The NFL and me

I should not write a column on football. My friend, Matt Bruggeman,
invests a substantial amount of time researching his life’s thesis,
football and could write a column more packed with historical
perspective; unfortunately he is not available and so you get me.

I played football in high school and junior college and really
enjoyed it. It would follow that I would also enjoy watching the
game. I did, long ago. I watched every move made by the Minnesota
Vikings of the seventies. I wanted to be Allan Page, a very talented
defensive tackle who used quickness, intelligence and aggressiveness
instead of brute strength to become a Pro Bowl player and later a
supreme court justice. I watched the Vike’s occasionally in the
eighties but then quit watching them entirely until the last three
years.

I liked football in the seventies for one simple reason, the players
were me. They were average guys who were paid a salary that made them
comfortable-not royalty. Many professional football players took jobs
in the off-season during the seventies and certainly prior to that
time. I’ve heard of many insurance salesmen, bartenders or
restauranteurs who were also professional football players. Some took
labor jobs or even sold encyclopedias and tried to develop singing
careers. They were just regular people and admired by the fans,
instead of themselves. I had something in common with these men. I
mean, what do I have in common with today’s player? They are
millionaires who rarely have experience other than being adored and
spending their money on themselves.

Professional football players today have not had to struggle in life,
for the most part. They may work hard in practice however they don’t
have the day to day worries of the average person. They also possess
an emotional immaturity as a result of the vacuum of
character-building struggle that most of us pull around on a daily
basis. I am always surprised when a pro ball player does something
nuts or illegal and a public outcry ensues of how the fans and their
children are so disappointed because this player is a hero. A
professional sports players is much too leaky a vessel to ever float
the title of hero. Heroes are hard to find because the pride they
feel in their actions is enough, they don’t need public accolades.
You have to work to find a hero, you won’t find them easily.

There are some exceptions. Jim Kleinsasser who is originally from
Carrington, North Dakota and more recently a 13 year Minnesota Viking
was a stand-out, real old school. That man worked hard, played
whatever position asked of him and didn’t end up in the newspaper
unless it was because of a good game. I wish there were more like
him.

The National Football League began its regular season this week.
Monday Night Football is soon to follow. I wish for a different
culture but maybe I should just try to enjoy the game for itself and
blinder myself to to character of many of the players on the field.
It’s too bad Howard Cosell wasn’t alive to give his take on today’s
player and the game. Now that is something I would watch.

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