Saturday, November 26, 2011

Macho Entertainer or Humble Grunt?

The Thanksgiving weekend, on the basis of sheer volume of games alone, furnishes the penultimate look at the crudity and coarseness that virtually define the sport of football, especially on the professional level. The game has always been marked by a certain viciousness, but the current product has changed the way the viciousness is administered, the main difference between now and other years being with the intent to hurt the opposing player rather than simply neutralize his effectiveness. The use of steroids and other “performance enhancing” drugs has contributed to the mayhem as multitudes of players, “bulking up,” have sacrificed long-term health for short-term success and dollars.

The game has also changed drastically with regard to on-field behavior. Taunting the opposition and committing personal fouls are commonplace. Celebrating, especially in calling attention to oneself, has become irksome, especially since the notion of sportsmanship has been all but laughed to scorn. The ridiculous body contortions such as the beating of one’s chest (like the apes in the jungle) or the banging of bodies against those of teammates or the silly skipping or jumping into the stands to be congratulated by the spectators cheapens the sport, though not the athletes, who rake in millions. According to Bloomberg Business Week of 27 January 2011, the average yearly NFL player-salary is $1.9 million, with the average career lasting 3.5 years. A multitude of careers last much longer, increasing the salaries exponentially so that the player who uses good judgment can retire at a young age in exceedingly comfortable circumstances.

The National Football League teams entertain millions in the stands and tens of millions couch potatoes watching the games on TV. It’s a big business largely built on sensationalism (bone-breaking and concussions, for instance, or race-car wrecks) and supposedly separates the men from the boys, as claim other pro leagues. The real separation occurs elsewhere:

Macho Entertainer or Humble Grunt

On touchdown turf he struts his stuff,
As if to say, “I am enough
For folks to see an earthly god
On what I turn to sacred sod.”

He flashes tattoos, arm-long length,
Slam-dunks to show his super strength
And does a dance around his foe
To taunt and prove him just too slow.

He knocks it way beyond the fence,
He is the best – just common sense –
He pumps his arm while rounding third
And gives the pitcher…yeah…the bird.

He skates his man into the glass
And breaks his skull – ain’t that a gas –
And waves his stick to celebrate
The blood and gore…the fans elate.

He gently bumps the fender…so…
One-hundred-eighty miles to go –
Just one more fiery spinout bright,
One less to pass to racing’s height.

He does a header to the sphere
And then another at an ear
And trips the goalee, breaks his knee,
Waves to the crowd, “Just look at me!”

They put their millions in the bank,
With just themselves alone to thank
For derring-do to entertain…
Just playing games…and being vain.

And meanwhile, bivouacked in the sand
Are citizens whose noble stand
Means life or death throughout the world,
Where freedom’s flags are tightly furled.

They do not strut or taunt or tease
Or act like asses in wealth’s ease,
They grimly act when duty calls,
Face bullets, never soccer balls.

Or, they are camped in mountains steep
And know no ease…and poorly sleep…
And fight each minute of each day,
With no timeouts to get the play.

They do not strut or tease or taunt
Or flex their biceps thus to flaunt
How great they are, how great their wealth –
Oh no…their lives depend on stealth.


On touchdown turf he struts his stuff
And in his mind he is enough;
The G-I has it rough and tough,
And only he is quite enough.


And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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