I’m supposed to be studying Systematic Theology but I’m utterly distracted by all this news about Adrian Peterson, his son and my favorite football team. So these are my raw, long-winded, not so well crafted thoughts on this matter that’s been haunting me all day.
When the Ray Rice video came out I was appalled and thought, “this man belongs in jail”. It was a bold reminder to me of just how ugly this whole sports world can be. I was also thinking, “what motivation does the NFL have to protect this guy? Yes he’s a good player, but it’s not like he’s Adrian Peterson or Tom Brady or something”. And then Friday happened. Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse. Damn.
I’m going to be honest. I was appalled, just as I was with Ray Rice. I was sickened for this poor little 4-year-old boy. But I also thought, “my team can’t buy a break”. I’m sure the non-sports fans out there are wondering why we care so much and why we put so much faith in these guys, and it’s a very fair wondering. But the truth is, these teams mean a lot. You grow up with them, you connect with them, and they become a part of your life. For some they become way too much a part of your life, but for most, they’re simply a part of your weekly and annual rhythms. My whole life, I’ve been watching the Vikings on sunday afternoons, even if it’s only the second half. And so there I was thinking that my team can’t catch a break. I found myself feeling sorry for myself as a Viking fan (insert joke referencing any number of seasons here). How messed up is that? Here is a 4 year old boy with lacerations on his legs, and here’s a grown man who doesn’t even see what he’s does wrong because this is just how it goes in his culture, and I’m upset because this is just another setback for my favorite football team.
Well today it all changed. I was glad the Vikings deactivated Peterson last Friday, seemingly without hesitation. And everybody expected a potential release, trade offer or at least continued deactivation today. I don’t know that any of us thought he would be reactivated, which he was. This was a wake up call. I love sports. I really do. And I love my local teams. And I have had more than one occasion where I thought I would resign my Vikings fandom, but they were always football related. I’ve been “ashamed” to be a vikings fan in the playful “woe is us” sense. The boat party was disgusting, but was also not so different than the strip clubs and womanizing that we all know takes place all the time in all sports. So I’ve had moments of “shame”, but it’s never been real shame. They’ve always been my team, and I’ve even joked about how “you can’t choose who you love”. But today that changed. Today I felt real shame about being a fan of this team. How can I associate myself with a team that on Friday immediately deactivated Peterson, got trounced on Sunday, and on Monday reactivates him and says, “we’re not opposed to discipline and we’re not going to judge until legal action takes its course”.
To Be a Fan or Not To Be a Fan
So today I sit here seriously contemplating no longer rooting for this team. But then I thought, what good would that do? Who would I root for? This whole league is a mess. In fact, professional sports in general is a mess. Who do you root for? We are absolutely naive if we think there’s a team out there that wouldn’t do the same thing. Sports has gotten so out of whack in this country that this is just the way it is. It’s been this way for a long time. We just hear about it and get the details more now. And that’s a good thing, but don’t be so fooled to think that it’s just a few isolated incidents in an isolated period of time. The only option, if I’m going to give up on the Vikings, is to give up sports in general, with the possible exception of the Minnesota Lynx. And if I’m honest, I’m just not sure I’m ready to do that. Maybe that makes me a bad and hypocritical person, but I will freely admit that I enjoy the sport of it too much to give it up. I don’t enjoy the ugly stuff, but I love to sit down on a sunday afternoon and watch football too much to let it go. And even if I did give up on the Vikings, I guarantee you that if they get relevant again in a couple years, I’ll be back. And, as I’ve already said, which team do you go to? None of them have clean hands. Not even the darling Green Bay Packahs, so don’t even bother. So while it’s unrealistic for me to make some grand proclamation to give up on the Vikings and sports in general, there is one thing I will do: I won’t be rooting for my favorite football team on Sunday. I just can’t. But that, of course, means I’m rooting for the Saints? Do you see how impossible this is? I’ll root for the New Orleans Bounty Hunters, but just for this week. I need the Vikings to fail on Sunday.
What I Wish I Would Have Heard
I had hope on Friday that the Vikings might actually use this for some positive good. One local sports columnist wrote today about why he thinks it’s ok for Peterson to play on sunday. He’s a smart guy and makes some good points, but there’s another way this could have gone. Imagine how different this would all feel if the Vikings General Manager got up there today and said the following:
“It’s been a rough weekend. Not because we got trounced yesterday, but because we were reminded first hand that the problem of domestic abuse that is too prevalent in our world, and in our league, and is also too prevalent on our team. We cannot change the broader culture. We cannot change even the NFL culture. But we can change the culture of the Minnesota Vikings. Adrain Peterson will not be playing again next week. We are in serious conversation with him about his life and working with him to find some counseling to help him see what appropriate parenting and discipline looks like. Yes, many will say this is none of our business. We beg to differ. The safety of children is everybody’s business. Adrian Peterson will not play another game in a Vikings uniform until he authentically comes to see the error of his ways and the errors of his upbringing, and makes steps toward change. We will also let the authorities do their work and to determine what legal consequences he will have to face. Adrian will be well represented legally, as anyone deserves, but we will also fully support whatever legal judgement comes his way.”
Idealistic, I know. Probably flawed too, I know. But this is the kind of sentiment I hoped to hear from the Vikings today. Instead I heard they are not opposed to discipline. And what that really means is “all that matters is winning and making money, not matter how.” That’s what matters folks- winning and making money. It’s true on my favorite team and it’s true on yours-pick your sport. It’s not shocking, We all know it. Let’s be honest about it.