As this year’s Superbowl nears, Wright Thompson writes on the legacy of the great Joe Montana, his rivalries with Steve Young and Tom Brady, and the sorrows of retirement.
Walmart once paid Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas to do an event. The four quarterbacks went out to dinner afterward. They laughed and told stories and drank expensive wine. Then the check came. The late, great Unitas loved to tell this story. Montana grinned and announced that whichever guy had the fewest rings would have to pay the bill. Joe had four, including one over Marino and one over Elway. Elway had two. Unitas said he only had one Super Bowl ring but had of course won three NFL titles before the Super Bowl existed.
I’m not in the habit of linking Jonathan Chait, who is an extremely liberal democrat and with whom I typically disagree completely, but Chait recently wrote, in New York Magazine, an obviously heartfelt defense of America’s national game against his politically correct and totally-sissified usual allies which I liked very much.
Over the last generation, the social experience of American youth has rapidly liberalized. The cultural mores of my school life largely resembled those of my parentsâ€™, but the socialization awaiting my children has transformed beyond recognition. Rather than allowing kids to â€œsettle their differencesâ€ â€” i.e., allowing the strong and popular to prey upon the weak and vulnerable â€” authorities aggressively police bullying. Schools are rife with organizations to support gay students, something unimaginable not long ago. Nerdy and cool, once antithetical terms, now frequently describe the same things, like affinity for comic-book characters or technological savvy. American schools have mostly moved beyond a world where football players (and, correspondingly, cheerleaders) embody the singular hierarchical ideal of their gender. This is entirely to the good, a triumph of egalitarianism.
In fact, it is a sign of this advance that American society is now questioning whether football has any role within it at all. But it also marks a point where the advance of social liberalism has swung from the defensive (creating a place of respect and value for those who have long been excluded) to the offensive (suggesting that only a world conforming closely to down-the-line-liberal values is worth living in).
The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued that people naturally gravitate toward competing notions of morality. Some of those, like fairness and caring, are associated with liberalism. Others, like loyalty and respect for authority, are associated with conservatism. Football is obviously not just for conservatives, but it does embody the conservative virtues. The backlash against it is a signpost of a new social system unwilling to consider that the worldview of oneâ€™s political adversaries might have any wisdom to offer at all and untroubled by the fear that, perhaps, football exists because it channels a genuine, deep-seated impulse. In this case, that discipline might be a helpful response to impulses of aggression, and not just a false-heroic myth used to legitimize and justify brutality. …
Football is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Absurd as it may sound to say this about a career as a second-stringer for an average team, nothing Iâ€™ve done in my life felt as important at the time I was doing it.
This is not because my life is a failure, and it is not because football stole my youth. Footballâ€™s enemies have an accurate sociological observation, but their conclusion is backward. Nothing else pumped so much adrenaline through me that I couldnâ€™t feel my feet underneath me as I ran and could barely remember my name, or made me weep or scream uncontrollably. It is the adventure of your life, a chance to prove yourself as a man before other boy-men who, even if you never see them again, you will always regard as brothers-in-arms.
This is an increasingly antiquated conception of male socialization. George Orwell, the old socialist, was well ahead of his time when he scribbled out an angry rant against the sporting ethic, which, he wrote, â€œis bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.â€ That is all more or less true. But shooting is precisely the problem with war. War minus the shooting is actually pretty great.
Timothy Birdnow argues that the left’s recent efforts “to make football safer” are really expressions of their reflexive determination to eliminate competition and aggression and to emasculate America.
The liberal sports media has jumped on board. …), and, ironically, they may well kill the very sport that puts food on their tables. They can’t help it; a scorpion stings because it is a scorpion.
It is in this current climate of pacifism (and that is the purpose of the campaign: to turn football into a more pacific game, thus removing another layer of America’s masculinity) that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law mandating insurance for student-athletes.
The law says that a school’s minimum policy will cover $3 million in aggregate benefits or five years of coverage – whatever comes first – for injuries that total medical expenses over $50,000. The law includes public and private schools and state officials estimate that the cost of the coverage will be no more than $5 a student. Currently, some schools carry insurance for athletes, but it hasn’t been mandatory. The Illinois High School Association provides students with this catastrophic insurance for state tournaments.
