The NFL Is F*cking Evil (…And We Don’t Give A Damn) » VSB

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The NFL Is F*cking Evil (…And We Don’t Give A Damn)

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It was Sunday. We (my fiancee and I) were at my dad’s house, watching the Heat/Bulls game. It was halftime, so I started channel surfing. We landed on the NFL combine.

Her: “What’s this?”

Me: “The closest thing you’ll ever see to a televised slave auction.”

Her: “Ha. Seriously, what is this?”

Me: “It’s the NFL combine. Where all the college players hoping to get drafted work out and get measured in front of NFL teams.”

Her: “Ok.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “What do they measure?”

Me: “Basically everything from speed to hand size.”

Her: “Hand size?”

Me: “Yeah.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “Yeah, this is super slave auction-ey. Feels like I’m watching 12 Years a Slave.”

Me: “We haven’t even seen that yet.”

Her: “After seeing this, I don’t think we need to.”

For the next five minutes or so, we made increasingly silly joke after increasingly silly joke comparing the combine to a slave auction. At the height of the silliness, we both adopted “overseer” accents (which probably actually sounded Jamaican) when mimicking the commentators’ vocal inflections whenever they’d mention a player’s “loose hips” or “wide wingspan” or “thigh width” or “watermelon picking nose.” But beneath the silliness was the realization that we actually weren’t that off.

The nature of football dictates and demands that a premium is placed on prospects proving themselves by performing tasks — vertical leaps, bench presses, etc — more based on physicality and athleticism than actual skill. This is unique to that sport. A great 40 yard dash time and high vertical leap alone won’t get you drafted in the NBA, the NHL, or Major League Baseball. In the NFL, though, it could make you a millionaire.

And, while the slave auction comparison was obviously hyperbolic (to my knowledge, no slaves were signing multi-million dollar contracts), when watching this group of very young and half-naked (mostly) Black men perform these tasks while being picked, prodded, and assessed by a group of much older, fully dressed, and (mostly) White men — men with the power to decide exactly where these young men are going to be employed — it’s a natural connection.

But, we kept watching.

Yesterday, I published a piece by Maya Francis that asked us to rethink Bill Cosby’s legacy in light of the multiple sexual assault allegations against him. A couple months earlier, I wrote something similar in content but much more scathing in tone about R. Kelly. In it, I made no qualms about calling current fans of the R-uh idiots.

These pieces are mere drops in the accountability/outrage ocean we now all seem to swim in. From Chris Brown to republicans to Woody Allen to Gabrielle Union to Chick-Fil-a to Robin Thicke to Papa Johns to Miley Cyrus to Kanye West to the state of Florida, recent popular American culture is filled with examples of a large number of people deciding that a popular entity’s behavior is too troublesome to continue to purchase and/or patronize their product(s).

But when it comes to the NFL, an organization whose negative headlines over just the last six months read like stories from an off-brand Law & Order franchise (“Next on Law & Order: Tampa Greyhound Station: Handsome NFL heartthrob by day. Multi-state serial rapist by night.“), this outrage seems to wane. And by “wane” I mean “not fucking exist.”

Well, maybe we say it does. Maybe we say that all the issues plaguing the league — domestic violence, murder, rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, steroids, teams named after racial slurs, bounties, permanent brain injuries, lawsuits from people with permanent brain injuries who contend the league lied to them, evidence the league is attempting to silence the lawsuits — really bother us. Maybe we say we’re turned off by the post-racial racist audaciousness of the league considering a rule prohibiting Black players from saying “nigga“, and maybe we realize it’s a smokescreen to distract us from stuff like star running backs knocking out their fiancees in casinos and dragging them out of elevators. Maybe we’re bothered by news that a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a big production every year to show how committed they are to breast cancer research only gives 8% of the proceeds from the campaign to actual research. Maybe we’re bothered by how it ties itself to patriotism and militaristicness, and maybe we see the irony in it branding itself as “America’s Game.” Maybe we care that it’s the most violent and physically demanding of the four major American team sports, but the only one not to offer its workforce fully guaranteed contracts. Maybe we care that the cost of a family actually attending a game is more than their mortgage.

