by Eric Paolini
Maybe FOX Sports' Jason Whitlock does receive an inordinate amount of negative reaction to his columns. It might just be his tendency to retweet those negative reactions that makes it seem like he does. After his story on Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide received complaints for being too political I asked myself why is discussing sports and politics bad?
Sports are not just silly games to pass the time. While they can do that at times, they have become way too prevalent to exist solely in that mindset. Using the NFL as the example, it is a league worth billions of dollars. The NFL would not be worth that much if it was only a passing interest for a few Americans.
I understand football, or sports overall, is not important for many people. But that doesn't make it any less relevant. However much I may wish it wasn't so, reality television is an existing phenomenon and its cultural impacts should be discussed. Or any other phenomenon that has some cultural impacts. And for sports those times exist as well.
Which brings us back to Jovan Belcher. The tragic story brings up important topics of conversation: America's nature of violence, gun laws, and head injuries in the NFL. The story that is most relevant, or at least most noticeable, is gun laws in America.
Maybe you disagree with Whitlock's position on gun laws. That is perfectly fine. But I think it is a mistake to let that conversation pass because of the connection to "a game". For some reason we are fine with Kathryn Bigelow discussing politics, or at least things of a political nature, in The Hurt Locker. But when the conversation exits in sports negative reactions seem to occur.
The tendency to brush the serious aspects of sports aside can be dangerous. Whether it is non sports fans characterizing all sports fans as a Patton Oswalt like character in Big Fan or the sports fans that don't care about concussions and want to go back to the "jacked up!" mentality of a decade ago. I think both mentalities are dangerous.
While I don't totally agree with Jen Floyd Engel's response to Whitlock's article I think it is a good thing it exists. When the situation calls for it, sportswriters, fans, and non fans, should be encouraged to discuss the cultural impact. And it's not just sports. Replace sports with movies, or music, or any other phenomenon.
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