Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bob Lobel: Our Love/Hate Relationship With the Violent Culture of the NFL

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

You can ask yourself how it's possible that all the domestic violence furor of the past two weeks somehow melts away in our consciousness, and is quickly replaced with something more pleasing to the senses.

The answer you'll get is pretty simple, simply because we are pretty simple. Simple and easily distracted seems to be the diagnosis. How is it that once some really good and exciting games are on TV, our whole focus shifts to the the easier task of watching and rooting, instead of the more difficult brain chore of analyzing and judging? 

Well, it's who we are, I guess. One great Payton Manning comeback followed by an equally outstanding team comeback of Seattle seems to do the trick. Will the outrage of the past weeks stay as focused and as harsh?

I don’t think so.

In fact, because the domestic stuff has become so common, it is kinda just another brick in the wall. There was one incident in the Denver-Seattle game that I need to mention. Since Wes Welker is one of those players that cause us to ask, “why can't we get players like that?” it does show we have a connection with him. In his case it’s a big and lasting connection on two fronts. 

The former Patriots wide out was such a Brady go-to-guy and such an instrumental piece of their recent success, that it alone makes us long for his return. But the connection to Welker runs deeper than that. I find myself worrying about his safety and his ultimate health. He had taken so many head-to-head brain crunching shots as a Patriot, we feared for his future since he lives in concussion world. 

Even now, as a Bronco, I feel some kinship for his success and health. There was one play that really bothered me Sunday. Manning was intercepted and behind play Welker was crushed by a Seattle defensive back. I mean hammered when he never saw it coming.  

It was a totally unnecessary hit, but for some reason, no flag nor any commentary by CBS announcers or replay. It was there in real time, it would be there in slow motion. It was brutal. 

Yet, Welker got up and went to his sideline. I don’t know how he has taken so many of those crushing, defenseless hits and keeps coming back. Yeah, he's tough, but I don’t think this makes him smart. 

My colleague Bob Ryan, ironically in a Sunday column, simply made a declarative statement, “Wes, just quit. Quit now!" 

I can't echo that enough. When it comes to his health we all can be fortune tellers, and what we see for him in the crystal ball or the tea leaves is not good. Not good at all. On this play I mention, I don’t get why CBS chose to ignore it. Well, maybe because of how fragile the NFL seemed with the public, any unnecessary publicity on violence would be the mission statement of the telecast.  

So it's violence we crave and it's violence we abhor. Which is it? Can we have it both ways? Clearly fantasy leagues and gambling interests are fueling the league and breathing new life into a product that was doing just fine with its television partners. 

Now, who needs who more? Network TV needs football, but does football need network TV? I think the answer to that is both would be greatly diminished without the other. The NFL is the ultimate reality show when reality shows run the business. 

This all well and good until a player punches a woman, or a guy like Wes Welker pays the ultimate price for his work. I hate to even say it as a commoner, but he will, and everybody knows it.

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