But, we keep watching. In record numbers. So it doesn’t really matter what we say, does it? This isn’t just us putting our heads in the sand. It’s us putting our heads in the sand, and demanding deeper, hotter, and heavier sand.

After turning the Heat/Bulls game back on, I sporadically turned back to the combine during commercial breaks. She wasn’t pleased.

Her: “This slave shit…again. Why?

Me: “The Steelers need a big receiver. I need to watch.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Austin Wright-Mordecai

    Dude is a fuckin ass and I really hate people that write just because they have the talent it is disrespectful to our ancestors to compare the nfl compline where black and brown people are rewarded for there commitment to a craft…he does realize that the media makes you think there is extreme amount of criminals in the nfl when most of these dudes are mentors and have great charities Damon young I would tell him just shut up…oh and somewhere there is another teacher having sex with one of his or her students racism is the lazy thing to write about nowadays

  • I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt the combine was slave auctiony, I was waiting for Jadaveon to play the fiddle. The NFL have done their best to make every game an event, while every other league needs to make their seasons about 20% shorter, the NFL Sundays and MNF are appointment television (I still think every Thursday night game not on thanksgiving needs to get the entire f ck outta here)

    • Word. Once the Big East blew up the college football world with Thursday Night Football, the NFL wanted a piece. Even though the Big East is dead now, #wehititfirst. Let the college kids live for a night man.

  • Andrea
    • Chomsky needs to get out and smile sometime. Pendants make my skin itch. And this isn’t just about his politics, but his personal style.

  • The combine doesn’t bother me as much as football culture does. Yall see this reality show Friday Night Tykes?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVHixDu8FTA

    • Texans swear there aren’t people under those pads

    • Texas football culture reminds me of the worse parts of AAU ball in New York…with more violence. Yikes!

      • Epsilonicus

        Mmmhmmm. Texas lives and dies by football.

        • Them and Florida.

  • First, about Ray Rice…*Ron Simmons voice* Damn. It’s like finding out your cousin is whipping tail. That’s all I have to say about that incident, and I would support him getting it together like a family member.

    The whole NFL-has-a-crime-problem thing is a touch oversold to me. I remember reading something about this in Deadspin. When you control for gender and racial composition of the NFL (roughly 60% Black, 30% White, 5% Pacific Islander and 5% Latin), plus the age of your typical NFL player (between 21 and 35), your average NFL player is much less likely to commit a crime than compared to a control group. Granted, because a NFL player is bigger, stronger and more disciplined than your average dude, when they do commit crimes, they’re more likely to do worse damage. But I think it’s an exaggeration that the league is filled with violent people. We just pay them more mind because of how they spend their Sundays.

    The thing about the Combine is that it shows the difference between football and basketball, full stop. For one, basketball, despite the sheer size of the players, has more in common with distance running and cycling when it comes to athleticism. Not only do you have to be strong to play basketball, but you have to do it while constantly running for an hour and a half to two hours and maintaining the agility to more where you need to go without necessarily bowling someone over. (Notice how many guys who couldn’t hack it in the NBA have starred in the NFL over the past decade.) Meanwhile, you’re so right about the slave auction-y parts about the combine. Just be thankful that there’s more than a handful of brothers calling the shots these days. Also, think about how NFL scouting has evolved. It originally started when the NY Giants sent the son of the owner on a trip to watch Big 10 games to wire back reports, and now it’s evolved to this.

    Personally, as a native NYer, I keep a distance from football. I like it, but I care more about basketball and baseball. Though if the Jets get, say, Mike Evans in the draft, fill out the board with guys like Jeff Janis and Jerrick McKinnon and get a home run hitting WR in free agency, I might be a very happy man in 11 months. :)

    • I wish more Black kids my age cared about baseball. It is the greatest sport this country has ever watched.

      • Baseball should market their black stars better, the MVP is a brother, he should’ve been everywhere

        • The old white dudes who run baseball can’t even market their white stars properly. There are very few ultra-athletic American born baseball players. Matt Kemp, Mike Trout, and there peers just aren’t known.

