A Great Game

by W.F. Price on October 17, 2012

In keeping with taking it easy this week, I’ve been watching football, which I’ve slowly grown to appreciate more as I’ve settled down and moved toward middle age. Although it seems ironic that the more sedentary guys get, the more they like these kinds of sports, it makes sense: I never had the patience to sit in front of the TV for long until fairly recently.

On Sunday, I watched as much of the Seahawks/Patriots game as I could before I had to drive back up toward the border. It was a truly exciting game, But by the time I left I fully expected the Hawks to lose. Nevertheless, I turned on the radio while driving the kids north, and imagine my surprise when they managed to pull off a last-minute win over Tom Brady’s Patriots. It was a fun moment to hear it announced on the radio in the car. I shouted “we won,” while my bewildered kids wondered how a daddy could get so excited over some game on the radio.

I’m a bit ambivalent about football, because it is so physically harsh on players. Half the older men in my family would be cripples without the benefit of joint replacement surgery, and football is definitely the culprit. Most of them have at least one fake joint by the age of 55, usually from a nearly 40-year-old injury. I wouldn’t recommend the game to a boy unless he was exceptionally sturdy, and even then I’d give him a serious warning about it. Personally, I’m glad I never played it seriously — I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford exotic surgeries like that in 20 years time, and my lower limb joints are all intact because I stuck to baseball, crew, soccer and skiing.

However, American football is a beautiful game. The acts of athleticism are awe-inspiring, and make for the best TV has to offer. And if the men do it of their own free will, fully informed of the risks, who am I to stop them?

The Seahawks new quarterback, a rookie named Russell Wilson, also has some baseball background. Never in my life had I seen a quarterback play like a second baseman, but that’s what he did on Sunday, and he pulled it off beautifully. It was quite a contrast to the precision control of the field Tom Brady excels at, but it was a pleasure to see Wilson throw the ball to a receiver on the run as though he was throwing a batter out on a double play.

I’ve got to hand it to the Patriots’ receivers as well, especially Wes Welker, who took a brutal hit from Brandon Browner that would have put an ordinary man in intensive care. Man, that guy is tough to get up and walk that one off!

I also have to give Brady the respect he deserves. He is the consummate professional, and has developed an instinctive feel for the game that makes him very hard to stop. The Hawks couldn’t have handled him without having the upper hand in energy and athleticism, and perhaps the strongest, fastest defense pound for pound in the NFL. This really highlighted the human condition, and the constant struggle between experience and enthusiasm — youthful energy and wisdom.

It was a great game (not least of all because my team won), but there’s one thing about it that bothered me: Those stupid pink slippers they were made to wear for the breast cancer support.

Can’t men be charitable without also being made submissive to others? I understand the concept of humility, but the pink here is entirely secular and meant to send a message that one group of people is dominant. Frankly, it’s inappropriate, and it is entirely anti-democratic.

It’s fine to support charities, but this goes beyond that and raises one issue above all others. Have we ever seen football players wear special shoes for children with cerebral palsy? For wounded veterans? For children whose fathers have been taken away from them by state-sponsored thugs? No, we haven’t, because it isn’t allowed. Hell, Tim Tebow has taken heat for drawing verses from scripture on his face during games. But it’s OK to force all the players to shill for another cause…

It seems like a silly issue to bring up, but it really isn’t. It’s a clear statement of priorities. It’s a reflection of contemporary American politics, and we have every right to question it. Supporting cancer research is a noble goal, and a lot of good can come out of it, but why, oh why, is one group of victims supreme?

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