A Moment to talk about Football, Hazing and Ferndale

Most of the time, I keep it pretty light around here. But I’ll tell you all a secret. I love Football. I used to watch every game every Sunday until I found that the quality of play was overshadowed by the disrespectful attitude of some of the star players. These players got a lot of press time instead of the guys who really played football, not the Thug Life.
But one story has come out that managed to get my attention what with Facebook and other avenues that lead to informing me against my will.
The Jonathan Martin accusations (against Richie Incognito-story HERE) has opened a can of worms for the NFL and for all of those who are involved in Football programs all over the country. What kind of environment are we creating in the football culture? There’s a level of disrespectful aggression that seems to permeate the National level and even (as we unfortunately saw with Penn State’s blatant disregard for the safety of young boys) give tacit approval of criminality.
And why should I care?
Well, my kid plays football for Fortuna. Even at the Youth Football level, there is a certain amount of politics that can make a parent go crazy. But nothing has been as concerning and ONGOING as the fans, team and staff involved with Ferndale’s football. Most of the insanity has been from the High School program as reported HERE. Ferndale football is a HUGE deal. It’s been said that if you don’t play football in Ferndale, you’re nobody. That kind of culture is just begging for problems. Of course, Ferndale just doesn’t seem to “get it”. The latest issue has been a STUPID idea for fundraiser entertainment. Over reaction? Maybe. But after being on probation in 2012 for racism, perhaps someone should have said that depicting black people for entertainment was not a good idea. Make fun of Beiber for God’s sake.
My own experience with Ferndale football is this: I am an INTENSE fan. I scream loud and yell at the refs. (My son says he can’t hear anything on the field. Except for me). I make every effort to NOT be foul or mean when I yell, but even “GET HIM” can sound aggressive. But when I was doing “six play” over on the Ferndale side (Six Play is when a volunteer from each team makes sure that the football team plays every single player six plays at least) the intensity was uglier. I did it once last year and the comments FROM THE PARENTS were enough to offend me. Things like “Is that a girl out there playing? They need to take her down!” “They only won the last three games because they have the only black kid in Fortuna on there.” Some of the comments to the referees were pretty ugly, but nothing I haven’t occasionally heard from our own fans. (Yeah. We ain’t perfect.) However, at NO TIME EVER have I heard our fans refer to ANY player based on their race or gender. But some Ferndale fans are very vocal about both.
That said, I ended up on the other side again this year for six play at our first play off game. The mood was still VERY ugly and uncomfortable. The comments were less racist but still disturbing. “That number 45! Make him hurt! Bring him pain!” “Take out that quarterback!” Comments not yelled but still loud enough for me to hear on the sidelines included “They wouldn’t have a game without their quarterback. They need to put him out of the game.”
Holy. Shit.
Let’s put it this way: Standing with my back to the crowd, when Ferndale’s touchdown was called back with a REALLY shitty call (Believe me. If I were a Ferndale fan, I’d have been PISSED) I totally felt like someone was going to throw something at ME. The intensity behind me was WAY out of proportion. And it was NEVER directed in a positive way.
Granted, Ferndale faced us and we’d trounced them in a previous game. (And we beat them again this time) but the kind of ugliness I heard was more than frustration. There was an element of aggression that other parents don’t seem to exhibit.
I’m not sure why it’s so bad there. Other youth football programs have politics. Doing six play, I get to hear from parents from the other side. There’s definitely a lot of favoritism and playing those with the right name. I get that it’s going to be a part of the football culture.
But if the incident with the Dolphins have taught us nothing else, it shows that racist comments (whether to a “friend” or as a hazing tactic”) start very, very young. It’s clear to me that the kind of behavior we see in high school football in Ferndale begins with the nine year olds in Youth Football. What are we teaching our future football players?
I’ve stated to anyone involved in Fortuna football that I will do six play for any team except Ferndale. I’ve told people my reasons. I don’t know that anyone is paying close enough attention. But even our own team’s fans say shit that isn’t too nice.
At that same Ferndale playoff game, the Refs were walking toward the concession stand and I was crossing the field for half-time. One of our Fortuna fans yelled “You’d better get some coffee Refs and wake the fuck up!”
I apologized to the Refs as I walked by them. Do you know what they said? “Oh believe me! We’ve heard worse.”
How sad is that?
My point is this: I love football. The game is exciting with tests of strength and will. But when it degenerates into this aggressive, violent off the field behavior, I worry that we’ve missed the point of the game. And rather than seeing two teams of talented, strong young men duke it out, it becomes an opportunity to be ugly and disrespectful to the people who play and volunteer.
Honestly, I hope there is some action taken to stop the kind of casual racism that seems pervasive in the NFL. But I’m not holding my breath.



Filed under Being Philisophical, Humboldt County, Life Stuff, Ranting

4 responses to “A Moment to talk about Football, Hazing and Ferndale

  1. Parents need to understand how their bullying and negative behavior affects kids, both on and off the field, and set a better example. As for Incognito…I honestly wasn’t surprised to hear that he was the one involved in the NFL bullying/hazing accusations. Two years ago, he took out one of our players and was ejected from the game for a dirty hit (and he should have been thrown out sooner, as it wasn’t the first of the day), and was voted “dirtiest player in the league.” That is NOT a title to be proud of!

  2. Jen

    I can’t say anything at all because our team isn’t free of some of the “questionable” stuff. For example: Yesterday, a kid from Del Norte slammed one of our kids in a blindsided hit that was called for Clipping. But apparently, for one of our players, the resulting penalty wasn’t enough. He targeted the Del Norte kid and hit him clean but HARD. That is a gray area that seems to lead to other bad areas and we have to be so vigilant not to let that kind of retaliation get out of hand, I hope they throw the book at Incognito.

  3. bullying makes me crazy… as a society we have to just reject it…
    I am esp disapointed by the folks who think “big guys” cant be bullied… some of the gentlest souls i know come in giant packages… to think of them suffering and not feeling like they can speak out about it…breaks. my . heart. and…. fills me with anger (which is pretty hard to do to this pacifist)
    These athletes get away with waaaay tooo much and this is just them being thugs. It doesnt impress us..

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