WHEN FOOTBALL REARS ITS UGLY HELMET
Who is responsible for the violence and mayhem on WVU football game days?:
1) West Virginia University: the football game itself is a huge West Virginia University event that is violent and that spawns multiple forms of violence
2) the corporate media: the thug talk in the media — the sports shows and the sports reporters with their violent metaphors lavishly praising WVU players who “punch them [the opponents] in the mouth” dramatically contribute to the culture of violence in and around football games
3) the state of West Virginia — the state forcibly bans mellowing marijuana while allowing the far more dangerous and unhealthy and belligerent-making alcohol, “the 800 pound gorilla in the room,” which facilitates the atmosphere and culture of football game day violence
4) WVU students, fans, others — the post-game arsonists, vandals, and rioters embody the violent strains of football game day culture
5) the City of Morgantown / police — multiple reports of uncontrolled and inappropriate police violence on football game day are a surprise to no one
Notice that without the WVU football game itself, there would be no game day violence. Therefore the primary responsibility for the violence lies with West Virginia University, the institution. WVU holds myriad events that neither perpetuate nor spawn violence. Football games are a different story. To get rid of the violence, WVU could get rid of football. Short of eliminating football game days, the football fan (fanatic) culture needs to be changed, and that won’t be changed without changing in significant degrees football and university, social and media culture. West Virginia University, the state of West Virginia, and the corporate media bear heavy responsibility for the game day violence, a responsibility that they all fail to acknowledge, let alone act on. In fact, WVU, the state, and the dominant media busy themselves pointing the finger elsewhere. And once again, who gets the finger? WVU students mostly. WVU students are easy targets who have been set-up to explode: the students are as a group deeply and wrongfully debt-laden, too often slum-housed, primed by an especially violent and lengthy sports event, and outrageously subject to pot criminalization, all of which contributes to an explosive concoction of frenzied excitement, stress, tension, and lunacy – painfully illuminated everywhere now on social media.
Literally for decades, West Virginia University, the dominant (corporate) media, and the state, which are in large part responsible for the football game day violence, have combined to accept no responsibility for causing and perpetuating this culture of violence that they hypocritically bemoan. Until that absurd reality changes, no meaningful talk about solutions can begin, nor can fundamental solutions be reached — solutions such as the following:
The media: Sports shows and sports reporters should eliminate their cruddy rhetoric glorifying violence. All the war talk, the battle talk, the fight talk, the weapons talk – get rid of that giddy toxic babble. “Why are some WVU students so mindlessly violent?” moan the news talk show hosts, and then they and their media colleagues turn around and mindlessly glamorize WVU “smashmouth football” and the like. Reference to violence in football should be used in honest and responsible reporting, rather than in irresponsible thug-speak. Football is clearly too often a brutal thing. Call it for what it is but don’t laud it. In fact, the violence in football ought to be condemned. Badly needed changes in the sport will then begin to better suggest themselves and be sooner accepted. The media reports are utterly hypocritical and destructive in decrying one form of violence while glorifying another. The media needs to change.
The state: West Virginia state legislators should immediately do what has been done in states such as Colorado and Washington and elsewhere: decriminalize and legalize marijuana use. Better that there be relaxed and mellow crowds than pugnacious and crazy rioters. By now, legalization of marijuana is favored by the majority of people nationwide. Big alcohol and big tobacco – the big-monied killers – have long been the primary opponents of pot legalization. Anyone serious about reducing violence among revelers during party time knows this: better high than drunk. Marijuana use is not an ideal form of recreation but compared to “the 800 pound gorilla in the room,” as WVU Dean of Students Corey Farris calls alcohol, marijuana is safer and less unhealthy – yet harshly criminalized, pushing students toward the more dangerous and violence inducing alcohol. The state needs to change.
