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GARRISON: Can We Just Play Ball - Please?

Photo Credit: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick may be the nicest guy in the world—away from football—but what he has wrought in the NFL has poisoned professional sports terribly and in enough ways that they all may see themselves back to coaching high school before it’s over.

You will remember that the then-San Francisco 49er decided that his disdain for his country and its people was so significant that he started insulting us all, flag, military, private citizens and all by making a big display of kneeling along the sidelines during the National Anthem.  Of course he had enough groupies among the team that several began to join him.  Good thing he hadn’t decided to lead a troupe to step off the Golden Gate.

Well it got things all roiled up and ever-sillier over the next season or two, resulting among other things in his QB Rating landing in the middle of the 28 team league.  Mr. Average, sliding from Super Bowl material to a guy whose numbers fell far, far below anything approaching top-of-the-league status.

 Not surprisingly, he got to the place where couldn’t get picked up by any team in the league.  Lousy performance, fair to Middlin’ ratings at best, and a reputation for stirring up stuff that’s irrelevant to the game and therefore a distraction from the sport.  And I don’t know about you, but what I want to see on Sunday is FOOTBALL.  I’m a fan, and nut for the sport and one of those guys whose game experience is intended to set me momentarily free from partisanship, political intrigue and that otherwise incessant whining that comes from the mouths of rich but ignorant stars whose success eventually makes ‘em stupid.

It gets worse.  “player see, player do” started to infect the NFL and not long after, the NBA as well, with scholars like LeBron James once again deflecting attention from the game at which he excels to the business of political philosophy and discourse, about which he so clearly knows nothing.  But just like with Kaepernick, other players got into the me too thing, and soon the game starts getting subsumed by the knuckleheads at ESPN and others who delude themselves into believing that the suit and tie, the big pay check and all that media hype has suddenly made them the smartest people they know.

There is an answer for all this, and it doesn’t have to do with the capitalists who own and run the teams in the NFL issuing edicts about the sanctions for kneeling or otherwise acting like throwbacks to the Olympic era when the guys wore the black gloves and acted like inmates/escapees from some kind of Gulag.  The players whose enormous salaries we pay, at least indirectly, really owe it to the fans—and really to the NFL as history and the glory of sport, to just play the damn game. 

They have mucho cash to set up their own convocations, to write and to publish, to broadcast and to perform on whatever medium they choose.  They can band together with huge resources and make their political statements to whomever they can get to sit still for them.  But they attempt that conduct on the field of play at their peril—and not just theirs, but that of the leagues of professional athletics that exist to deliver the highest quality of professional sports.  AND THAT IS ALL.  Now can’t we just play ball?!

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