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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Bellwether

A dog that survived. The image is from http://www.usanimalprotection.org/activism.htmOnce again, the CNN website appealed to visitors to comment on a weighty question. This time it is whether or not NFL star Michael Vick should be allowed to play again, after pleading guilty to charges related to dogfighting. And once again, I replied. Also, once again, my reply got lost somewhere in CNN's cyber-crypt, never to be seen again.

Except here. I've learned to save what I write for posterity, such as it is. Here's my take on the Michael Vick situation:

Your e-mails: Should the NFL ban Michael Vick?

To: CNN
From: Me

A better question is this: Should the NFL exist? Basically, the game is pretty simple. Man hike ball. Man hand ball off to other man, or pass ball to other man. Man clobber other man, often causing lifetime injury.

All one has to do is examine one's own emotions when watching a game. "Kill him" is experienced more often than any of us care to admit, and more often than any other emotion.

It is no great leap of morality and ethics to go from football to dog fighting. Both are sports that revel in violence and inflicting injury. Michael Vick is not unique. And he hasn't lied a country into war.
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I made it brief, but the subject calls for some elaboration. I grew up loving football. My father was a star player in the Chicago high school city championship game, and I dreamed of being like him. I played, but was too small, and couldn't see well enough. In one game I was put in when our team was winning handily, and the quarterback threw me a pass. I was wide open, but the ball bounced off my shoulder pads. It was a night game with inadequate lighting, and the field was pretty dark. I didn't see the ball coming. It was another of my many "I coulda been a contenda" moments.

Still, I loved the game, and played intramural football in college, unremarkably. It was when I returned from the Army that my love of football started to change. It was 1971, at the beginning phase of "Monday Night Football." The three hosts were Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford. The premise of the show was to intensify the interest in the game by talking nonstop about football, the "science" of the game, and minutiae about the players, coaches, their families, and anything else that might spew forth.

It was mild compared to today's broadcasts, where a variety of techniques are used to hype fan obsession with pro football. One method is to have the sound turned lower, and the "anchor" or "color," or "analyst" of the trio will yell his commentary nonstop, as if yelling over the crowd. This is also done in pro basketball broadcasts, most notably by Doug Collins, but imitated by numerous others.

The games became formulaic and boring, and the broadcasts intolerable, but my sensibilities were also changing. In a game I was watching in 1971, a Detroit Lions player died on the field. Though he died of a heart attack, he got hit hard on the play, and I said immediately that he was dead.

Because of these and other factors I lost interest in football, though still enjoying an occasional college game. It started looking stupid to me - a bunch of grown men running around a field clobbering each other, deliberately trying to cause injury. The fanaticism of football fans also was getting weird, taking zeal to new depths of obsession.

I also began to see football as an exercise in homo-eroticism, a strange orgy of tight pants, butt-patting, reaching behind crotches, tackling, and piling of bodies. I still see it that way, but with a slightly different attitude. If that's what lights your candle, so to speak, then rock on, but it's not for me.

It's the violence of football that I believe is bad for society. The game is more brutal than ever, and I can only stand to watch for a few minutes. One of my father's best friends played center for Notre Dame, the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and the Chicago Bears. My dad took me to Bears summer camp practices in Indiana when I was about five or six years old. I remember yelling to one player, "Hey, are you a real bear?" He confirmed that he was. I still like for the Bears to win, even though I think the game should be done away with, and that the Bears' ownership is still the nasty Halas family (The Bears in the late 50s throughout the 60s were as good as the storied Packers teams, but had the unfortunate fate of being coached by the thoroughly mean George Halas. He was a different form of life, running Gale Sayers on every play until he finally got hurt. I believe he hated all his players. If Vince Lombardi had coached the Bears, the legends would be much different.)

I still have mixed feelings about football, but don't believe abolishing the game would be appropriate at this time. It's better to look at it as a bellwether, an allegory. Change is on the way. The days of empire are almost over, thanks to the Bush criminal regime. When we finally start dealing with climate change and limits to economic growth, we will have a different society. In order to survive as a species, we will have to become less violent. I repeat, in order to survive as a species, we will have to become less violent.

So rather than football being abolished in order to become a less violent society, a less violent society will have little use for football, and interest in the game will wither away to nothingness.

One of the side benefits of that withering away will be the end of dog-fighting. A peaceful society will not find animal cruelty an amusing form of recreation.
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Since we haven't reached that point yet, you might find some animal-friendly organizations worthy of your involvement: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Pit Bull Rescue Central, the Humane Farming Association, Friends of Animals, Madison's own Alliance for Animals, and many others.

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