All posts by George Cassidy Payne

I am an independent writer, domestic violence counselor, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy. I live and work in Rochester, NY.

Is it Immoral to Watch the NFL?

There are few memories more vivid from my childhood than watching Monday Night Football. Reared as a Baptist by my parents, and brought to church nearly every Sunday at 10 am for nearly half my life, Monday night was my real religious service of the week. If my Miami Dolphins happened to be playing the Buffalo Bills, the contest assumed a level of significance that cannot be properly described using language of the mundane. It was a holy event in every way imaginable. During those match ups I was not just watching Dan Marino throw to Mark Duper, I was Marino throwing and Duper catching. When they dropped the ball, their pain was my pain. When they scored a touchdown, their victory was my victory. The euphoria and tragedy belonged to me and every other Dolphin fan watching in that moment.
During this time I also learned to truly love the game. I loved it as an artistry. The action between and behind the lines enthralled me. The QB stepping into the pocket. A linebacker blitz. A tight end breaking across the middle. A fullback plowing ahead for a 1 yard first down. The tension of a 55 yard field goal attempt. In terms of pure intensity of action, it was the professional sport that I enjoyed watching the most. Baseball was more sophisticated and basketball was more graceful, but football, in all of its rugged glory, moved my passions.
I say all of this to set the stage for my question- a question that I wish more Americans of my generation would ask themselves. Is it immoral to watch the NFL? In other words, is there a way to love football despite its moral flaws? Or do its moral flaws make it impossible to love without participating in a fundamentally unjust system? Cultural phenomenon that it is, in many respects, the NFL has come to symbolize certain negative traits associated with America and Americans, including brashness, brutishness, conflict, selfishness, greed, injury, suffering, ecological waste, criminality, racial profiling, and sexual violence. Over the past decade or so, I have come to identify all of these forces at work in the game today.
For one, I really can’t watch a NFL game anymore without noticing how objectified and exploited the cheerleaders are. Author Jeanne Marie Laskas has written: “People assume NFL cheerleaders are within some vague sniffing distance of the good life, but a Ben Gal is paid seventy five bucks for each of ten home games. The grand cash total per season does not keep most of them flush in hairspray, let alone gas money to and from practice.” Meanwhile white male owners such as Jerry Jones (his Cowboys are valued at 3.4 billion) make fortunes off the same home games, and beer and car companies make millions off commercials and other advertisements, oftentimes portraying skimpily clad women in sexual positions.
Nor can I watch a game without thinking about the blind patriotism and for-profit racism that has become endemic. Calls for players to act with a certain standard of loyalty to country and flag, when owners and corporate executives have been selling out our nation’s interests for years is patently absurd. Take into account everything from offshoring American jobs to stealing and polluting public land to tax evasion to funding foreign wars of aggression that have bankrupted the social trust fund of American society, and yet they still have the audacity to demand that players prove their allegiance by standing up during the anthem. This  behavior is hypocritical and pathetic.
Furthermore, I cannot watch a game without thinking about the temerity of a league that still allows the Washington Redskins organization to illegally and unconstitutionally capitalize on the heritage of Native Americans. It is a form of gross commercial exploitation that would never be permitted with other races and ethnic groups. Does it matter that the Redskins are the third most valuable franchise in the NFL- worth more than 3 billion dollars? Does it matter that they are the favored hometown team of the Beltway’s political elite?
All in all, the corporate greed, sexual objectification, institutionalized bigotry, and blatant hypocrisy is just too much to take. I still want to watch the game. The game still attracts me. But how can I justify watching this so called “entertainment” when I know that it has been hijacked and turned into something I can no longer support with a clean conscience?

