The National Football League of America

The National Football League of America

In what can only be described as a bonanza, the first NFL preseason game has come and gone and we’ve seen only one (potentially mass) murder. In NFL terms, this is a barefooted walk over a path of tulips, affectionate kittens dotting the journey.

The NFL is the sport that best mirrors our society, its waves of violence the tides and ebbs of any given Sunday. Let’s look at the 25 most violent US cities (see “Business Insider: Most Dangerous Cities in America”)- 21 of those cities are either NFL cities themselves, or are a stone’s throw from one (such as Flint, Michigan to Detroit or Bridgeport, Connecticut to New York and Boston).

Your mind might make the fallacious inference that the link between the most violent cities and NFL franchise cities is one of size. Nope. Los Angeles, for example, doesn’t have an NFL team and isn’t on the list, Buffalo is and does. A cursory glance of the list and the NFL franchises might lead one to believe that these are not generally esoteric places – this I will give you – but the true bond is cultural. Many NFL cities have historic cultures of violence and are truly symbiotic partners with the values of a game that has never been a family game unless your family crushes each other with great force (in which case, statistics indicate they might live in St. Louis or Cleveland).

None of this is new. Sports Illustrated wrote a wonderful piece (see “Still Think Playing Pro Ball Is Fun? Peter Gent’s First Novel Will Fix That”) back in 1973, exposing the realities of NFL culture and a superb book (later to be a mediocre film), “North Dallas Forty.” A witness to the innards of the game as a receiver for the mighty Cowboys of Dallas, Peter Gent penned what remains a seminal sports tome. I read the book when I was nine, a monument to irresponsible parenting and the illusion of the great American game being wholesome, like canned beer and cheerleaders.

Gent wrote a book as powerful as the Lone Star State. Violence, drugs, blackmail, violence, manipulation, pathological lying, and violence. A hearty stew that defines the league to this day. I remember the shock of the book’s heroine (not heroin) being gruesomely murdered in the same way many nine-year-olds may soon learn that their favorite receiver is a psychopath. At a time when people actually read words rather than stared at pixels, Gent’s gave us the first inside-out look at a game that would shape society just as society shaped the players who would shape the game.

So here’s to you, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and the many others who make the NFL what it is today. And vice-versa.

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Aron Solomon is a global strategist, planting things at the intersection of education and innovation. He likes ice-cold light American beer, catching foul balls in his Rawlings, and can be followed on Twitter @aronsolomon

 

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Aron Solomon

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