Bleeding heart liberal misses football’s important lessons for our boys

49ers-seahawks-2014 footballPeter Beinart is in agony, because he’s a terrible father.  Why is he such a terrible father?  Because he allows his son to watch pro football with him.  By doing so, says Beinart, he lends his imprimatur to something that’s really no different from a Roman gladiator contest, with the loser gladiator executed or eaten by lions at the end:

Last Saturday night, he [Beinart's 8-year-old son] proudly dug out a long-unused Patriots jersey and joined me on the couch late into the night as the Patriots dispatched the Indianapolis Colts.

It was wonderful. And it made me a little sick.

It made me sick because I could see the game through his eyes. And it wasn’t pretty. My son, unfamiliar with the NFL’s pieties, assumed that hurting the other team’s players was the goal. To his untutored eye, the violence that guilt-ridden fans like myself decry was a feature, not a bug. He didn’t cheer the injuries; he’s too sweet for that. But despite my insistence to the contrary, I suspect the message he took from the experience was: The only thing you need to know about the large man writhing in agony on the screen is whether he’s on our team.

Mr. Beinart, if the takeaway lesson from football that you’re teaching your son is “let’s cheer when men get hurt,”  the problem isn’t with the game, it’s with you.  You are indeed a failure as a father because you, with all your fine words and liberal anguish, were completely incapable of teaching your son the good lessons that football — especially pro-football — teaches.

Thankfully, I’m not you.  After having watched six hours of football yesterday, I had a very different takeaway message for my adolescent son:  You can learn a lot from these guys.  The reason I enjoy watching the game is because there’s something thrilling about men giving 110% to what they’re doing.  I never watch an NFL game and think, “Gee, that quarterback is slacking off.”  Or “That tight end’s doing nothing out there.”  Anybody can be taught technique, but it’s up to each individual to bring passion, self-discipline, drive, energy, and courage to whatever he does.  Those guys who make it to the NFL — and especially the guys who make it to the playoffs — are the best of the best, not just at the sport of football, but at the art of being a man.

Watch a pro game, not for the game aspect, but in a more abstract way, just seeing the men as bodies in motion.  Every man on the field gives his all.  These guys use their bodies as missiles, battering rams, walls, whatever.  They are the quintessence of dedicated manliness without weapons.  It’s hard on the body (although the media is making up numbers as it goes about the risks associated with the game) so these guys are appropriately well-compensated.  That’s okay.  It’s a known risk that they willingly take for a tangible financial reward.

In an increasingly feminized world, pro football is one of the last bastions of unabashed manliness.  In classrooms all over America, boys are forced to sit still and read books about their feelings (where once they were at least allowed to read stories of war and heroism and adventure).  In school yards all over America, girls and boys — but especially boys — are told not to compete, not to run, not to throw, not to hit . . . heck, not to engage in any of the familiar rituals (at all times, in all cultures) that young boys do as they move toward manliness.  Rather than celebrating and cultivating manly virtues (bravery, loyalty, honor, strength), we routinely tell boys that, unless they imitate girls, they are without virtue.  Their natural instincts are defined as fundamentally bad.

And then there’s football.  I’m always amazed and impressed when I see a player run, spin, and leap, eluding attackers and, quite often, still running with at least one person attached to his leg.  My lizard brain is telling me, “If this guy was my mate, and I was being chased by anything from an enraged mammoth, to a Nazi, to a Taliban, this is the guy who would be there for me.  Pajama Boy would be screaming and weeping and begging for mercy, but this football player would lay his life down for me . . . after first inflicting some serious injury on the other guy (or mammoth).”

Yes, these guys can be as violent off the field as they are on.  The fact, though, that their violent acts make headlines tells us that, for most of them, they can turn off the violence just fine.  After all, these incidents make news because their rare, not because they’re ordinary.  In any event, I suspect that their random acts of violence have more to do with their upbringing than their football career.

Men should be allowed to be men.  I’d much rather have my guy get his instincts out in the culturally-sanctioned, structured environment of the football field, rather than spending his day pretending to be Pajama Boy, only to come home frustrated and angry.  For better or worse, we humans are animals.  The healthiest society is that which gives a controlled outlet for our animal instincts, than one that forces people to deny entirely that those instincts exist.

“Come on, you Spurs! Come on, you Spurs!

