Football

Going through some old Facebook and found this from late last year.  I think it’s important now as my son continues to love football and the draft is coming up.

While the NFL took a step in protecting defensive players this year, there is still work to do.  And until then, I have to begin backing away from the game.

Last year I watched every game the Vikes played.  This year it will only be half and I’ll not talk about or encourage football for the boy.  Not until the NFL begins to seriously protect these kids:

  • Eject players for intentional shots to the head
  • Suspend them for the same
  • Same for shots to defenseless receivers

Anyway, check it out:

I grew up in Minnesota, I was born in 1968. Some of my earliest memories were running the 3 or so blocks from my church at 11:50 on a Sunday morning so that I could be in front of the TV at noon. We were lucky because the Vikings would play their home games on the CBS channel, which in those days meant a LOT. See, the CBS station came over the VHF, channel 12, a channel unlike the UHF channels that carried the other games.

I remember Fran and Carl. Chuck and Krause. Did you know that the greatest defensive end in the entirety of the whole world once returned a fumble the wrong way resulting in a safety for the other team? I remember Jim Marshall.

I was a kid not yet old enough to drive when I would go to the campus of Mankato State where the Vikings would practice. I stood on a sidewalk in the middle of that campus, a piece of paper in my hand and a pencil. Alan Page, the only defensive player ever to win the NFL’s MVP award, was running towards me. I wanted his autograph. He didn’t blink as he ran by me, ready to run OVER me if I hadn’t jumped out of his way.

I remember Rashad [hearing about] and the Browns. Kramer and the Eagles. Young and the scramble. Pearson and the push.

My lunch box had all the NFL teams on it – Before Tampa Bay and Seattle.

I know that we passed on a Hall of Fame running back to draft a piece of shit who would drop the game winning TD against the Redskins that kept us from the Superbowl. Can you believe that we choose Darrin Nelson over Marcus Allen?

I played football for hours; for days. We would play in the street catching toe touching in bounds passes against the curb falling into the grass pretending that we were Sammy White. We used to go see the guys practice at summer camp. We had them autograph every card they ever had made.

I know about Kansas City, Miami. I remember Pittsburgh and Oakland.

I bleed Purple.

And now I have a son. And since I’ve had his older sister I’ve been throwing balls to my kids. The girl could catch and throw at 2. The boy has been watching Vikings games his entire life. As he moves from a gangly toddler to a clumsy grade schooler I practice. Day after day. And now, just now, he’s able to catch a fade, a fly and is even able to adjust his route and his velocity to accommodate me guiding him deeper or shallower; left or right. Truly a father’s joy.

The little bastard is just like me. He runs like the wind and catches everything thrown close.

But the reason I didn’t make a good football player was that I was a pussy. I couldn’t take a hit. And the reason that I couldn’t take a hit was that the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. I wasn’t gonna make my mark in this life like that. The same God that granted me the ability to hit a sparrow at 30 yards, or throw ten straight bulls eyes at 8 paces; catch any ball thrown to me, gave me the mind that has allowed me to be who I am.

On any given Sunday I buy my ticket to the Colosseum. I knowingly and willingly watch and cheer and roar with approval as my team engages in combat with our enemy. I loudly and admittedly yell “Kill him” as John Randle chases down his prey. As Doleman his. Or Allen his.

But my son watches me. And he sees what I approve of. And he wants to be that. He has learned to love that.

And these men kill themselves. With guns. To their heads.

My child, MY kid, wants to play football. And I can’t let him; there is no way. Boys 10-12 years old are taking concussions. Boys not yet 20 years old are ruining their lives. And yet, in it all, we have players in the game PAYING a bounty to hurt other players. No one doubts that they did it; there’s no justification in their actions. The only defense is that everybody else does it too. As if that’s justification.

I’m nearing the end of my love affair with football. These boys are modern day gladiators; they’re being maimed and killed for our love of bloodlust. And the Saints had the unfortunate fortune of being in the perfect storm; they were caught during my enlightenment AND they cheated against my Vikings.

If you love the game, punish the Saints and save the players. If you aren’t willing to do that, well, Hail Caesar!

2 responses to “Football

  1. I agree with what you say about protecting kids and avoiding letting them play football, but your post really brought out my memories.

    I knew every reference except Tommy Kramer and the Eagles. To be sure, I was at a game when Kramer started against the Eagles that was very exciting – but the Vikings lost, Kramer completed a last second pass to Sammy White (I think) which should have put them in Field Goal territory but there was no time. Kramer was my favorite, ever since he led the Vikes on a come back against the 49ers his first season. I was loyal to Kramer when everyone wanted Wade Wilson. Still my favorite QB (though I’m old enough to even remember Joe Kapp and Gary Cuozo. And the TD to Rashad against the Browns! AMAZING!

    My memories go back to the purple people eaters. Marshall, Larsen, Page and Eller. I got Ed Marinaro’s autograph at Mankato. Nate Wright WAS pushed! And whose idea was it to hire Les Steckel?

    I still enjoy football, I still watch the Vikings when I can, but it’s lost something because of the size and strength they all have now. Paul Krause would not make it today, he’d be too slow and not hard hitting enough. Would Ron Yary still be the best in the business? It’s become a much more violent sport because of the size of athletes – and likely aided by stereoids or whatever. I’m sure kids back in the 70s suffered bad injuries and needed more protection, but you’re right, something’s gone sour with the game and the mentality. I mean once Dick Butkus was one of the most powerful and effective linebackers. Today? It’s indeed like gladiators, it’s lost something. It’s always been a violent game – hell, that’s one reason we love it, we have to be honest. But violence has many different levels and now it’s just getting to be too much. Good post! Makes me want to google old Viking clips!

    • I knew every reference except Tommy Kramer and the Eagles.

      I looked it up; it WAS the 49’ers. The reason I got it mixed up was because we didn’t think the game was on TV. The reception was so bad that mom thought the Eagles were playing and not the Vikings.

      Kramer was my favorite, ever since he led the Vikes on a come back against the 49ers his first season. I was loyal to Kramer when everyone wanted Wade Wilson. Still my favorite QB

      There was a year that my brother made it to training camp for 2-3 weeks straight. He had Tommy autograph every card that was made. They got to the point that Kramer recognized him and would talk to him. My folks were divorced and mom was moving to Arizona, my brother mentioned that he might be moving with her. Later in the season, we went to a game and waited for the players to walk in. When Kramer saw my brother he was like, “Hey! I thought you were moving!”

      It’s always been a violent game – hell, that’s one reason we love it, we have to be honest.

      I think that there is something innate in us; the warrior. And football represents civilized battle.

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