I don’t pretend to understand sports, but I will read anything Charles P. Pierce writes, and that includes his Grantland column. And the agitation about how dangerous football is, or ought to be, has leaked beyond the pigskin fansphere enough that I could almost follow the argument here:
… [W]hat is even more preposterous is that, in an age in which the NFL’s concern for the well-being of its players increases proportionally with the speed of the mother of all class-action suits that’s headed down the track straight at it, a lot of the cheering for what Tagliabue did is coming from the people who believe that same concern to be demolishing the exquisitely violent culture of the game they love. Make no mistake. A great deal of the criticism aimed at Goodell is directed at him by the why-don’t-they-wear-dresses crowd, an odd conglomeration of talk-radio brawlers and Internet tough guys whose vicarious lives have far too many rats running through them.
What Goodell did to those players was unconscionable, but very typical of the way commissioners act when nobody’s watching. (It’s also the way bosses behave in almost every American workplace these days, and in places where people don’t have Paul Tagliabue to go their bond for them.) The one thing I will not put up with is this notion that the various Saints in question — and I exempt Scott Fujita, who apparently really did get screwed, from all of this — are martyrs to union solidarity and the rights of due process. I admire not a single one of them, and this is why…
The Saints went out of their way to damage their fellow players for what amounts to tip money for most of them, and they did it in a perfect demonstration of the savagery that produced the current moral crisis in the NFL in the first place. And far too many people think Tagliabue’s criticism of Goodell’s authoritarian style justifies this plunge into a moral abyss, because that’s the way things always have been done in the NFL, where men are men and a lot of them don’t remember their names when they’re 50. For this group of fans, the important thing to remember is that Goodell’s power is broken, and not that Brett Favre’s body was. As far as I’m concerned — no matter how glad I am that his rights are now safeguarded — Jonathan Vilma can go pound sand.
The NFL still has so very far to go. It has to disenthrall itself from the fundamental dynamic that drives the devotion of its most fervent fans, who invest in it their frustrations and their truncated manhood, and the rest of the resentment that builds up all week and demands a blood sacrifice for catharsis every Sunday. It has to excise from itself the notion that it is something like a war, and get back to the notion that it is every bit like a game. It has to stop making excuses for its excesses, the way that Paul Tagliabue did in his report. It’s not about “broad organizational misconduct.” It’s about the encouragement of human destruction for private profit, from the owner’s box right down to the locker room….
Those of you with a firmer grasp of the NFL dynamics want to weigh in on the controversy for the rest of us?