Welp, this Adrian Peterson situation is really fun. I mean, sports are supposed to be fun, right? That’s kind of the whole idea behind watching them . . . they’re not serious. It’s a game we get to watch that gives us an excuse to cheer and act irresponsibly and care too much about something that doesn’t really matter and get together and drink beers and talk smart like we actually know how to scheme against a zone blitz. Not to mention they allow us to play fantasy and get irrationally upset about losing a fantasy matchup that matters even less but gives us more stuff to talk about over the internets and during those occasional moments we actually see each other and rare times we take the time to talk instead of staring at our phones.
None of it feels very fun this year. The TV talking heads and the internets are raging about who should be suspended and for how long and how CHILD ABUSE IS WRONG (was someone arguing it isn’t?) and how I’M STANDING UP AGAINST CHILD ABUSE (wow, way to go out on a limb there) and YES THAT WAS CHILD ABUSE (is anyone besides idiot internet commenter #867 arguing it wasn’t?) and HOW CAN THIS SPORTS ENTITY ALLOW THIS ABUSER TO PLAY (nevermind the legal system).
All the moral crusading and criticism of how our sports entities are handling the situation is rather absurd when compared to the lack of focus on the state of our criminal justice system. Whether or not Adrian Peterson gets convicted by the State of Texas or gets meaningful counseling and whether his son gets counseling and his safety and well-being are ensured through whatever kind of plea deal Peterson makes is seemingly irrelevant to “us” (by “us” I guess I’m referring to the majority of people who seem to care about the issue . . . which perhaps isn’t a majority of the population in general, but rather a majority of the people I follow on Twitter and am friends with on Facebook and see on TV or hear on the radio or see writing columns. So yes, I’m defining “us” rather loosely). All anybody really seems to care about is what the NFL and/or Vikings do with Peterson, which, when you think about it, is extremely bizarre, if not downright stupid.
Ray Rice got some sweetheart plea deal after knocking his fiancée unconscious, but I don’t recall much outrage after the prosecutor made the deal that allowed Rice to avoid a conviction, if there was any. (Remember, the prosecutor definitely saw the tape showing Rice punching his fiancée). The outrage really only came later after the NFL imposed a 2-game suspension, which we deemed too short given the offense, and then the outrage really kicked in after TMZ posted the second video (which shouldn’t have shocked us since we knew what happened, but managed to shock us anyway).
It’s a little bizarre that if the folks who directly impact our lives – the car salesman or Chipotle burrito-maker or plumber who walks right into our house – have been convicted of some type of domestic violence, we either don’t care, or more likely, we don’t even know about it. They can keep their jobs and continue to earn a living – we choose to let the justice system handle it.
But for our football players, who occupy this weird fantasy-distraction-entertainment spectrum of our lives and only impact us when we choose to sit in front of a TV and allow beams of light representing their bodies to be absorbed into our brain? Shit, that’s where we draw the line. Fire those bastards, or at least suspend their sorry asses from playing football until we’ve deemed they’ve paid a large enough price.
I don’t know why we care so much about whether this person who allegedly committed a crime that bears no relationship to his professional life and has no impact on our lives whatsoever is allowed to play a sport we can voluntarily choose not to watch. But apparently, we do.
And I don’t know who uses the NFL or Minnesota Vikings or Baltimore Ravens as a moral compass, but we sure seem to act like we all do. Who cares if the NFL has positioned itself as some moral arbiter these past few years? Did that convince us, “Wait, maybe we should look to the NFL to help us decide right from wrong?” If we allowed that to happen, then it’s our own damn fault for being incomprehensibly naïve and stupid. And if our argument is, “Well, what about our poor kids? They don’t know any better.” They don’t know any better because we haven’t done a good enough job educating them and talking to them and don’t want to take the 5 minutes necessary to explain the difference between entertainers and true role models.
Ultimately, this entire clusterf*** says a lot more about us than it does about anybody else. Do we care about the services our states provide to families dealing with abuse? Do we care about how long these families are given support, how long our state agencies monitor the family situation, or whether or not we adequately fund those agencies? Do we care about reuniting families? Do we care about the right balance between punishment and education? Do we care about the normal Joe-Blow abuser case, and how difficult it is to ensure the abuser feels the full gravity of their wrongdoing while also leaving open the possibility that this person can be rehabilitated, maintain a job, and continue to provide (at least financially) for his family?
Or do we ultimately just care that the NFL suspends players for enough games so we don’t have to feel guilty for watching?