Domestic violence isn't funny. But the absurdity and hypocrisy regarding the Ray Rice incident is sort of amusing. From people who never watch football angrily calling for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's resignation (a name completely unfamiliar to these people until a few weeks ago) to fans at the Ravens game wearing Ray Rice jerseys to show their support for, well I'm not sure for what exactly, to the Baltimore Ravens organization offering fans a chance to trade in their Ray Rice Jersey for one of a different player, this story has moved well beyond stupidity. I don't have a Ray Rice jersey because, unlike Grimace, I don't look good in purple. Although if I did have Rice clothing, I would trade it in for a Greg Hardy (the Carolina Panthers defensive end currently deactivated for domestic violence) jersey to show my support for the fans at the Ravens game wearing Ray Rice jerseys. I support idiots.
With each new NFL season comes a new cause. This year it's domestic violence. Last year it was bullying. Remember when the Dolphins player bullied his own teammate, and this prompted a national discussion about bullying, which led to a change in... well, nothing. The previous year, the big football story was when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend with a gun. So basically, thanks to the NFL, as a society, we've evolved from having a serious discussion about not killing women to not punching them. I suppose that's progress?
Before the start of the first Ravens game, CBS sportscaster James Brown spewed a bunch of pointless gobbledygook about confronting the problems of domestic violence. Why do I have to confront domestic violence? I've never hit -- nor have I ever had the desire to hit -- a woman. That's because I'm not a psychopath. Why am I responsible for the horrible crap that other people do? I'm busy. I don't have time to confront the NFL's wife-beating problem. I always just assumed the legal system was supposed to deal with that. Anyway, Brown finished his opening statement, and then the game began! Three hours of brain-damaging violence interspersed with aggressive alcohol commercials and ads for cars that accentuate your manhood and pills that enable men to wake up their tired, middle-aged wives to be boned. (The Ravens won the game, beating the Steelers. I consider it a victory for women, though, since Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was investigated for sexual assault in 2010.)
It's only a coincidence that the real James Brown, the legendary soul singer, was involved in a number of domestic violence incidents. Though if James Brown the sports announcer referred to himself as "Jim" Brown, we'd be reminded of 1960s football legend Jim Brown, whose most notorious violence-against-women accusation came when police say he threw a model off the second-floor balcony of his home. The charges were dropped when the woman blamed herself for the incident, insisting she "slipped." Good thing for Brown that TMZ didn't have the videotape.
Football players aren't role models, no more than camera-shy bread makes a good roll model. Oh, I suppose if I wanted to teach my son to be whiny, I would encourage him to watch Eli Manning play. But I don't want my kids to watch football. Since when did football become a "family" event for children? Football is violent and frightening and complex. Football is for adults, like Family Guy and Grand Theft Auto and Internet porn and all those other things that sixth-graders do when they came home each day from school.
And is anyone going to mention Ray Rice's paltry 3.1 yards-per-rush average last year? It looks like his career was winding down, anyway.
Football is a very violent, dangerous, high-adrenaline sport. Do we want violent people like Ray Rice playing football? Is that what Ray Rice should be doing? So now that he is suspended from the NFL, how is he supposed to earn a living? What do you want him to do? Work as a pre-school teacher? A guidance counselor? Train seeing-eye dogs?
Men who hit women should be in prison. Dealing with domestic violence is the responsibility of the police and the courts and the legal system. An empty corporate suit like Roger Goodell is not trained to deal with domestic violence. Heck, he can't even fix the league's illogical pass interference rules. People who work at Burger King aren't suspended from work when they break the law. Why should the NFL be any different? Why do we treat the NFL like it is so special? Heck, outside of my job, my boss is not involved in my life in any way, other than that we attend the same Furry fandom conventions.
Here is the timeline...
Ray Rice was suspended for two games for knocking out his girlfriend. People were upset over the leniency of the punishment. So then the NFL established a new rule. Now, the first time a player commits an assault, he will be suspended for six games. A second offense will result in banishment from the league with the option of reinstatement after one year. And if a player is accused in a double homicide, like Ray Lewis, the Ravens will erect a statue of you in front of the stadium and ESPN will hire you as an analyst. Then TMZ released a video from inside the elevator where Ray Rice knocked out his girlfriend, the assault that prompted his two-game suspension. So the NFL immediately suspended Rice indefinitely. The message? People are shocked that a man knocking a woman unconscious, when the assault is actually seen on tape, looks surprisingly like a man knocking a woman unconscious. The other message? Well, if you consider Billy Ray Cyrus's parenting skills and the life of James Earl Ray, it's probably best to avoid the name "Ray."
