Thursday, July 19, 2012

Football is hell

Governor Mark Dayton landed himself in hot water (again) yesterday, with (again) some probably ill-advised extemporaneous rambling.  This time, about a recent spate of off-season Viking arrests:
"Idle time is the devil's play," Dayton said, referring to the NFL's offseason. "It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o'clock [in the morning] and having problems. It doesn't excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it." 
"Shake one of their hands and you know that this is someone who is not your ordinary citizen. They're heavily armored, heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It's, basically, slightly civilized war," Dayton said. 
 "Then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they've been in combat or the edge of it and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. And that's part of the reality. That's not to say it's good and it shouldn't be improved. It should."
Cue totally predictable self-righteous freaking out.  "War is hell!  And football is a game!" cry the scolds of Minnesota in unison.  

Now, obviously, Dayton should have known better, but "I should have known better" is basically the dude's motto at this point.  But this would also be an excellent time to point out that he has a decent substantive case.  Contra, well, pretty much everyone, football isn't just a game.  It's physically punishing in a way that soldiering rarely ever is.  Enlisting doesn't mean your life becomes Saving Private Ryan every single day--or ever.  And if anyone wants to compare the measurable physical trauma of being a soldier (no bonus points for Being a Hero!) with the measurable physical trauma of playing football, it's easy to see who's going to come out ahead.  Being a soldier entails a relatively high risk of getting injured, but at least the Army tries to help you avoid repeated concussive blows to the head.

It might also be a good time to point out that, American Heroes or not, soldiers returning from a war zone aren't exactly known for their ability to reintegrate easily with civilian society.  Vets commit crimes too--a lot more than normal people--and hand-wringing over Dayton's comparison just hides the more important commonality: that young men who have developed in physically and mentally destructive environments of any description make poor neighbors, whatever amount of arms-length adulation you slop onto them afterwards.

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