extirpate [ek-ster-peyt, ik-stur-peyt] v. used w/ obj. 1. to remove or destroy totally; do away with; exterminate 2. to pull up by or as if by the roots; root up: to extirpate an unwanted hair
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759), Samuel F. B. Morse (1791), Ulysses S. Grant (1822), Jack Klugman (1922), Casey Kasem (1932), Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (1948), Kate Pierson (1948), Ace Frehley (1951), Sheena Easton (1959)
This past weekend, the NFL conducted its annual draft and it was all anyone could talk about. I didn’t really pay much attention. The only time I care about football is when it’s actually being played. To me, the draft seems to be just another reason for NFL fans, most of whom I regard as whiners, to bitch and moan, ask each other why their particular team took one guy and not another, failed to draft a player at one position and not another, and so on and so forth.
For the past several years the relationship between the NFL and its fans has fascinated me. Football enthusiasts are mostly fanatics, highly devoted folks who expect a lot from their chosen organization. Curiously, though, the same expectations do not extend to the individual athletes. And here’s why I think that’s so.
First and foremost, I’m a hockey fan. Training camp for the NHL begins at the end of each summer and the Stanley Cup Finals usually wrap up sometime in early summer of the next year. By comparison, NFL training camps start in early August and the Super Bowl is usually played the first week of February. In addition, football teams play once a week while hockey (and basketball and baseball) teams might play several times in the same amount of time. Bottom line, football fans feel an urgency, a need to do as much as they can with the little time afforded them. It’s the reason fall/winter Sunday afternoons and, to a slightly lesser extent, Monday nights have been bestowed with an almost venerable aura. There’s an almost obligatory sense to watch football when it’s on. You didn’t watch the game yesterday afternoon? Why not? You’d better have a bulletproof alibi.
The brevity of the NFL season also has an impact on its players. It provides them more time to pursue other interests with the massive amounts of cash they accumulate over the year. The majority of the athletes go home to their families, maybe investing in a hometown restaurant or contributing their time in a charitable fashion. But there are those who don’t make the best choices when it comes to how they spend their money and time in the offseason, getting in trouble with the law in a variety of ways. It seems you can’t turn on SportsCenter without seeing a new feature on some NFL knucklehead being brought up some kind of charges. Their actions are part bad decision making, part too much time and money on their hands. Someone’s bound to get into trouble.
When these stories come out, there’s always a heavy dose of public outrage by NFL fans and pundits. But it’s never sustained. The player always pays the fine or, less often, does the time and then it’s back to business as usual. An odd thing about the NFL is that, despite its massive fanbase, most of its teams flat-out suck, which means there’s always teams out there willing to take a chance on a skilled player. Even if that player beats his girlfriends, or fires guns at nightclubs, or recently completed yet another stint of drug rehab. When a team signs a guy like that, its fans, more concerned with a Super Bowl parade than a strong sense of morality, always jump on board.
In the weeks after Michael Vick was paroled, rumors surfaced about Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones tinkering with the idea of signing him. Every football fan in Philadelphia was laughing, shaking their heads and telling each other how perfect Vick would fit in with the rest of the criminals the Cowboys have gained a reputation for bringing aboard. Then the Eagles signed Vick. For a day or two, people seemed a little put off the organization would sign a convicted animal abuser. But within a week, no one was talking about dogs, but about another animal: the wildcat. As in the “Wildcat Offense” and how Vick would flourish in it. Nowadays, if you bring up the fact the guy used to beat dogs to death people roll their eyes and tell you to give it a rest. No wants to hear it. In essence, he’s been exonerated in the public eye because he puts on an Eagles’ uniform every Sunday (and the occasional Monday) for a few months out of the year.
And Vick’s not even a close to be the only one. He’s a member of a rather large club. Ray Lewis may have been acquitted of his murder charge but everyone knows he at least had something to with the deaths of those people. Baltimore Ravens fans don’t care. Adam “Pacman” Jones has a criminal record detailing a wide array of offenses. Detroit Lions fans won’t care if the team signs him. Ben Roethlisberger most definitely has a problem with sexually assaulting women, although he escaped formal charges. After he serves his upcoming six-game suspension and leads the team down the field for a touchdown, Pittsburgh Steelers fans won’t care. These are guys you wouldn’t want working in your office building, but if they’re playing football, fans will rationalize why it’s okay to forgive, and even cheer, for him.
For the record, I don’t hold the NFL owners in any contempt for signing or retaining criminals. They’re running a business. In terms of dollars and cents, it makes sense for them to take the chances they do and, sometimes, as in the Roethlisberger situation, they have no other choice.
But what’s the fans excuse? How can the rationality of all this be explained? If these guys weren’t playing football, they’d be in jail and no one would give a rat’s ass what they were up to. Lucky for them, that’s not the case. They continue to get the love and respect of millions of people despite the fact, outside playing a game, they’ve done nothing to deserve it.
It’s comical and pathetic.
Whenever I hear people talking about liberal ideas, I am always astounded that men should love to fool themselves with empty sounds. An idea should never be liberal; it must be vigorous, positive, and without loose ends so that it may fulfill its divine mission and be productive. The proper place for liberality is in the realm of the emotions. ↔ Johann von Goethe
→ Sometimes something as simple as a sandwich can be a strong indicator of where we’re headed as a society. People, we’re driving in the wrong direction here.