Column

Game will go on in NFL, long after Adrian Peterson outrage fades

NFL's make-good call in Adrian Peterson case a gesture to address outrage, but fans will keep coming back

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Adrian Peterson kerfuffle is that it really won’t matter.

Will NFL TV ratings go down? Of course not.

Will the big corporations demand to pay less for those Super Bowl commercials? Will TV viewers boycott the game over this issue? Giggle.

Is this really about Peterson, or about Commissioner Roger Goodell? Is it about sending messages about child abuse?

Or is it about us?

Ray Rice cold-cocked his wife-to-be in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino hotel. Unfortunately for Rice, that elevator had a camera and we got to see it. We were shocked and appalled. Broadcasters bellowed and typists tapped. Baltimore Ravens fans lined up to turn in their Ray Rice jerseys. The moral stage upon which we all gathered was in danger of collapsing.

Soon, we were checking Sunday’s point spreads and figuring out how we could get our errands done before the NFL games came on.

Moral outrage did not eclipse our Sunday violence fix.

A case could be made for there being only minimal human progress since the Romans and the Christians in the Colosseum. That was disgusting, but wow, some of those lions were really fast! Some didn’t attack. Just the bad ones.

Same thing in the NFL. Rice doesn’t represent all the NFL players. Heck, a bunch of them appear on TV ads now, telling us how horrible domestic violence is. They really seem sincere. It must be coincidence that they started doing this just now out of concern for the issue, yet so soon after Rice connected in the elevator.

So what if the NFL started this season a few months after one of its star receivers from the New England Patriots was indicted on murder charges? Just another one of those things.

Wasn’t it a great American story of repentance and forgiveness that Michael Vick got to come back to the league and be a hero for a while? Maybe the dogs weren’t all that thrilled, but boy, was there ever anyone who could run as well as Vick?

Boys will be boys. It’s not their fault. They are trained to think and act violently for the sake of the game, so it is more exciting for us to watch. And the more we watch, and the more of us that do so, the more we tell them — and ourselves — that it’s all OK.

Peterson took a tree branch and whacked his 4-year-old son so hard that it left cuts and welts. To add spice to the punishment, the child said Peterson stuffed leaves in his mouth during the whipping.

Goodell, who first tried to low-key the Rice incident with a two-game suspension, felt the swirl of the vultures of agenda-driven public opinion overhead on this Peterson thing and swung the big sword. Peterson is suspended without pay for the rest of the season and can’t even be reviewed for reinstatement until April 15.

Goodell was like an NBA ref after blowing a charging call. Next time down, you fix it. This was Goodell’s make-good call.

Do not fear homelessness for Peterson. He was under suspension at full pay, so he’ll just have to make his $691,000-a-game salary, for those 10 games he was suspended, stretch a bit further. Maybe some Hamburger Helper.

The progress to which we pay lip service in all this is nothing but a lot of noise. The messages of social significance being sent by Goodell and the NFL, about which both the NFL and we in the media like to pontificate, is a lot of hot air.

Nothing changes. Life goes on in the NFL. The games are sold out. We still get five or six concussions a week, all featured on a news loop played with great journalistic consternation on ESPN, one of the networks that writes big checks for broadcast rights to the very mayhem its commentators criticize.

The NFL has a marketplace made in heaven. U.S. sports fans make up that market, one of great disposable income and little discernible conscience.

Let’s call it like it is. Peterson is only a blip on the NFL radar. So is Rice. So was Vick, as well as Sean Payton and the Saints’ bounty hunter scheme in New Orleans and even the Patriots’ alleged murderer, Aaron Hernandez.

The NFL is fun, exciting, stimulating entertainment. It’s not our fault that there are so many bad apples in the barrel. It would take huge numbers of us to stand up and walk away in protest of the bad apples and their game. We won’t.

The Super Bowl is a couple of months away. By then, Peterson and Rice will be quick mentions and fading memories.

When it comes to the NFL and its constant trespasses, we forgive and forget.

Because we want to.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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