Jeremiah Short, Feature Writer
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez got arrested yesterday for the murder of an acquaintance, Odin Lloyd. It’s the most recent in a long line of NFL players getting charged with violence against others outside of the field of play.
Who’s to blame for this unspeakable violence by NFL players? The NFL culture? Their upbringing? Rap music?
While looking for the answer to the question, we should all take a look in the mirror.
Football players are celebrated as modern day gladiators–champions of their arena. They are taught from an early age to be AGGRESSIVE, to ATTACK and to SWARM.
An opponent is an enemy who you must destroy. If your teammate is in trouble, you must attack and eviscerate whoever is causing it. These are lessons preached from day one in Pop Warner.
I can still remember as a high school football player being lined up against my older brother and feeling hesitant to do so. My coach pulled me aside and told me: “Off the field, he’s your brother. On this field, he’s your enemy.”
That’s the mentality you must develop as a football player. Your opponent is an enemy, not a friend or family member.
Why is that the case? It’s the case because you have to want to hurt your opponent. And it’s the only way to survive.
It doesn’t mean that mindset has to carry over off the field. Tim Tebow, Troy Palamalu, and DeMarcus Ware have proven that it doesn’t have to. They’re aggressive and menacing on the field, but mild and relaxed off of it.
They are the exception but not the rule, though. Jovan Belcher, Adam “Pac Man” Jones and Chad Johnson have shown that the violence does spill over sometimes.
Why do we support it? We support it because we love the violence. And we believe the violence is a necessary evil and collateral damage for the sport we love.
Players jump someone in a club. Ah, kids will be kids. We can’t lose next year because of a stupid club fight.
Player hits his girlfriend. He deserves a second chance. Who else we got that runs a 4.2?
Player rapes a girl. The girl is lying. He would never rape someone. Who else we got that can throw like him?
Hypothetical examples, right? We would love to think so.
The Steubenville, Ohio community’s reaction to the charges and eventual convictions of Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond displayed how people can overlook the violence of football players. Evidence clearly showed their guilt. But the community still supported them.
Even after the allegations that he tried to cover up the crime, Reno Saccocia, Steubenville High’s head football coach, was given a contract extension, not fired.
It’s a sad day when a rape victim gets vilified and the coach who tried to cover up the crime gets rewarded.
But I’m not surprised by it.
Football represents a society that thirst for violence. Game of Thrones, Dexter and Breaking Bad are required viewing despite the shows violent nature.
If society teaches you that violence is accepted, then you will act violently. I don’t need to have a Psychology degree to tell you that.
Football is controlled violence, though.
In football, you do have to play with a certain level of control. Sometimes playing aggressive means that you have to play out of control, though.
The right thing for an offensive tackle to do after pancaking a defensive lineman is to help him up. In football, you are trained to knock him back down.
How is that any different than society? Instead of just beating your competition, we are all taught to beat them into submission.
There’s one difference between football players and the Average Joe: They can get away with the violence.
Athletes from other sports, entertainers and politicians get away with crimes, too.
Yea. But are they trained to be violent like football players? No
Here’s the sobering fact: This violence will continue and possibly get worse. What’s the incentive for football players to stop being violent off the field? None.
Of course some will go to jail. The rest will get second, third, fourth and fifth chances.
Aaron Hernandez certainly did. He’s had problems with the law dating back to his days as a Florida Gator. No one cared that the kid was spiraling out of control. The Gators were winning games and that’s all that mattered.
Those troubles did cost Hernandez money. While he was a first-round talent, he got drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round.
The Patriots pride themselves on high character players, yet they still selected Hernandez.
Why? Because he could help them win games.
They didn’t care that Hernandez was a violent troublemaker. He was a 6’3, 245 pound asset that could help Bill Belichick win another Super Bowl. That’s all that mattered.
No one criticized the pick. Maybe if they did, Odin Lloyd wouldn’t have met his untimely demise.