“He looked me in the eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said ‘Just do it. Kill me.'” He also “threw [me] onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns.”
A 25-year-old man says this to a 24-year-old woman with his hands around her throat, adding, “Do you want to see crazy? I’ll show you crazy.”
Last week the same man, Greg Hardy, professional football player, returns to work for the first time since being convicted of assault and communicating threats (a verdict overturned when the woman he’d threatened to kill agreed to a settlement so a jury trial would be dropped) and having a ten-game suspension reduced to four.
Speaking to the media, the now-27-year-old man who threw the woman on a couch covered in guns talks of reporting back to work “guns blazing,” of regretting the fact that threatening and beating a woman has kept him away from his co-workers, who he hopes he hasn’t let down. He expresses no regret to the woman he choked and threw and told he would kill.
Later in the same interview, the man is asked about another man, Tom Brady. Brady spent most of his summer appealing his own four-game suspension. Brady received the same punishment Hardy did after the NFL alleged Brady knew about footballs having air taken out of them. The suspension was eventually thrown out by an arbitrator, but the logic remains: in the NFL, abusing a woman is equal to abusing a pigskin.
When asked about facing Brady, who is married to model Gisele Bundchen, Hardy says, “He’s cool. Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game; I hope her sister comes to the game, I hope all her friends come to the game.”
The heartbeat of football is coercion. On the field and off, football is about being able to impose your will till you get what you want. The NFL fines players in the blink of an eye if their socks are worn too high or too low. They do so for one reason: because they can. They manipulate the media that’s in bed with them (or, if not in bed, a media that’s cool with a lot of booty calls and walks-of-shame) into helping spread their Deflategate narrative, the one eventually overturned by an arbitrator, and they do so because they can. Greg Hardy beats up women and doesn’t give a shit because he can. Because no one he deals with can and will punish him.
The woman he attacked? Buy her off.
The press that covers him? Watch all the fawning smiley-faced twats who just interviewed him. They ask about football, he grins; he talks about football, they grin; they ask about beating up women and he gets a confused look on his face, then says when his helmet’s on all he can really think about is winning; none of the smiley twats bother to point out he isn’t wearing a helmet when asked about his crimes.
The man who writes Hardy’s paycheck? Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, after learning of Hardy’s myopic comments, doubled-down on the misogyny and stupidity by crawling out of his fancy cave and sharing his own idiocy:
On Hardy’s thoughtless “guns blazing” comment: “Well, you’re not allowed to have guns on the football field.”
On Hardy’s words regarding Gisele Bundchen: “When I saw [Brady] marry [Gisele], Tom went up in my eyes 100 percent. She’s very very attractive, and it shows what an outstanding individual Tom is.” See? No worries, Greg Hardy. At least the woman you beat up was hot. If she wasn’t, you wouldn’t be the outstanding individual your owner sees you as.
The commissioner, the man owners like Jerry Jones hire to be the public face of discipline, the man charged with “protecting the shield” as if the NFL is a family on Game of Thrones rather than a bunch of billionaires exploiting the health and well-being of a bunch of millionaires who disproportionately abuse their power off the field (same thing the owners do)? Roger Goodell, who fines people about socks and pounds per square inch of pressure, said, “I am not aware of [Hardy’s] comments, so I can’t respond to the comments because I haven’t seen them.”
Today on Twitter, former NFL player and analyst Shannon Sharpe complained that it’s “journalism 101” to only focus on negative news, and that he “gets it…if it bleeds, it leads.” Sharpe was following up on a tweet by the NFL Player’s Association, which saw fit today to complain that its players never get any attention for all the good they do. Apparently no one from the NFLPA has actually ever sat through an NFL broadcast, when every other commercial (that isn’t for Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Viagra or Cialis) is an NFL ad promoting its players encouraging kids to play outside for 60 minutes a day.
