Okay, fair enough, but then why not watch chess or spelling bees or curling or table tennis? The fact that the brutal sports are the most popular leads me to think that the brutality is the selling point. Which I consider to be a pretty fucking ugly truth.

  86. 86
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @suzanne:

    I think it’s worth inquiring why this entertainment specifically is so popular.

    Butler at 74 had some good points. I think other factors are tradition (football dates way back into the 19th century: it’s an interesting thought experiment to wonder how popular things like football would be if they were just being introduced), presenting an opportunity for family and friends to get together, a sort of statistical/role-playing exercise for those so inclined (you probably think I’m kidding, but talk to a really serious fantasy football player and you’ll see).

    I think it’s worth saying (speaking as a big NFL fan) that the violent element of the game is something fans would rather not talk about, and certainly don’t look forward to. The majority of fans don’t root for players to get hurt. (The rest are Raiders and Eagles fans. Ha!) But you can get hurt doing almost anything physical. It’s too late for me to try and dig up the numbers, but I wonder if you look at injury numbers for miners, farmers, fishermen, lumberjacks, etc. if the injury rates aren’t just as bad or worse. Look at it this way: football isn’t a game people enjoy because of the possibility for truly dangerous violence. It’s a thing people enjoy for other reasons, and violence sometimes rears its head.

    (Another thing I don’t really care to do the research for but I know is at least worth looking into-almost every famous NFL player is involved in a charity of some sort. Now it may be a case of peer pressure and not being able to avoid it without looking bad, but money for poor neighborhoods is money for poor neighborhoods. I think your assertion that pro athletes as a rule care about themselves and nothing else is questionable at least.)

  87. 87
    MattR says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: To add to what you said, I would also say that there have been two signifcant changes in recent years. Players are significantly bigger, stronger and faster than they were 25 years ago. And there was not much knowledge and/or awareness until recent years about the long term damage being done by the repeated head trauma. (EDIT: Though it is pretty obvious in hindsight, right?)

    And to completely change topics, and depress you at the same time, I had a though experiment similar to yours but about our Constitution. What would our current society come up with if they had to start from scratch? Would they agree to ratify the current version of our Constitution without changes? How close would we come to declaring ourself a Christian nation?

  88. 88
    suzanne says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: You honestly don’t think people watch for the violence? Then why, in the name of God, do the teams keep looking for bigger and bigger people? I work with a guy who used to play college football. Pretty big guy. He says that he looks like a 90-pound weakling compared to players today. If it’s not about violence and seeing big dudes crash into each other, then why is this the case?

    Yes, you can hurt doing anything physical. But those other activities you listed have another purpose. There’s a product. That’s what makes fighting in a war different from a sport. Not to mention, people engaging in those activities generally try to minimize their risk. Football players (and boxers, etc.) very deliberately engage that risk.

    I didn’t mean to assert that pro athletes care only for themselves. (My husband worked at a school that Kurt Warner’s daughter attended, and Warner was AMAZING to that school.) I meant to assert that the athletes are the only ones who have any direct benefit from whomever wins or loses. Apologies for lack of clarity.

  89. 89
    butler says:

    @suzanne: Same as it ever was. Blue vs Green back in the Hippodrome was exciting because it took so much nerve and skill and daring to get your chariot across the line first without being killed.

    Being an NFL player requires not only great athletic talent but a good measure of physical toughness. A lot of humans naturally admire that and football is a way to show it off. Brutal? Primal? Barbaric? Absolutely. Combine this with a game that has infinite ways to play out within a known set of constraints and you get something that can appeal to both the primal instinct and a higher level of critical thinking.

    Its not limited to sports. Tom Wolfe paints a great picture of this phenomenon in “The Right Stuff”. The Mercury Astronauts were national heroes not just for being great pilots but for having the guts to sit in a can on top of a million pounds of rocket fuel and get flung into space (hopefully) for no other rational reason than to beat the Russians from getting there first.

    So yes, the whole thing is, from a rational perspective, pretty damn stupid and brutal. And I still love it.