When I lived in England, the Tottenham Hotspurs, a London based football club, was doing very, very well.  It had done very, very well the year before too.  So Chas & Dave, a popular English duo, wrote a song, which became a massive hit.  The song is undeniably catchy, and it’s been stuck in my head for more than thirty years now:

During the song, you can hear the players in the back holler “oy, oy.” When I first heard this, I thought it was a funny coincidence that the Spurs used a Yiddish word like that. I was quickly disabused of this notion. There was nothing coincidental about that. The Spurs had such strong support from London Jews that it was called “the Jewish Club.” Back in the day, that was just a fact. The Brits, who were then known for a casual, rather than venomous, antisemitism, might make slighting remarks, but that was all.

Today, though, the team’s Jewish identity is something very dangerous for the team’s fans, despite the fact that there are no Jewish players and the vast majority of its fans aren’t Jewish:

For Tottenham Hotspur’s corps of traveling fans, Thursday’s soccer game in Italy against Internazionale Milano holds many dangers—and not just to their team. When Tottenham played Lyon in a Europa League game last month, 150 visiting fans were set upon by a group of neo-Nazis, with three Spurs supporters ending up in the hospital. It was the second time in recent months that the team’s fans have been attacked by a fascist mob in Europe—in November, several Spurs fans were injured when they traveled to Rome to see Tottenham take on Lazio. Their assailants screamed “Jews” before attacking them with knives and clubs.

Tottenham’s supporters are no strangers to anti-Semitism. The North London team has been known as the “Jewish club” since the beginning of the early 1900s, when it regularly attracted over 11,000 Yiddisher supporters to home games. In 1986, it was the first big team (and the last) to hire a British Jew, David Pleat, as a coach, and a Happy Yom Kippur message has made an annual appearance in the club’s official program since 1973.

The paragraphs above come from a Wall Street Journal article about the team and its Jewish identity. Although it’s short,it nevertheless manages to be a fascinating blend of history, antisemitism, and identity in a PC age. It is, therefore, well worth reading.

The Leftist delusion of a world without danger

Thomas Hobbs, who was born into the waning years of the 16th Century and lived three-quarters of the way through the 17th Century, in his great work, Leviathan, characterized man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He was not an optimist.

William Hogarth's Gin Lane

Hobbs may have been a pessimist, but he was also quite accurate.  In a pre-industrial, pre-scientific era, half of the children lucky enough to survive childbirth would die before their fifth birthday, with death usually resulting either from disease or accident (falling into an open fireplace or drowning in a well or waterhole were accidents common to the pre-modern era).

If one was lucky enough to survive early childhood, life still didn’t get much easier.  Even in stable communities, food supplies were unreliable; crime was prevalent; war had a nasty habit of breaking out all over; disease stalked everyone; childbirth was the scourge of young women; lightning and cooking caused deadly fires that swept through wood-built communities; and weather forecasts were nonexistent and weather deaths (cold, heat, lightening, floods, winds, etc.) were commonplace.  Old age was a rarity — or at the very least, was defined differently, with a toothless crone in her late 40s qualifying as “old.”

For those who managed to avoid premature death, life was dark indeed.  I mean that literally.  Except for the very rich, who could enj0y beeswax, the poor lit their homes (which usually had no windows) with smoky fires or tallow lights that left everything smelling like an old fryer at McDonalds.

Personal cleanliness was viewed with suspicion (as a sign of moral debauchery) so it wasn’t uncommon for people to go a lifetime without bathing.  Nor was this filth limited to the lower classes who had no access to running water.  James I of England was famous for his certainty that bathing would kill him.  Even the marginally clean English found his personal habits distasteful.  Streets and sewers were interchangeable, with people in buildings tossing the contents of their chamber pots into the streets, regardless of passing pedestrians.

Child Labor minor miners

The Hobbesian world began to change with the industrial revolution.  Wealth was no longer tied to the land and, therefore, finite.  It was suddenly infinite.  Although the initial transition from agricultural to industrial wrought appalling havoc for the poor, by chaining them to factory labor or coal mines in conditions that were little better than slavery, working their children to death, and herding them into filthy urban ghettos, overall the standard of living rose for everyone.  The rich, of course, benefited first, but the poor did too, to the point at which (at least before the endless Obama recession) even the poorest in American (unless they were insane homeless people) were able to buy cool shoes and disposable cell phones at Walmart.  Poverty became a matter of discomfort, not death.

Louis Pasteur

Things became even better when the scientific revolution picked up steam.  Suddenly, scientists and physicians had the comforting illusion that, when it come to the mysteries of disease, they could see all and know all.  Bacteria were visible and, with Penicillin, vulnerable.  Ailments originating within the body (a hot appendix, a bladder stone, even a damaged heart valve) could be fixed.  Viruses bowed down before vaccinations.  We were going to live forever.  Indeed, even though we 21st century residents haven’t actually achieved immortality, our modern lifespans would have been unimaginable only a century ago.

