A coworker has a bumper sticker that says, “I Stand Against Genocide.”
Every now and then, Channel 8/WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen puffs out his chest, points his baby blues straight into the camera, and delivers a long, impassioned speech about morality and values. Bullying and gay bashing are a couple of his recent diatribes.
His latest example: his hardline stance against the Dallas Cowboys for signing former Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy to a contract. Hardy beat up a former girlfriend, which is obviously wrong. Good thing Hansen is around to remind us.
“I don’t care how good he is,” Hansen spoke into the camera on Wednesday. “I don’t care if the Cowboys made a great deal. And I absolutely don’t care about the argument so many of you make that what he does off the field just doesn’t matter if he can help you win on the field. Is there no line you won’t cross? Is there no crime you won’t accept? Is there no behavior you will not tolerate?
“The Cowboys have decided players who use illegal drugs can play. You drive drunk and kill a teammate … putting everyone on that highway at risk … there’s a place on this team for you. You can rob a department store and play. And now you can beat a woman and play with a star on your helmet.”
Hanson knows football is a violent sport played by men who earn millions of dollars in exchange for hurting one another. Anyone who plays football from grade school up to the pros has listened to about 20 different coaches over a period of two decades all basically preaching the same thing: Get out on the field and hit somebody!
Generations of sportscasters during Hansen’s heyday routinely turned a blind eye to the side effects of athletes spending their lives knocking the hell out of one another. Side effects include drug and booze abuse, aggressive behavior in public, domestic abuse, child abuse, and more. Michael Vick is the poster child for evil-doer dogfighter. But NFL players had apparently long been involved in watching pit bulls attack each other and fight to the death before Vick was arrested in 2007. Football players are warriors; dogfighting is symbolic of what they do.
I doubt many athletes are involved in that scene anymore after seeing Vick get his just desserts. I also doubt sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL on a daily basis were unaware of the problem. And surely they knew of the special little mansions rented for players to drink, drug, and screw themselves silly on a regular basis on the way to those Super Bowls.
Now everything’s blown wide open. Jerry Jones gets drunk in a bar and talks smack these days, somebody’s got it recorded and posted on YouTube before you can say, “Tell Gomer hey!” The advent of social media (and video cameras in elevators) makes it harder to hide the behavior that, in part, stems from being a warrior.
Self-righteous judgment abounds, led locally by Mother Hansen.
How’s this for a thought? Let the criminal justice system make its judgment on the lawbreakers and hand down sentences. After they pay their debt to society, let them go on about their lives, including resuming the right to earn a livelihood.
The guy who drove drunk, the guy Hansen deems too much a lowlife to be on this team, is Josh Brent. He and Jerry Brown Jr. went out drinking one night and Brent wrecked out. Brown was killed. Brent went through the court system, served his jail time, lost his job, and paid his legal penance. He made a mistake and killed a friend, a friend who knowingly and willingly climbed into a car with a drunken driver. I’m proud of the Cowboys for giving Brent another chance.
We could ask Jerry Jones to sign Gandhi to middle linebacker and Taylor Swift to nose tackle, and we’d have the nicest team in the NFL. And we’d stink.
I’ll end this rambling rant with a personal note, which doesn’t excuse these players’ behavior but helps explain it. I played football until I graduated high school. I’ve always been a laid-back fellow, but by my teens I’d had so many coaches in my ear that my personality changed. I grew volatile, drove aggressively, wrecked cars, and picked fights. After I quit playing football, it still took several years to get that violent streak out of my system. During that time I would sometimes pick fights in bars with total strangers for no reason. I lost most every fight but didn’t care. I wanted to inflict pain, but more importantly I wanted to feel pain. I missed having wounds and itchy scabs to pick.
Now I’m the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. Maybe Brent and Hardy are too. It’s not for me to judge.