      • The problem was that the old White that run baseball made a calculated gamble in the early 90s to actively eschew young Black males and the “hip hop element” and instead angle for the perceived safety of the Latin American and Asian markets. To be fair, MLB is making crazy bank off of that scene, but you can’t help but think of the missed opportunities. Even still, on the East Coast, Black people still check for baseball. It’s the rest of the country with issues.

        • Maybe la too?

          • Sigma_Since 93

            If you live in the South, everybody from Virginia down is checking for the Braves.

            • Oddly enough I never hitched my wagon to the Braves.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Baseball has a plantation system too; it’s called the South American complexes. They get dem boys young, saving them from lives of poverty, give them room and board with hopes they pan out only to pay them peanuts. Meanwhile back in the States, Jim and Jerome college graduates can’t get that big payday football and basketball.

          Some of us don’t talk about the barriers baseball put up and now they are trying to address (too late) now. Parking lots have replaced sand lots in cities and / or little league, Babe Ruth, AAU travel squads squeeze out low income participants with tournament, lodging, uniform and travel fees. Yes MLB created it’s program to attract minorities but the minorities are mostly Hispanic.

      • Freebird

        baseball is kind of boring to watch on tv. playing can be fun and going to a game as well. but it isnt the best sit in front of a tv sport.

        • Kema

          So boring!

          • Val

            Sometimes in the summer when I want to take a afternoon nap on the weekend I’ll put a baseball game on to help me get to sleep. It’s better than NyQuil. Lol

        • afronica

          Have you ever tried turning down the sound on the tv and watching with radio play by play going? When I watch on tv, this is how I do it. Radio guys know how to call a game.

      • Epsilonicus

        I do too. The contracts are bigger and easier to have a longer career due to less wear and tear on the body.

      • I do too, Malik.

      • TheInvisibleEnigma

        Ditto. After college football season is over, I basically sit and stare out my window until baseball starts again. I know like two Black people besides myself that actually like baseball.

        • Epsilonicus

          I hit about 5-10 Orioles games a season. I am slowly getting into watching it on tv. But I love it in person.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            I work 35 steps away from the ballpark in Pittsburgh. If the job ain’t payin, I ain’t going.

          • TheInvisibleEnigma

            I try to come back home for a couple games a year. I recently moved into a new apartment and the fact that their TV provider carries MASN played a much more important part in my decision to live there than it probably should have.

            • Epsilonicus

              Sometimes its the small things that draw us in.

          • Val

            It’s kind of nice in person. At least for the first few innings. Then I start getting sleepy.

            • Epsilonicus

              You got to have the right crew. It helps to have a few shots before the game.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Baseball has the same problem getting a job presents for young bucks…..slow money.

      • The Champ

        i beg to differ about baseball being the greatest sport, but i agree that its a fun sport to play and watch — especially when the playoffs start.

        • I’d rather watch playoff baseball (sans Red Sox) than any other sporting event ever in the history of everything except maybe a fantasy universe where the Jets play in the Super Bowl.

    • Epsilonicus

      Ray Rice has me mad. He was the last dude I thought would get caught up. He does so much in this city. Smh. Alcohol and bullshizz will get you caught up.

      • keisha brown

        according to sources, ray rice likes to chill at high schools.
        so before this whole thing i had a dislike for him
        now?? listen…

        • Val

          You mean hang at high schools RKelly style?

        • Epsilonicus

          He has a huge anti-bullying campaign in Baltimore. I never heard that he chills at high schools like R. Kelly. Imma ask around. I know some folks who chill with him.

      • Ray Rice really disappointed me, like bruh u have a daughter

    • The Champ

      “(Notice how many guys who couldn’t hack it in the NBA have starred in the NFL over the past decade.)”

