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Damon Young: The fake hustle of self-righteous NFL critique


I don’t remember after I first heard Coach Mac, my head coach in college, critique me or certainly one of my teammates for “fake hustle.” I do keep in mind that although it was the primary time I’d heard that phrase, it was so vivid and contextual that I immediately knew what he meant. It’s the performance of effort in lieu of effort — a manipulative melodrama intended to persuade people you care more and play harder than you truly do. In a basketball context, it’s slapping the ground with each palms to speak good defense as an alternative of just locking up.

If this is just too esoteric, think a triflin’ boyfriend bending the knee and proposing to his girlfriend in a crowded mall food court. Or, higher yet, an individual talking and texting and tweeting and writing about how problematic the NFL is — and receiving all of the straightforward, low-hanging lauds of being critical of the Death Shield — after which watching the games.

After all, the trail for ethical consumption here, in America, is narrow. It exists, sure. But capitalism ensures it’s intentionally elusive. When you dig far enough, most occupations we hold and consumer selections we make are possible due to harms to this point faraway from the minutiae of our lives that they don’t feel significant enough to affect our behavior. Possibly you wouldn’t buy those sneakers in case you lived next to the sweatshop they were threaded in. But you reside in a suburb with zoning laws, so that you don’t think twice about it. So, what distinguishes criticizing the NFL but still watching the games from critiquing, I don’t know, Apple’s labor practices but owning an iPhone? What makes the previous “fake hustle” but not the latter? I actually have a solution. But first, I would like to speak concerning the NFL’s recent “helmets.” Have you ever seen the helmets? Let’s talk concerning the helmets because that explains every thing else.

When you’ve watched any footage from training camp this 12 months, you would possibly have noticed that the players are wearing something that appears like someone gathered all of the waffles from IHOP and stitched them together right into a helmet-like substance. They’re called “Guardian Caps,” they’re intended to scale back head trauma, and the NFL has mandated that linemen, tight ends, and linebackers — the players who are likely to be involved in essentially the most helmet-on-helmet collisions — must wear them during training camp. Guardian Sports, the manufacturer of the waffle, claims it reduces impact as much as 33 percent.

If this appears like one other example of pretend hustle, you’re right, it’s!

Football, America’s hottest sport (by far) and most lucrative TV property (by far), demands that lots of the participants violently smash into one another every time the ball is snapped. Scientists and players have compared the collisions to automotive accidents. The typical variety of snaps per game is roughly 130. Multiply that by the variety of games each season, after which multiply that by the variety of years these men have played contact football, after which you could have a … really big number. The NFL telling everyone they’re making football safer is like choking someone and calling it a neck massage. The one method to change this sport is to make a recent sport, something nobody could be very serious about. The violence — and the broken brains and bodies brought on by it — isn’t just an unlucky inevitability, it’s all the point. The tremendous feats of skill and athleticism that populate highlight packages are only meaningful due to the specter of terrible violence. And sometimes, the terrible violence is the highlight. Remove the violence, and also you remove the interest. Remove the interest, and also you remove the cash.

When it is known that the NFL’s primary function is to extend the worth of the 32 teams, it is smart that so long as franchise values proceed to grow into the billions, the league (and, by default, we) doesn’t really care that much concerning the health of the players. After all the NFL’s conduct policy will at all times be rickety and janky, because things created to construct a veneer of concern are likely to be. After all the NFL used to receive thousands and thousands of dollars a 12 months from the Department of Defense, an act that paid for the injection of the performance of patriotism, and made each game feel like an episode of “NCIS.” After all it could make an enormous stink every October, with the special pink gloves and cleats to acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And in fact it was revealed in 2013 that only eight percent of the proceeds went to breast cancer research. (The NFL now devotes October to raising awareness for all cancers.) After all it could effectively blackball a player for kneeling throughout the anthem. After which, when the national consciousness concerning the value of Black lives shifted for that whisper of an hour in the summertime of 2020, and protesting became a market-tested corporate strategy, in fact the owners would find it of their hearts to be more tolerant of kneeling. The NFL has created America’s best symbiotic relationship between the monetization of harm and the performance of harm reduction.

The one method to change this sport is to make a recent sport, something nobody could be very serious about.

So, back to you. Well, back to us, because I’m here too. Ever since watching Ryan Shazier almost die in 2017 during what looked like a routine tackle, I don’t watch as much football as I used to. I mainly only watch the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve tried to rationalize this by saying I’m a Steelers fan, not an NFL fan, but that’s fake hustle too!

Anyway, what makes the fake hustle of NFL criticism so distinct is that football — the NFL specifically — is inessential. An iPhone, for example, generally is a necessity for communication, health care, public safety, food delivery and employment. But our consumption of the NFL is centered in pure and unadulterated desire. Which implies that even while knowing that not watching is literally the one way we may give the league any incentive to sincerely try to change, we watch since it just feels good.

Is the purpose here that we should always just say nothing? No! Keep the NFL on the new seat. Just know that so long as you retain watching the games, it’s not fire under that chair. Just smoke.

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