I’m losing interest; in football, that is, and not just because my team is playing less than stellar this year. For me, something is different. Something has changed; maybe it’s me. I think we sometimes live in our own little world, probably having some idea what happens elsewhere but not really and we’re ok with that. I think that has been part of it for me and in listening to the stories of the bullying incidents, or whatever they should be called, coming out of the Miami Dolphins. For me, and it really is just my opinion, it’s similar to the bounty issues with the Saints for a few years back. It happens everywhere, they just happen to be the ones that got caught and become the scapegoat for everyone else. My guess is that it’s not much different with this current incident with the Dolphins.
I remember from a few years back when I had first celebrated Mass with one of the teams that had come in to play the Ravens. It’s not uncommon for them to have Mass at some point before a game and this time I had gotten the call. It was my first time heading to the team hotel to celebrate Mass with many guys that were a few times bigger than myself, along with coaches and owners at times. Celebrating Mass wasn’t much different than anywhere else, but what most caught my attention was the dinner I was invited to afterwards. It was quite a spread! Then there were announcements that followed…in your rooms by such and such a time, lights out at this time. I remember being dumbfounded in hearing this. All along we hear about professionals. We hear that they are men, huge on top of that. Yet, as much as they were around my age at the time, here they were being told when they had to be in their rooms and when lights had to be out. I kind of wonder if any of them hid their phone under the covers that night, waiting for a call or text from a loved one. I was stunned and in disbelief that, after all, they really weren’t men but boys who were still following elementary school rules, as if they were a piece of property of the team.
Then there is the violence. No, maybe it wouldn’t be considered a bounty on another player, or maybe call it something else, but whatever it is, at times this year I have found myself saddened by the violence. Am I going to try to purposely take out a quarterback, not caring what kind of injury that may bring on his life? Sure, they know there are risks to playing the game and when we’re young we think we’re invincible, but purposeful violence on the field most likely at times leads to purposeful violence off the field. I also think of the violence that ensued at the Ravens-Bears game, violence that came in the form of weather where people lost loved ones and their possessions. Yet, in a couple hours, the game resumed, players returned to the field, and fans returned to the stadium. Did anyone wonder what had happened outside that stadium? I watched the end of the game, and yet, felt guilty at the same time because I did wonder and my mind was on them. How easily things went back to normal as human life was being lost around them.
All of these things have been pushing me into this conundrum in my own life, knowing the value of each human being. I enjoy the experience. I enjoy enjoying it with friends. Yet, I’m being drawn away from it all because of what I have seen and knowing just how much young boys look up to these professionals and want to exemplify them in their own lives. It makes it hard to swallow at times because I’ve seen the need over and over with teenaged men who are in desperate need of role models, but what is it that is being modeled to them, and better yet, what does it say that I participate in the cycle of it all by spending my money, with my attention, with my time, in something that deep down I know has serious repercussions in the lives of men? I am losing interest, and at the moment, live with this tension of watching a sport I have grown to enjoy over the years, while at the same time, knowing what is the greater good, the value and dignity of human life and the need for devoted men to model to boys how to move beyond being mere boys and to become the men that God has been created them to truly be in this life.