Like millions of Americans, I’ve been watching the NFL playoffs this weekend. The game of the moment is the Seattle Seahawks at the Washington Redskins.
Whole sociology classes have been devoted to the study of sports in American society. My sister used to come home from college classes and quote her instructor who called football players and fans “sociopaths” much to the chagrin of my football watching father and brothers. There was a definite gender divide in our house.
I’m married to a guy who likes football and isn’t a sociopath. He’s a rare breed. Its football only, he doesn’t watch all of the other sports. A football détente was negotiated pretty early in our relationship.
For years, it was background noise. Then I started to ask a question or two. Pretty soon, he was drawing the lines and giving me the Xs and Os.
I still don’t fully understand the game and I don’t watch it as intently as my husband does. I probably spend as much time mocking the announcers as I do watching the game, I admit. They are a pretty mediocre bunch, and the breathtakingly stupid things they say often become more memorable than the games they are calling.
There are all kinds of fans out there. Many, many of them are knuckleheads; the drunken idiots that ruin the game for many who still attend live games. There are those who think that trying to protect the health and safety of the players is ruining the game. There are players who say this, so you know that this is directly related to masculinity and the general security of a man within himself.
There are fans that are into the strategy and there are fans who love the big hits. Those that love the history and others who are just homers.
Kind of like America, it’s a diverse group. So it should come as no surprise that football really mirrors the American experience with race.
(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no such thing as race. Homo Sapiens emerged from Africa and evolved our superficial differences as adaptive to the environment strategies. I use race here under protest, but to be clear.)
Here we are, in 2013, and I’m watching a team called the Washington Redskins. How is this remotely ok? Can you imagine if there were teams called the Detroit Niggers, the New York Yids, and the San Francisco Gooks? Redskin is an offensive term to Native Americans. They have repeatedly sued over Native American sports mascots (they win some, they lose some). And yet, near the capitol of our country, is a sports team with the name of Redskins.
Dan Snyder, the owner, has refused to change the name. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, has not brought any pressure on him to change the name. Every single owner, player or coach in the NFL that tolerates this slur should be sanctioned.
I think honoring our Native American citizens would be a beautiful thing and I suspect that the Native Americans still left on the East Coast would be delighted to offer suggestions about how this might be done.
Then maybe we could address how players are viewed. My god, the announcers sound like auctioneers at the slave block sometimes! It’s horrifying to hear a player compared to an animal, talked about as though they are meat.
And don’t even get me started on the whole cheerleader thing. I’m mystified about why people must be cheer led in the first place (is it like square dancing where people can’t think for themselves?). But let’s leave that aside and ask about the seeming requirement that cheerleaders must be a) female and b) half naked. Cheerleader seems a gender neutral term, with no particular uniform suggested.
Roger Goodell, good capitalist that he is, wants to expand the franchise beyond the American borders. If he is able to export our brand of football, perhaps he could do so without the American racism and sexism still so apparent in the league.
Start with a new name for the Washington Redskins, please.