Poisonous Footballs

01-22-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Our Sisters have spent a season without a summer. Some might say not a bad thing. When they left South America, it was spring turning to summer and when they arrived in North America, it was fall turning to winter. But soon enough they will be treated to life inside the yearly furnace we call summer. For me I spent a season without NFL Football. As the season was gearing up and the Kaepernick kerfuffle (asking us to judge people not by the content of their character but by the color of their skin or uniform) was going strong I decided that would be more poison than I wanted to ingest. We all have to decide how much toxins we want to be exposed to and find ways to limit that exposure. After all, our souls can only fight off so much before we lose all hope. Plus, I really find it annoying to be lectured by very overpaid athletes who know little about the issues.

All I ever really wanted to do was watch a football game on a Sunday afternoon. Sports in general can be one of those past times in which we set aside our differences and rally around a team for the fun of it. In fact, sports tend to break down a lot of barriers and help us forget the things that divide us. Until now, that is. From the Greeks and Romans up to the present, sports are one of only a few things that can unite a locality and provide some level of cohesiveness to a culture. Sports can even get you to talk to a complete stranger. How often in an airport or standing in line at a store do you find yourself striking up a conversation with the guy in front of you who is wearing a team jersey or hat? When all else fails sports can succeed in bringing us together.

I have never been able to wrap my head around the reason successful businesses like the NFL feel a need to wade into divisive issues that can only hurt their brand. Why not just stick to things like helping sick children or wounded Vets? Doing so would not bring on much criticism. It also seems like the NFL does not know who its majority supporters really are. I often wondered why the NFL would feature a rap star as its half-time entertainment rather than a country music singer, or why they deemed it free speech for players to take a knee during the national anthem but out of bounds for the Dallas Cowboys to wear a patch honoring slain police officers. Judging from the type of commercials (Pick-Up trucks, beer, car insurance) featured during NFL games it would seem that advertisers know who is watching. For me, I don't want to support an organization that either mocks or holds in disdain what I value.

Was it hard not to watch? Yes. Did I miss it? Yes. Will I do it again? Maybe. After reading that the San Diego Chargers after 55 years are leaving San Diego that decision might be easier. The people of San Diego refused to be extorted and voted down a tax increase to pay for a new stadium. For some reason NFL owners feel no loyalty to their fan base only to their profits. I am told that NFL Football today is all about luxury stadiums that enhance the fan experience. Well only those fans that can afford to pay for the parking, the ticket and the snacks, that is. Kaepernick and the NFL are the first to tell us that we have a “social responsibility” but don’t the NFL owners have a social responsibility to their local cities and fans or is just unfettered profit making capitalism?

As a young boy, my father would take me to the Eagles game at Municipal Stadium, which would make ASU Sun Devil Stadium look like the Ritz. My memories are not about the stadium but about the game and the excitement of the crowd. I don't remember anyone really caring about what the stadium was like or whether the hot dogs were organic. Since those days, that stadium was torn down and replaced, and its replacement has since been replaced (and the Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl). Funny, the Roman Coliseum is still standing. It seems that NFL football has become less about athletics and more about aesthetics. This season I found it mostly in bad taste.

Fr. John B.

PS. Today is the Roe v. Wade anniversary. Because of the Inauguration of President Trump the March will be held on Jan. 27. We have a new opportunity to re-energize the ProLife Movement and build a culture of life with an administration that is ProLife friendly. Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to successfully lead a Presidential campaign, will be speaking at the Rally in Washington, the first time a White House official has done so. She herself has marched in previous years, attends daily Mass, and has done lots for the cause of the unborn!