Note: That the NFL thinks domestic violence is a "one-time" thing, as if the first time a player is accused of hitting a woman is the actual first time he hit a woman, is a good example of why the league should not be involved in social issues.
I've heard television pundits blame the abundance of domestic abuse in the NFL on the sport's violent nature. Players are celebrated for violence hits, after all, and then that violence carries over to their personal lives. But I don't think that's true. Ray Rice is a running back; he's the one being tackled. Gandhi was into mixed-martial arts, and yet he remained a pacifist until the day he was shot and killed.
I have a different theory. Want to hear it? The NFL's most violent thugs were violent before they entered the league, or even before they began their college football careers. Rather, they were violent as children. That's not atypical. Children are aggressive. They act out on their anger because they don't have the intellectual maturity to understand their own frustration. Last year, I watched my cousin's four-year-old son strike her in the leg because he wanted another cookie or because he didn't want to go to bed or because she took away his bong or whatever it is that makes little boys upset. But that doesn't mean the kid will grow up to be a serial killer... although she didn't do such a great job with her other son, Muammar Gaddafi. No, as my cousin's son develops, he will learn what it means to be a man, guided by social rules and respect, as well as the normal human interaction he will have with other adults.
But football players aren't treated like men. They're treated like children. They're treated like idiots. Hence, they never lose their primal instincts. NFL players are adults. They are full-grown men... or at least I'm pretty sure Julius Peppers has stopped growing. Yet they've spent their adult lives being pampered. One doesn't usually associate the word "man" with "Pampers", unless you're referring to my late night social club. But when they're not being coddled, the players spend their careers being scolded and yelled at and treated like absolute imbeciles. The NFL is the only occupation in the country where grown men are disciplined for "taunting." In no other industry are the employees penalized for "excess celebration." Did you watch HBO's Hard Knocks, the weekly documentary series about the Atlanta Falcons training camp? The coaches were screaming at these men the way my mom used to yell at me when I ate Play-Doh (my preference: the blue kind). If your boss, at your job, spent countless hours screaming at you like a crazy person, you'd file a complaint with human resources. The NFL players have curfews and fines and conduct clauses and they're constantly being poked and prodded and their natural emotional and cognitive growth is stifled. Football games don't cause players to become violent. Rather, what players are subjected to off the field prevents them from maturing past the point of using their fists anytime they feel frustration.
Look, there are a lot of horrible people in the National Football League, mostly on the New England Patriots. This is the NFL. But banning Ray Rice from playing is not going to have any affect on the world's domestic violence dilemma. The public demanded that the NBA take away some old guy's basketball team because he said something racist. Now that old guy is still really rich and racism is still alive and well. Random, indiscriminate, misdirected outrage is not solving the problem. In fact, it encourages it. The Ray Rice situation is similar to the Donald Sterling nonsense in that all it really shows is that nobody cares what you do or say as long as it's not being recorded.
I saw the first clip of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator. I didn't need to see the second clip to get the gist. It's like the Transformers sequels. The first movie was bad enough. I don't need to see Age Of Extinction to know the plot will be incoherent.
There are a lot of horrible people in the National Football League. The NFL is not hypocritical for allowing these men to play. You are a hypocrite for watching it.
I love football. And I can still throw a ball pretty far and accurately. I wish there was a place where you could play quarterback, but without the fear of ever getting hit. Perhaps the AFC West. But, alas, I will leave the violent tackles to the professionals, who, not coincidentally, are not always the most angelic of citizens. And I watch the games without naïveté or ignorance. I know exactly what and who I'm watching.
Football players aren't your role models, your friends, your heroes, or your soul mates. They're the assholes that used to beat you up in high school. So don't act shocked when an NFL player does something despicable.
I hope Janay Rice leaves her husband or Ray Rice gets the psychological help he needs or I'm praying for their family or blah blah blah whatever. Like everyone else, I'll forget about this story in a few weeks and move on to the next non-issue that gives us all a chance to feel better about ourselves without actually accomplishing anything, leaving the few people who are directly involved in the situation humiliated, exploited, and then left for dead. Janay Rice wrote, "To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing." Yes, she's a victim. But I kind of see her point. Oh, hey, and millions of Americans live in poverty. Oh, and women of a lower socio-economic class are much more likely to be sexually assaulted in this country. And the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. And nobody is expressing outrage about this on their Facebook page. Just sayin'.
The interesting thing about the NFL is that its eventual demise will not be a result of the assaults or the misogyny or the murders or the dog-fighting or the vehicular homicides or the drugs. No, I can explain what's really destroying the NFL, in just two words: fantasy football. Ughh.