I.O.U. or U.O.ME?

March 10, 2008

Following an event during a recent Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, I spoke for a while with a member of the HOF’s board of directors.  We compared notes on which Hall of Famers had returned for the annual festivities — the Hall has begun a tradition of inviting all back each year — and discussed why some inductees don’t return. 

This board member felt strongly that those non-returnees were showing a lack of gratitude to the NFL and the Hall by their absence.  He felt they “owed” both institutions because these players wouldn’t be everything they are and have everything they do if it weren’t for pro football.   

I am a huge football fan.  My dad started taking me to Browns and Hall of Fame games when I was still in elementary school — and that’s been a while, but we won’t go there.  Anyway, as much as I love pro football, I am not a fan of everything the NFL does, especially the way it has handled, or mishandled, the retired players’ pension issues.  Talk about owing someone something –who actually built the NFL into the sports powerhouse it is today?  The players maybe?  The NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) should show the same loyalty to those pioneers as the HOF board member thinks the players should show the NFL. 

The players who honor their induction into the Hall of Fame by returning are really honoring those who came before them, those who played with them, and the game itself.  And those are the real reasons they should return to Canton each year.   But I agree it would be nice to see more Hall of Famers come back.  Maybe when the NFL starts treating its former players with some respect and compassion, they will return the favor.   

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Culture Shock

March 4, 2008

As a former employee of the federal government and of numerous presidential and congressional campaigns, I understand what politically correct means — especially in the sense of being respectful of cultural customs and behaviors.  But respect the practice of cockfighting because it’s part of someone else’s culture?  I don’t think so.

ESPN’s Stuart Scott has a column, “Two Way,” in ESPN The Magazine.  Readers are invited to share their thoughts on sports issues.  In the March 10, 2008, issue, Wes from Atlanta expressed his disappointment that some Dominican major league baseball players have been linked to cockfighting.  Scott responded that he didn’t like it either, but Americans risk being thought of as arrogant if we “expect or believe they shouldn’t do it.”  Scott suggested that because cockfighting is part of the Dominican culture, Americans “should respect that.”

Really?  Does that mean we should also respect child labor, stonings, female circumcision, and slavery?  In some parts of the world, these abuses are considered “cultural.”  I know, these are gross human rights abuses, and Scott is talking about animal abuse, but for a lot of us out there, any abuse of a living thing is condemnable.  But I guess Stuart Scott thinks we should all  just keep our mouths shut.  I mean, we don’t want anyone to think we’re arrogant or anything.

 In the same issue, columnist Junot Diaz writes about cockfighting as well, from the standpoint of a Dominican.  He calls it cruel, inhumane and a way of life there.  He also points out the inconsistencies in the U.S. with our poultry industry.  True, and those issues are being addressed and will hopefully result in more humane treatment of animals used for food marketing.  But we are talking sport.  Most people would be horrified if they visited an animal processing plant.  They surely wouldn’t be enjoying it as a sport. 

I understand that Scott wants to be respectful of other cultures.  There were some who thought Michael Vick’s dogfighting exploits were cultural.  But, if we can’t speak out against such “cultural” practices, aren’t we in a way condoning them?  At the very least, wouldn’t initiating an open dialogue about such issues be a healthy exercise for all involved — especially the unfortunate animals?  Maybe some real change could be brought about. 

If I see or hear about something I consider to be cruel and inhumane in our culture or anyone else’s, I will say so.  Just call me arrogant.     

    


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