Tackling my dilemma of pigskin pride
Liking football requires adaptable ethics.
Seattle Times staff columnist
I like football. There are aspects of the game that conflict with values I embrace in other areas of life, but I like it anyway. Some values are sacrosanct, but in most cases (and outside the current Congress) compromise is part of life.
Football doesn’t always make it easy for me, though. While I was on vacation, I Googled the Seahawks to see what was being said about their playoff prospects and up popped a piece from The Wall Street Journal that said the Seahawks’ winning genius is the team’s employment of constant cheating as a core strategy.
This is not something a fan wants to read, especially not someone from Seattle, which is a very nice and honest place. Well, Alex Rodriguez did play baseball here once, but still.
Does this mean I must separate myself from the Seahawks in order to maintain a sense of ethical purity? Perhaps I should switch to bicycle racing or ... never mind.
Of course, the world outside sports is full of such dilemmas — which products to buy, which stores to avoid, which websites to browse? Something’s wrong with almost everything. I make choices with varying degrees of satisfaction.
It was no surprise to me that the Seahawks, especially on defense, do some unsanctioned grabbing, holding, pushing and the like.
The Seahawks pride themselves on being aggressive, but calling it cheating makes the behavior difficult to justify, which is maybe why I’ve never liked to think of it that way.
I know there is cheating on every play in every game by every team, not just the Seahawks, but like most fans, I take offense when the other team does it, because my guys only accidentally do that kind of thing. You know, like my country or my family.
It’s one way our brains keep us happy, so who wants to have someone point out the obvious and cause trouble, especially with our entertainments?
Sports are a distraction from the world’s problems, but unfortunately sometimes they have their own real problems.
Football has quite a few, ranging from unsavory college programs that are professional in all but name and player pay, to the damage football causes to players’ bodies and especially to their brains. It’s getting harder to justify being a fan, even a rather casual one.
I turned my back on football once. I was busy doing other things and just lost interest for many years. I don’t remember exactly why I started watching again a few years ago.
The game itself interests me, but I think it also had something to do with connection and community. Sports often have a uniting effect, let’s all root for our team, and football is king in that way.
When the Seahawks got into the playoffs, the Seattle Public Library hosted game viewings, Woodland Park Zoo posted photos of animals with footballs.
Football has been called a gentler substitute for warfare, allowing communities to do battle with very little bloodshed, while maintaining the bragging rights and bonding of the battlefield. Fans can hate San Francisco and see the enemy crushed.
But warfare is really not nice, so part of football’s success is due to image management at all levels, but most of all in the NFL, which is brilliant at it, from incorporating the national anthem into its ceremonies, to policing the behavior of players, who are expected to be gentlemen and killers at the same time.
Seahawk Richard Sherman has been at the center of much discussion this week because of an interview he gave after Sunday’s victory over San Francisco, in which the cornerback was boastful and trashed one of San Francisco’s receivers. Many reacted with shock that a football player would talk that way.
Sherman, in an interview on CNN a couple of days later, said he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did, but he also said, “We’re playing a very brutal sport.” He said that when he committed verbal violence, he was still feeling the surge of emotions that are necessary for him to do his job in the way his bosses and fans expect.
I couldn’t escape from real issues through sports that day, so I turned to other entertainment and settled in with my wife (who looks askance at football) to watch an episode of “Downton Abbey.” There’s entertainment for someone with strong Seattle values — the good old days, when aristocrats dressed formally for dinner and of course always behaved perfectly, never raising their voices, even to chide the loyal servants scurrying about their feet.
It will do until the Super Bowl, when scrappy upstart Russell Wilson tries to dethrone the aging prince, Peyton Manning. There will, no doubt, be blood and unkind words.
Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Jerry Large
I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
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