  90. 90
    John Cole says:

    Some of the debate here makes me want to kill myself. You know why people like football- it’s fun (A LOT OF FUN) to play, and it is a lot of fun to watch.

    You know why people play hockey- it’s fun ( A LOT OF FUN) and it is a lot of fun to watch.

    You know why people play lacrosse- it’s fun (A LOT OF FUN) to play, and it is a lot of fun to watch.

    You know why people play soccer- it’s fun (A LOT OF FUN) to play, and it is a lot of fun to watch.

    You know why people ride motorcycles- They are run to ride.

    You know why people drink too much- they have fun doing it.

    You know why people have recreational sex- it’s fun and feels good.

    Do you know why people base-jump or go hang-gliding or skydive- well, I don’t know either, but allegedly it is fun. I was a tanker in an M1A1 Abrams, and there is no chance you will get my feet off the ground.

    Do you know why people play baseball, or even more inexplicably, watch it? Fill me in.

    But the next fucking moron to compare football to the gladiators, well, I’m ready to do what the Romans did with other doctrinal morons- throw you to the lions.

    I had a lot more to say but I deleted it because I didn’t want to spend the next two months dealing with butthurt or emails about how I just don’t get it. I get it- I’m with the 100+ million who watch the Super Bowl. You might want to ask what you aren’t getting, or maybe stop looking at it through the prism of patriarchal violence of whatever bullshit got churned up in your freshman class. There. I said it.

  91. 91
    butler says:

    @suzanne:

    Then why, in the name of God, do the teams keep looking for bigger and bigger people?

    Physics: bigger and faster typically wins over smaller and slower. Its not done with any malice, its done because its required to be competitive.

  92. 92
    butler says:

    Do you know why people play baseball, or even more inexplicably, watch it? Fill me in.

    Beer.

  93. 93
    Frank says:

    Here’s the link.

  94. 94
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @suzanne:

    Well, people like seeing big dudes crashing into each other, but no one’s rooting for anyone to get hurt. I don’t know if that makes a difference to you but it does to a lot of fans. It’s the difference between a rough, physical game that you have to be kind of a tough, macho guy to play, rough-housing, you know, between that and stuff that actually leaves people paralyzed or dead. People like the first, they don’t want to see the second happen. Again, maybe you think that’s a distinction without a difference, but that’s the way I see it.

  95. 95
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @John Cole:

    Do you know why people play baseball, or even more inexplicably, watch it? Fill me in.

    Oh, John. If you lived farther away from Pittsburgh maybe you’d understand.

  96. 96
    jayackroyd says:

    @suzanne:

    Yes, part of the appeal is the participants can get really badly hurt–and that’s not predictable either. Hence NASCAR.

    And your point is well taken. It’s like steroids. The good argument for banning PEDs is that we don’t want it to be a requirement that a participant endanger his or her health* if he or she wants to compete at the highest level of a sport.

    The trouble is that football inherently endangers the health (and shortens the lifespan**, perhaps) of the participants. So is it really okay to entertain ourselves this way? To take advantage of people willing (and they’re VERY willing–ex-players are very clear about this) to hurt themselves for pay. The injury rate, outside of kickers, in the NFL is 100%–for what you or I would call an injury, and it’s close to that number for what they regard as an injury.

    The ESPN morning sports talk show, Mike and Mike, features a former defensive lineman Mike Golic, who has recounted the time he was hospitalized, with an IV in his arm, but played. They took the IV out, he suited up, played the game, and then checked back into the hospital.

    It’s an interesting comment on post WWII American culture that this is the most widely viewed form of sports entertainment. Uniquely American, too….

    _________
    *It’s never been clear to me why it’s okay for baseball players to have eye surgery, for instance, but not take steroids under a doctor’s supervision. If it’s inherently bad to do so, then I get it.

    **It could be that the sport selects people with shorter lifespans, whether or not they played.

  97. 97
    suzanne says:

    @butler:

    So yes, the whole thing is, from a rational perspective, pretty damn stupid and brutal. And I still love it.

    Is there a way to make it less exploitative? Because it feels like watching the fucking Hunger Games.

