“Hi kids, do you like violence?”
For a peaceful person, I sure love violence.
I think of myself as a person who doesn’t like violence. I’m not really into guns, or swords, or any other weapons. I usually don’t like hurting anybody and I don’t like seeing people in pain. I think the faces of death videos are deplorable. But, I recently realized I am a giant hypocrite.
I find humor in the over-the-top, comic book style violence of the Kill Bill and Sin City movies. I am emotionally gripped by the dark and violent turns in movies like The Departed and TV shows like Breaking Bad. This troubles me a bit because I like to believe I would never do those types of things, but I can also dismiss it because these movies are simply depictions of violence. They aren’t real. In that light, you might say I only like the artistic depiction of violence. I wish that were true, but it isn’t. The truth is, I like actual violence.
Football is my favorite sport and often my favorite thing to watch on TV. Aside from rooting for my alma mater, I don’t even have a favorite team. It’s not about the win or the loss. I love the drama of it. I love the strategy of it. I love the physics of it. I even love the violence of it.
I have a personal connection to such violence.
I played football for a decade and eventually became a starter on the varsity team. High school games weren’t televised back then, but it was still a violent game. Each week I would try to knock the other teams quarterback out of the game. Most of the time I tried to do this within the confines of the rules, but occasionally I would cross the line and hope to not get caught.
I wasn’t thinking of the opposing players as people. They were just obstacles standing in the way of victory. I like to believe I was spurred into dehumanizing my opponent by my coaches and the “us versus the world” mentality they tried to instill into us.
The picture was very clear at the time. Those rich, pretty-boy, east-side bastards looked down on the poor kids from the west side of the valley. We didn’t live in the foothills of the ski slopes so we had to make them respect us by force.
Tapping into the inferiority complex a lot of us had made motivating us easy for the coaches. They may have even believed what they were selling. Hell, there may even have been a kernel of truth to what they were saying, but they sure made it seem like it mattered a lot more than it actually does.
That’s the beauty and the curse of sports.
If you beat the other team, you win, that’s it, case closed, you were better than they were. It establishes the pecking order. The flip side is that it implies there needs to be a pecking order in the first place.
Even as many of my teammates were sidelined with injuries of their own, I continued trying to hurt the other team. I wouldn’t dive at their knees or anything like that. I wasn’t trying to knock them out for the season. Just for the rest of our game so we would have a better chance of winning. Plus, I didn’t want them to have the excuse that we could only beat them if we played dirty. But, as I said, I would often push the boundaries.
I would hit the quarterback even after he got rid of the ball. I wanted him to know I was close. I wanted him to be jumpy in anticipation of the next hit I was about to give him. I managed to knock a few quarterbacks out of games over the years. Sometimes, if there was a pile-up, I would twist the foot of an opposing player in an attempt to slow him down by giving him a sore ankle, or at least discourage him from jumping in on the next pile.
I don’t know whether those things ever did anything to help us win or not, but football is a sport of physical dominance. Enduring pain takes energy, low energy causes fatigue, and as Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Cowards aren’t dominant.
Legitimate feelings of dominance are hard to find as a young man.
That’s partly why victory felt so good. Most paths to that feeling are illegal or at least frowned upon. Not only was football accepted, it was celebrated. It still is.
I like to think of myself as a modern man, a thinking man. I use my brain to solve problems, not brute force. But, when I see a good hit in a football game, I’m reminded of the feeling of dominance I used to get when I played. I don’t like admitting it, but I still enjoy that feeling. It’s a primitive feeling. Understanding the physics involved makes it even more impressive.
I don’t want to see people hurt, but I love seeing a player execute the game plan so perfectly, with flawless technique, that it results in an artistic expression of violence, in a way that can’t be scripted.
I don’t know what my love of football says about me. I don’t like other violent sports. I’m not into UFC or martial arts at all. I don’t like boxing. I don’t even really like rugby. I never participated in them, so I have no connection to them. They seem way too brutal and violent to me, but doesn’t my love of football make me a hypocrite for thinking that? Maybe, but show me someone who says they’re not a hypocrite and I’ll show you someone who is. I was just a frustrated boy who loved a violent game and grew into a peaceful man who loves a violent game. Excuse me for not being one dimensional.
In the spirit of being multi-dimensional, I have to tell you of another reason I loved playing football, especially under the lights of a packed stadium. I am an attention addict. But, we’ll go into that another time.
Thanks for reading.
Follow me on twitter: @john_dilley
Title quote by Eminem