It seems amazing to us how any millions of Americans are abused annually by allowing themselves to be used to make money for other Americans.

Briefly, what this means is that unwittingly workers of many kinds have been duped, conned, bamboozled into working hard, long, dangerous hours in the service of employers or combines whose only purpose in life is to make money. That, and perhaps to entertain a few hundred million television viewers at the same time, who might – just might, thereafter, leave their homes, jump in their cars, and head out to purchase whatever items have been cleverly advertised during the three hour shifts of well-planned mayhem. Thereby making even more money for their developers.

We’re talking athletics here, folks, professional athletics. Whether baseball, football, or basketball makes no difference. Young men train and dream and diet and pump-up and wear pounds of bling to announce their triumphant arrivals at levels of success for all to see and envy and emulate.

And now, beginning a week ago, those poor, witless, striving, innocents have decided they were forced into battles by their bosses when really they should have been put on life-support and decided to sue for damages in the billions.

Essentially, against the NFL (again) players have revolted and are claiming they knew nothing of the drugs, medicines, pills, and treatments they were forced to undergo and undertake in order to keep their bosses happy and stay on their various playing surfaces.

Here’s the strange thing. Most Americans sports fans don’t buy the whining. To the extent that while the launching of the punitive suit was big news for a couple of days, yesterday’s newspapers carried not a syllable of comment or concern…either for the players themselves, the future of their sports, or even condemnation of the league’s owners.

This could be because, ever since 1979 and the release of Peter Dent’s autobiographical novel, “North Dallas Forty,” readers and fans of professional football have been aware of how and why professional players depend on and in fact cannot wait for the ministrations of their doctors, trainers, agents, owners.

There are differences between the two current massive class-action suits envisioned by players against their former teams. In the first, and earlier, the NFL was accused of hiding the dangers and damage of their game, those that eventually might lead to suicides, brain damage, successive concussions, divorce, physical handicaps, sexual dysfunction, criminal behavior, perhaps even to poverty, lack of jobs, housing, to living on the street. In this instance, otherwise healthy men were gradually worn to frazzles of their former selves by not receiving information about what they did daily could mean for the remaining years of their lives.

The NFL defended itself by admitting they were not in the business of sooth-saying, but they also admitted responsibility for keeping the likelihood of these sorts of tragedies from their players. They had the evidence. They sat on it. For this they paid out settlements in the millions of dollars.

In this second attack on the Big Boys in the Business, players would have us believe they did not know with what drugs they were being shot up, what medicines would ease the pain of being on the playing field. They profess total innocence about the contents of hypodermics that one player described as making the scene like a cattle auction: fifty guys lined up at a time, on fifty teams, dropped their pants, took a step forward as drug-filled needles pierced their rosy behinds, and then they were redressed, resuited, re-equipped, shoved out the door onto the field to play another quarter, another half, another game.

They profess ignorance about the benefits of whirlpools and physical therapy and first class travel, entertainment, food, and more drugs to help them sleep, recover, toughen up for the next battle of the titans. What they have not claimed innocence about is the amount of money each earned by playing “the game” as it was envisioned by their league leaders.

Most young American athletes who dream of professional success on a field or floor cannot wait for the degradation and damage to begin. They (and most of their families) wait on pins and needles for calls from scouts, coaches, sports management firms to promise them fast cars, fast women, high living, and incomes of seven or eight or even nine figures for a few years of physical labor. They cannot imagine being hurt or seriously damaged in any way. They can imagine being role-models. They can imagine buying a house for their hard-working and often sacrificing parents. They can imagine palling around with the rich and famous, wearing their Super Bowl rings or their NBA rings as emblems of their importance and value. They can imagine the millions in endorsement contracts promised by their agents, and years to come living the high life.

Which has given rise to the one line motto of so many otherwise sensible kids: “one and done.” Play one semester of college ball brilliantly and throw yourself on the open market, waiting confidently to be drafted and, then, at last, at age nineteen or twenty, becoming “grown-ups” of merit and worth.
Do these kids understand the perils of their own progress? You bet your life they do.

Unlike wounded veterans returning from war who ache to return to their units to continue to serve with men and women who have become their families, these kids ache to return to the playing field to be assured of all the goodies they were promised and never want to give up. The use of pain-killing drugs, salves, treatments, xrays and operations is just insurance that their dreams will never end.

These are not innocents.


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