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CULTURAL VIOLENCE: So Football Is to Blame?

There are certain undeniable facts about me. I grew up in the shadow of the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. And, as the kid of a Michigan State alumnus, I spent more Saturdays in East Lansing than South Bend. When I wasn’t in uniform on the sidelines every Friday to cheer for my local high school team, I was writing about them for the student newspaper.

To say I like football is a vast understatement. Even as an adult, I’m in awe of the game. College, pro, it doesn’t matter. I’m still loyal to the Spartans and the Irish. And, every Sunday you’ll find me in Honolulu Blue, (loyal to a fault). I watch the NFL draft every year and attending it is on my bucket list. I play fantasy football. And I watch the Super Bowl for more than the commercials. I know what man to man coverage is. I can spot a spread offense a mile away. (Who can’t)? A frequent armchair commentator, coach, and referee all in one, I’ll yell out the penalty before the first yellow flag flies.

Given my penchant for pigskin, I was less than happy to come across the following: “Football viewers get drunk on Sunday football afternoons, resulting in increased acts of domestic violence toward women.”

Say what?

Thinking back to the last few Sundays, I recall having more coffee than beer. And the only person I had violent thoughts about was Alex Henery.


Barbara Sanders, Nashville psychotherapist and apparent writer for Out and About Nashville, clearly does not share my love for football. Or beer. Or European settlers. What began as a piece about the recent sexual assault of a 15 year old boy in Kentucky turned into a sometimes bitter, meandering diatribe about America’s culture of violence.

So far four men have been charged with various crimes ranging from sodomy to use of a minor in a sexual performance and promoting a sexual performance by a minor. The attack, uploaded and distributed via SnapChat, was so extensive the victim suffered a punctured colon and a bladder injury. Details are still sketchy, but reports indicate the attack happened after the victim fell unconscious at a party. The men, 20 year old Dayton Jones, 19 year old Tyler Perry, and an unnamed 17 year old attacked the boy while another 17 year old apparently took video and put it on the internet.

Given the known facts, it makes what Sanders wrote that much more nonsensical.

This kind of violence happens in a culture that was born of violence, specifically with the genocide of American Indians by European settlers. Our society continues to promote physical violence in all sorts of ways from war mongering in the name of freedom to football as a national sport, rewarding its celebrities with riches while damaging their brains and bodies for our benefit. I am reminded of The Hunger Games, a metaphor for this type of violence: violence as entertainment for the public designed to distract us from the harsh realities of life. We are all somewhat complicit in such violence by our votes, or lack thereof, and by our acceptance of violence as the status quo.

I’d guess these men aren’t all that knowledgeable on American Indian genocide. Or any American history. These men weren’t in a locker room. They weren’t on a football team. They weren’t playing football. Hell, they weren’t even watching football. The truth is they were just four slime balls that likely drank too much and wanted an excuse to hurt the weakest among them, in this case a 15 year old boy. To blame their behavior on a “culture that was born of violence” is, quite frankly, complete crap.

Sanders’ rant wasn’t over, however.

Emotional violence is another matter. Competition reigns in our world. Emotional violence can be extremely damaging, prompting enormous anxiety, depression, fear and paranoia. These kids, the victim and the perpetrators, are all products of our culture of violence. Each person involved in this event will suffer huge consequences to be played out the rest of their lives…

This kind of gang behavior and single sexual assaults are found in every community in our nation, and especially on college campuses. Alcohol and drug use increase such violence. Ours is a drinking society where alcohol is not only well accepted but supported. Alcohol itself is still legal whereas other, less harmful drugs are not. Football viewers get drunk on Sunday football afternoons, resulting in increased acts of domestic violence toward women. We also have to wonder about how the levels of testosterone in males influence mood resulting in irritability and increased anger and hostility.

There sure is a lot of blame to go around; genocidal European settlers, football fans, drinkers, and testosterone-fueled alpha males. I may have to keep an eye on you Redskins fans.

Ms. Sanders seems to be very good at placing blame at the foot of anyone but the men that committed such a heinous act. Not once does she wonder about the lack of positive male role models in their lives, the lack of discipline and structure, the lack of direction and the need to have something positive to pour their energy into.

The very thing she blames is the very thing that could have kept them on the right path; football. Where she sees unhealthy competition, I see a lesson in winning, losing, and the need to experience both. Where she sees alpha males, I see coaches that will teach. Where she sees a culture of violence, I see an opportunity to be part of something greater than yourself; a team.

Vince Lombardi said, “Football is like life; it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”

Maybe someone should tell Ms. Sanders that.



Pauline Wolak

Pauline is a proud wife and mother of three. When she isn't being the world's greatest Girl Friday, she is volunteers her time as a school librarian and athletic director. Pauline enjoys football, politics, good beer, and arguing with anyone. She's a devout pro-life Catholic. Pauline believes in the 1st Amendment and uses it on a daily basis, most notably to ambush unsuspecting family members in political debate! You can find her work here at Clash and at Follow her on twitter at @MiStateFan.