“Did you guys even watch the show?”
5 Posted on April 7th, 2012 by Himself
Sometimes I wonder whether most football fans actually like football. I mean, the real game, as it's actually played, under the actual conditions it's actually played, actually.
The whole "Bountygate" thing and the reaction to it has got me thinking about this—especially the reaction to Gregg Williams's audio self-emasculation in San Francisco (what better venue?). The consensus seems to be that what Williams said was actually (there's that word again) not anywhere near a rarity for an NFL locker room. Or even a high school locker room. Which is true. You could add sports bar or online message board.
But I keep reading things like "this is not to defend Gregg Williams, but…" Or "this doesn't make what Gregg Williams said any less despicable…" Or simply larding descriptions with unctuous gobbets like "disgusting" or "cowardly" (which seems nowadays simply to mean whatever the writer doesn't like).
What amazes me is that anyone takes it this seriously.
I'm not talking about the media. Their job is to stoke outrage, and if they could find some way to make you hate puppies and rainbows (and if it sold ad space) they'd jump on it with both cloven feet. I'm talking about the fans: the people who watch the games, buy the jerseys, waste their time on …er, blogs. Don't you guys pay attention? Don't you understand that what Gregg Williams said on that tape was in no way revealing, either of his character or of the culture of the NFL?
"But he called for his players to target head injuries! He wanted to break ankles and mess up ACLs! I heard it!"
Yeah, and so did the players. How did they respond? Was the 49ers game remarkable for its carnage? Did San Francisco run out of ambulances and resort to pushcarts and cable cars to transport the flood of casualties to area hospitals? No? Well, isn't this what's usually known as, I don't know, evidence?
What you heard on that tape was rhetoric. I would have thought that anyone who has spent the last three years listening to what comes out of Washington would be familiar with the concept of words that sound strong but mean nothing. It's perfectly true that every locker room, from peewee on up, hears some variation of this. What's less well understood (apparently) is that NFL players have been hearing this crap since peewee, and by now they don't pay much attention to anything except tone of voice. Think of it: a large man, in the advanced stages of testosterone (and maybe steroid) poisoning, moments before being unleashed on the foe. Do you think he hears much more than "MRPH NRSNRGL TRMBRF THRM!!!!" You tell me what that means.
In fact, part of the reason the Saints' defense was so crappy when it counted is, I'm sure, that Gregg Williams relied overmuch on ineffective inspirational rhetoric, and not effective schemes.
But there's another, deeper layer to this strange fan reaction: did you not know that hurting your opponent is a large part of playing football? Have you listened, for years, to announcers talk about the courage a receiver needs to "go across the middle" and you still don't know what they mean? They mean, he's going to get hit hard, and he knows it. Are you saying you didn't?
Here's your epiphany: knocking players out of the game, deliberately, is a time-honored strategy in the game that you love. Football is as brutal as boxing. Players don't often deliberately try to injure an opponent; but they also don't much care if they do. Not at the time, anyway. Every one of them knows he's putting his ACL on the line every time he takes the field; they all ante up, and if someone loses big…well, that's tough luck. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it.
So what you should be focusing on is this: the game you love, have loved, for as long as you've followed it, is and always has been just like Gregg Williams laid it out. And that, I think, is what's behind all the hate suddenly being poured out over Williams: he has to be unique. Because if not, if he's representative of NFL football, what does that say about the people paying for it all?