I grew up a Packers fan. After all, my childhood home was only a ten minute drive from Lambeau Field. To this day if the wind blows right on a Sunday afternoon, you can still hear some of the sounds from from the stadium. I love football. Always have. As a young girl I loved to play it in the street with the other kids in the neighborhood. Whoever called dibs on playing QB was always Lynn Dickey while the rest of pretended to be John Jefferson, James Lofton and Paul Coffman.
Packers safety Johnnie Gray was my summer soccer coach when I was ten, and I grew up next door to a bona fide Pro Football Hall of Famer. Football wasn’t just something you saw on television. The Green Bay Packers have been a part of my life since grade school.
It’s pretty easy to love the Packers when you grew up with them all around you. But this week I have found it hard to love football. In fact, the NFL has made it hard to be a fan of the league at the moment.
Even my own mom asked me last night, “How can you possibly be a fan with all of the horrible things going on?”
Horrible things. That’s a good way of putting it. Knocking your girlfriend out with a left hook is a horrible thing.
Beating your child’s bare legs with a switch until it bleeds is a horrible thing.
Attacking your pregnant girlfriend is also a horrible thing.
Moreover, lip service policy statements promising to suspend and remove violent offenders is nice, but it is a hollow bag of nothing if NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell never take action.
Meanwhile doing nothing until corporate sponsors start to threaten to walk is just as horrible.
It is 2014, and the NFL is no longer your dad or grandpa’s football league. Today 45% of the fan base is female. It’s no longer a world of, “Woman, go in the kitchen and get me a beer!” demands from pops watching the game on a grainy black and white screen in the living room.
Women are more than the Pink It and Shrink It demographic that the NFL markets to. We are married and single. We are mothers and grandmothers. We are professionals who are highly educated. We are young and old. Some of us are the product of Title IX and the new opportunities and access to sports that our mothers never even dreamed of.
And many are survivors of domestic violence and child abuse.
For them, the past two weeks hurts more than anyone could possibly imagine.
Rice, Peterson, McDonald, and Hardy. One has been kicked out, another suspended indefinitely with pay. Hardy was pulled today so that Panthers fell in line with the Vikings, and McDonald still, as his coach Jim Harbaugh puts it, still “has the liberty to play.”
And if that weren’t horrible enough, the Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for both domestic violence and child abuse charges today as I sat down to write this column.
I’ve had it this week. I’m sick of the cycle of violence. I’m sick of Commissioner Roger Goodell absolutely absent from the conversation the rest of the nation is having. I’m sick of the victim blaming.
You know what, Mom, I have no idea why I like NFL football right now.
But as I was at my most frustrated today, former Packer Tom Crabtree managed to be the voice of reason:
Don’t forget, most NFL players don’t beat up women and children. Most are doing great things to help others on a daily basis.
— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) September 17, 2014
Perhaps it is this concept that keeps me from walking away from football all together. Crabtree is absolutely right. Most in the NFL are not monsters. I need to keep reminding myself of this.
There are still players like Crabtree who is a present parent in his children’s lives.
Or what about Aaron Rodgers who raises money for childhood cancer research and went on the record denouncing the violence by saying that we need to continue to promote fair treatment of women?
I don’t pretend to look at football through Packers-tinted glasses. But there’s something to be said about Packers People.
I’m thankful my team holds up the basement in total arrests. But it wasn’t that long ago when former players Brandon Underwood and Eric Walden were arrested for domestic violence. Yet both wound up ultimately to being invited back.
I have to remind myself that the players making the news this week are not on the Packers roster, and the Green Bay Packers aren’t creating temporary policies with all the permanency of an Etch-a-Sketch portrait.
The Packers aren’t under fire, but I’ll be honest, I feel a bit guilty for loving football.
Yet I need to remind myself, the Packers aren’t the ones embarrassing themselves They aren’t hiding Roger Goodell in a Fortress of Solitude somewhere under Lambeau Field.
For the Green Bay Packers, it has been business as usual.
With that, perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky. They have remained a safe respite from the dysfunction that seems to be spinning out of control elsewhere in the league.--------------