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Sit down, Romans

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | APRIL 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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I used to play Game Boy on the sidelines of my football games. That is how much I didn't care about sports.

After two weeks of training, we had our first game — a bunch of eighth-grade kids running around in oversized helmets, looking somewhat like an organized mob. Before we went out on the field, my die-hard coach gave us a pep talk: holding the football in front of him, he explained the stretched pigskin was our lives.

That was the day I quit.

The spotlight on the ethical conduct of locker-room pep talks has intensified over controversial audio tapes of former New Orleans Saint coach Gregg Williams were released last week.

But just because locker room talk can get inappropriate and unethical, we have to point at ourselves when trying to assess who to blame in times like these — like moronic, hedonistic Romans, we have created the Williams in this arena, and we love the violence they bring us.

The whole Saint scandal started when the NFL team reportedly gave bonuses to players who injured specific players on opposing teams. The uproar came to a head last week when audio tapes were released that had Williams, the team's defensive coordinator, rattling off battle orders to aim for the head of a 49 defensive player who had a history of concussions.

Some professionals have called it unethical and unsavory — I call it a winning strategy.

Boo! Yeah, I know — I'll get letters. But this kind of behavior is what the players have signed up for, and excuse me if I'm not sorry they are getting paid millions of dollars to entertain a blood-thirsty crowd. The coach was getting his players pumped up for their last game, and I have no doubt this is how these speeches go: Let's go tear their heads off.

Football is entertainment. Obviously, in the entertainment industry, violence is prominent: WWE, The Hunger Games, Call of Duty. Little kids shoot virtual prostitutes in the head after paying for sex on Grand Theft Auto. Come on.

And if we just limit it to sports entertainment it gets arguably worse. Case and point, mixed martial arts tournaments are bloody and violent, but people love them.

Michael Kirkham, a MMA fighter, died after getting injured in a competition in 2010. This was not the only reported death in the sport; another MMA fighter, Sam Vasquez, died in 2007. But still people line up to see — and participate in it.

2011 was a huge year for UFC — a seven-year, $100 million television contract with Fox is nothing to scoff at. The group now has live fights on broadcast television up to four times a year and increased programming on Fox-owned FX and FUEL TV. FUEL TV will continue to have more than 2,000 hours of UFC events this year — with 100 hours of live fights, weigh-ins, preliminary bouts and pre- and post-fight shows, it's really more of an epidemic than a sport.

But, yeah, OK, I know football does not encourage fighting — but they get paid to run around and hit each other. You can claim it's more than a game, that it's an outlet for people to blow off steam, or that football provides students with means to get higher education. But when you choose to play a sport for a living, and the sport entails full blown, physical contact, you obviously have to get physical. And the coaches have a certain obligation to encourage the best strategy possible.

In this case, Williams thought the best strategy was to go for the weak players and take them out. He pumped his players up, and they did what they were told. It's ugly, but it's a sport that all the players on the field chose to play.

If you don't like it, get off the field and play Game Boy.


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