“A little boy was putting up his hands, trying to stop a professional football player from hitting him with a small tree branch.”
That’s the line repeated several times by Keith Olbermann from the editorial desk of his self-titled ESPN show. In these two back-to-back videos, the fiery Olbermann lowers the boom on the stomach-churning hypocrisy and unctuous buck-passing practiced by the men in charge of “America’s Game.”
This week the league is soft-pedaling the case of Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson, who has admitted to “disciplining” his 4-year-old by spanking him with a switch. But as Olbermann points out, based on tweets and first-person accounts, Peterson struck the kid repeatedly around his buttocks, legs, thighs and scrotum, leaving red scratch marks, and then bragged about it in a tweet to the boy’s mother, saying he only stopped hitting his son so he could apply the same punishment at a later date for “needed memories.”
And this is the man the Vikings were willing to allow to play after the slap on the hand (no switch was used) of a one-game suspension. The team has now been shamed into suspending him indefinitely.
No wonder Olbermann refers to the NFL as the National Freefall League. The concussion epidemic, bullying scandals, illegal dogfighting, domestic abuse and now this. The NFL is beginning to look like the Enron of professional sports, a culture built on lies, double-standards and unchecked testosterone. Olbermann’s fire-breathing takedown of the suits in charge of this wildly profitable, insanely popular and undeniably barbaric sport leaves me as angry and disgusted as he visibly is in these two clips. (For one other fan’s viewpoint on how far the league has fallen, read Crosscut’s Ted Van Dyk’s article here.)
Olbermann’s unflinching criticism reminds us of what pro football’s delirious and blindly devoted cheerleaders don’t want to think about: The sport, as it is played today, may very well be doomed, as long as players are allowed to run into each other with the velocity of a galloping horse, and to beat little boys with tree branches.