The Hiker

As the hiker capers through
an unpainted gallery of birch
logs, the crackling of chipmunks
on sticks carries no weight.
Captured by the sculpted breath
of a grey-lyre like wind-his love
of the trail corresponds to inter
rupted questions: the cadence
of candy apple brown pine cones,
and the moon hiding its migration
within the amber colored glass of
monarch eyes. Yes, the hiker walks
towards unborn steps, since before
his seed heart began pumping in
the silent chamber of the placenta.
DSCF1174

A Baby Appears

 

A baby appears
from a tethered glob
of neurons. Across
an ocean of amniotic
fluids, her unborn
song is heard pumping
like a grape seed in the
chamber of the placenta.
Curved like a shadow
stretched over the fabric
of the cosmos, a baby
appears. In the Milky Way,
taking shape slowly with
infrared heat, like a streaking
sunflower burning with grace.

A Levee Breaks

Ascorbic acid tablets
won’t quench my thirst.
I want freedom.
Makeup won’t cover my power.
I want freedom.
A Mastercard won’t protect me.
I want freedom.
No Movado will keep my watch.
I want freedom.
The next generation will not
make it happen. I want freedom-
and I want it now. No paper flowers.
No Palazzo enlightenment.
No hydrating oil-in-lipstick. No fairy tale
weddings. No cloned puppies.
Just freedom.

 

A Boy Taken by the Storm

They said she
lost her grip.
Swept away.
One year old.
God, if you exist,
take that boy.
Make it swift.
Be with him as
he goes out to sea.
Be with his mother.
She did not deserve
this. God, be with both
of them. That boy taken
by the storm. His mother
did not lose her grip.
The storm ripped her fingers
from his body. She clung
with everything she had.

Find Your Tree

Find your tree.

Accept its broken embraces
like the air of late spring, or
a sonata and carnival of animals.
Find your tree.
Once through again
like a songbook for the latter days,
like old Deuteronomy or
the ad-dreaming cat.
Find your tree
and everything Zen
made of sky. For the world
has gone wrong; the gamma rays
are all off. The heart breaks and
the brain is losing power.
Find your tree.
Old and in the way,
waifing near the morning after,
such a strange condition is a tree.
Another life on a chain.
Another in between dream.
Another helpless dirt farmer.
Find your tree
and Nirvana, too.
Everyday when the world ends-
mother, father, angel, and the space
between. Find your tree.
Unplugged,
running on faith,
the ghost inside.

George

 
Just to keep the peace,
George is annoying and
says hurtful things by accident.
George is Oneonta, NY,
on June 3, 1981.
George is salt water,
magnesium and calcium.
At sea level he is the
tide that causes bulges
and depressions in the
surface of oceans.
George is an aquifer.
Water soaks through
him, as do units of water,
hydrogen bonds and molecules
packed like prisoners.
George is solid, liquid, and gas.
His surface tension is more
than the force of any filter.
Solvent. Weathered. Ordered.
Floating around at room temperature.
George has a lot of nervous energy.

Time 

You know its them before the phone rings.
You wake up one minute before the alarm.
That’s time. You see someone you know walking
and there is no way they won’t stop. You know it.
You know time. You feel that someone is looking
at you before you see them looking at you. That’s
time. An elephant running away two days before a
tsunami. Just as a mother knows something is not
right. That’s time. The right time to interject. The
right time to remain silent. Premonitions of 9/11,
and the probability of a world coming into existence.
That’s time. Exactly like our own yet greater than zero.
It’s ancient Egypt and scarab beetles, too. It’s an eternal
recurrence of the same- a reminder of lives to come.

Blue Mountain Jewel

 
Daughter, you are
my Blue Mountain jewel.
Wind-scourged and
selected by the elements,
I’ve just begin to unlearn
your patterns, your secret
outcroppings and aerodynamic
crevasses. 24 hours new, and
you plunged like an ice axe
into the glacier of my instructing
mind. Now the pole ends of my
plans have been pulled from their
grommets. I’m left with a few sturdy
anchors, as I look for rocks to hold.

The Ancient Ones

 
Are we not all indigenous?
Does a person have more wisdom
simply because they were here first?
Anyone who has lived is the product
of someone else’s ideas-
their innovation and invention.
Anyone who has lived in this planetary
museum called history, is part of a drama
that predates them-no reservations required.
We are part of a long dinner conversation,
timeless really, and ticking away in the starry
nights of a million more than there should be.