I don’t care about concussions and PEDs. I just don’t care and I don’t think anyone REALLY cares. But if you asked ESPN then you’d think I care very deeply about these two topics. When I throw on SportsCenter in the morning over a bowl of Mueslix (high in fiber, son!), it’s because I want to watch Blake Griffin dunk aggressively on someone’s face, or a twelve-year-old nail a spin-o-rama-half-court-shot on a grainy home video. I turn it on to watch sports, not to watch a doctor explain how the brain will explode at a high enough impact. Sure, we all have a vague concern for the welfare of other human beings, or the “integrity” of a sport we like to watch, but “vague” is the only way to describe it. It doesn’t consume our thoughts. We don’t walk around concerned for Dan Dierdorf, even though it sounds like he’s having a hundred mini-strokes every minute. Nor do we look at a big hit and think, “that would not be possible with natural human growth,” because we’re too busy Ric Flair’ing and high-fiving. I react to a big sack in football the same way Ray Lewis runs out of the tunnel: ridiculously. I scream at the top of my lungs, then turn to a crowd of people I either know or don’t know and fire fake machine guns while making a fake machine gun noise, and then I hug whoever is in my vicinity (even if they’re ethnic). It’s the type of elation only found in a mother’s eyes the first time she holds her child. And if you told me that the guy making the sack just chugged a Mark McGwire sized bottle of steroid-soda and the guy who got sacked couldn’t poop on his own at 48 years old, I’d say “Oh that’s bad” with nowhere near the honesty there was in my post-sack-ridiculous-Ray-Lewis-moment. And this is the real problem, sports fans don’t really care...and shouldn’t.
Being a sports fan in general is all about suspending disbelief. My favorite sports memory of all time was when I went to the “Snow Bowl.” The Patriots defeated the Raiders in a snowstorm on a last second kick to go to the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl they would end up winning in an upset. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s called the ‘Tuck Rule Game’ you infantile, yet talented writer.” See I know that everyone outside of New England calls that game the “Tuck Rule” game but I ignore that along with everyone else back home. We call it the “Snow Bowl” because that’s our team and the memory makes us all feel good about who we cheer for and who we spent that moment with. We then move on with our lives very happily disregarding Spygate (which is so well-known that the word “Spygate” doesn’t come up as being misspelled in auto-correct) and cheering for a guy like Belichick who, if he ever saw me dying in a fire, would slow down only long enough to roast a marshmallow. The thing is, every other fan base does the same thing. We all suspend belief long enough to think that our team goes out on the field or rink or court to represent our town because we maybe stand for something better than the town a few hours away. As if it’s Medieval Times and they’re knights defending the honor of their respective kingdoms (now THOSE guys are the real deal). That’s insane. These guys go out there for themselves, not you; because it’s their jobs and they have kids and multiple wives and coke habits to support. So if I’m willing the suspend disbelief long enough to think that this team means anything to me or my city, then of course I’m willing to conveniently forget that there’s no possible way someone who’s 265 lb can naturally run a 4.3 40m, or what they might do to another human on the field.
We know this -- if we really think about it -- but we really don’t care because the sport is entertaining and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Hey ESPN, it’s an administrative problem, not a societal one. If I lived in ancient Rome and I knew gladiators were fighting to the death in the coliseum that week, I’d be the first guy there, grilling tiger steaks at the tailgate, and you’d have a hot Erin Andrews look-a-like covering it all. We seek out the violent, animalistic nature in anything. If it’s a football game, or a new Die Hard movie, or UFC nine-hundred, it sells, and we buy it. There is no confusion that football is a violent sport, and that it can hurt people. There is no confusion that most, if not all, are trying in any way they can to get an edge because millions of dollars are on the line. Contrary to what you might try to sell us as a “national conversation,” we are not arguing these points. Yes, you’re a news driven channel but you seem to make these people talk about steroids and concussions in such a dire way that I feel like I’m wrong for not feeling the same. And yet, the NFL just grew revenue in 2012 for the millionth straight year. Clearly we, as a nation, don’t care. So the change has to come from the inside, from the top down, from NFL administration - not Stephen A. Smith and the white guy. And not from me. So, please, ESPN, I’m begging you, show some sports. I want my sports memories with blissful ignorance, I want my “Snow Bowl,” and I don’t care about concussions and PEDs.