March 23, 2012

Bread and Circus

--For a friend's Facebook friends who suggested they take out a bounty to "kick me in the nuts"--


On April 10, 2005, Al Lucas died after being hit during a kick-off between the Los Angeles Avengers and New York Dragons .  I'll admit, I didn't know that before I started working on this, but it's a fact that while his mom was pregnant in 1978, I missed a block during my pre-youth group tackle football game, causing my youth group leader to sustain one too many hits, and I watched as his knee twisted and his tendon snapped.  My missed block; his broken tendon. My guilt; his walking with a limp for the rest of his life.

I'll admit that I pretty much stopped caring about football after watching the Denver Broncos get trounced 55-10 by the 49'ers. The payoff wasn't worth it.  I'd be angry for days and suffer the constant ribbing from people who "hated" the Broncos and watch as the real news cycle was buried under the constant barrage of speculation, conjecture, any minor bit of information that dictated that Denver was a Bronco town and football was news item number 1.  It didn't make sense to get this worked up over a game; and while watching a team be successful was fun, it, in hindsight, is basically bread and circus.  Don't get worked up over the war in Afghanistan; the Saints are in the Super Bowl. Don't get involved in stopping the Keystone Pipeline; Peyton Manning is now a Bronco. Don't bother watching the slow erosion of women's rights and liberties; Tim Tebow is now a Jet.  Don't worry about why your income has stayed relatively flat; the Saints had a bounty program.

Wait...what was that?  The Saints had a bounty program that rewarded players for injuring opposing team players?
When I apologized to my youth group leader, he was more than gracious and didn't blame me even though I was clearly instrumental in his injury.   He had to have surgery to repair the damage and hobbled around the church for months or watched from the sidelines as we threw our bodies with bandon.
But knees heal...sort of...or at least you recover some semblance of normality so that your life goes on.  Yet, in football, there is a 75 percent chance of getting a concussion, and once you've had one concussion, you're twice as likely to get another. Yet, the Saints had a bounty program to injure other players.

New England's Darryl Stingley was hit by Oakland's Jack Tatum, his spinal cord was broken between the 4th and 5th vertebrae and he spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair--19 years before he died at the age of 56.

So when you take a sport as brutal as football and put a bounty on players' heads to take them out, you really are playing with their lives. Yet maybe I'm not sympathetic to the plight of the Saints fans, and a year suspension for their head coach?  A year is not enough.

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