North Alabama football’s made national headlines before this weekend. The Division II program employed former Auburn head coach and bud on a renowned football coaching family tree, Terry Bowden. The Lions also gave dismissed Florida star cornerback Janoris Jenkins a stepping stone between a troubled past and a possible NFL Rookie of the Year campaign.
This time, bringing some more dubious attention on the program is a back-up long snapper. Bradley Patterson fired off a tweet on Sunday night that cost him his spot on the Lions roster.
The post is deleted, much like Patterson’s name from the team’s website. Patterson’s use of a racial slur to describe President Obama is the inflammatory part, but the underlying sentiment begs a question.
Is our culture too football-obsessed?
Deadspin.com cataloged several tweets that, while not all exhibiting the same poor taste as Patterson’s, prioritized a football broadcast over a presidential address on one of the most horrifying domestic tragedies ever.
This comes just weeks after the league opted not to postpone a game between the Panthers and Chiefs despite linebacker Jovan Belcher murdering the mother of his child, then committing suicide at Kansas City’s facility. Both teams were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention weeks prior, but an anonymous source told Sports Illustrated:
Nobody wants to play a football game right now if you’re a Kansas City Chief, but what does that do to the other 30 teams? It gets a little complicated from a schedule standpoint and a competitive standpoint.
The ubiquitious qualifier but blitzes common decency like Lawrence Taylor in his prime. The show must go on, for competition, for the fans, and for money.
The sport’s popularity swells with each year, demonstrated in record TV ratings and the monetary value networks and sponsors place on the product. Revenue should theoreticaly have less impact on the college game because of amateurism, enrichment of the academic and all that.
No one is so naive as to believe that’s the case; not with TV contracts shaping the course for universities’ futures.
Football does indeed enrich the academic experience. Winning football aids the academic even more, as schools like TCU can attest. The university had major increases in applications after winning the Rose Bowl two seasons ago.
Universities have a vested interest in successful football, as reflected in increased spending. A captive audience is both a necessity to and catalyst of the billions of dollars traded hands over football, and football’s audience has never been more captive: so much so, there are people who express frustration with the leader of the free world addressing the murder of nearly 30 citizens, most small children, two days after the fact; simply because it interrupts a football game.
The flip side of that is that football can be a unifier. Few other outlets bring such a vast and diverse collection of Americans together, so the field of competition can also reflect our shared emotions.
C.J. Spiller was among the athletes who played in the memory of those killed at Newtown. He tweeted his cleats from Sunday’s Buffalo Bills game.
Georgia Southern played North Dakota State Friday night in the FCS semifinals. Theirs was one of the first sporting events after the Connecticut tragedy. The Eagles donned SH markers on their helmets in remembrance of those killed and those impacted.
Virginia Tech’s 2007 season opener brought people together in a community ravaged by the single worst mass shooting in America. And after 9/11, sports became a symbolic measure of healing.
Our zealotry for the game can take on an ugly face, and sometimes our obsession overshadows that which is really important. Letting football be a distraction from the world’s ills is a good thing, so long as the distraction does not make us lose sight of what’s truly important.