    And while the physics argument may explain why players’ size has incrementally grown, that’s a similar justification to Walmart’s policy that ends with their full-time workers being paid so little they end up on welfare: it’s required to be competitive. Conscience dictates that I don’t shop at Walmart. Ergo…

  98. 98
    eemom says:

    Oh, give her a break, all y’all Patriarchs. She’s gunning to be the next Naomi Wolf when she grows up — and if yer not nice, you’ll never get a signed copy of Vagina III: The Football Slayer.

  99. 99
    MattR says:

    @suzanne: While it is not necessarily about the violence, there is undoubtedly a physical sport. In a physical sport, bigger is able to push around smaller. Especially as weight training, diet and other advances allowed bigger players to be just as quick and fast as the previous smaller version.

    As for why football is more popular than other sports, the violence may be part of it. But I think that fans enjoy the cerebral parts of the game as well (and watching the game tonight made you appreciate the on the field on the fly adjustments being made by each offense and defense) and I think there is something to the limited schedule (1 game a week for 16 weeks) that makes each game much more meaningful and therefore compelling than in any other team sport.

  100. 100
    Roger Moore says:

    @VincentN:

    And there are plenty of sports that don’t involve direct contact and collisions. Tennis, baseball, basketball, etc.

    These must be different baseball and basketball than the ones I’ve seen. Basketball has a ton of pushing and shoving and even a fair number of collisions that wind up knocking people on their asses. They aren’t football tough collisions, but it is not a tea party, either.

    Baseball has runners sliding into second with their spikes high to break up double plays and crashing into the catcher in an attempt to jar the ball loose. It also features a hard ball that flies around fast enough to injure and even kill. It does a better job of hiding its violence than football does, but it’s there lurking under the surface.

  101. 101
    IamNoYoda says:

    Don’t read Sport Illustrated or Playboy, not because of moral issues, jut not interested in the subjects. How about Vanity Fair? (was going to mention Rolling Stone, but you already did). Also, what can the unions do? Why so many, including you, Jcole, are still so obsessed with professional or college sports? Personally, I am much more interested in playing than watching. Used to be a Cubs and Bulls fan in 90s.

  102. 102
    John Cole says:

    @Roger Moore: This is like the idiots who think soccer isn’t a contact sport.

  103. 103
    MattR says:

    @suzanne:

    Conscience dictates that I don’t shop at Walmart. Ergo…

    And we are quickly approaching that point with the NFL. As I pointed out earlier, the amount of research and public awareness about the number of players affected and the severity of the damage has exploded in the past 5-10 years. The NFL has already started making changes to deal with it and there are quite a few knowledgeable people who expect that more drastic changes will need to be made in the next 5-10 years or the league will cease to exist. Personally, I think they are going to have to change to smaller pads and a soft shelled helmet so players can’t use their bodies (and most importantly head) as weapons.

  104. 104
    jayackroyd says:

    @John Cole:

    I do think a lot of the appeal of the NFL is that people played in HS. They (think they) can imagine themselves out there, if only things had been a little different. And it IS fun. I never played lacrosse, but I did play high school sports, and football is the game that creates the greatest sense of comradeship–it sucks to lose in a way that it doesn’t suck to finish third with a personal best in the 400 meter race.

    But I do think if the NFL is legal, so should PEDs be legal, and governed by docs. Face up to what you’re doing.

    Because what John is saying here is people should get to do this. They should, if they want, get to be a shining star crossing the firmament–as long as they know what the deal is. I don’t think NFL players (nor parents of high schoolers, although, you know, HSers are pretty fucking slow, and F=MA)are unaware of what the deal is. So then you’ve gotta make some kinda paternalistic argument that we should protect people from themselves–and, oh by the way, ban boxing and its offshoots–and that’s a hard argument to make.

  105. 105
    jayackroyd says:

    @John Cole: Header=Concussion

  106. 106
    suzanne says:

    @eemom: Good Lord, you’re Norma Desmond.

  107. 107
    suzanne says:

    @jayackroyd: Can’t help but notice, too, that, just as the military draws from those of more limited economic means, many pro footballers also seem to come from poorer homes. For some, the athletic scholarship is the only way to afford school. Therefore, while they may consent to the risk for the payoff, it’s an exploitative situation, as people in that situation have fewer opportunities for advancement.

