Football season is officially back. With 2 full weeks of college games and the first week of NFL games in the books, it doesn’t seem like anything has changed. The fans are packed into stadiums without masks as if the COVID death rate hasn’t eclipsed a 7-day average of 1,600. Blind nationalist tributes took place without a semblance of reverence. This past weekend saw the celebration of athletes and institutions for their victories on the field, while ignoring their allegations of sexual assault at home. Yes, sports media has been more than excited to return to its normative practice of spoon-feeding its viewers a whitewashed combination of statistics, fan fiction, and the occasional sob story.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that conversations of Coronavirus would be played down this football season. COVID has become such a political trigger of the right wing that it’s best to just ignore it. The majority of Americans support mask and vaccine mandates by a wide margin, but the veracity of the alternative means the topic must be cut entirely. As shown with the militaristic practices paired with football, it is the right wing that sports must pander too.
The 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks lining up with the opening weekend for the NFL football season (after a year of dealing with a virus that shall not be named) was too perfect. Football announcers don’t handle disease news well, but they really excel with nationalism. Shallow emotions, flag montages, and the national anthem helped football fans remember not the events from 20 years ago, nor the consequences of the actions that followed, but solely their own emotions from the time. And isn’t that what Americans do best after a tragedy; remember how it affected them personally and little else?
I didn’t have expectations for anyone at the major sports networks to provide a different perspective to these two stories. They have been pre-determined by the networks’ practices for years. I am extremely disappointed in the lack of commentary around sexual assault and the sports world. On Saturday, Christiano Ronaldo scored 2 goals in his return to Manchester United after more than a decade away. The greatest goal scorer in soccer returns to one of the biggest clubs in fantastic style. Not a single word about the accusation Ronaldo raped a woman in Las Vegas in 2009. A banner flew overhead
What’s worse are the current investigations at LSU. Kirk Herbstreit ripped into Ed Oregeron’s team saying their play the previous weekend at UCLA, “Embarrassed every player to ever play for LSU.” Not one word of what could have caused players and coaches to leave the program and negatively affect it on the field. The university is currently being investigated for helping to cover up sexual assaults of students by student athletes. The allegations began during the tenure of the previous coach and the conspiracy has continued into Oregeron’s tenure. Kirk Herbstreit knows institutional troubles affect every aspect of the institution, and his blame of the players on the field gives too many administrators and coaches a pass.
I wish I didn’t have higher expectations of my sports to reflect the world they in which they participate. Sports are more than a distraction from the world. They are a place to recognize greatnesses not in a vacuum but from overcoming the difficulties we all face daily. That is where the inspiration sports can provide reaches its heights. The media’s inability to show me when athletes fail off the field or where sports can make a difference (and not just bullshit charity work) lessens the on field successes. Stop spoon feeding your audience and engage them.