Category Archives: Sports

(TOO) TOUGH LOVE

Parenting and the use of corporal punishment has been in the news the past week and a half because of the charges the soon to be former Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, caught for going overboard in disciplining his four year old son earlier this year. Until I saw the pictures of the bleeding welts Peterson inflicted on the child I will be honest and say that I blew the hubbub off as a manufactured controversy trying to get in on the Ray Rice spousal abuse scandal. I’m no stranger to parental figures coming at kids with switches, extension cords, and whatever was handy growing up. Those whippings, whuppings, beatings, whatever you call them did hurt at the time but I always looked at that stuff as a part of growing up in the world I was born into.
The stuff with Peterson combined with my current visit down here in Dixie to see my family and friends has brought up the memories of past physical punishments me and nearly everyone else I knew growing up received. I always tell my mom and aunts who did most of the disciplining of my cousins and me that if I knew about child protective services as a kid that they’d still be under the jailhouse for the stripes they put on us. I say jokingly because while the threat of punishment was always present if any of us crossed the definite lines that were set for us as kids I can truly say we weren’t scarred for life from it as some claim is possible when an adult lays hands on a child. Nah, the scars came from growing up in poverty with absent fathers for the most part.

I wasn’t an angel growing up but I wasn’t a quote unquote bad kid either. I knew whenever I drove my mother to wrath that she never whapped me or my brother because she was going through the hard times in her life that came from being a young, single, Black woman raising two knuckleheaded boys on her own. As an adult now, I understand somewhat the sacrifices she made to provide the basics for us as well as the extras like the Atari 2600’s and videogames for Christmas or cable so we could watch Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes beat each senseless every week on WTBS.

The meanest woman who ever lived...SIKE!!

Cherry and her two roughnecks

So if she popped us for giving her lip or not doing the chores around the house then while I didn’t necessarily like it, I did understand where it came from as a stern reminder to be thankful for what we did have as a family and to never take even the most mundane things for granted. My father, in the wind as always when I was growing up, never hit me but then again he never did much of anything for me outside of providing half my DNA and the greatest extended family in the world IMO.

Bringing that back around to Peterson and his parenting skills, it all comes down to realizing that perfect parenting doesn’t come with an instructional manual. Peterson, while obviously misguided, seems to take his cues on parenting from what he saw and experienced growing up relatively hand to mouth in Palestine, TX. He’s said in enough public statements before and since these child abuse charges that it was that type of childrearing that gave him the focus to reach the highest level of football. Who’s to say he would not have made it to the National Football League if his folks had not beat him with switches and extension cords when he crossed their lines growing up but he seems to think that was just as intrinsic to his success on the field just as much as his God-given speed and strength. If corporal punishment was such an important factor in his success then it’s not too hard to imagine him surmising the same tough love is what’s needed for his kids to succeed in life also.
If he thought that then he’s wrong though. Peterson has also said that he never beats his children with extension cords because he remembers how much that pain hurt when he was hit with them to know that wasn’t the way to go. He also experienced the loss of a child last year when his two year old son was beat to death by the kid’s mother’s boyfriend.

Know better, do better, AP

Know better, do better, AP

One of the truisms I try to live by in life is that if you know better, then you do better. Peterson knows more than most that an adult can kill a child with corporal punishment. If he doesn’t then he needs to be checked on that to become a better father because there’s little doubt to me he loves his kids. He’s definitely an engaged parent as shown by the fact he provides time as well as money for his kids but as always the best intentions can lead to tragic ends if the means are faulty. Hopefully, he’ll learn that sooner than later. Those of us who criticize him and other parents who use corporal punishment as unreconstructed troglodytes need to learn too we should not to judge too harshly lest we be judged the same if we come up short sometimes. There can be a fine line between tough love and abuse and seeing the bruises on his son and the knot on the head of another son that recently came to light, Adrian Peterson needs to get on the right side of that line.