  108. 108
    jayackroyd says:

    @MattR:

    Yeah, that’s a really good point–that if they went to a less well armored uniform, it would be more like rugby. replacing the helmets would make a huge difference.

    But that puts us back to suzanne’s point–that the “good sticks” are part of the appeal. In the current pass happy rules the NFL has in place, you’d think a flag football environment would make more sense. Why hurt those qbs?

    But that is certainly not on the table. So we’re back to suzanne’s point. Aren’t the brutal hits (“good stick” as I’ve exclaimed watching a game) a big part of the point?

  109. 109
    Roger Moore says:

    @suzanne:

    You honestly don’t think people watch for the violence? Then why, in the name of God, do the teams keep looking for bigger and bigger people? I work with a guy who used to play college football. Pretty big guy. He says that he looks like a 90-pound weakling compared to players today. If it’s not about violence and seeing big dudes crash into each other, then why is this the case?

    A lot of the violence is a means to an end. Players push each other around, and big strong players are more effective at that than smaller weaker players. They try to tackle and avoid being tackled, and size and strength are important for those things too. But fans enjoy watching fast players who manage to dodge and outrun tacklers as much as they enjoy watching bruisers who run them over.

    That said, I think that anyone who denies that the violence, at least in terms of the big hits, is a big attraction is lying. There’s a reason the NFL puts out videos of the biggest hits and that they sell. What fans don’t like are the inevitable injuries that result from all that violence; I think that’s what people really mean when they say they don’t watch the game for the violence. We really want the players to be invulnerable machines who can hit and be hit with no ill effects. That they aren’t, and especially the relatively recent revelation that players who suffer no obvious injuries can still wind up with crippling brain damage is a big source of cognitive dissonance among fans.

  110. 110
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Uniquely American, too….

    Unless you’re talking about the way we have come to watch it, no, it’s not. There’s one uniquely American sport- one that isn’t an evolved from another (usually European)sport: Basketball.

  111. 111
    MattR says:

    @Roger Moore: I was just trying to type up that last paragraph but I think you said it better than I ever could.

    @Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again): Lacrosse? It was invented by Native Americans hundreds of years ago

  112. 112
    jayackroyd says:

    @suzanne:

    That actually doesn’t work. I get the argument, and it’s probably true that kids who have other alternatives might miss out on the NFL. But, as Cole says (well actually he doesn’t but I know what he means by “FUN”), you have to recognize what a trip it is to be on a team working for a common purpose, even a stupid, narrow purpose like beating the Bulldogs.

    IAC, you’re saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to do this? I get that you feel bad about this exploitation (as I’ve said, I think people who, say, want to create boundaries around the exploitation are being less than honest), but the players love playing, do all they can to play, and try to keep playing to the point of embarrassment. You can say we shouldn’t exploit people who feel this way, but, well, they feel this way. They’re joyously committed to it. (And, as I say, I’ve experienced why, in a very small way.)

  113. 113
    jayackroyd says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again):

    Yeah, you read my mind, actually, as i typed that. Bball is, of course, the only truly American sport. But I would claim that American football is unique–that there is very little relation to rugby, Australian rules football, footy in the back yard.

  114. 114
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @suzanne:

    Can’t help but notice, too, that, just as the military draws from those of more limited economic means, many pro footballers also seem to come from poorer homes. For some, the athletic scholarship is the only way to afford school.

    Yeah, but that wasn’t always the case. The game was originally played by the rich- it’s Americanized Rugby (itself a product of an English “public” school of that name) , brought over from Old Blighty by rich Boston schoolboys in the late 1850s or early 1860s. Rich kids could play it because their families could afford to get medical attention for their injured sons. Baseball was the predominant game of the working classes until the 1950s or 1960s, as association football (soccer) held sway with the working classes in the UK while rugby remained a game for the wealthy elites there.

