Took a look at the front page "above the fold" of the Morris newspaper this morning, through the glass at the DeToy's vending machine, and - guess what? - there's a big splash about the Minnesota Vikings. Surprise! Oh of course it's not a surprise, it's knee-jerk on the part of the paper. It's totally predictable hype.
The Vikings were here as part of a rather odd award that was bestowed on us. Does anyone really think we have the finest football program in the state? We're a community of 5000 on the western Minnesota prairie. We have the benefit of an artificial turf field that we would not have, were it not for the presence of UMM here.
Our school gets 10,000 bucks as part of the deal. If we're so well-endowed already, why do we need an extra $10,000? Maybe the money should be directed to where there's more need. Oh wait, our society doesn't reason like that anymore. In the business world our goal is to "make a killing," reflecting the Mitt Romney ethos. Why not just work to make a decent profit and to prioritize other things like church, family and community?
Morris bows down for a week and acts totally wowed by a behemoth entertainment enterprise that exists solely to maximize profit. When I first heard about our award, I was told we were being honored as "the best football team in the state." Since we had recently been beaten by BOLD, I was perplexed by this, and asked with furrowed brow how we could be considered "best in the state." I got basically a blank look in response. I irritate people sometimes in the community by being too analytical.
I was also puzzled when seeing a quote from an award spokesperson in reference to our "marching band." I am not aware of the Morris school having a marching band. We see a "drum line" once in a while but that isn't the same thing. Does that drum line actually go out on the field and do anything special at halftime? (The quote was with the original coverage of the award.)
I haven't been to a game in four years. I can't come back until I go digital with my photography. I'm not sure I should want to come back. There are pressures today to reduce our interest in football, for the sake of the young men who play it. I'm so thankful I never played it. But why should I be thankful for that? Why does the temptation to play football exist in the first place?
Football was actually a controversial sport in the early 20th Century. The forward pass was implemented to try to reduce the danger. Why do men, as opposed to women, choose to expose themselves to such great risk with their bodies and brains? Women would find this unthinkable.
Think of the way Wally Hilgenberg died. Think of the way Fred McNeill died. Can we defend any sport with these kind of consequences? How can we rationalize supporting it? Why do we put up purple banners welcoming the Vikings and bow down at their feet, in effect? I suspect the Vikings saw a need for a little public relations outreach in the western part of the state.
Given our asset of Big Cat Stadium, that huge structure that sits cold and empty all winter, Morris probably seemed a logical place for the Vikings to invest their efforts. And we were all wide-eyed about it, most willing to oblige this big entertainment corporation which can be likened to big tobacco as tobacco went through its throes of decline due to an enlightened public.
I wonder about the future of football in small communities that have the old-fashioned football fields, natural grass and ramshackle bleachers. Will those towns begin to feel like they're on the short end for the "haves/have nots" model? The interest in football is likely to go down in those communities. Fewer boys will go out, thankfully, and the teams that do get fielded are likely to lose badly vs. the "haves." So a cycle could grow where the "have nots" shrivel up more and perhaps cancel their programs.
So what we'll get, in all likelihood, is a "club system" for the sport where teams represent fairly wide regions and the young men commute. It remains to be seen if even this model is sustainable, given the constant revelations about how football is not a prudent sport choice for young men.
And why should there be any sport that is gender-limited? We accept the premise today that a woman can do anything a man can. So, why a sport for men and boys only? Well, the response might be, women couldn't withstand the punishment of football. But we're learning that men cannot absorb this punishment either.
Why is it taking so long for our society to phase out football? Nowhere else in the world do we see this kind of mania about football. We see it about soccer but not football. Why are we so discordant? For that matter, why do we stand alone by trying to assert, as Congress did so loudly last week, that health care is not a right for all? I have faith in this nation while I think the worm will turn.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org