Loyal readers (all six of you!) may have noticed that I haven’t written much about the Steelers so far this season. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is. Let’s just take a step back and think about professional football for a minute here.
Greg Hardy’s return from suspension for the Dallas Cowboys was a prominent storyline this weekend. Let’s ask former Steelers quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Terry Bradshaw for his thoughts.
More people like Terry Bradshaw, please. https://t.co/czeBigGR8Q
— Ryan Hudson (@ry_hudson) October 12, 2015
There’s a progressive perspective. Can you believe that? Disliking people for beating women is an outlandish and unfamiliar stance for people affiliated with the National Football League. As Ray Rice can attest, beating women isn’t really a problem, as long as the public doesn’t see it. And what greater slap in the face could the NFL produce than this bullshit pink campaign every year, in which they parade out their players/show ponies draped in pink, while they air extra commercials for pink-tinted jerseys for women, because A) if it isn’t pink how would a woman know to wear it and B) the most NFL thing in the world is to create a cash-grab disguised as charity.
Not once have they produced a commercial talking about the risks of breast cancer, or that women (and men) should get regular checkups to catch things like that early. No, that isn’t important. Not to the NFL. You know what is important? Selling pink jerseys for players like Ben Roethlisberger, Ray Rice, or Dez Bryant, all of whom have dubious-at-best history regarding violence or sexual assault toward women, and keeping the vast majority of the profit.
You’ll notice I’m not bothering to link to the stories involving these players. It isn’t necessary. You know what they have done, or what they have been accused of. It’s synonymous with their names. Michael Vick isn’t just “former Atlanta Falcons quarterback,” he’s also “notorious dog-murderer” (regardless of his time served in prison and subsequent behavioral changes). When football players become criminals, it’s not surprising anymore. It’s almost expected. It was f&%king NEWS when the NFL went a month without an arrest.
The NFL is a culture that enables this. Not just in the sense that punishments rarely exceed a slap on the wrist and a paltry fine next their inflated salaries, but in actual, league-sanctioned education for players. You may recall earlier this year, when Cris Carter was caught advising NFL rookies to get a fall guy for the crimes they will inevitably commit. It’s not a message of avoiding crimes, or being responsible, or contributing something positive to society. If you play football, all that matters is that you keep playing football, the law be damned. Let other people protect you and take the blame for you; they aren’t important. They don’t play football.
Naturally, the NFL, ESPN, and Carter himself backtracked on his comments. But only after the video was made public, of course. Who knows how many times he’s said that to rookies without any backlash? Remember what Ray Rice taught us: it’s only a problem if the public can see it. In many cases, that still doesn’t matter. There will always be [stupid] fans of the team ready to defend every player no matter what. Legions of foolish people who mean nothing to these athletes, but will serenade them with defense, praise, or whatever else they can think of like they’re trying to be invited to his birthday party.
So it’s safe to say there’s no accountability in the NFL. It exists only to make money, no matter the cost on a legal, humanitarian, or moral level. But what about the game on the field? I’ve always said that I love football, but can’t stand the organizations (NFL & NCAA) that control it. That pure love of the sport, the test of two teams to see who is better from a physical and strategic standpoint, has also been taken away.
It all came to light with the New England Patriots, and it really hit hard when ESPN published this piece on Bill Belichick’s systematic cheating throughout the years. For a while, it was bearable, because we had seen that dragon slain twice (Eli Manning will forever be a bright spot in the NFL’s muddled history of the 2000s). Of course, the NFL reacted swiftly (after like ten years) and strongly (a four-game suspension that we all knew wouldn’t last) when the evidence kept piling up. If there’s one thing Roger Goodell does well, it’s attempt to save face after a disaster and then fail when anyone gives it a second glance.
So the NFL has a flagship franchise that never does anything wrong by their count, in spite of the dishonesty and deceit surrounding their accomplishments over the past couple of decades. They need something like that to point to and say, “Look! Football is good! These guys aren’t regularly beating up their wives or driving drunk or trafficking human slaves!” so they let them get away with whatever they want on the field. Is that a conspiracy theory? Maybe. I don’t subscribe to conspiracies, but the NFL is a business, and having at least one team that finds success without actually murdering people is better for business. Wait, dammit.
Honestly, I don’t even really know what I think about all this. I do know that more than once this season, I have turned off live NFL football so I could play an old copy of Madden for Xbox. Why? I wanted football. Just football. It’s a fun sport; it’s fun to watch and fun to play. But I honestly get a better experience out of playing a video game about it than watching actual humans wreck each others’ brains and set themselves up to die at age 55. But that’s a whole different issue the NFL faces, and this post honestly has me too mentally strained to go into it.
So yeah, the Steelers are going to play the Chargers tonight. I’d prefer if the Steelers won the game. But honestly, it has become hard to care about the results on the field, since the results off of it are far more devastating to society. And to strip that away and only consider who the best team is, well, we’ve been shown that’s not really a priority for the NFL either. I’ll share with you a simple tweet that made me want to step back a bit:
everyone watches the NFL every week and hates it — Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) October 6, 2015
This Craig Goldstein fellow absolutely nailed it. The NFL makes you and me and everyone else a lot more angry that it does happy.
What does this mean for the website here? I’m not sure. Covering the NFL in real time is taxing, and it is increasingly difficult to immerse myself in what I perceive as such a toxic culture. But I still get fired up over a good play action fake, a reliable blocking tight end, and the mysterious death of the coffin corner punter. I still like football, and I still want to talk about football. But the rest of this nonsense, I could really do without.