Since I’ve actually taught college journalism, I felt I should clue Sharpe in to his commonly held misperception. Journalists don’t create their audience, nor their audience’s tastes, and “if it bleeds it, it leads” is often mistaken as cause when it’s really effect.
When a landslide kills 1000 people, it’s news. Not because people get an adrenaline rush from all the death and carnage, but because when 1000 people die, it affects the lives of maybe 100,000 people on a personal to semi-personal level. It affects even more people because we can all relate to tragedy. Whether we care about the specific people or location it involves, we empathize. That’s why “it leads.”
I informed Mr. Sharpe my credentials and told him he doesn’t “get it.” His witty response?
After that tweet, Mr. Shape blocked me, which makes perfect sense if you view life from an NFL perspective. The logic of coercion, the same logic that enables violence against women, is just as prevalent on Twitter. Someone says something you don’t wanna hear? Don’t listen. Don’t engage. Don’t test your logic against theirs. Dissenters are “haters,” and via the logic of coercion, dissent = evil. See no dissent, hear no dissent, speak no dissent. Just insist upon yourself. “I totally get it.” Dozens of Sharpe’s Twitter followers will (and did) rush to his defense. That isn’t what’s scary.
What’s scary are the literal tens of thousands of his followers who say nothing. Silence is the voice of complicity. Silence is why Greg Hardy’s victim takes a settlement to drop the search for justice. Silence is why NFL players spent decades getting concussions when the NFL knew football => concussions, and silence is what greeted retired players with severe health issues when they started asking for more money in their criminally underfunded pensions. Shannon Sharpe lives in a logic-free world for one reason. Greg Hardy lives above the law for one reason. Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones grow wealthy off the shattered bodies and clattered brains of the players for one reason.
In February of 1999, the New York Yankees, fresh off the greatest single season in MLB history, traded David Wells, an excellent and popular pitcher, albeit a free spirit/loose cannon who frustrated his buttoned-up bosses sometimes, to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roger Clemens. Wells was a very good pitcher, but Clemens was coming off historic years dominating. On paper, the trade was a no-brainer in favor of the Yanks.
My friend Steele is a Yankee fan. I called him about the trade, expecting him to either use the Yankee largesse as a way of attacking my team, the Mets, or to wax poetic about how even the greatest-season-ever Yankee ethos refuses to rest on its laurels. Instead, Steele was pissed. He hated the trade. It wasn’t about on-paper or bottom-line mentalities. He liked Wells; Wells obviously fit in with the team; he didn’t like Clemens; he didn’t like the trade. Years later it’d turn out Clemens was a drug cheat who lied pathologically in an attempt to destroy the life and career of Brian McNamee, the man who injected him with the drugs that made Clemens a Hall-of-Famer. Clemens also slept with a teenage country star who years later killed herself. Nice guy.
The thing with sports as you grow older is you learn there aren’t any heroes. I learned that when Darryl Strawberry left the Mets for the Dodgers. I learned it more so later, when Strawberry’s history of violence against women started getting attention.
Every fan learns it eventually. Hopefully they also mature enough to understand the players have lives and hopes and dreams and families and wants and needs all their own, like everybody else, and so you don’t begrudge them for controlling their life as much as they can, like everybody else tries to do. I can accept that there are no heroes. But when a sport leaves you no one to root for, then there’s nothing left.
Roger Goodell is a scumbag. Jerry Jones is a scumbag. Greg Hardy is a scumbag. The smiley-faced twat reporters are scumbags. The Twitter drones who defend or silently allow Shannon Sharpe exemption from the logic of cause-and-effect most of us are subjected to are scumbags. Sharpe’s a scumbag. Nothing I say or do can change a person who chooses to make the world an uglier place. The only power I have is to stop watching the games, to stop talking about them as if they’re just games. The only power I have is to continue watching their behavior, their lies, their fallacies, to note where they cross over into the real life, the world that really matters. So that’s what I’m doing.
Because I can.