Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Speculatin' Dayton

Some may have questioned why Governor Mark Dayton, of all people, was asked about the recent legal troubles of Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson.

Let's see here: Peterson is a high-profile rich guy in the midst of having a lot of downtime and will occasionally hang out in bars. Huh. Dunno how Dayton could relate to someone like that.

But I digress.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday, July 17, Dayton said some players are "falling considerably short" of being role models when host Kerri Miller asked the governor about the Pioneer Press' Sunday report chronicling the team's legal troubles. The Vikings' 10 arrests since 2011 are almost twice as many as any other NFL team, and their 39 arrests since 2000 also lead the league.

Dayton championed legislation that authorized the state to finance $348 million toward a new Vikings stadium to replace the Metrodome.

That too may be part of the issue. The majority of Minnesotans, while wanting the Vikings to stay, did not want to have to foot the bill for the new stadium. In essence, Dayton would prefer the citizens view his advocating for a stadium as a good investment in the state's economy as opposed to subsidizing a playground for a franchise that's endured myriad legal issues over the past 20+ years.

But it was the following line of thinking that raised a few eyebrows.

Dayton linked the wayward behavior of players to post-traumatic stress disorder soldiers suffer after returning home from combat, describing professional football as "civilized war."

"Shake one of their hands and you know that this (football player) is someone who is not your ordinary citizen. They're heavily armored, heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It's, basically, slightly civilized war," Dayton said.

"Then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they've been in combat or the edge of it and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. And that's part of the reality. That's not to say it's good and it shouldn't be improved. It should."

I think the "post-traumatic stress disorder" is a far fetched analogy. First (and most obvious), some of the grave dangers our soldiers face (e.g. roadside bombs, sniper fire) are not prevalent in the NFL. Certainly pro football players take a physical pounding that can very well have long term ramifications. But they aren't underpaid and they can actually walk away from their endeavor if it's too mentally and physically taxing. Soldiers in the midst of war don't have that luxury.

Secondly, the NFL has done a much better job at preparing players for the pro football lifestyle. Rookie symposiums often address how to handle instant fame & fortune, dealing with the general public and interacting with teammates. All those "pitfalls" seem rather innocuous when you compare it to what a member of the military might endure in combat. I can't imagine there are any seminars which could adequately prepare a soldier for the potentially gory incidents he/she might see in wartime.

I agree that NFL players have to tap into a baser instinct in an effort to do their jobs well and that it's, to a certain extent, difficult to just switch it off. But I have hard time believing it's even in the same ballpark as erasing the memories of war.


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