Walk on the Wild Side: Addiction

Maurice Jones-Drew and Elvis Dumervil are just teasing you with the action you want to see. Photo by Jeffrey Beall.

This is an opinion piece of mine from last year that I delivered for my weekly segment “A Walk on the Wildside,” at The Audible on Thursday nights at 10pm EST. The opinions expressed here are not those of The Audible, Cecil Lammey, Sigmund Bloom, or Footballguys.com

12-step programs tell people that the first step towards fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.

Well folks, I have a problem. While I’ve read that a lot of men have this very same addiction. I want each and every one of you out there to understand something. I’m admitting my problem not out of a selfless desire to help others. I’m doing it because I have low self-esteem and I have grandiose visions of using this segment as a bully pulpit to wallow in my problems for your entertainment.

Isn’t that what they do on half of the network shows in prime time?

If you find it helps you along the way with your hang up – then trust me when I tell you that it’s purely an unintentional consequence.

Because when it comes down to it I’m just a nanoscopic public figure operating on the coattails of the inimitable Sigmund Bloom and rising media personality Cecil Lammey, by the way whose star is getting so big that I’m expecting to flip past VH-1 later tonight and learn that he’ll be next season’s guest-star-slash-patient on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab.

Can’t you imagine it? Cecil Lammey at group therapy. He’ll be seated between Gary Busey and Bobby from Taxi as fellow first-time patient Matt Jones lays into Lammey for his Dr. Roxo routine. As T.O. would say “Get your popcorn ready.”

As you can see my friends, I’m just a pilot fish with no track record clinging onto two fantasy sharks swimming the waters of the world wide web.

But seriously, low self-esteem is just a symptom of my greater problem.

And I think you know what my problem is, because many of you have it to. We make excuses for it all the time. We tell our spouses or girlfriends that its just part of being a red-blooded, American male. We joke about it over drinks with our pals. We write about it on message boards.

And we’ve fantasized about it ever since we were old enough to experience what it must feel like for the first time.

If you want to see how much its glorified just look around you.

It’s in magazines, on VHS, DVD, .JPEG, .MPEG, and sometimes it’s even on YouTube although they try to get rid of it quickly.

You can read it, download it, and stream it practically anywhere and everywhere.

Heck, I watch it Sundays, Mondays and sometimes Thursdays and Saturdays. I’m so obsessed with it, I have hundreds of hours of discs tucked away in my home office. And if you’re careful enough you can even sneak some viewing time on the job, although I’d say HR would probably frown upon it.

Frankly, I’m just amazed I have the energy to watch so much.

And better yet, producers of this content even cater to a variety of demographics.

Depending on your taste, it’s available in high-gloss, full-color spreads or iconic black and white photos for those that like the arty stuff. Some producers and directors of the film variety like to add music, which can sometimes provide a stirringly inspirational complement to the scene (if you know what I mean). But most of the time the cheesy soundtracks are pure unintentional comedy. Of course some people like a good laugh, but that’s a personal thing I don’t need to know about.

One thing’s for sure: We have a really messed up relationship with its stars. Some of us on the far right of the political spectrum talk about them as if they represent the scourges of society. We say they are social deviants that need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and change their ways rather than make excuses for their behavior by blaming their childhood. But once we use them up for our enjoyment and they grow too old to get work, we throw them out like replaceable parts. They went into it with their eyes wide open, we say. They knew the consequences.

Those of us on the far left aren’t much better. We believe them as victims that need our help. We claim they had few other paths and that their industry preys on them. Sure they all profit, but in the long run their lack of good upbringing or training gets them used and they’re stuck to this way of life until they are kicked out with nothing. We say their industry needs to be the ones to provide them continuing education and better long-term benefits. Somehow we think this will assuage our liberal guilt about enjoying what they are doing over an over.

I must admit it’s really exciting watching them do it – especially when you see a two-on-one or even a three-on-one. But on the whole I’m pretty old-fashioned; personally I prefer to see it on-on-one.

And I’m lucky, because my wife loves it. She gets fired up when she sees it and she likes it rough. Just thinking about it gets the juices flowing.

And to be perfectly honest, we want our children to eventually experience the joys of it. Just in a healthier, safe, and non-exploitative environment when they are old enough, they understand the risks involved, and they aren’t part of an industry that will use them and toss them aside.

As you can clearly see my addiction is with pornography. And if you listen to this show I can safely bet you have one, too if you consider porn in the classical sense.

Pornography defined is the depiction of acts in a sensational manner as to arouse a quick, intense emotional reaction. You can’t deny that watching athletic young men in padded uniforms hitting each other as hard as they can is highly pornographic.

And the NFL knows it.

It photographs it, films it, produces it and displays it with striking similarity to the stuff that Cecil, Gary Busey, and Matt Jones will be trying to access on late-night TV at the rehab center after they put roofies in the night nurse’s java.

The NFL had no incentive to really crack down on hitting until there were investigative stories on the long-term effects of concussions.  Only then did it threaten their bottom line.

What they were doing was almost farcical until Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece comparing NFL players to mistreated pit bulls. The league handled illegal hits with fines that went into an account that the NFL would then donate to charity as a tax write-off. All this did was help the league get good PR on two fronts: giving back to the community and presenting a tough image that was nothing more than lip service. If they were serious that money should have been added to an account to help research better methods of player protection.

The best way to tell it was all lip service is from the reactions of the players.  Rodney Harrison said it best Sunday night; the fines didn’t persuade coaches or players to use safer techniques, but suspension did.

And I suspect the NFL feared suspensions would lower TV ratings because the public wouldn’t see two teams at its best when its key players were not in the game.

Funny how they’d suspend for drug use or criminal behavior to keep the media from scampering up their hindquarters and setting up camp,  but when it came to behavior that had the same or worse long-term effects, they rarely did anything substantial until that tarnish began to appear on their coveted red, white and blue shield.

In hindsight you would have thought that they would have rather suspended stars than shorten their career spans from unnecessary injury. But that meant spending money and time that might cost too much money. Hindsight…

But I do have to give props to the NFL’s week six response to the hits that laid out Pro Bowl quality players DeSean Jackson, Joshua Cribbs, and Todd Heap.  They sent a four and a half minute instructional video to players that they also released to the public. You can find it on NFL.com and it establishes clear ground rules and warns of future suspensions if players are cited for future infractions – even for first-time offenders.

But don’t worry fellow football pornographers, the NFL still knows where its bread is buttered.  If you watch the film (and I know you will). You’ll see one of our favorite stars – Ray Lewis – deliver the goods as an example of how to hit the right away.

Once James Harrison finishes crying into one of those yellow Pittsburgh hankies in Mike Tomlin’s office, he needs to watch that film. Because if Ray Lewis is good enough to do it right then Harrison just has to man-up and become a better football player.

James Harrison needs some pointers from Ray Lewis on the art of hitting. Right now his craft is just low-rent porn.

Don’t wuss out and quit, accept the challenge and become more skilled. That goes for any other pro that believes the NFL is turning into a sissified game. Because if the best defender in the league for the past decade can do it textbook, so should they.

I love to watch a good hit. I love the violence of the game. But for the sport to succeed you shouldn’t have to compare it to the type of pornography that you might want to see just as long as someone close to you isn’t its star.

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