Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yes, More About the Saints

So, the qualified "defense" of the Saints, if it is even that, advanced by some people in the greater NFL media, is that football is a fundamentally violent game, and that we shouldn't act so shocked that players are specifically thinking of the violence. As he often does, Drew Magary of Deadspin/Kissing Suzy Kolber articulates this position the most effectively, because he uses naughty words.

Now, I really like Magary. And I really do hate Gregg Easterbrook, the target of his ire in this column. I think it's absolutely fair to note that Easterbrook has made a handsome living off of thinking long and hard about football, and for him to act like this is the first thing to tarnish the game is disingenuous bullshit. He knows better, and if he doesn't, he shouldn't have a column.

But still, this "defense" leaves me kind of cold. Because here's the thing, I kind of agree with Magary on this...

"anyone who watches it makes a pact with themselves that it's violent, but that's OK because it's grown men playing it and it's AWESOME to watch"

...but if the terms of the pact are that I can't be repulsed by stuff like what Gregg Williams pulled, i'm not sure I'm willing to keep making it on any given Sunday. Which is fine. The NFL will soldier on just fine without whatever meager support I gave it (I've never been the biggest football fan, anyway). I just wonder if these people who are trying to kind of...move on from the Saints' scandal realize that this "defense" may be doing as much harm as good. Because if you really convince me that this is all par for the course in football, and that this is something that's just going to happen in the game, well, I really can live without watching.

Fortunately, I still think that that mindset is wrong. Magary is right that the line between "I'm going to hit this guy really hard!" and "I'm going to cause long-term health risks to this guy!" is blurry, but I think there is an important, useful difference between the two. And I think that with training, rules, punishment, equipment- we can keep bringing that line into better focus, bit by bit.

But this is one of those few times where I'll admit that I might be wrong. And if I am, I'd rather just cut my losses in this case.

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