Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Conventional wisdom--what "everybody" believes--is a tricky thing.  When it involves assumptions based on experience, you have to ask, whose experience?  Who shares it?

I'm probably not the only early boomer to notice that "everybody" doesn't necessarily include those of us who had different formative experiences in our youth.  For instance, there's the perception that every American household has always had a handgun around.  It's a birthright.  Right?

I don't know if this is an age related thing, though I suspect it is.  I grew up in western Pennsylvania in the 1950s, and in my neighborhood, lots of fathers hunted.  We all knew when rabbit and pheasant and deer season were. You know, Deer Hunter country. So we saw hunting rifles.  The occasional shotgun.  The only handguns I ever saw were partially disassembled souvenirs from World War II.  Maybe it was the proximity of that war in time that helped make guns rare.  So the idea that houses on my street would be brimming with  assault rifles is as strange as if you told me our neighbors were extraterrestrials.  Stranger, actually.

But here's something I do know.  I heard Ezra Klein talking on MSNBC about the violence of pro football today, and the increasing evidence that it causes serious and permanent harm to players.  Klein, who is a young man, probably surprised viewers who see him as a numbers nerd with the information that he was a nose tackle in high school, and liked hitting people.  The big hits, he said, that's why we watch NFL football.

This is a popular view, especially among sportscasters.  But I did not grow up with that kind of football.  I did not see that kind of football in high school--and where and when I was, high school football was king.  It was way more important than college and pro football.  But even those games did not feature vicious hits.  They weren't rewarded, no one talked about them.  A player injured badly enough to stop play was rare, and a hush fell over the stadium.  It was a shame.  It wasn't football.

To this day I watch football for athletic plays, not big hits.  I watch less and less football, as games are more and more interrupted not only by blocks of commercials but of time spent watching players crowding around a teammate in pain, or watching him be carted off the field in a stretcher.

It doesn't have to be football.  The Constitution does not say everybody has to have a gun, and the biggest gun they can buy.  It wasn't that way, and therefore, it doesn't have to be that way.  Changing what's become a runaway insane gun culture, and a big money football culture, all very difficult perhaps.  But today's gun culture and today's football culture are not written in stone.