Being a fan of the New England Patriots isn’t always easy. That’s an understatement. Not like how habitually losing teams never seem to build enough expectation to let down their fans to a significant degree, the Pats like to really show how great they are before pulling the rug out from under you. The shared pain of the loss was all too familiar again on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game. This is not about any traditional disappointment, though.
What I want to say is, while watching the game, I was struck by the lack of sportsmanship. Watching hit after vicious hit, it became obvious that causing harm was more of a goal than out-playing the opponent. I saw a beast of a man, running back Stevan Ridley, while taking the ball up just past the defensive line and fully expecting to be hit at any moment, get knocked out cold on the field. The impact spun him around completely, folded him up, then he sprung open, face up and limbs splayed. Lights out. It seemed like he hadn’t even come to rest before players began to form a pile two feet from his head, trying desperately to acquire the ball that lazily rolled away from his limp body. Is football too violent? You bet it is.
Please, please, please inform me that this is not new. Chide me for being so naive about how things are done in the NFL. Or just stop it. I’ve seen and heard enough to know this isn’t new. I know there have been players who were outright encouraged if not directly told to try to end the careers of others on the field. The hit on Ridley, as well as other choice moments of contact in the game, solidified an idea in my mind: that some things never seem to change.
Violence and brutality as the subject of focus in a massive stadium is certainly nothing new. We’re at the circus maximus, watching gladiators fight for their lives and hopeless souls being thrown to hungry lions. We’re eating it up and cheering for more. Only now, it’s broadcast to millions of TVs, so everyone can enjoy the “sport.” Count me out.
I sincerely hope that anyone currently in the NFL retires without too much damage done, but in reality, we know that’s not going to happen for a significant portion of players. The money and fame may seem worth it now, but at what cost later?