  115. 115
    suzanne says:

    @jayackroyd:

    IAC, you’re saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to do this? I get that you feel bad about this exploitation (as I’ve said, I think people who, say, want to create boundaries around the exploitation are being less than honest), but the players love playing, do all they can to play, and try to keep playing to the point of embarrassment. You can say we shouldn’t exploit people who feel this way, but, well, they feel this way. They’re joyously committed to it. (And, as I say, I’ve experienced why, in a very small way.)

    No, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to play football. I am saying that I think people of intellect and conscience should boycott watching football.

    The players love playing because they exist within a social framework, a patriarchy, that tells them that it’s fun and a worthwhile thing to do, and a way to exhibit awesome dude-ness. (Just as movie stars exist within a framework that tells them that having teeny tiny bodies and no wrinkles is a way to exhibit their awesomeness.) But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to value those things.

  116. 116
    Roger Moore says:

    @John Cole:

    Do you know why people base-jump or go hang-gliding or skydive- well, I don’t know either, but allegedly it is fun.

    It’s a fantastic way of getting your adrenaline fix. People who are physically addicted to adrenaline confuse this with having fun.

    Do you know why people play baseball, or even more inexplicably, watch it? Fill me in.

    Watching baseball is relaxing. You can sit there for a few hours taking in the game and forgetting your troubles. It isn’t usually as exciting as some other sports, but a good game of baseball has a kind of tension that other sports can’t match. A game can have relatively little obvious action but still be so riveting you can’t take your eyes off it because the whole situation could change on any pitch. And if the game isn’t like that, it’s a great excuse to kick back and drink a few brewskis.

  117. 117
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @jayackroyd:

    The American game has certainly evolved to the point where it doesn’t resemble rugby all that much, but if you were to take a time machine back and watch that first game between Princeton and Rutgers, and if you have any knowledge of rugby, you might pause to ask why there were so many stoppages in this rugby match.

  118. 118
    Linkmeister says:

    @TaMara (BHF): My memory is that there was a clause written into the players’ Collective Bargaining Agreement last year after they were locked out saying they couldn’t refuse to cross picket lines. Why the union’s negotiators went along with that is beyond me, but there you go. Solidarity, NOT!

  119. 119
    Roger Moore says:

    @Linkmeister:

    Why the union’s negotiators went along with that is beyond me, but there you go.

    Because it gives them a great excuse to be uncaring assholes. They can tell anyone else in the sport who gets involved in a labor action that they’d love to help but can’t because it’s in their contract.

  120. 120
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @Roger Moore:

    A game can have relatively little obvious action but still be so riveting you can’t take your eyes off it because the whole situation could change on any pitch.

    Minus that first part about action, you could say this about any team sport. Watching a modern football offense react to the subtle changes in the defense from play to play is as fascinating to me as watching a baseball team in the field react from one batted ball to the next.

    It is, to me anyway, the un-timed nature of baseball that sets it apart from the other team sports. This came up a few months ago when my Tigers scored 5 in the bottom of the eleventh- 2 outs and no one on- to beat the Tribe.

  121. 121
    Mack says:

    Clearly you’ve never had a 3 team parlay or a fantasy football playoff spot riding on a garbage time TD.

    Ha! I’ve suffered both of these indignities.

    Suzanne, as someone who played football at the high school, college, and semi-pro level, I can tell you that if I had possessed the skills to play in the NFL, I would have, even after suffering some brutal hits that resulted in serious injury. Others have touched on it here, but the teamwork thing cannot be discounted.

    Lastly, when you really love the game, a well executed run or pass is just as (if not more) satisfying than a easy, cheap or brutally hard hit.

  122. 122
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @suzanne:

    The players love playing because they exist within a social framework, a patriarchy, that tells them that it’s fun and a worthwhile thing to do, and a way to exhibit awesome dude-ness.

    Or sometimes it just feels really good as a skinny little 10-year old to read a quarterback’s eyes, jump the receiver’s route and make an interception- even when you get leveled by that gigantic 11-year old left tackle afterwards (and I’m as proud of that, in a game in which my team was getting killed, as I am of the unassisted triple-play I made a few years earlier playing tee ball).

