From the first time I saw him in the NFL Adrian Peterson was my kind of guy. I remember a TV discussion. It was about AP’s practice of not stepping out-of-bounds but instead ramming his shoulder into a defender for a couple of extra yards that would eventually cost him a couple of years in his career. No way he would change that, he said. It was his style…the way he ran the football. As a rugby player I admired him for his strength and speed. Over the last few years I’ve stopped watching the NFL the way I did “back in the day” when both my sons played high school football. The owners’/players’ money and behavior, the concussion issue, the 3 1/2 hour almost nightly games, and the hyperbole of media coverage became too much for me along with the wisdom of my 70’s telling me it didn’t make a damn bit of difference if the Eagles ever won a Super Bowl.
AP claims that being beaten by a switch has played a part in making him the man he is. I understand that because I too came from a home of violence and abuse. But it was something I left behind. After that the worst moment of my life as a father was when I hit my 4-year-old son for not fighting someone who took advantage of him on the street. I thought I was teaching him to be a man at that moment. It was something I apologized to him for when he became an adult.
Are violence and football intrinsically related? Of course they are. See Chuck Bednarik standing over Frank Gifford. I remember violence as an option of my behavior when I was playing rugby that was much closer to the surface than when I wasn’t. It’s the psychology of the sport. We teach our kids to be tough, hit hard, stand up for the team, never give up. We can also teach them that football is not everyday life when it comes to woman and children. Call it sensitivity training. Teach them it is a privilege to play the game physical but there are no similar privileges when it comes to being a father, husband or boyfriend.
What Price Glory? is a play written by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings. It was written in 1924 by men with 2 different opinions about war. Anderson was a pacifist, Stallings was a veteran who lost his leg in WWI. They were friends who worked together as journalists. Their play became a legendary silent film and then a movie made by John Ford in the 50’s. The play’s POV, as expected when written by one man who didn’t believe in war and another who did, did not have a single focus. It showed soldiers for what they were – a mixed bag of brave and vulgar men. The same is true of football players. Can they change? Sure, it’s a choice.
It’s difficult to switch back and forth from being physically competitive to being kind, considerate and loving. I assure you that anybody who makes the switch over and over is a special person. An example is Devin Still, the Cincinnati Bengal father of a child with cancer. When that switch happens we open our hearts like the people of Cincinnati have.
Sport is business now – an integral part of the infrastructure of the 21st century.
It wasn’t always the way it is now. In my lifetime sport seems to have gone from a way to learn how to live honorably to a way to earn money. Football’s best lessons are still there but don’t leave it up to the businessmen of sport – read NFL – to teach them. That’s still up to the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.
Come on, Adrian, be better than what you were taught.