Football Goes Incognito

Nov 12, 2013 -- 1:38pm

Maybe they could put Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in evening gowns and have them talk about ending world hunger.  Instead I hear Incognito was spotted giving Bob Costas a wedgie.  Even if you aren’t a sports fan you may have by now watched or listened to a story about the supposedly feuding Miami Dolphins linemen.  Oddly some stories I’ve read maintain teammates of the two men are mystified with some players insisting the two were very close.  Martin walked away from the club claiming he was being harassed by Incognito and now the latter is, for the moment, off the team.

Richie Incognito is a very good football player and while it’s reported he has a checkered history it seems most of the men who play alongside him don’t have any issues.  I saw a TV clip with Incognito last night and he also comes across as articulate (which may not mean intelligent and since public school graduates are reading this it may need to be explained.) 

Many of the recent public relations issues for the National Football League (if these are really serious issues at all) would appear amplified by the leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The Commissioner is a football man in the sense he has been hanging around the office a long time.  Since college when his politically connected father got him an internship at the league office.  The elder Goodell was a liberal Republican from Western New York State anointed by Nelson Rockefeller to run for U.S. Senate.  Goodell was humiliated at the polls and a Conservative Party candidate was elected Senator. 

Young Roger’s job is to increase profits for football.  He talks about placing teams in Europe and Asia but would also like to interest more women in the game.  A game where large men running at full speed collide with each other.  Had Goodell been in charge in the 1970s he likely would’ve insisted Jack Lambert wear his teeth on the field.  Lest some young damsel be overcome from fear with the vapors. 

I can’t speak about the NFL as anything more than a weekly observer.  I’m enthralled by the game but I haven’t had a helmet strapped to my head since high school.  I was a mediocre athlete at best but thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of riding the team bus and the shenanigans at practice and in the locker room.  There were older players on the team and they weren’t always nice and there is definitely a pecking order in football.  The guy running the offense is at the top and the fellows protecting him for a long time are regarded with respect as elders. 

I can tell you that during football season my arms were bruised from shoulders to fingertips and the fingertips were often pinched, cut and bloody.  Joints and muscles ached and my shins were often raw.  A coach once late in a game called a sweep with the goal to round to the sideline and take out the opposing mentor.  All of these things are magnified exponentially in the college ranks and then even more so in the professional ranks.  Football isn’t a pageant or ballet.  It’s about winning and clawing your way to victory.  Goodell should know better but he has spent his adult life sipping expensive Cabernet while his market guzzles Yuengling and Natty Boh. 

 

Somewhere in a box I haven’t opened in decades is a trophy.  I got it for playing what is generally called Pop Warner Football in most parts of the country.  We had a pretty good team and we tied for second in the regular season standings.  Two teams played for the championship and our ball club didn’t make the cut.  We lost second place on a tie-breaking formula.  Everybody on the team got a trophy for showing up to play.  I guess it was the beginning of the end.  The trophy is buried in a box because I didn’t do anything special and as a team we didn’t do anything special.  I’m sure I’m not alone in my thoughts.  Most of the now grown men on the team were disappointed in our performance.  We were supposed to go all the way!  We didn’t.  So you tough it out and get up the next morning and vow to be better.  If someone comes along and gives you a kick in the ass to get you there you should be thankful.  Or at least it was once the story.  The people in large American institutions define success only in terms of profit.  The tough guys once making it possible are no longer in demand.  It’s a system doomed to failure.  

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