Two pass receivers viciously speared in helmet-to-helmet collisions that could have caused permanent injury — I don’t think they did — to spines, brains, vision, you name it.
The helmet of one quarterback torn from his head, taking with it a piece of his ear. Yes, that’s what they said: a piece of his ear.
One guy lying in the endzone, where he’d been for eleven minutes, cold-cocked from a collision that got him carried off the field on a stretcher (he gave a thumbs-up to the crowd from his litter as he was rolled away. Whether the hospital gave him a thumbs-up later, I don’t know.)
Nor do I know what other moments of gridiron gruesomeness were recorded on this Sunday in September, but there probably were others. And when they happened, everybody in the crowd, and the announcers, all undoubtedly said, “Oooo. Wow! Did you see that hit? (Al Michaels, after one of the head-to-head collisions in the evening game, said something like, “I’ll bet he’s got a whole aviary singing in his head.” Funny, huh?)
I got to thinking: Pro football is big-money bloodsport. On the football field, people can get away with inflicting injuries that elsewhere would get them jailed for felonious assault. And what happens to the uniformed thugs who make millions inflicting this mayhem in the stadia of the 21st Century? They get awe from their fans, attaboys from their coaches, and an assessed fine from the league office. (What does a fine mean to a young man who gets paid more in one year than most people get paid in a lifetime? One less Ferrari?)
When I was a kid, the televised bloodsport was boxing. That, too, is brutality, but it’s been cleaned up a lot since the days of the Friday Night Fights, when some smash-nosed bruisers were regularly allowed to bludgeon bloodied pugs’ brains into mush. Boxing is still around, but, like bullfighting, I’m happier when I don’t see it. (I understand that ring referees are now very quick to stop a fight long before it qualifies as attempted murder.)
I also was thinking about how many people in those football stadiums would scoff at the large numbers of their fellow humans who tune in to watch automobile racing, saying it is nothing more than waiting for wrecks to happen — sort of like football fans. I do watch some automobile racing. There are many reasons to watch NASCAR, sports car and Indycar racing that have nothing to do with wrecks – it’s kind of like baseball; you’ve got to understand it to get it. But even if the wrecks are part of auto racing’s entertainment value, the drivers are not (usually) thugs beating up on their fellow drivers. There’s a difference.
Sport, even ping-pong, brings injury. But sport to me has to do with beating an opponent, not beating up on him.
Related: 8/29/2013: NFL agrees to cough up $765 million to settle with thousands of former players who sued the league, accusing it of hiding the dangers of brain injury while profiting from the sport’s violence.
Maybe the monopolists who own these big-time football teams could save a lot of money and still draw large crowds by buying up a half-dozen zoos’ worth of lions (not of the Detroit kind), and feeding some contestants to them on Sunday afternoons. Of course they couldn’t use Christians for fodder anymore. Then again, they could use pagans. If they’re in short supply, they could bring in the atheists.