You Tell Us: What happened to the love of the game?
on August 23, 2011
Growing up in my world, a Saturday afternoon of playing football in my neighborhood was as normal as waking up and brushing your teeth.
If you lived in my neighborhood, and you were around 8 to 14 years old, girls and boys alike, part of your Saturday enjoyment was playing a friendly game of football on the block or at the neighborhood park. We’d play tackle sometimes, touch football, or just throw the ball around. It was a feeling of being at ease, and enjoying being a kid and playing a community sport.
We were poor, but when some family members who worked at hospitals or some corporate entity would sometimes get bulk free tickets to an actual game, it was like a big deal to us kids. The only thing that would top it was going to an amusement park. To see the whole spectacle, the players, the field, the people in the stands rooting for their team or playing sideline coach, the player you admired that you could now kind-of-see close up (most free tickets were nosebleeds but we didn’t care), it was a cool, fun peaceful way to spend a Sunday.
Sometimes some old fart who has had two beers at home–before the four beers he drank before halftime–would get a little out of order, but he would swiftly be put in a cab and sent home or something. You never had to worry about any violence, unless a quarterback was sacked, or a center turned an ankle. It was never in the stands, at least in my early memories as a kid. There was a certain balance between being tough and sportsmanship that even kept the players, to some degree, in check about how violent football can be, as much as fun as it is.
Would you like to know where I grew up? What stadium I went to ask a kid? Which was my favorite team or player? Well, it doesn’t matter. I think if you pooled people between the ages of 35 and 40 around the country, and ask them to share what it was like playing football in the neighborhood growing up, and the feeling of going to a NFL game as a young teen, the responses of nostalgia, in my opinion, would find commonalities from all over the country.
My point is, the video footage I saw on YouTube of the fights in the stands at the Oakland Raiders-San Francisco 49ers football game, and in the parking lot, really made me sad and frustrated. Football and football games have always been supposed to be places that were family-friendly as well as for adults–but more than anything, safe.
What has happened to us as a culture and people when we enjoy watching a fight, more concerned with videotaping on a cell phone than calling for help, and take a national past time and turn it into something ugly? Football is violent enough, and if it is now going to spill into the bathrooms and places to park, I think it is a wake up call. I know it’s cliché, but the community, along with the NFL, should be saying, “stop the violence.” Canceling the last pre-season game between the Raiders and 49ers I think was a good move, but the bigger question is how do we cancel out the self-hatred, the lack of regard for peace, and finally choose life and calm?
I have a lot of problems with the game of football, and how some of the players treat their wives when they are off the field. I know about this from first-hand experience, but in its purest form, the game of football is fun. To catch a pass; to take the family to a game; to feel the adrenaline of a touchdown run; or an interception; or a running back breaking tackles and jumping over pile ups; to sit in the cold and watch your team lose; or to celebrate in a championship–football, and football stadiums have been and should be places where gangsters and fighters; family men and drunkards; teenagers and elders; women and girls; all ages, from all walks of life, can come, enjoy a game, have a hotdog, and get home safely.
Furious Styles is originally from the East Coast and currently resides in the East Bay. He’s an artist educator for www.microphone-mechanics.com, an educational consultant company serving the Bay Area.
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