Sheldon Richardson, Paid to be a Reckless Asshole
You guys hear about that Sheldon Richardson arrest; the 24 year old, highly paid professional football player for the NFL franchise, The New York Jets? Allegedly… He was caught drag racing at speeds exceeding 140 miles an hour. He took the cops on a merry high speed chase through a residential district, and when they did finally catch him, through the stench of marijuana the police found a semi automatic handgun and a 12 year old child. Keep in mind this happened mere weeks after Mr. Richardson received a four game suspension for failing a drug test due to marijuana…. allegedly.
As some clamor to figure out what the Jets response will be as well as how the team will fare without such a talented player, others will look at this string of unfortunate decision making as another “person who had it all” “being stupid” and “just throwing it all away with such reckless behavior for nothing. That would be a mistake. It’s not Sheldon Richardson’s fault he’s a reckless, irresponsible, and entitled football player like all of the other guys constantly in trouble for violence, drugs, domestic abuse, losing finger etc… Football fans, this is entirely your fault.
Paid To Be An Asshole
NFL players are literally paid to be reckless assholes. That is the entirety of their job description. “Asshole” in this case is code for “entitled.” Day in and day out, American footballers put their bodies through the meat grinder in order to entertain with stunning feats of athleticism. Broken bones, torn tendons, and blown joints are all just part of the game. “Playing through the pain” is less a part of the game as it is the holy edict of the church of football. While these aspects are inherent in many sports, only in American football are you expected risk chronic brain degradation with every play, and unlike 20 years ago now we ALL know better.
There are of course the severe concussions that occur and leave someone gets knocked out or randomly keeling over like Billy Bob from Varsity Blues. However, more and more studies are pointing to smaller and repeated traumas causing a host of complications including impaired cognitive functioning that cannot be scanned by an MRI. Higher cognitive functioning might help one better navigate the desire to Ray Rice their wife… sorry, viciously knock out their wife inside a casino elevator.
Despite the NFL’s efforts to suppress this information, as outlined in the Frontline documentary League of Denial, we all know about CTE at this point. It’s not a secret or a myth any more. We know what it is, we know what it does, and we know that the NFL was set to pay out $765 million in damages as a result of it, which still wasn’t considered close to enough. Because, for all the research, the human brain is still one of humanity’s great mysteries.
We’ve gotten really good at seeing the “chronic” part with the mood swings, memory loss, and suicides of former NFL players after they’ve passed. However, we are still in the dark for the effects of even run of the mill Traumatic Encephalopathy that could be causing greater problems with every pop on every down at every level of play, collisions that we disregard unless someone lands on a stretcher. We also know that football fans really don’t like to think about all the brain damage and crime that is funded by this enjoyment, nor how children are set up up to break their brains as soon as they’re old enough to wear a helmet. We actively pay these men to take reckless chances with their brains every time out. Of course it stands to reason the rest of their life would be handled with the same attitude considering potentially deteriorating decision making skills.
The Asshole Factor
We break our necks for this football shit. We offer our support, our money, our attention, our hopes, and even our prayers; and in doing so, we elevate men to the realm of gods. There are roughly 1700 professional football players in the NFL while there are around 7 Billion human beings on the planet Earth. That means there are only 0.00002% of the population (men, because to hell with gender parity) with the special alchemy of physical ability, mental skill, determination, and luck to make it in the NFL where the average player salary is around $2 million in a country where we fight over raising minimum wage to $15 an hour. An NFL contract is basically an invitation to join the gods atop Mount Olympus, and we treat football players as such. We give them tithe, we wear their standards, we sacrifice animals on grill shaped funeral pyres in their honor, we travel to see them, and we even offer up our hopes to them as they encounter one another again and again for all eternity. After enough of this treatment and its subsequent expectation, the notion of any sort of limitation would seem alien to any god.
Being one of those rare breed of football gods starts at a very young age. In pee wee, it makes you first picked and gets other kids to do what you say. In high school, it protects you from ridicule, gets you treated better than others, and even racism becomes thing you just don’t deal with in your town the same way. In college it gets you out of class and grade commitments, and makes you a campus celebrity, and depending on the program, provides your entire family with a house, cars, etc. Most importantly, it can even get you out of trouble with police and whoever else would stand between the program and victory.
As a pro, Football suddenly grants you the capital to do whatever ridiculous thing you want to do. After years of being denied actually being paid for all the work you put in, it’s like you finally get all the money you’ve been owed all at once. The best clubs, the best women, the best life; far beyond anything anyone you grew up with is doing. You’re suddenly rich and invincible. You’re just like God but with a way better body.
Power Addicts Absolutely
Power is as addictive as any drug, and a lifetime spent being great at something tends to corrupt a person quite a bit. Now imagine if your brain has been getting battered nearly every day in a way modern science still doesn’t know the effects of since you were 10 years old. Still, it’s the fans that make all that power possible by supporting as system in which players become so used to their status that they think it’s a good idea to suddenly reach under their seats when police are advancing on them with weapons drawn after drag racing. The tailgating, multiple fantasy teams, paying for cable when sports are the only thing you watch on it, and letting things slide are all part of the modern method of treating mere men like Greek gods. These movements are just as responsible for the bad and/or twisted behavior of men like Shelton Richardson, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Jovan Belcher, Jonathan Dwyer, Davone Bess, and even Tom Brady and Jason Pierre-Paul. Instead of pretending as though this player recklessness and entitlement is some sort of isolated problem or just the league’s responsibility to handle, maybe it’s time fans started taking responsibility for what and whom we support in our programs and what that really means… It’s either that or at least admit how much we don’t care about supporting assholes, gods, and monsters.