They Took Their Money And Their Risks

Mercenary Team On Lost What do you think of mercenaries, people who kill people and break things for money?  The Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid wasn’t shy about telling people how he felt:

It is a God-damned lie to say that these
Saved, or knew, anything worth any man’s pride.
They were professional murderers and they took
Their blood money and their impious risks and died.
In spite of all their kind some elements of worth
With difficulty persist here and there on earth.
(Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries)

I am sharing this with you because I am continuing my evaluation of my relationship with watching and following American professional football, as part of the Deep Evaluation practice/attitude of the New Message from God. Before I go any further with this, let me clarify something about the Deep Evaluation practice. I am offering no opinions whatsoever about anyone else’s involvement with football, or anything else, for that matter. I freely accept the possibility that someone else’s involvement with football might be a positive influence on them, making them a better person than they would be otherwise.

I vividly recall a conversation I had with a person who was a little less football-literate than I was, during the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990’s. They asked if any of the star players of the team (quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin) actually came from Dallas. None of them did. In fact, very few NFL players actually grew up in the city of the team for which they play. The person said “Oh, so they’re kind of like mercenaries. They don’t have any particular loyalty to their city, but they offer their services to the highest bidder.” I freely confess to being annoyed by this comparison, but on further review, I was much more annoyed by my lack of a snappy comeback at the time.

One might argue that football players don’t try to kill people and break things. But aren’t both mercenaries and football players making a tradeoff between money and risk? I recall a time when Troy Aikman was asked where the Super Bowl was going to be played after receiving a major concussion (one of ten concussions in his NFL career). He said “Henryetta?” (as in Henryetta, Oklahoma, his home town). The National Football League recently agreed to a $765 million tentative settlement over concussion-related injuries among its 18,000 retired players.  Have we agreed to the principle of a tradeoff between money and risk?  Are we now merely negotiating over the amount of money and the amount of violence?  Should I reduce or expand my investment of time, attention, emotion, etc., in this enterprise?


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