West Virginia University: Where to begin? The university bears the biggest responsibility and the most complex responsibility for game day violence. After all, no game, no game day violence. The university is the entity hosting and hyping the orgy of violence that is a college football game. So make no mistake, the game day fires and violence downtown is the responsibility of West Virginia University, the institution. The WVU administration gets a flaming F for fostering the chaos. The WVU administration can no longer sweep the insanity under the rug by blaming a few bad apples, because the reality of thousands of students with nothing to do and nowhere to go on game day is all too visible on social media. The reality is that WVU game day culture is bankrupt and destructive. Meanwhile, the bankers sit in their blue and gold offices evidently twiddling their thumbs and promising – extremely counterproductively, thanks – to get tough. WVU toughness has caused the problem in the first place. Football is a lost day in an academic environment during which masses of excited students have nowhere to go but the streets. What might be a day of creative carnival becomes instead one of violent confrontation – in keeping with the brutal spectacle that is football.
You know what people say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or more like a ton. To help minimize the damage of football game days, there should be university subsidized concerts and other events – before and after and during all games, home and away – at the Coliseum, at the Creative Arts Center, in the Mountainlair, in the Student Rec Center, on the streets, and wherever necessary to help students relax, release steam, express their exuberance. It is long since time to do something for the students at large with all that blood money derived from TV sports contracts and game ticket sales. West Virginia University creates the bare and dry woods conditions set to burn and then puffs out its chest and blames the students who fling matches that result in conflagration. Sorry, ultimate fault lies with WVU administration for fostering a dangerous, mindless, and pointless game day culture. WVU administration has proven for decades to be either too ignorant, too heartless, or too incompetent to make the changes that need to be made. What will change that sorry condition? Not the equally inept WVU Board of Governors, surely. The 800 million pound gorilla in the room is the WVU administration which has been failing the WVU students miserably for decades. The WVU administration needs to change. Otherwise, it’s worthy of expulsion. Or maybe, instead of expelling the negligent WVU administrators and the WVU student rioters, those two hapless groups should get together and start doing some badly needed community service, before it is too late again.
Other directly related serious issues need to be addressed as well, by WVU administration, long since. The university should be constantly pushing publicly for deep, even profound reforms to this brutal sport of football, as well as to serious reforms in its other sports that are unnecessarily violent. (For example, use of the head in soccer should be banned. It causes well documented damage to the brain. In volleyball, as well as in soccer, the balls should be drastically softened. Concussions in volleyball especially are commonplace. In basketball, the five foul rule is by now an archaic and increasingly brutal, not to mention ever more boring, feature of the game. Three fouls and you’re out. That’s more the way it should be. Otherwise, the culture of violence is encouraged and stimulated in players and fans, and socially.)
In football, the stupidity of allowing players to wear pads with rock hard external faces and edges is literally mind boggling. Helmets are concussion-generating weapons, as are rock hard shoulder “pads” and thigh “pads”. The padding should be on all sides and edges of any and every hard surface. Kickoff and punt returns should be banned, because the collisions are too extreme. Instead, upon change of possession, one free initial down could be given to the offense to make of it what they can. Linemen and others should be subject to weight limits for health and safety reasons. All players’ shoes and all field surfaces should be regulated and mandated to slow playing speeds, again for health and safety reasons, primarily to reduce the violent impact of collisions. These are minimum steps that should be made without delay to make the game and the game day atmosphere less stupidly and destructively violent. It’s no wonder that consideration is given to banning altogether such violent sports as football, boxing, mixed martials arts, and so on…
Off the field, the university should stop neglecting its basic social responsibility to students. The university needs to increasingly help make students’ living conditions less obnoxious and insufferable. WVU and the city should enact measures to give students far more ownership of their living conditions and community so that they would rather protect these than burn and smash. For the past several decades, the university and state should have been reducing tuition with the goal of eventually eliminating it, rather than jacking it up remorselessly even above the rate of inflation. The university finally appears to be attempting to improve student housing, but clearly it is far too little, far too late. And whatever happened to the idea of holding major and multiple subsidized concerts at various venues following big games to help students and community members relax or find release? All hail the student athletes and all to hell with the academic students? What kind of university is that?
October 9, 2012
WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED?