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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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No Longer Ready for Some Football

Uploaded: Nov 11, 2013
The Miami Dolphins are playing on Monday Night Football this evening ? I won't be watching.

Football has lost me, and not just because of the current bullying imbroglio involving two gigantic linemen ? I actually think that's an interesting phenomenon that may mark a turning point for the league as a place of employment. The game has lost me because I no longer believe it's worth several weekend hours to watch it.

It wasn't always that way. Growing up back east, the Browns of Jim Brown and Paul Warfield were my idols, at least until the local Buffalo Bills with star receiver Elbert Golden Wheels Dubenion won my heart. My Dad's stock went through the roof when he scored us tickets to see Jackie Kemp and our boys dispatch the Hated Patriots in a frigid play-off (except they didn't). I broke a leg in three places playing the game in high school, and I'd have played the next season if I had healed adequately.

Later, I was in the student section when undermanned Michigan beat the Team of the Century from some school down south, forty-four years ago. I loved the grace of Lance Alworth and the true grit of Walter Payton. I even recall an epic playoff tilt between those Dolphins and the Chargers, in their gorgeous powder blue jerseys, sometime back in the 1980s. Yeah, I like unis ? as do Many other fans of all stripes.

My fanship started to wane in the 1990s. The game seems increasingly ponderous ? five or ten seconds of frantic action, followed each time by minutes of lull (and that doesn't even count the TV time-outs). It's just a war over real estate -- there's no flow, a la basketball, hockey or even soccer, and little in the way of intellectual stimulation between plays. Your mileage may vary, but in baseball, with every pitch I can ruminate on the next one (slider/curve/ change-up/heat , down/up, in/out), placement of the defense, steal/hit-run/stay, who's up in the bullpen, and are the Hated Angels losing? I've heard baseball called an onion ? enjoyable at any layer and you'll never reach the center. Football is a potato.

I also don't trust the game any more. When I was in college, I thought that All-American lineman Dan Dierdorf was the biggest man I'd ever seen. He filled a doorway and went on to be a perennial all-pro tackle. He weighed about 275 ? barely big enough for a back-up tight end in today's game of routine 350-pounders.

I have no independent evidence (as a former fan, I don't need any), but neither the species nor the training tables have evolved to account for the difference ? chemistry, however, has. I suspect that foreign substances account for both the size and nasty, taunting edge on today's players. In the NFL, a catch over the middle may earn you a racist spit in the face; in baseball, a player hits a single and chats-up the first baseman ? certainly nothing more inflammatory than the needling classic "how's your wife and my kids?"

Finally, I've concluded that it's not worth patronizing a game that costs even its best competitors their futures. Granted, this is not dog fighting, where the combatants have no chance to consent or decline to participate (what brought that comparison to mind?). But not-a-game goes by without a cart-off injury, and the debilitations of brain injuries born of chronic whackings are tragic to behold, years later. Have you seen recent footage of Earl Campbell? The Tyler Rose can barely rise from his wheelchair; his speech is often unintelligible. There is a gladiatorial aspect to these contests that obscures the competition: "Am I not entertained?" No, I'm not.

So, the current bluster-ruckus over "locker room culture" may be confirming, but it does not lie at the heart of my disinterest. For the record, workplace discrimination in the form of harassment has been illegal since 1964. While the sex-based variant has gotten most of the ink, if harassment is based on some protected characteristic (race, color, sex, religion, national origin), is unwelcome, and sufficiently "severe and pervasive" to alter its object's terms and conditions of employment, then it's illegal. If there's evidence that management ordered or even condoned those actions, then the employer is liable for maintaining or allowing a hostile work environment. Expensively so.

Boys-are-boys, and rough traditional workplace 'culture' are not defenses ? the law stands for the proposition that bullying behaviors that target certain status factors, and that make a person's job differentially, importantly more difficult to do, need not be tolerated. It's true in shipyards, steel mills, truck terminals and law firms ? all of which have had to conform their 'cultures' to the law. That's not 'wussification,' as has been charged by at least one troglodyte on sports talk radio ? think of it as leveling the playing field.

The NFL is no different. The investigation proceeds, but for the reasons above, I am mostly indifferent to the outcome. Along with the Eagles (LA variety), I'm already gone. How about you?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Selwyn Spears, a resident of another community,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Humans repeatedly colliding into each other with the force of a car wreck was appealing when I was younger. The biggest hits videos were great entertainment but as I've gotten older my interest has waned.

I don't believe for a second this type of incident is isolated to the dolphins and the NFL can't legislate this behavior out of the game. It this aggressive, bullying nature, that promotes inflicting as much physical and mental punishment on your opponent that defines football.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I have always preferred watching soccer on Telemundo.

I almost never watch American football. I don\'t especially like it.

Sports are competitive. I\'m not surprised that the behavior of many players is somewhat perverted.

I\'m pleased that the bully player got reported and I\'m looking forward to reading a detailed report of the proceedings.

Posted by JDMeister, a resident of another community,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I often wonder about the fascination of fat sweaty men bending over in tight pants.
That never has captured my attention..
Are you ready for some football?

Posted by BH Taylor, a resident of San Ramon,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Great article. Brought back memories.

During the 1970's, I lived in Alameda. Everyone I knew back then was a die-hard Raider fan. In fact, my friend's mother was part of the Raider's Booster Club. Because she was from Mississippi, she had a natural attraction for this southern boy named Ken Stabler. He was still a rookie then. Stabler, Dave Dalby, Dave Casper, John Vella and many other Raider players would stop by the house for dinner and socialize. Every time I went over to my friend's house, which was quite often as you might expect, I would always ask which Raider player was coming over. And when the players socialized with us "kids," you could only imagine what was talked about at school the next day.

Stabler at one point even threw passes to George and I right there in the middle of Pacific Ave! Heck, my other friend and I (both in jr. high school at the time) were at the playoff game when the Raiders beat the Patriots at the Coliseum in 1976, and moved on to beat the Vikings in the Superbowl. As a big pissed off John Hannah (former lineman for the Pats) exited the field, my friend reached over and grabbed his dangling chin strap off his helmut. I remember seeing the biggest arm I ever saw come up swinging. Fortunately, we were sitting a few rows up from the players tunnel so he couldn't get us. Man, I loved football back then.

But now? Tom, I have to agree with you. Maybe it's age that's causing, or has caused me to lose interest in the game that I so dearly loved to watch and play. I feel the flow of the game, in my opinion, has been severely hampered by instant replay. And you are so right about the incredible size of today's players. Maybe it's just that football has become too big a sport. I don't know.

Let me just say this. About 15 years ago I saw John Madden having lunch at my friend's former restaurant in Pleasanton. Madden was sitting there talking to my friend Mike. Mike introduced me to Madden, and I asked Mr. Madden if I could ask him just one question. He said, "Sure, go ahead." I asked him what he thought the difference was between football at that time (1990's) versus football back in the 1970's. I'll never forget this. He said, "Brad, football in the 70's was fun, it wasn't the big business that it's turned out to be." Mr. Madde was right.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

Thanks for these comments, folks. I'm actually surprised that the comments have been uniformly positive about the direction of the column. Not sure why that is -- maybe all the football fans are busy, watching football?

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

Poor Tom. He attacks a popular American sport and nobody takes his bait.

The main thing I hate about Monday Night Football is the opening vignette.

It begins by showing the early footage of MNF games from the 1970?s, highlights, Howard Cosell, etc. All that is GREAT. It?s better than great. It is awesome.

But then they show various political clips, then 9/11. And THEN, worst of all, they show Obama saying, ?Yes we can.?

Yes, we can?what? Kill hundreds of little kids with illegal drone strikes and then brag, ?I?m really good at killing people??

Yes, we can illegally spy on you, without consequence?

Yes, we can lie repeatedly about cancelling your health insurance?

People should be able to watch football in peace. No politics allowed.

I want to see Hail Mary passes, one-handed interceptions, cheerleaders, 300 pound guys running 40 yards in under 4 seconds and other impossibilities.

I?d rather watch a commercial about Playtex tampons than watch a clip of Obama.

Thank God for Tivo.

Posted by Bart, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

Let's see. All kinds of turmoil swirling regarding the Richie Incognito and others bullying their teammate, possibly indicating a culture of racism and terrorism of men by other men: millionaire players describing life in the NFL as life in a violent maximum security prison. Then there's the issue of how football fits into our society, perhaps as expression and release of pent-up violence that's stored and increased in a society that demands surplus repression as a requirement of success, if not perhaps even survival. In other words, all kinds of interesting things that could be said about football....

But does the blogger offer up any such discussion? Nope. Instead we have a narcissistic ramble - hey, he just doesn't like football anymore because, like, he can sit and try to figure what the next pitch will be in baseball but, you know, like he can't try to figure out the next play in football because, unlike the flow of hockey and its own brand of violence throughout the game, the narcissist just can't get into it. And so now he's sooooo over football. Or something like that. So, any surprise at the quality of commentary generated by the fluff piece, wrapped up in narcissistic rumination? Moooo.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 9:32 am

Aw, S-P, don't cry for me, My-o-pia. The truth is, there's clicks aplenty. Web Link

What never ceases to amaze me is the depth of the enmity among those who oppose the Prez -- it's downright obsessive. For example, there's your irrelevancy above, and just this AM a facebook friend posted a simple math challenge that was immediately greeted with an unrelated Obama slur. Which he welcomed. Yikes. Usually, I try to stay away from responses like "Go outside!" or "Get a life!" -- but I'm beginning to understand them better.

As you say, "People should be allowed to watch football in peace -- no politics allowed." Yup -- and that goes for reading about it, too.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:06 am

@'Bart': you've taken a very easy road here, but first: must there be a new identity with every post? Couldn't you at least have continued your convention of including something vegetative in your alias -- I don't know, maybe Bart Banana?

Had I written about any of those topics you have listed, like everybody else is, the objection would be that this material is cumulative -- nothing new, piling-on, so to speak, in a 'third-rate publication.' Instead, by taking a personal tack (as most blogs do, at some level), I become "narcissistic" -- repeated three times in one paragraph. Okay. I will try to stick with universal, but as-yet undiscovered truths in future columns, and leave all this 'opinion' business behind. I fear I won't succeed, though, at least not to your satisfaction.

Posted by Chemist, a resident of Downtown,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:24 am

Interesting that folks seem to be losing interest in football at a time when my interest is returning - thanks to the DVR. I don't start watching until I have at least two hours buffered up. Then, with remote in hand, I can watch the game and fast forward through advertisements, idiotic commentary, "miked-up" players, and cheerleaders waving various items around. I love football, and during the 3+ hours that have been recorded on my DVR, there is usually about 15 minutes of good football. Give it a try, Tom. Baseball is boring.

Posted by Bart, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

Okay, then, very well, an admission. You have nothing to say. Except to tell everyone that you no longer watch football, and that you have an odd fixation on fruit. I'll accept the mysterious banana assignation. I wonder what that makes you? Never mind, that doesn't interest me.

I guess you and I have a different idea re. blogging. When it first arose as a phenomenon, it brought about a hope that more critical voices would be brought into the democratic public sphere. There have been a couple handful of quite excellent blogger contributors. But the hope has been dashed by what many others feared -- that the medium would be taken over by self-absorbed yuck-it-up-yokels who have nothing of substance to offer. What began as democratic hope has quickly descended into the static-filled blight of narcissus. Critique of football? A critique that is much needed but has been largely absent because mainstream reporters are afraid of not getting future interviews with bruised players or not having a job tomorrow after having irritating owners and their editors who want to keep players on the plantation? Naw. Hey, everybody's talking about it. Really. So why ME? But I'll tell you what: I like baseball better than football! That's MY contribution. Everything else has already been said, so why should I bother? Exactly.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

@'BART': Well, at least you've shed your colloquial voice, and resumed the imperious professorial persona. Welcome back. Far from a fruit fetish, my observation about your various IDs reflects the fact that Mike Cherry, Max Peachman, Joany B(?), Judith Avocado and now 'Bart' have all posted here recently, from the very same IP address. That phenomenon suggests multiple personalities, on-line at least -- or maybe you're really Mr. Applebaum's creative writing class at Cal High, taking turns?

Anyway, for a gathering of alter egos, one of which admitted to having only a single publishable thought every several months, you're not very tolerant of a guy who appears here roughly twice a week. You'll just have to sort through all those horse nuggets. In the off-chance that you discover a serviceable pony in the pile, I hope you will let us all know.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Wait a minute. So Bart is really Max Peachman? WOAH. I thought he was doing a lecture series in Europe? What happened? Is he back? Did his gig get cancelled?

I liked that guy.

Speaking of cool guys, remember that guy who had the rainbow wig? He used to be at all the games in the 70?s and 80?s. He?d show up somewhere in the stands, often next to the guys holding the John 3:16 banners.

Whatever happened to that dude? I thought about dressing up as him for Halloween.

Posted by Bart, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Studiously poring over posters' IP numbers.... Shows real conscientiousness toward, what?, people using different names -- sort of like, Tom Cushing, Citizen Paine, Citizen, and probably several others you use?

Why are you so fetishizing my name? Is it against the law, or against the rules of bloggerdom, for posters to use different names? My understanding is that the rules require that one stick with the name one uses on any given thread. This I do. Unlike yourself where not only have you posted under the name Tom Cushing, but you then have Citizen Paine and others posting on your very own thread, so desperate is the narcissist attempting to drum up interest in and response to his ordinarily rather thinly assembled blog/post.

Anything to say, really, about football, blogging, and the democratic public sphere? Not even through a resort to an alternative moniker? Didn't think so. No, that you've studied posters' IP numbers and have some catty remarks about their name choices is all you can muster.

I'm sure all five of your readers (keep clicking that re-read button) will find it of interest that you've got their IP's pegged. Good work, Tom, or Citizen, or Citizen Paine, or whomever you're being today. Do you intend to next search out our home addresses? More than a little bit creepy if you ask me.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Tom is Citizen Paine?????? This is blowing my mind. WOAH!!!! Tom, is it true? That was you the whole time?