First, one must ask why this is needed, since it will soon be the law of the land that everyone be covered by health insurance. I was under the impression that ObamaCare was designed specifically to fix this sort of problem. Why are schools in Illinois being made to pay for catastrophic health insurance when Mr. Obama, the product of that state’s political genius, has already addressed the issue? …
This will kill many sports programs in poor school districts and likely in the lion’s share of private or parochial schools. Would a struggling Catholic school spend money needed for actually educating students on sports insurance? It will become a choice between teaching and athletics for many schools.
Of course, such would suit the educational commissars just fine. There has been an increasing effort by the Progressives to straitjacket young children. Sports are one outlet they have targeted, with an increasingly regimented and organized approach to what were once thought of as children’s games. Michelle Obama may say “Let’s Move!,” but she wants all movement under her watchful eye. Gone are the days of sandlot football, of a bunch of kids getting together for a stickball game or a spontaneous game of field hockey. Children now devote much of their time to thumb exercises as computers replace the athletic field. When children are allowed to play, they are wrapped up like mummies lest they get a bruise.
All this teaches a lesson to the children: private, individual action is dangerous and should be avoided. Life must be lived within the guardrails, carefully planned and safeguarded by society.
Even more distressing to the left is that sports started as a means of training for soldiers. That is why football is so appealing to America; it is a he-man sport, a vestige of the old America, where an association of free men stand together in battle. Yes, team effort is required, but there is also plenty of room for heroics, and the individual may make a huge difference.
But at football’s core is a physicality bordering on violence, and to the left, that is anathema — an atavistic impulse that must be squeezed out of our children.
So instead of a healthy game of tackle football at recess, liberals substitute Ritalin and maybe a good heated game of tag.
Consider the war against dodgeball. Progressives fret that it is traumatizing children and have been systematically banning the game. Why? Nobody ever gets hurt from dodgeball, but Progressive educators still want it gone. That is because of the actual acts performed in the game: one physically tries to hit another. The goal of the left has been to make physical aggression taboo; thus, dodgeball, which teaches children to be physically aggressive, must go.
Colts Defensive Tackle, Football Hall of Famer, and WWII Marine Art “The Bulldog” Donovan passed away last night at the age of 89. Donovan was a classic representative of Old School, Blue Collar American football, in the same tradition as Mike Ditka, Ray Nitschke, and Johnny Unitas. He was also quite an amusing storyteller as this appearance years ago on the old Johnny Carson show attests.
William N. Wallace, along with another 53,000 Americans, as a ten year old boy, attended an epic battle between Yale and Princeton on November 17, 1934, in which the Yale eleven, playing both offense and defense for all 60 minutes, rose up from a previously mediocre record to best an undefeated Princeton team, favored by three touchdowns, and widely believed to be headed for the Rose Bowl.
Playing both ways without substitutions won this Yale team, five seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores, the title of Ironmen. Only three other teams, post-WWI had ever played 60 minutes without substitutions (Michigan and Illinois in 1925, and Brown in 1926). Yale’s 1934 team at Princeton played the last Ironman game of college football ever played.
Stanley Woodward of The Herald Tribune declared of the upset:
Eleven Yale football players with constitutions of iron and dispositions of wild cats perpetrated the signal outrage of modern athletics in Princeton’s Palmer Stadium today.
Robert Kelley of the Times:
Yale defeated Princeton today by a score of 7-0. In that sentence is packed all the deep excitement of the most popular drama that football or any other sport knows, the rise of the man without a chance, the refusal of the underdog to play the role that has been assigned to him.
This Yale-Princeton game set the ten year old boy on his path in life. He grew up to become a professional sportswriter, and at the close of a fifty year career (including 35 years with the New York Times), has produced a book on the unforgettable 1934 game. His profiles of the members of that illustrious Yale team (and several of their Princeton rivals), offer fascinating snapshot portraits of American life in last century via his investigation of the players’ origins, and his account of Ivy League life during the Depression, the impact of WWII, and their varying ultimate fates.