  123. 123
  124. 124
    jayackroyd says:

    @suzanne: Well, actually, it IS fun. Maybe you’ve worked on a political campaign. Do you remember the election night party? Watching the returns? Hugging your coworkers? Win or lose, feeling part of something?

    It’s like that. And the bigger the race (the more prominent the league) the more it’s like that.

  125. 125
    jayackroyd says:

    @Mack:

    I’m actually on board with Suzanne. I think it’s evil that I enjoy watching the NFL. And I think if you scream “cheater” at a juicer, you’re a hypocrite.

    But I can’t help myself. I love watching it.

    Lastly, when you really love the game, a well executed run or pass is just as (if not more) satisfying than a easy, cheap or brutally hard hit.

    And that’s why. When they give me control of the camera, and I can watch from the eye in the sky (it drives me nuts that you can’t see pass coverages on the teevee), I’ll never be able to quit.

  126. 126
    suzanne says:

    @jayackroyd: I get teamwork. Fo’ reals. I just think that if team play was the main draw for viewers, other team sports would be equally, if not more popular.

    I look at it like this: there are lots of things that are fun, but I don’t get to do everything I want to do if it has deleterious effects on other people. I don’t get to drive a Hummer and pollute, even if I have the money, because I feel shitty about it. I don’t shop at Walmart, even if it saves me a few bucks, because it exploits other people. And even though Douche Whisperer doesn’t want to hear it, supporting pro and college football means supporting some ugly shit. It supports an organization that pays people to grievously injure themselves for nothing more tangible than my passing amusement. It supports a culture in which feats of physical strength and violence, rather than character or integrity or intelligence, are valuable. I can’t be okay with that.

  127. 127
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @suzanne:

    As a kid, yeah. Not so awesome now, but both still make me smile. But so does the memory of the A+++ I got on a piece of very short fiction in 7th grade English class. My mom found that one a few years ago while cleaning out some drawers. Problem is that I probably couldn’t duplicate those achievements any more- they were all one-offs.

  128. 128
    MattR says:

    @jayackroyd:

    When they give me control of the camera, and I can watch from the eye in the sky (it drives me nuts that you can’t see pass coverages on the teevee), I’ll never be able to quit.

    I haven’t looked into it to get the details, but this year the NFL has made the “all 22” film available to the public (for a price, though reasonable IIRC) a few days after a game is over. This is the film the coaches use that is shot from behind the QB and shows the entire field and what all 22 players do. The NFL has always been very tight about releasing this film (some reporters had to go to the NFL Films HQ to watch the film in person for their research) and I don’t think it is available to the TV networks during the course of the game (though I am not sure about this last point).

  129. 129
    jayackroyd says:

    @suzanne:

    Hah! We agree. I don’t watch college football, or at most, one game (literally) a year because the exploitation makes me crazy. But I cannot resist the NFL.

    It’s bad. But I can’t help it. You asked why. I tried to explain.

  130. 130
    Mack says:

    I’m trying, Suzanne, but I think you’re making two arguments at the same time, but it’s late and I’ll go ahead and assume I’m missing something. Are you suggesting that there is some moral superiority to not watching a violent sport because it is exploitative? Because if you are, (and you may be the exception) I’ve heard that one before, and a glance at the person making that argument revealed more than a little hypocrisy. Sometimes, I’d have to look no further than their clothing labels.

    As for teamwork being the main draw for viewers, I’d guess less than half would understand how it all works. They see the 70 yd run, but not the block that allowed it. Still, people love to watch this game, and plenty of great explanations as to why have been offered up thread. I’ve watched thousands of football games in my 57 years, and never once felt disappointed when no one got hurt. I understand that you don’t “get it”, and that’s okay, but i think the purity thing is a bit of a stretch.

  131. 131
    jayackroyd says:

    @Mack:

    Yeah. “YO! Did you see that block?!” Turns out not, but DVR means we can rewind, and say “See?”

    But this concussion thing is a problem. And the NFL is not dealing with it well.

  132. 132
    Mack says:

    Jayackroyd, that is an issue that concerns me as well, just unsure what can be done. On the other hand, I enjoy boxing, but was heartbroken when I met Ali and he couldn’t talk without shaking and drooling. So, there’s that.