So Bart, are you really Max Peachman? How?s the lecture series going? What?s the lecture topic anyway? Do you have a book deal?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

That's olde news, S-P. Web Link Try to keep up.

So, fruit guy, you're Not Mr. Applebaum's class? I actually discovered your hobby by accident, when we were trying to figure-out who was flagging bunches of comments for no apparent reason. It was mildly annoying. Never solved that one, but there was this odd series of aliases... It's also useful to let folks know that those IP addresses are recorded -- it may tend to discourage abusive comments, of which, thankfully, I've had only a few. Anyway, sorry to have embarrassed you. Henceforth, your secret will be our secret.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lecture series for which to prepare.

Posted by Bart, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Dear spcwt,

Haven't left yet to give my lecture series in Europe. I do realize it must be difficult for you to imagine anyone actually leaving their house.

I'd share some of the contents of my lectures with you, but given your inability to read with comprehension so many of the posts here, I fear most of it would fly over your head, though I'm sure that wouldn't prevent you from offering a semi-coherent slam of anything polysyllabic that you think must therefore be a leftist plot to get Obama a third term.

Even bigger reason why I don't share my name. I'm afraid of the likes of you and your IP-studying alter. Since you clearly don't have a reputation to protect, you may not understand. Sorry. You're quite a fella, though. Ha-ha. Now, I don't want to distract you too much longer from your search of the internet for jokes about rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Have you ever thought about giving your lectures wearing a rainbow wig? Maybe it would help.

Just a suggestion.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

This is like one of those facebook moments, when folks you've friended from completely different eras in your life meet and start to correspond. Sometimes, they even befriend each other.

I don't think that will happen this time.

And S-P: Rainbow-wig-guy WAS the John 3:16 sign guy. He's not around sporting events anymore, mostly because he's in prison, perhaps for the duration. He apparently miss-timed the Rapture. Web Link Oh well, it happens. Who sez there's nothing to be learnt from my blog? Hmmmm?

Posted by Sharon R., a resident of Valley Trails,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm

For your next blog series Tom how about which is better on a hamburger or a hotdog, mustard or ketchup?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm

A rare opportunity, Ma'am -- I shall relish it.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Anyone who would put ketchup on a hot dog is a communist. Simple as that.

Posted by RH, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Nov 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

I have to agree, Tom. Looks like you and I are roughly the same age.

Fyi...In high school, I had to choose whether to be on the football or swimming team. I chose swimming. At age 62, I am still an active competitive swimmer (Masters Swimming), my knees are not arthritic, and I have a great deal of energy. I don't see many age 60+ Masters Football players these days.

While I will normally set aside a few minutes to watch some of the SuperBowl, I usually find other things to do than watch NFL games ... or pro basketball or baseball for that matter. Heck, even pro-fishing (which I wouldn't watch anyway) is laced with controversy these days.

Back to football, I wonder what the quality of college education would be like without all the expense of football (e.g. stadiums, equipment, scholarships, etc.).

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

@ Sharon: rats -- Mr. 'Huh?' beat me to it. That seems to be the complete answer. Sorry.

@ RH: sounds like you made a wise recreational career choice. I tried swimming, but decided it was just too pure in the drudgery department -- not enough to occupy or distract me from it. I was reminded of swimming when I trained for a mountain climb (many pounds ago) by trudging up-and-down in a high-rise stairwell. Without my Walkman (it was also many moons ago), I'd have jumped.

And chemist -- I'll try it, but I neglected to ask: do you discipline yourself to not learn of the outcome before you watch? Your blasphemy against The American Game is forgiven, for now.

Posted by William, a resident of another community,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

The NFL officially lost me for good this season. Here\'s a partial laundry list of the reasons why:

1. Far too many commercials.

2. Goodell turning it into the International Football League. With 1 regular season game being played in Toronto, and 2 in London (going to 3 starting next season), it can no longer be considered National.

3. What Madden said. In the 70s, football was fun. Starting around 1990 it was turning more and more into business.

4. Goodell\'s hypocrisy. He says he has the players\' safety at heart, yet has Thursday night games all season long, and wants more of them. He keeps beating the drum over an 18 game regular season schedule, lying when he says that\'s what the fans want. Not this fan.

5. The Redskins nickname debacle. So sick and tired of hearing about it.

6. The oversaturation of the product, which has become at best, mediocre. NFL Network, ESPN, internet, RedZone channel, it\'s just too much information anymore. What once used to feel like a unique and special event every Sunday has become rather humdrum.

7. Too much parity.

8. Later starts to playoff games. 8A. adding 2 more playoff teams.

The NFL was once a passion of mine. Now I feel nothing but apathy toward it.

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