Friday, 19 September 2014

National Floundering League

The Packers won last Sunday in a dramatic comeback.

Not what I am going talk about. I was avoiding this topic for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was... everyone else was talking about it. I needed to let this all sink in a bit before opening my gaping maw to elucidate my position.

Since the Ray Rice video and the resulting hullabaloo, there have been a rash of benchings and suspensions around the NFL. Expect more. Jonathan Dwyer, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy have all been suspended pending investigations into litigation against them. Ray Rice will never play football again. The NFL appears to be taking a hard stance toward some serious allegations toward some of its players. People (women in particular) have begun to shy away from watching the game based on the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice video. The media coverage has, as is customary, jumped all over this news event with wild eyes, frothing mouth and Pulitzer Prize intent.

A few questions have to be asked, I think.

First, did the NFL fumble the response to the Ray Rice video?
It seems it has. Roger Goodell is likely done as commissioner of the league. The more this is looked at, the more it looks like he tried to sweep it under the carpet.

Second, are the team owners culpable?
The short answer is, one would think they are.

Third, should Ray Rice have been suspended from playing in the NFL?
Yes. No question. Some out there are saying his life is ruined and he now has no way to support his family. Tough. He should have thought of that before he got drunk and beat his girlfriend unconscious.

Fourth, why is there a higher incidence of violence amongst athletes?
There isn't. There are enough studies that have been done over the years and decades to indicate the incidence of violence among athletes is no higher than in the population at large. The difference is the publicity. Athletes are on camera in some form or other much more than the average Joe. They are much much more visible. The difference between Ray Rice and the woman down the street who beats her kids with a hunk of pipe is... zero. (If you think women aren't perpetrators of physical violence, you've been talking to the wrong people.)

Not watching the NFL because of the Ray Rice incident sends the wrong message. It's blaming the NFL for a problem that is inherently societal. This immoral, illegal, insipid behaviour crosses all boundaries of sport, all boundaries of social status, all boundaries of race, creed, colour and all boundaries of sexual orientation. It is not an NFL problem. If you believe there are not instances of domestic violence in baseball, hockey, basketball... golf... then you're diving into the fray with blinders on. It's everywhere.

What I would like to see from the NFL, rather than cover their exposed behind or suddenly take action after the fact, is to take a stance that is societal in scope. I would like to see them put their money where their mouth is and fund an educational program against violence. I would like to see the NFL, and all sports organizations, step up to the plate and publicly denounce domestic violence.

What I would like to see is any instance of violence dealt with, whether it be a professional athlete or a bully at school.

Sadly this issue (not the event) will be shuffled to a back burner until the court case. Some other frenetic media circus will attract the “shiny penny syndrome” of our media outlets and the domestic violence story will grow quiet for a while. The abuse will go on, shuffled to the back of the mind like the the memory of the guy who cut you off in traffic last Wednesday.

The Ray Rice incident caused a fervour because of who he was and because it was caught on camera. We care about incidences like these because they are so blatant or because it has happened to someone we know. It's easy to scream that something should be done to this monster from the anonymity of our computer screens. It's easy to join the chorus of others calling for someone's head when the song has already begun.

I am not for a minute suggesting Ray Rice should not be dealt with. I am suggesting we stop making this a one time incident issue and start making it a stricken societal issue.

I don't have the answers. I wish I did.