Battledore and Shuttlecock in 1845

One of the most stunning byproducts of the industrial and scientific ages was childhood, not just as a biological reality, but as an intellectual construct.  Past times recognized infancy and early childhood (until about 7 years old) as times of necessary development and dependency.  After that, though, right up until the Victorian age, children older than 7 or 10 years were regarded as mini-adults.  They were put to work in field or factory, indentured to trade, married in their mid-teens, and generally given responsibilities that, nowadays, we still consider too extreme even for “children” in their mid-20s.  Even twenty years ago, people would have laughed at the thought that “children” of 26 were dependents for insurance purposes.  Go back a time a few more decades than that, and the rules were simple:  if you survived childhood, you headed rapidly into adulthood.

These very positive historical trends have left us with one very wrongheaded delusion:  the belief that we can insulate ourselves and, especially, our children from all danger.

Old-time football player

Sometimes, the very act of insulation creates greater, counter-intuitive risks.  Those of us who don’t remember football being so dangerous in decades past are right.  It’s not just that we were less aware of the risks, it’s that football players had less protective gear.  It was a speed and passing game, one that favored smaller players and less aggressive contact.  Leather helmets provided some protection, but did not encourage players to pretend that they were big horn sheep who could engage in serious headbutting.  Once players became enswathed in protective gear — high-tech helmets and shoulder pads — they began to play a more aggressive game, one that favored big players and high impact tackles.  In other words, the counter-intuitive result of more protective gear in football is a higher, rather than a lower injury rate.

19th century boxers

The same is true in the boxing world.  When boxers were bare handed, they couldn’t land a hit harder than their own knuckles would bear.  As between a solid jaw bone and a knuckle bone, the jaw usually won.  Even with the advent of gloves, the early gloves were thin enough that the striker still had a risk about equal to that of the person on the receiving end.  It was only when the boxing world shifted to massively padded gloves, which successfully insulate the knuckles, that boxers were able to land such devastating strikes against their opponents’ jaws, eye sockets, and temples.

Tony Peitrantonio knockout

We’ve also over-protected ourselves is in the battle between antibiotics and bacteria. After a seventy year run in the antibiotics’ favor, the bacteria have regrouped and are coming back strong. One regularly reads upsetting stories about treatment-resistant bacteria.  Tuberculosis has the potential to become a scourge again; MRSA haunts hospital hallways; and many of us our digging out our grandmothers’ household hint books to find out how people treated garden-variety infections (cuts and ear aches) in the era before antibiotics came along.  In the same way, we’re facing the ugly truth that, due to a combination of parents resisting vaccination, and diseases resisting vaccination, old childhood scourges such as chicken pox, whooping cough, and measles are on the upswing.

We can’t win for losing.  Or rather, we have become so confident of our victories that we forget that the enemy — even one that lacks cognitive abilities — is as intent upon its own survival and is as adaptable as we are.

The above are, in a way, mechanical protective reflexes, where industrialism and science enable us to place barriers between us and objects or pathogens that are dangerous.  What is a peculiarly Leftist foible is believing that we can ignore entirely Nature writ large, human nature, or cultural pathology.

Going back to the topic of childhood mortality, the sad fact is that, while kids once fell prey to disease, they now fall prey to all sorts of other things, some new and some old.  Here’s a 2007 snapshot of the things that killed American children who survived congenital diseases in infancy:

Car accidents:  6,683 deaths
Firearm homicide:  2,186 deaths
Suffocation/strangling:  1,263 deaths
Non-firearm homicides:  1,159
Drowning:  1,045 deaths
Poisoning:  927 deaths
Suffocation suicide:  739 deaths
Firearm suicide:  683 deaths
Fires/Burns:  544 deaths
Firearm accidents:  138 deaths
Poisoning suicide:  133 deaths

What may leap out at you is how many children died in 2007. What leaps out to me, since I’ve always bathed my brain in history, is how few children died in 2007.  Although each of the above numbers represents indescribable grief, the percentage of child deaths is infinitesimal compared to the overall population of children in America.  Moreover, by far the largest number of deaths occurred in a peculiarly utilitarian way:  car accidents.  These were unintentional deaths that resulted from an object that is integral to our society’s functioning.

Bloods gang member with gun

The next highest number of deaths, as any Progressive would point out, is indeed from guns.  But here’s what the white liberals ignore until there’s a Columbine or Sandy Hook that makes them feel vulnerable  In that same year (2007) that 3,345 American children were murdered, here are the statistics for male youth deaths within the black community:

52.3% of black, male 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
15.5% of black, male 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.3% of black, male 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
14.3% of black, male 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

The situation is better, but not much, for black girls in 2007, as they are less likely to die as teens, but more likely to die as toddlers:

18.3% of black, female 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
9.3% of black, female 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.5% of black, female 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
15.3% of black, female 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

In other words, we don’t have a gun problem:  we have a black-children-are-getting-murdered problem. Those liberals who pay any attention at all to deaths that don’t involve white suburban children, never bothered looking at human nature in order to determine how to deal with the problem.

They didn’t look at the way welfare renders stable, earning males obsolete, thereby breaking down the family unit and forcing young men to find other ways than family and maturity to prove their “manliness.”  They didn’t consider that if you attack Judeo-Christian morality without providing an alternative morality, you end up with no morality.  They didn’t consider that advancing abortion in all-black communities is a subliminal message that black lives are disposable.  Instead, they ignored the human factor entirely and decided that, if they made weapons illegal, the communities would instantly become hippie-like communes of peace, with a little pot on the side.

Because Progressives thought they could bring a mechanical solution to a human problem, even more black children died.  Think of it this way:  Getting rid of bacteria doesn’t make them go away.  They come back stronger in different ways.  Likewise, getting rid of guns doesn’t make murder vanish.  Humans get creative with other forms of murder, and guns go underground and, removed from law and morality, get applied in ever more violent ways.

We cannot protect ourselves into safety.  The world is a dangerous place, albeit infinitely less dangerous than it has ever before been.  We are deluding ourselves if we believe that, either through hyper-safety mechanisms or bans (bans on bacteria or bans on guns) we can instantly make things safer.  In fact, it’s often the case that eradicating the danger entirely is either a delusion (bacteria are still out there) or creates worse dangers than that we originally sought to avoid.

What we can do is try to modify certain behaviors in order to decrease (although never eliminate) risk.  If antibiotics are becoming less useful, let’s wash our hands more often.  If violence is plaguing a community, let’s try to temper the community by giving people constructive purposes in life and by creating a sensibility that values life.  Getting rid of guns will not get rid of violence.  Valuing life might just diminish it somewhat, though.

Even in defeat, Tim Tebow is an exemplary young man

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before, but my dog is perfect.  Her perfection isn’t always obvious to the uninitiated.  Those who don’t know what’s really important might think that, because she’s a mutt, she’s a little goofy looking.  They may feel that her habit of slipping on the kitchen floor and crashing into kitchen cabinets bespeaks a lack of that grace and elegance that the best dogs should have.  And maybe, just maybe, there are some who think that, because she doesn’t do tricks (no rolling, no shaking hands) she’s not too bright.  As I’ve said, the people who see only those traits — traits I find endearing — are missing her essence.

My dog is perfect because she is quite possibly the nicest dog in the world, which is exactly what one wants in a family pet.  She adores people, but in a diffident way that precludes aggressive friendliness.  She stands there, face smiling, tail wagging gently, signalling to people that she would be very happy to engage with them, but allowing them to make the first move.  No wonder the little girls in the neighborhood are her biggest fans.  She’s tidy, obedient, cuddly, playful, etc., etc.  Where it matters, she’s the best.

What does this have to do with Tim Tebow?

(Image by Craig ONeal)

Well, Tim Tebow didn’t win his last football game.  It was a biggie, and his team had a fairly ignominious defeat.  That allowed the usual crowd to talk about the fact that, as a quarterback, he’s still immature (which, given his age and short career falls into the “well, duh” category), that he’s got a bizarre playing technique, that he’s too slow to react, etc.  He is imperfect and, the naysayers imply, unworthy of the attention lavished upon him.

These naysayers, of course, are missing the point.  Well, I agree that Tim Tebow is not perfect, because no human being is, he is an exemplary young man in all the areas that matter.  He is deeply kind, humble, generous and, as we learned today, truly stalwart.  Despite sustaining very painful injuries after this weekend’s game was already good and lost, Tebow did not give up and, instead, played through the pain:

“I just wanted to show character. You just continue to fight and it doesn’t change who you are, how you play, how you go out there, you should be the same at all times,” Tebow said. “That’s what I wanted to show, it didn’t matter if it was the first play or the last play or you were down by 42. I was going to be the same player and I was still going to give everything I have. Because that’s all I have to give.”