  133. 133
    Todd says:

    @suzanne:

    Jesus, you sound like a combo of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon.

    That isn’t a compliment.

  134. 134
    Lori says:

    @John Cole: Hey John – Usually I think you are right, or you convince me you are right. On this one, not at all, though. Again, the colluseum: the crowds loved their shows.
    It’s not like the sport can’t be altered a little so people don’t lose their brains and their lives early. People can still love to watch it, but without the bad stuff. Right now, though? Deadly.
    Is there any point at which you personally would stop going to football? Probably! If they changed the game some, and more people died, or it was immediate, maybe. Maybe there is some level of violence (if it was changed slightly) where it would be out of bounds for you. Well, it has changed over the years, and right now I think it should be changed to be safer.

  135. 135
    sherparick says:

    @Todd: Suzanne has a point. I must admit I have not completely gotten off my football jones (partially because I loved playing the sport and its variations (touch and flag as well as rugby). However, I have no illusions about the sinisterness of both the NFL and the College game. This thing where the NFL is sticking it to the refs on their pension plan, stuff that is literally pocket change to the NFL owners, apparently because the .1% has decided that since we have eliminated defined pensions for 90% of workers, time eliminate them the remaining 10% and call it “reform” is really to much for anyone to swallow.

    By the way, Young, Dilfer, Ditka, and the rest have actually worked in the business, and as workers have been themselves, as seen others, screwed over by management and the power relationship of the NFL owners over the workers. This first hand knowlege rips out the circuiting they have had mentally implanted on them about work and ownership relations in the rest of the economy.

  136. 136
    suzanne says:

    @Mack:

    Because if you are, (and you may be the exception) I’ve heard that one before, and a glance at the person making that argument revealed more than a little hypocrisy. Sometimes, I’d have to look no further than their clothing labels.

    I find this sort of a shitty argument. It’s essentially BOTH SIDEZ DO IT! Am I, or anyone else, perfect in every regard? Of course not. That doesn’t mean I can’t engage in good-faith arguments. It strikes me petulant to look for lapses in others and use those to “invalidate” their points. I try to be better.

    @Todd: Oh NOEZ. Woman in thread has been compared to unfun FEMINIST. (If you’re trying to convince me that football doesn’t exist within a patriarchy…FAIL.)

  137. 137
    Rafer Janders says:

    @suzanne:

    God forbid we examine the underlying patriarchal social systems that create an environment in which we pay gigantic people with a relative paucity of intellect exorbitant sums of money (more than we pay teachers, police, firefighters, etc.) to smash into each other to satisfy our bloodthirst.

    All other criticisms others have made of this aside, the issue isn’t how much “we” pay professional athletes, the issue is how much of the money we spend to watch professional athletes goes to the athletes themselves, versus how much goes to the owners (who are the ones who actually pay the athletes).

    Let’s say there’s a million of us, and we’re each willing to pay $100 a year to watch a team. So collectively there’s now $100 million on the table. You might say, well, that’s too much to pay the athletes. But is it too much to pay the owners? Because if it doesn’t go into the athletes’ pockets, it’s going right into the owners’ pockets. Someone is getting paid — and I’d rather it be the guys who do the actual work than the guys who don’t.

  138. 138
    khead says:

    Clearly you’ve never had a 3 team parlay or a fantasy football playoff spot riding on a garbage time TD

    Preach it.

  139. 139
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Matt Taibbi, 2004:

    The sporting press in America is a reverse mirror image of its “serious” news counterpart: It is unbelievably vicious and demanding in its interviews; it doesn’t take no for an answer from anybody; it is utterly relentless in its quest to find out What Is Wrong With Our Team (even if the team is doing not so badly); and, most pointedly, it has absolutely no respect for coaches, owners and other authority figures. If George Bush had to go through what Theo Epstein in Boston or Mitch Kupchak in Los Angeles goes through on a daily basis, he would resign within 20 minutes.

    Same as it ever was.

