by Kent Sterling
The NFL would like people to believe its players are choirboys on Monday through Saturday, but become beast on Sundays when they are paid to maul the men playing across from them in a different colored shirt. They wear helmets, pads, and tape their joints because they would be hospitalized without them.
Players have thoughts before they run on to the field each Sunday that not only might this be their last game, but that they might never walk again if they get hit in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The NFL is filled with men who evaluate risk and reward in ways that normal people can’t imagine. Football is a violent game played by men who know when they need to turn on and off the impulse to injured or maim that lies dormant in most of us.
When former players are committing suicide all around them because of irreparable brain damage caused by repeated head trauma, the consequences of getting arrested for being a dumbass don’t resonate as they might for the rest of society.
So when Indianapolis Colts special teams captain Joe Lefeged was pinched for carrying a gun unlicensed in Washington DC and having an open container of alcohol in the car in which he was a passenger, it’s unlikely he thought that was the worst thing that had happened in his life.
The Colts and the NFL should view this incident through a similar prism because they are not in the business of gathering well-mannered and virtuous chaps who are deacons in their churches.
The gun Lefeged carried was licensed, just not in Washington DC, and if people are going to be suspended from work for drinking in a car – as we might assume Lefeged was – there are going to be as many people in Indiana on furlough as reporting for work after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
But the NFL and its teams don’t like noise. They are a reactive bunch, as are all major leagues, that will act if prompted by fan outrage driven by media exposure. The “No Fun League” does everything it can to perpetuate the ludicrous myth that NFL players are just like you and me.
What the NFL actually does is take the largest, fastest, and most nimble men in our society, encourage them to unleash their inner beasts, and then spit them out into society until someone bigger, faster, and more nimble comes along. Then, they are cast out into alumni associations to commiserate about how difficult their lives are without football.
The discipline to which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has become inexorably linked is a canard that allows fans to watch the games with a clear conscience. It has nothing to do with the players, and the hope they will live better lives. It’s all about the fans – all about the people who buy tickets and watch on TV believing that they are not supporting decadence through their investment of passion and cash.
And it’s the only reason Lefeged would be suspended by the Colts. The message sent to his peers through a suspension would be that the NFL is a hypocritical outfit that is about anything but the players’ welfare and benefit, not that carrying a gun or being mildly irresponsible should be avoided.
It’s likely that Lefeged will be allowed to play without suspension because the outrage in Indianapolis is minimal. The media here doesn’t stand and scream for attention – taking inane and irresponsible views like it does in other cities. The Colts will be allowed to act as their conscience dictates, which is to do everything possible to put the best 53 players on the field every Sunday, and that means Lefeged will pay a fine in Washington and that will be the end of it.
For anyone who wants to draw a cause and effect parallel between excellent citizens and winning in the NFL, let me share the story of the St. Louis Rams, who have had the fewest players arrested among NFL teams since 2000. Only eight Rams have been charged with a crime during that time, and from 2007-2011, the Rams put together the worst five year record (15-65) in league history.
I hate to burst any bubbles, but there are some guys on the field each Sunday who are malicious psychopaths. More than a few are downright scary people who make their tough as hell teammates shake in their shoes. As long as they can run, hit, catch, and throw, that’s life in the NFL.