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Confessions of a Football Hater

Well, I guess it’s time for The Big One. The one I’m guessing quite a few of those who have followed this site and/or my Facebook/Twitter accounts have wondering. Since THAT season has started again, there won’t be a better time to answer that question:

Why? Just why do I have such a deep seething hatred for the Dallas Cowboys and in general for the game of American football?

If you think I enjoy constantly spewing such venom at the supposed “sport” that so many here treat as a religion, you’d be wrong. It’s not always fun. But it’s not that avoidable when every time I try to take a step back and tell myself that I should give this game a try, something new comes up or another memory arises to tell me I just can’t.

Is it jealousy when it comes to the Cowboys? I won’t deny that may be part of the reason. But again, we’re talking about a football team whose attitude among its participants and fans is that nothing else has the right to exist, let alone succeed, in North Texas.

I’m not exclusively Rangers. I pay almost no attention to them during the winter, focusing on the UTA Mavericks. And I will occasionally miss a game if I get the time to travel up to Frisco for FC Dallas. But Cowboys fans, for the most part, firmly believe this city must be about all Cowboys 24/7/365, nothing else. This town ain’t big enough for any of the sport.

Before Neftali Feliz struck out A-Rod in 2010, it was pretty much impossible to find anyone claiming they loved the Cowboys and the Rangers. Add the Mavericks in there too prior to 2011. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because I remember all too well. I remember the empty bleachers for years and the constant abuse from Cowboys fans saying Rangers fans didn’t deserve to even call themselves men, let alone Americans.

People would always say, “This is a winners’ town; the Rangers will start drawing when they start winning championships.” But the crowds and TV ratings for the Cowboys games despite them winning absolutely nothing for more than 15 years prove that is the biggest pile of bull honkey. The Rangers have to go to the World Series every single year to draw decent crowds, but the Cows could go winless for 10 straight years and still sell out every single game. If the Cows were playing the Redskins on the same day the Rangers were on the verge of winning the World Series, no one would watch the Rangers game. Dale Hansen once said the Mavericks would be bumped to page two if they won the championship on the same day the Cowboys’ coach quit, and I can’t argue with him.

Of course, this attitude is really just a microcosm of the NFL as a whole, as, despite having the shortest season, the league does everything in its power to make sure it’s the headline story on ESPN every single night, even in June. From stupid scouting combines to mini-camps, the league constantly invades everyone else’s space. And when baseball fans actually ask for baseball talk during baseball season, we’re branded as “baseball bullies.”

The NFL is the real bully. The way they intimidate the media is shameless, from banning TV stations from using their own cameras to making newspaper cameramen wear vests with NFL corporate sponsors on them. And don’t you DARE try to paint football in a negative light. They forced ESPN to cancel Playmakers in 2003, and now they just bullied the World Wide Leader in Sports into pulling out of PBS’ investigation into football concussions. This censorship is ignored by the people because they simply can’t stop tuning in during the fall.

The NFL can get away with absolutely anything and still be a juggernaut. And the horrible thing is: They do. The NFL might as well be called the National Felon League, except the proven track record of abusive, thuggish, criminal activity is not exclusive to professional football players.

I’m not surprised at this; we are talking about a sport where the sole object is to cause as much abusive destruction to the human body as possible. And that’s the only reason why it’s so popular; because we are a society that gets off on death and violence.

“This is why we watch football. Because it is barbaric and terrifying and sick. Because we love good hits and kamikaze safety blitzes and a quarterback sitting on the field after a sack with visions of Tweety Bird dancing in his brain… We don’t watch football for its feats of athletic ballet.”

Those aren’t my words; those come from Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, in a column he wrote for The Daily Beast criticizing the NFL for persecuting the culprits in the Bountygate scandal. “I’m loving it. So are 99 percent of fans, too many of them afraid to admit it now because they don’t want to endorse a game that is inherently sadistic, a particularly egregious political incorrectism.”

There is no doubt in my own mind (these ARE my words) that we will see a player killed on the field within the next few years. And while they won’t admit it, almost everyone watching will consider it the greatest moment in football history.

It’s the same reason violence is more tolerated than sex in movies, a combination of the Puritans that helped found our country combined with the Ancient Roman belief that taking a human life is the world’s greatest accomplishment. Even in our supposedly more enlightened society, football fans put the blinders on and try to believe that those guys aren’t REALLY trying to kill one another on that field. And ignore how may people they are abusing off of it.

I’m not saying every single football player is a rapist and/or a murderer; I can’t prove that. I’m saying there are far too many of them to assume someone who beats people to a bloody pulp for a living can be a good person. And the few there that might be still have no issue playing alongside the monsters that would love to take their wives into an alley and do horrible things to them. What’s worse, it’s almost like the people who watch it love these players BECAUSE they can commit such horrific acts.

When two high school players in Steubenville, OH, were charged with raping a co-ed, national sympathy immediately went to the players and not the victim. National writers and pundits pined about how tragic it was that these kids’ football careers were ruined. Social media overflowed with posts blaming the girl, saying she asked for what she got because she was drinking. And the computer hacker who helped expose the crime faces more jail time than the boys.

Nine years ago, the University of Colorado’s football team was revealed to be regularly offering women for sex services to recruits that led to numerous rape allegations – including one from a woman who was on the team as a kicker. No charges were filed, the coach was suspended only for making disparaging remarks at the female player (he was fired a year later when his team was embarrassed by Texas in the Big 12 title game), and the general attitude from the public was, “Big deal, I bet that happens everywhere.” That’s the sad part: They’re probably right, and the fact that people accept it just makes me want to cry.

In the last year, even before Aaron Hernandez’s notorious case, Josh Brent killed his supposed best friend in a drunk driving collision; not only was he not cut and in fact allowed to be on the sideline for the next game where he was cheered, but teammate Jay Ratliff showed how concerned he was by getting arrested for drunk driving just a couple months later. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher murdered his child’s mother and then killed himself. A year earlier, former Cowboy Sam Hurd was arrested for drug trafficking, actually admitting he wanted to be a drug czar more than a football player.

And all this was after the likes of O.J. Simpson, Rae Carruth, Ray Lewis, Leonard Little, Donte Stallworth and the numerous cases of drug use and sexual assault from Cowboys players during their glory years of the 90s.

This might seem like a select few. But I’m betting any legal expert will tell you that when it comes to victim crimes, there are at least five that never even see charges for each one that does.

This is a huge problem in the game of football. And no one wants anything done about it.

In baseball, PED use is looked upon as the worst sin in the world. It’s reached the point were players are finally standing up and demanding the union help the league’s crackdown more, saying they no longer want their reputations in doubt.

There is no such outrage from football players or fans demanding the NFL clean up its image. Ben Roethlisberger can rape multiple women, Aaron Hernandez can help kill a man and hide the body, and Michael Vick can abuse animals, and all of this is brushed off with a cavalier “boys will be boys” attitude.

I have truly had football fans tell me on multiple occasions, “As long as he wins games, I don’t care how many women he rapes.” That alone is enough for me to lose all faith in humanity.

The NFL had the chance to take a first step toward making things better when they struck hard against the New Orleans Saints’ head coach, defensive coordinator and numerous players for putting up bounty rewards for injuring opponents. But an arbitrator – who happened to be Roger Goodell’s predecessor as NFL Commissioner – overturned the player suspensions, ruling they did nothing wrong in assaulting their own peers. All of the implicated persons are drawing a paycheck from an NFL team today.

I’m not saying baseball or any sport I follow is perfect. It was very disturbing to know that the Rangers have had players like Esteban Loaiza and Milton Bradley with histories of assaulting women. When Kenny Rogers struck a cameraman, I knew the Rangers had to get rid of him even though he was the first player other than Nolan Ryan I ever had to go to the Ballpark to see. And I’ve spent years trying to convince myself that Jason Kidd turned his life around after that horrible incident of hitting his wife when he was in Phoenix.

But football’s much worse track record on this speaks for itself. Since the Super Bowl, more than 30 football players have been arrested this year – twice as many as baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis and wrestling combined. If there ever was a culture of decency in American football, it’s long gone.

And no one cares, because the game still gives them what they want: Horrific abusive violence. Cowboys fans don’t care about Dez Bryant going 70 yards for a touchdown; they want to see Sean Lee hit someone so hard he is never able to walk again.

There is no courtesy or humanity in the game at all. No one will even go to the simple trouble of extending a hand and helping up the person they just tackled; it’s always the guy dancing all over the field saying “I KILLED THAT M-Fer!!! YEAH, I KILLED THAT M-Fer!!! I’m a MAN!!!”

Yes, to be a man, you have to kill a man. That’s our culture, especially in the sports we want.

So I guess I’m not a man because I choose to not like a sport inhabited by monsters where, if any one of them got within 500 yards of my sister, I’d likely end up having to go to the police station.

I know how extreme all this sounds. As a pop culture critic, I am currently at odds with a supposed feminist who claims any video game involving the rescue of a female causes victimization of women. I see the similarities in our crusades and am concerned about me being hypocritical.

But Anita Sarkeesian can’t list gamers who try to hurt women because they play such games, and I know of many gamers who want to see more strong female protagonists in games, contrary to her claims. I’ve also given you several instances of football players hurting innocents and no one caring.

No outcries of the promotion of abuse that looks to be clearly rampant in this sport. Nothing but a nonchalant attitude of football fans who think violence is as good as Gordon Gekko thought greed was.

It’s really hard to like a sport that keeps blitzing you with so much to dislike.

To Forgive is Human, At Long as He’s a Cowboy

I try to talk about things other than the Dallas Cowboys on this site. And I definitely don’t like writing here about things not actually related to sports. But sadly, here we go.

No, I don’t have a ton of sympathy for Josh Brent, who’s reckless, uncaring actions left his former Illinois college teammate dead on the streets of Irving less than two days before the Cowboys’ game in Cincinnati. No, I don’t have a problem with the NFL office, desperate to put humanity in a league completely devoid of it, saying no, they don’t want a killer on their sidelines.

The crash that killed Cowboys practice squad member Jerry Brown was not an accident. It was completely preventable. Josh Brent had to know full well he had no business getting into the driver’s seat. He wasn’t even allowed to drive had he been sober – all he had was a suspended out-of-state driver’s license. His decision to drive with a BAC of twice the legal limit was a clear statement that his friend’s safety was not a concern. If it was, he’d have swallowed his pride and called a cab. If Dwayne Goodrich had ever spoken to Brent. it’s clear he didn’t get the message.

Yes, I’m sure he gets it now. And yes, I’ve heard all the pleas from Brown’s mother.

And before you judge me to be some holier-than-thou, glass house living, cast-the-first-stone prick, full disclosure: I have never been a perfect driver. But every time I have gotten a traffic ticket, I wanted to cut my license into a million pieces and never get behind the wheel again, because I knew my recklessness endangered the lives of everyone else on that road. But never have I gotten behind the wheel intoxicated; in fact, the horrors that have come from drunk driving are among the big reasons I don’t drink at all. (And NO, I’m not calling for a ban on drinking, don’t try to pin that on me.)

Is my anti-football, anti-Cowboys stance clouding my own judgement? Always possible. But maybe I’d be a little more sympathetic if I hadn’t seen such lack of sympathy toward others of late for being in less-than-worse situations.

Earlier this year, former Mavericks guard Jason Kidd was also in a drunk driving crash – one that thankfully everyone walked away from. Because he had signed with the Knicks just weeks earlier, he was prime fodder, and he was a target of ridicule for the Dallas area Twitterverse and airwaves.

But it’s not just related to athletes. Jane McGarry lost her job as the long-time news anchor at KXAS NBC 5 after being arrested for drunk driving. If my Twitter feed was to be believed at the time, some hosts at a certain sports radio station I don’t listen to humiliated and basically verbally abused her for the incident. (Again, I can’t verify that personally, but I have seen that station to be jerkasses toward women, especially those in media, sports or both.)

That same station also appears to still ridicule their former employee Gregg Williams, fired in 2007-08 for getting hooked on drugs. Greggo’s former co-host still won’t speak to him.

Then there’s the hate relayed at athletes for nothing more than actions on the field. Nellie Cruz still gets vitriol for Game Six in the 2011 World Series, as if people assume he meant to misplay that fly ball just to ruin THEIR lives.

And then of course, there’s the other Josh. Josh Hamilton lackadaisically dropped a fly ball that cost the Rangers the division, said bye-bye to the Rangers and signed a cash-laden deal with the hated Angels, saying in his press conference that the team and the fans in Texas never really wanted him. Cue the few baseball fans in North Texas taking after Cleveland fans and burning Hambone jerseys.

All of the above committed acts that the people in DFW apparently believe to be unforgivable and deserving of scorn.

None of the above acts led to the death of a human being.

Josh Brent’s did. He gets support and forgiveness.

Yes, he’s sorry for his actions. Supposedly, so was Jovan Belcher after killing his girlfriend. If Belcher hadn’t fired one last shot at himself, should we have then forgiven him for putting nine bullets in his baby’s mother?

My own preferences and biases can and do cloud my own judgment, probably much more than they should; I have never denied that. But you can’t tell me other are biased in the opposite way when that offer an olive branch to someone with blood on his hands and vitriol toward others who don’t.

You want me to be forgiving of people like Josh Brent? Try being a little more forgiving to others who don’t make tackles for the Dallas Cowboys and made mistakes with less devastating consequences.