There is a fundamental decency in that statement that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Tebow ever wins another football game.  It is enough that this season placed Tebow in the public eye so that as many people as possible can hear his message.  Certainly, his message his about his faith, and I don’t want to belittle that core component of his personality.  To limit what he offers to faith, however, is to do him disservice.  His approach to his faith means that, in his conduct, he sends a larger message about the human spirit, and this is a message that should reach all young people, whether they share his faith or not.

Certainly, I want my children to know that you can be famous, good-looking, talented . . . and courageous, kind, generous, moral, chaste, and all the other good stuff he is.  In a world saturated with Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Gansta Rappers, and all the other foul people polluting pop culture, what a tremendous gift Tebow is to our young people.  He uses his bully pulpit, not to tell people to use one sheet of toilet paper, buy $100,000 electric cars, or have sex, but, instead, to lead by example in the purest sense.  His is a doctrine of love, not just for God, but for human-kind.

It is this last point that makes a mockery of those anti-Tebowists who claim that they fear criticizing him lest his fans become violent.  No, I’m not kidding.  Max Lindenman, who feels as I do that Tebow has become an important symbol in the culture wars, caught a liberal columnist make precisely this point:

Yesterday in the Atlantic, I read a blog post that really turned my head. Robert Wright warns non-religious people, especially those he calls “liberals,” that “dissing” Tebow is a bad idea…because it might make the other guys really mad. Extreme “religious conservatives,” who “consider themselves to be at war with the prevailing culture,” will take cracks against Tebow as cues to “reject the entire liberal agenda, ranging from gay rights to uncensored science education in the public schools.” Liberals, he advises, should be as discreet regarding the Broncos QB as the Jyllands-Posten wasn’t regarding Muhammad, prophet of Islam.

Unlike the Islamists, Tebow is the Abou ben Adam of faith, one who manifestly loves his fellow man as part of his faith in God.  No one who respects Tebow is going to use violence as a means of expressing that support.

There are others like Tebow — Marine Lance Corporal Donald Hogan, for example, who earned was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross — who have this abiding love for mankind.  What they lack, however, is Tebow’s prominence.  There are too many heroes whose work is done in the quiet and the dark.  Tebow brings their ethos into the light.

LCPL Donald Hogan

I don’t care that Tebow is a somewhat ungainly quarterback.  As a parent, and as someone who has watched our pop culture decay for too many years, I care deeply that Tebow is almost perfect in the areas that matter.  He is a gift to our culture, and I hope that as many people as possible appreciate this gift.

Penn State open thread *UPDATED*

For those of you who have things you want to say about the goings-on at Penn State (the sexual abuse, the cover-up, the firings, and the riots), have at it.

My take is that it’s worth contrasting this appalling sexual abuse with the claims against Cain. I know that a greater wrong doesn’t cancel a lesser one, but it should make any rational person look twice at the woman now claiming Cain’s monstrous crime was that he gave off a vibe.

UPDATE:  Here are three articles from today’s Investor’s Business Daily, all discussing different aspects of the allegations against Herman Cain.  I think this is an appropriate place for these articles, because of the nice contrast between Cain, a victim of modern anti-male, anti-corporate harassment laws, and Sandusky, an actual child rapist.  Again, Cain might have been a boor, but so far there’s not much else.

Will someone tell us what Herman Cain did?

David Axelrod’s pattern of sexual misbehavior

No-fly zone over Clinton, JFK sexcapades

UPDATE II:  Greg, at Rhymes With Right, introduced me to a post that sums it up as perfectly as any could:

These things should be simple:

1. When, as an adult, you come come across another adult raping a small child, you should a) do everything in your power to rescue that child from the rapist, b) call the police the moment it is practicable.

2. If your adult son calls you to tell you that he just saw another adult raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, and then asks you what he should do, you should a) tell him to get off the phone with you and call the police immediately, b) call the police yourself and make a report, c) at the appropriate time in the future ask your adult son why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

[snip]

You know, there’s a part of me who looks at the actions of each of non-raping grown men in the “Pennsylvania State University small-child-allegedly-being-raped-by-a-grown-man-who-is-part-of-the-football-hierarchy” scandal and can understand why those men could rationalize a) not immediately acting in the interests of a small child being raped, b) not immediately going to the police, c) doing only the minimum legal requirements in the situation, d) acting to keep from exposing their organization to a scandal. But here’s the thing: that part of me? The part that understands these actions? That part of me is a fucking coward. And so by their actions — and by their inactions — were these men.

Read the rest here (and, really, do read the rest).