      This is my fall-back argument whenever someone compares the skills/athleticism needed to be great in basketball with the skills/athleticism needed to be great in football. There are many examples of marginal to decent college basketball players who couldn’t cut it in professional basketball making the switch to pro football. Most never played a down of college football, and some (Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham) even became stars. Aside from Charlie Ward — who even doesn’t count because he actually played basketball in college — there are no examples of anyone making a college football to pro basketball switch.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Julius Peppers would have been an ok big man if he took the time to hone his craft.

  • Tentpole

    Don’t you know we are the new Roman empire and this is what empires do. We satisfy our needs and what they are satisfied, we create new ones and so on and so forth. Football is the new Gladiator sport and MMA is closing.

    • MMA is interesting, most dudes I know who don’t watch sports make exception for mma, it speaks to a need for bloodsport

      • Kozy

        I’ve been a fan since 04. seeing how far the UFC has come is CRAZY. the skill of the fighters has grown by leaps in last decade.

        • Epsilonicus

          I definitely agree. The skill level is a lot better now. I have been watching since 05 myself. Now you have to have a great all-around game. No more throwing haymakers a la Liddell, Jackson, and Ortiz

      • Every calls it a blood sport but that label never gets attached to boxing. I find that odd. The topical damage in MMA looks worse but the long term damage in boxing is proving to be much greater.

        • Epsilonicus

          “The topical damage in MMA looks worse but the long term damage in boxing is proving to be much greater.”

          MMA does a better job of forcing fighters to get medical attention post-fights. It also has strict rules about when you can return to training post fight.

          • The length of the fights, the weight of the gloves, and methods of being defeated keep MMA fighters from getting pounded on for 12 rds.

        • For whatever reason, boxing gets a nod as the more technical sport

          • Which I find odd considering MAN fighters must know multiple disciplines.

      • The Champ

        This bloodsport nature of it is why it’ll never be mainstream. Both boxing and the NFL may have more long-term injury risk. But, it’s easier to put long-term injury out of mind when watching. With MMA fights, though, the blood and broken limbs are right there in your face.

    • MMA has a LOOOOOOOONG way to go. They still haven’t gotten serious ESPN coverage yet. They need some dudes with hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires to push it over-the-top. That’s why we’ve been getting serious soccer coverage since the last World Cup They don’t have anyone making near Mayweather money and the average American couldn’t name 4 active boxers.

      • People don’t realize how much American money is low-key in European soccer. The Tampa Bay Bucs (Manchester United), St. Louis Rams (Arsenal) and the Boston Red Sox (Liverpool) owners groups all own teams in the English Premier League. Also, the former owner of the Cleveland Browns sold off the team…to plow the money into his Premiership team, Aston Villa. The EPL makes as much money as the NBA…with 10 fewer teams. There was even talk of turning the EPL into a franchise league, which was stopped because the fan base openly revolted.

        (Sidebar: for those who don’t know, European soccer leagues operate on a promotion-and-relegation basis, where the worst teams in the league drop a level, while the best in the league below move up.)

        Throw in Russian and Asian money in European soccer, and it’s not much different than the North American sports. There’s a reason that in the past 5 years or so, soccer has blown up on American TV. This is the last really untapped soccer market, and even as a #5 sport behind the big 4, the money to be made is insane.

  • Tx10inch

    All I know is that my Texans betta not screw up this #1 pick. I prefer Johnny, would settle for Teddy and curl up in the fetal position to weep if they take Bortles. Clowney would be nice…specially after that 4.5 forty. Too many work ethic red flags though and we NEED a QB. *shakes fist* Don’t screw this up Rick Smith!

    • Blake Bortles just screams bust to me. Something about the kid. But Teddy is the truth. As many times as he’s straight sonned the Rutgers defense with his throws, I can tell you he’s the truth.

      • Tx10inch

        Teddy is solid, and would be a good face of the franchise but Johnny would die to win games and keep us in the spotlight (good or bad) for the next 15yrs and finally put the Cowgirls on the back burner. In Houston, if we’re not winning, making Dallas look bad (and beating Tennessee) is really all that matters.

        • Hey, didn’t Houston sports fans have a similar discussion way back when over Steve McNair and Kerry Collins? Kerry Collins was the sure thing, but Steve McNair was Mr. Excitement.