  140. 140
    BobS says:

    @MattR: This is true for hockey (pads) and boxing (gloves) as well.@suzanne:You’ve made some points on this thread that I agree with, many that I don’t, but this is the first thing that is pretty much 100% on target. What’s the backstory to the stalking?@Roger Moore: Save the explanation. As soon as the Pirates begin to win again he’ll be back on the bandwagon along with the rest of Pittsburgh- the same thing happened with the Penguins and their fans.

  141. 141
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @MattR:

    Lacrosse? It was invented by Native Americans hundreds of years ago

    I was thinking of the more, uhm, popular sports…But, sure, I’ll concede that one.

  142. 142
    Uncle Ebeneeneezer says:

    @John Cole: hey, sex can be fun to watch too!!

  143. 143
    patrick says:

    very insightful comment by Steve Young….almost makes me want to forgive him for this, forever immortalized in a frickin’ Burger King commercial:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG_OCaKeiU8

    almost

  144. 144
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @suzanne:

    It supports an organization that pays people to grievously injure themselves for nothing more tangible than my passing amusement.

    Buster Keaton:

    Buster’s first injuries went back to vaudeville days, and continued into his film career.. Biographer Edward McPherson commented that some of Keaton’s films were a chronicle of injury. Buster took quite a few busters over the years. He broke an ankle on the escalator in “The Electric House” (1922), did something nasty to his elbow tumbling from the second-story door in “One Week” (1920), put himself out of commission for three days slamming into a brick wall in “Three Ages” (1923), and broke his neck doing the fall from the water tower in “Sherlock Jr.” (1924). These injuries were probably the reason MGM put a stop to his daring stunt work once they took control of his films.

    It’s not that MGM banished all stunt work, though. The studio just ended the star’s stunt work.

    It supports a culture in which feats of physical strength and violence, rather than character or integrity or intelligence, are valuable.

    Which would be true…If it was true. Sure, there’s a lot of learning through repetition when it comes to the physical mechanics of the game, but not any idiot is going to line up and recognize the subtle permutations of the offense or defense he’s facing and be able to adjust within the framework of the unit on which he’s playing. In this sense, football relies much more heavily on critical thinking skills than, say, golf or bowling.

  145. 145
    Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enought To Be Andy K Again) says:

    @suzanne:

    It supports an organization that pays people to grievously injure themselves for nothing more tangible than my passing amusement.

    Buster Keaton:

    Buster’s first injuries went back to vaudeville days, and continued into his film career.. Biographer Edward McPherson commented that some of Keaton’s films were a chronicle of injury. Buster took quite a few busters over the years. He broke an ankle on the escalator in “The Electric House” (1922), did something nasty to his elbow tumbling from the second-story door in “One Week” (1920), put himself out of commission for three days slamming into a brick wall in “Three Ages” (1923), and broke his neck doing the fall from the water tower in “Sherlock Jr.” (1924). These injuries were probably the reason MGM put a stop to his daring stunt work once they took control of his films.

    It’s not that MGM banished all stunt work, though. The studio just ended the star’s stunt work.

    It supports a culture in which feats of physical strength and violence, rather than character or integrity or intelligence, are valuable.

    Which would be true…If it was true. Sure, there’s a lot of learning through repetition when it comes to the physical mechanics of the game, but not any idiot is going to line up and recognize the subtle permutations of the offense or defense he’s facing and be able to adjust within the framework of the unit on which he’s playing. In this sense, football relies much more heavily on critical thinking skills than, say, golf or bowling.

  146. 146

    […] crews that have officiated the games have been horrible, and the sports press has taken notice. Yesterday’s Monday night game between Atlanta and Denver was marred by several questionable […]

  147. 147
    pointus says:

    I disagree with Young in this regard: if the games continue to be shit due to scab refs, audience demand for NFL games WILL decrease.

  148. 148
    socratic_me says:

    This may have been said above, but I didn’t see it in a quick skim.

    The answer to why sports media is different is simple- the working stiffs (players) are well represented in sports media. You happy about Steve Young speaking up on behalf of the players? I am happy he gets the chance, but not at all surprised that he takes that stand. After all, he used to be a player. When was the last time you saw an actual laborer given a real voice in the mainstream media? How about even having a representative of labor taken seriously instead of treated like a joke?

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