By Stephen Kent | Catholic News Service
The National Football League is shocked, just shocked, about the off-the-field violence perpetrated by some of its players.
Give me a break. The NFL is an industry of violence. It hires violent people for vast sums of money. It markets violence. What did its officials expect?
Case in point: Ray Rice, then of the Baltimore Ravens, was seen on a videotape dragging his then-fiancee by her hair from an elevator.
That gained the attention of the NFL, which suspended him for two games. That in turn gained the attention of organizations and thousands of people who felt that was mild punishment for someone looking like a caveman dragging his mate by her hair into the cave.
Then, an earlier portion of the video of the incident surfaced. In this one, Rice is shown throwing a punch to the face of his lady, knocking her into the elevator rail and apparently rendering her unconscious.
This murky video became the tipping point in case there are some people who might not have believed dragging a woman is not really domestic violence.
The NFL thereupon suspended Rice indefinitely. Take that to mean forever.
This is not the only incident. Another player, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, was suspended by his team for using an old-fashioned switch on his 4-year-old son.
And in the 2012 season, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for allowing bounties to be offered to his players for injuring opposing players.
These assaults follow closely the news media attention given to the large number of players suffering the consequences of multiple concussions during their playing careers.
People who say they go to games not for the violence but to appreciate the sport are like the young men who used to say they subscribed to Playboy magazine for its fine articles.
So what is the problem if thousands fueled up with a few six-packs paint their bodies with the colors of the local 11 and scream their heads off? Isn't Sunday afternoon meant for sitting in front of the big-screen TV and clapping when one of these behemoths is felled like a large redwood? If the camera shows a player immobile on his back, that's a good time to run to the kitchen for more chips and dip.
What is wrong is that anything that anesthetizes us to violence makes it commonplace and acceptable.
Professional football players are highly paid to forgo any restraint, coached to hurl their bodies in front of an oncoming player, to throw an opponent to ground.
It is easy to understand why those trained in violence and lack of restraint can resort to it off the field.
NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence 83 times since 2000, Time magazine reported.
Football is another example of a sport moving to excess. The sport of boxing transformed into cage fighting, the sport of wrestling became "rasslin" to appeal to TV audiences. Professional hockey relies more on brawls on the ice than the athleticism of the skaters.
So let the dark-visored players continue their brutality, but let's not be hypocritical and appear shocked when some of these men cross the line to domestic abuse or worse.
Advertisers that spend multimillions on televised NFL games seem to be getting the message that it's time to end the mayhem.
"'Nevermore' quoth the raven" -- and the Lions and the Bears and the 29 other franchises.
Kent is the retired editor of two archdiocesan newspapers and has a master's degree in spirituality. He can be contacted at: [email protected].