          • Tx10inch

            Actually, most fans didn’t want McNair. They thought he wasn’t ready coming outta Alcorn State, which is the reason he sat for a yr. But he turned out to be the great QB.

            • The interesting thing about that debate is that it was the rare situation where no matter who you chose, you were going to be OK. McNair ended up a MVP, while Kerry Collins had a solid career in the league, taking a team to the Super Bowl.

      • I really hope the Browns trade up or down, Blake Bottles is getting hype for “looking” like a QB, Nah

        • Tx10inch

          I kinda equate these 3 QB’s to cars in my mind. Manziel is a porsche. Not good gas mileage, but you love to drive it. May get you in a lot of trouble but damn it’s fast and sexxy. Teddy is more of a Yukon Denali, gonna give you want you need, not top of the line luxury but you could see your self in it for the next 10-15 yrs. Bortles is like a mini van. Sturdy, good size and gets tha job done, but no one wants to drive it.

          • Val

            You don’t think Manziel is going to be another great college QB that doesn’t make it in the NFL ala Tebow? But for different reason.

            • Tx10inch

              He has alot to learn but in the right system (coach) he’ll be good to great…

            • I never believed in Rebel, Manziel seems more like Troy Smith who never found the right system and….welp.

              • Val

                @Tx10 & Tristan – Whenever people start talking about a good college QB needing to find the “right system” to make it in the NFL things usually don’t go to well.

            • Manziel actually knows how to throw the ball. His mechanics and arm strength are solid. He has terrible pocket awareness and wants to make a play on every snap is his problem. You can’t run back 20 yards and then launch the ball into double-triple coverage in the NFL.

        • JOhn Crawford

          I am taking a break from Facebook, so I’m using my Gmail to make comments;
          As a Clevelander, the Browns STINK, they have Failed at damn near Everything- from Picking a Coach (how in the He!! do you fumble landing Jim Harbaugh???) firing their GM, President AND Coah after 1 Season, Screwing ppl on QBs and so on….

      • The Champ

        Me too. Just his name makes him sound like a character in a prison football movie

    • TheInvisibleEnigma

      You should probably want Clowney, since they already have Watt. A team can’t double team both of those mofos.

      • Epsilonicus

        True. But they have NO ONE at QB

        • TheInvisibleEnigma

          Fixing QB problems start with getting OL, not a QB. More NFL teams need to realize this.

          (Disclaimer: I don’t actually know if the Texans’ OL is already good or not.)

          • Epsilonicus

            They are solid.

    • All of the work ethic red flags in the world can’t beat an SEC double team, man.

  • rooseveltdunn

    Slaves were not paid millions of dollars to play a game. Liking R.Kelly’s music does not make one an idiot, if that’s the case what does that make Michael Jackson fans ? I think people are way too self righteous on the internet.

    • Val

      “I think people are way too self righteous on the internet.”

      Just on the internet?

    • BreezyX2

      Roosie: Who peed in your Fruit Loops?!? :)

    • The Champ

      “I think people are way too self righteous on the internet.”

      what’s the alternative?

      • BreezyX2

        BOL!!!!!!!!!!

      • rooseveltdunn

        You can call an artist’s bad behavior without calling fans of his or her music “idiots” half the rappers you like probably aren’t role models either. The NFL combine shouldn’t be compared to slavery. These kids have a choice, slaves didn’t. Moreover these guys have the chance to make millions. Slaves didn’t have much to look forward to. No animosity ijs.

  • Michelle

    You hate periods and commas too.

  • WELP, as a non NFL fan, you sure dont make me wanna rush to watch a game, Champy.

    Great post, wonderful perspective….and ya know the irony? 53% of today’s comments thread is gonna leap right over the narrative and get right back into discussing the draft lol….shame I say!! #staywoke!!

    • The Champ

      “…and ya know the irony? 53% of today’s comments thread is gonna leap right over the narrative and get right back into discussing the draft lol..”

      even more ironic? i’ll be part of that 53%.

      • quite the conundrum, Batman!!

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