–Jason O. Logan

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ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

I don't know, Maximus

I don’t know, Maximus

I was two steps above hopeless when it came to athletics as a kid, whether in or out of school. I had no ups, no rifle arm, and was slow as cold cane syrup on a winter’s morning but since I was twelve I’ve always liked watching sports. Baseball, basketball, and even tennis but no Nascar racing or golf because I’ve had more fun watching snails crawl across my driveway than watching those competitions because I don’t call them sports. All that said, I’m a pig rolling in slop every last week of August and the first week of September because sports is all I watch this time every year. Pennant races in baseball, the US Open in tennis, and, this year, the FIBA tournament to crown the champion of international basketball. All good times for me but it all pales because this time is when football season at the college and pro level starts. Every Sunday at noon, I pull on one of my Philadelphia Eagles jerseys and my Eagles medallion that I kiss two times for good luck before I put it around my neck. When the one o’clock games start I can normally be found with a huge bottle of water in my left hand and my laptop on my right thigh. This comes on the heels of an orgy of college football the preceding Saturday that can go from noon all the way to two in the AM if there’s a good game from the West Coast on tv. Good times and I do enjoy it still even if that pleasure is tempered the more I learn about the physical toll the pursuit of the blessed pigskin takes on their bodies of those who play it.

Rub some dirt on it and get back out there.

Rub some dirt on it and get back out there.

Anyone with half a brain can see that football takes a heavy toll on those who play the tackle style of it at any level. I’ve seen guys I’ve played with in pickup games rip tendons and ligaments in their knees and ankles not to mention break arms and leave to get cuts stitched up. I still have a scar under my lower lip from where one of my teeth broke through the flesh when I was tackled by a cousin of mine. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun in the heat of battle or the coolness of memory but that doesn’t stop me from admitting the game is still a barbaric spectacle. If games are like that on a sandlot then it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the trauma the professionals go through.

Dirty Waters in his prime

Dirty Waters in his prime

Broken bones stitch back together and bleeding cuts eventually scar over but bruises to the brain never get better. It’s not hard these days to find medical studies outlining the effect of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE on players at all levels of football but especially in the National Football League (NFL). If the studies aren’t enough then the increasing list of former pro players who suffer from dementia at ages younger than the norm or the ones who take their lives like Junior Seau or Dave Duerson or, even one of my favorite Eagles from back in the day, Andre Waters. Men who shot themselves in their chests so their brains would be available for study post mortem. Brains that were proven to be damaged inarguably from the years of sudden, violent impact on football fields across this nation that has been likened to car crashes almost every play.

How does this affect me as a football fan knowing that I’m watching a delayed snuff movie starring these athletes? Do I, as a heavy consumer of college and pro football, have a responsibility in any of this? Of course, I do. I’m not too jaded to say just because these guys knew the risks before they even stepped between those lines absolves me even if many do know those risks and if they don’t then they should. Coal miners in West Virginia know all about the risks of black lung and cave-ins too but they still go down into those mines and fight any movement to wean this country off coal to make sure they can continue to go down there. The oil workers for BP on the Deepwater Horizon which blew up in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago knew the risk but they still went out to that ill-fated platform while their peers are still in the Gulf, still drilling for treasure that can be the cause of their deaths as well. Just because the labor pool knows the costs doesn’t excuse those who profit from their slow motion suicides.

That's going to leave a mark

That’s going to leave a mark

So what do I do then? Nothing tangible because hypocrite that I am, I know that I’m a willing but passive participant in this widening calamity. I hope and pray these guys learn proper tackling techniques. I wish for doctors to find the key to help brains regenerate themselves after injury or for scientists to engineer more protective helmets and padding. I support parents guiding their sons (and daughters) away from football to other, less injurious sports. I also implore Coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles to finally win a Super Bowl so I can stop watching this brutally hypnotic sport. Seeing guys get carted off the field with injuries only reminds me that we as fans are just as responsible for what happens as the players, coaches, universities, and team owners because we’re all trying to scrape the blood and brain matter off before the next weekend so we can be entertained without blaming ourselves too much.

Jason O. Logan