In the wee hours of this morning I was watching Frontline, specifically a show about juvenille justice in Colorado. One of the last bits I got to watch before doing more work was an interview with the mother of a victim of juvenille crime. Something she said struck me to the extent that I feel the need to comment on it here. Now, in doing so, I want make absolutely clear that I am absolutely not trying to belitte her, or in any way lessen the nightmare she must have gone through. In fact, I'm going to talk about her situation at all(I didn't see the end of her segment, so I don't feel like I have enough informatino to form a valid opinion).
She was describing her son, and this is what she said: "He was always into sports. I never had to worry about him watching anything violent on television because it was always turned to sports while he was watching." This was interspersed with photos of the kid in his youth football uniform.
Huh? How ignorant do you have to be to make the claim that sports are non-violent?
This is especially silly when you consider the notable inclusion of football, which is almost certainly the most violent major sport. At a very basic level, the sole purpose of almost half a football team is to hit somebody else as hard as they can. Players effectively have to wear armor on the field. Players have to face the realistic possibility every time they go on the field that they could require surgery as a result of playing.
Now, I'm sure that she would claim that there is a big difference between sports violence and real life violence. And on the face of it, that does make sense. But the unfortunate truth is that that separation is less absolute than anyone might like. Football players have more than their fair share of run-ins with the law. In fact, these days the NFL is doing a very public push to crack down on its worst offenders, because there have been some very scary incidents with players doing things like, say, waving a gun around outside a nightclub. It would seem that even those that play at the highest level, and who literally have millions to lose for misbehaving in public, are still often unable to control themselves.
Now, does that mean I think we should ban football, or for that matter change the game to make it less violent? No. I, like millions of Americans, love the game as it is (though I do think toughening conduct standards is a good idea). But I also think we need to be realistic about how violent football is, and how it teaches aggressiveness as a necessary part of that. The players already know this, I am almost certain. But it's something fans need to understand if they are properly going to evaluate the game and it's effects.