You’ll want to watch this video of Greg Williams talking to his New Orleans Saints defense before reading the article.
A weird thing about blogging that all bloggers know and most non-bloggers probably never think about, is that it’s next to impossible to take an original stance on any story that would be considered newsworthy in the traditional sense. If you’re not first, then you’re a copy, or you’re looking at it from such an intensely personal perspective that you might as well be journaling. As recently as a few years ago, I thought that those thousand points of examination were a good thing, that the mass espousing of personal opinion would democratize the process between events and education. Basically, I thought we’d understand what is and isn’t important with a higher degree of purity. Real truth could be found in that many minds. It felt possible.
I bring this up in light of a major news story that has been covered for weeks concerning the New Orleans Saints and the “concussions for cash” (my words, not theirs) office pool they had running. Originally I thought the most interesting (not most important) aspect to the story rested in the psychology behind human ambition and the way we acclimate to incentives regardless of size. Millionaires finding special motivation in one thousand dollars felt silly (I don’t care if it was tax free). But as the story has unfolded, it’s now obvious—from my intensely personal perspective—that the most interesting aspect of the story is the public division on the topic. Everyone covering the topic always starts with, “We all agree that intentionally trying to injure another player is wrong, but…” and then the writer/speaker goes on to spin out whatever crap-laden opinion they have.
This story is more politics than morality. Personally, I couldn’t care less whether these guys were intentionally trying to injure other players. But I’m endlessly intrigued by the way it’s handled. Here’s why:
I think most people would agree that it’s wrong to murder babies (I don’t know if God subcategorizes and power-ranks the Ten Commandments, but I’ve got to think baby-murdering is pretty high up). There are nearly 800,000 abortions a year in the United States. It makes it a very tricky topic for society. The reality of that number standing beside a rigidly upheld “no baby-murdering” paradigm is a jagged pill. But in the intensely personal moment where a woman’s life has been turned on its head, what is she to do? It’s her body and her future and her freedom, and that baby can’t be sad that he or she was never born. To me, it feels victimless and wrong at the same time (which I know is impossible, but that’s how it feels). Maybe that abortion is the best decision the woman ever makes. Maybe it’s the worst. But society can’t decide the morals of this personal decision. So it didn’t make a moral choice. It made a political one. Society asked, “When does ‘it’ become a person?” The powers that be drew a line at 21-28 weeks and subsidized discreet facilities. And that’s the way it has been my entire life. One of the top ten debates of of the last 50 years has found its socially-acceptable compromise, and I don’t think it will ever change.
Back to the Saints situation. I read this Bill Simmons article about the hypocrisy at every level of the NFL–from fan to ownership–that is highlighted by this debacle. He’s right on one level, but what’s really going on is the organic process through which society finds an acceptable compromise between morality and desire. It’s why I hate politics, which do nothing but compromise. The NFL will find that compromise, and I’m sure whatever they decide won’t stop any 21-yr-old kid with 4.4 speed and the strength break bone from trading his health for fame and fortune. But how much posturing will society need before we settle on some variation of “it’s the man’s body” we can live with. I hope it’s soon Because I’m excited to have a plate of chicken wings in front of me as I’m listening to The Rolling Stones playing “Start It Up” as Peyton Manning prepares to plays his first game as a Bronco in Arrowhead Stadium after that well-chronicled neck injury against a bloodthirsty Tamba Hali. Yeah, Mr Commissioner, can you hold the side of guilt with that game? Doesn’t sit well with the buffalo sauce.
Democratizing the process between event and understanding doesn’t bring society to the truth. It brings them to compromise. Real truth can’t be found through the minds of many. Because truth is an extreme that doesn’t lie in the middle, and the middle is usually nothing but a lie we can swallow. Get ready to swallow hard, because that’s where the NFL and “player safety” are going. It’s the most interesting part of the story: how we’ll cope with this through public division then compromise. An unspoken covenant that will keep violent men colliding to their debilitating ends. And my personal perspective that can’t tell you whether that’s important or not.
I love the violence of football. I played for 9 years.
I’ve been pro-life my entire life. I’ve never impregnated a woman.