Searching For Bounty In The Colosseum On Sunday Afternoons

Ed Raymond

The One Percenters in the Roman Empire are being reincarnated in the American Empire  over two thousand years later. There were no skyboxes or executive suites in the Roman Colosseum like in the dozens of gladitorial colosseums spread across the United States, but the booze and delicacies flowed freely in the reserved sections in Rome and flow freely in ours as the rich watch gladiators give up their limbs and lives for fame and fortune. Thumbs up or down indicated life or death or death in Rome. Cheers, jeers, and grocery sacks on heads are used today to show approval or disapproval.
   In the Roman arena, the field of battle was covered with a blood-absorbing harena, a sand that saved management from the yuck factor of large pools of blood. The word “arena” comes from “harena.” Most of our arenas today have blood-proof astroturf or scientifically “natural” turf to protect knees, ankles, and spines.
   Much like football gladiators today, the most skilled Roman gladiators could become wealthy and even have families if they could survive the clash and clang of the swords and spears, the bashing ball and chain, and the ever-present body net, which would hold them for the thrust of the dagger.
   In Roman days, potential gladiators took the sacramentum gladitorium, the oath of the gladiator, before they went into the arena: “I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.” Roman gladiators were often slaves captured in war. They had skills learned in combat and then were trained in single combat for the arena. Gladiators fought on horseback, in chariots, in pairs like WWE Smackdown wrestlers, or in single combat like Russell Crowe. This was somewhat like our quarterbacks, wide receivers, nose guards, and defensive ends. They sign contracts that have clauses and oaths concerning loss of limbs and minds.
  Roman gladiators were served at training tables in the lower levels of the Colosseum and spent many hours honing their skills. American football players are served at similar training tables and hone their skills at practices. Surprisedly, there were a few women who met in the Roman arena in single combat. Today women battle it out on the sidelines, seeking “victory” by wearing less and less and bumping and grinding more and more as the kill season progresses.

The Roman And American Obsession With Money

   It took Rome about 200 years to become money-centric. The Roman middle class was essentially destroyed by the One Percenters ordering the legion mercenaries to bring thousands of slaves back from the hinterlands as chattel. Then the One Percenters didn’t need so many servants and middle-class workers to live a life of leisure. Their slaves did all the work for food and shelter. A slave might become a gladiator and risk his life in the arena for his freedom, but that was his only out. Does this sound familiar?  
    The American One Percenters sent their coyotes throughout Latin America to recruit laborers for the food processing industry, the construction trades, and the fast food and hotel and motel industries, shutting out the American lower and middle classes from slightly higher than minimum wage jobs. If we deported all non-documented workers from the food-processing industry now, it would have to shut down. I remember watching Florida contractors eight years ago constructing thousands of homes. Ninety percent of the workers could not speak English, so one must assume they were undocumented. They worked for less than minimum wage, screwing American workers out of thousands of good jobs—while the construction was really shabby.

Ronald Reagan, The Era Of Greed, And Our
Absolute Obsession With Money

   Every 80 years or so, we go through a preoccupation with money. It becomes necessary for even the non-greedy to focus on money, as sociologist Robert Putnam says, “at the expense of damn near everything else in order to survive.” We hear what is happening on Wall Street News and overseas markets every half-hour as if our very lives depended upon such information. We hear very little about Main Street.   
    In 1975 only 38 percent said the elements of a good life depended upon “a lot of money.”  After twelve years of Reagan and George H.W. Bush, 63 percent of our citizens said a lot of money was important for the “good life.” Then came Silicon Valley and Wall Street booms and boomlets combined with huge tax cuts, creating greedy One Percenters filling ever deeper pockets. Greed became respectable as radical and crony capitalism and the theology of free markets captured the Republican Party, turning conservatives into starving hogs at the Washington Buffet. The Cruella Extraordinaire Ayn Rand became the Goddess of Selfish Capitalism who wooed and screwed both Allen Greenspan and the darling of House Republicans, the scroogy budgeteer from Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. Symbolic of her greed, she instructed that a six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign be glorified right next to her casket. Her “Atlas Shrugged” philosophy inspired the bounty hunters of the pro football New Orleans Saints in their quest for that dollar.

Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams: “Kill The Head And The Body Will Die. We’ve Got To Do Everything In The World To Make Sure We Kill Frank Gore’s Head!”

   I have been a football fan for many years and have lost some skin and suffered some fractures in playing eight years of high school and college football at nose guard, center, offensive guard, and linebacker. I was co-captain in my senior college season and was named an all-conference player in the middle of the last century. I have been playing and watching football for 67 years. The college and pro game has turned into the “bounty” game of today because of the immense amount of money One Percenters have put into the game in the last 15 years. Rich alumni with huge egos want to buy winners. Rich owners with huge pockets want to buy Super Bowls to burnish their bottom lines and egos.
   For the 2012 SuperBowl, the least expensive seat available three days before the game was $2,100. The National Football League’s ticket exchange advertised the cheapest tickets for $2,300. Did you want to rent a field-level luxury suite to host your circle of One Percenter friends for three hours on a Sunday afternoon? That would cost you $650,000—most of it tax-deductible. I guess one of the largest alcoholic bars in the world can be a good place to do Wall Street business. Just for this one Sunday afternoon, game fans spent about $11 billion on jet aircraft, hotels, booze, food, and entertainment, and ate an estimated 1.25 billion chicken wings. Corporations bought 70 30-second TV commercials for $3.5 million each. The usual military flyover of four fighter jets flown over the field was seen for all of 23 seconds. That little display cost taxpayers $450,000.

The Ever-Present Headhunters In The Game At Any Level

  There are aggressive headhunters in corporate business as well as in contact sports. Some players like to hurt people, some like or need to play dirty. In the old days, those players were usually taken care of on the field. If some opposing player did you dirt under the pile, you went back into the huddle and told your teammates. Within the next few plays, the dirty guy would end up quite bruised by a half-dozen players trying to look innocent. Message received. End of story.
   Today’s football game is different. The helmet has become a major weapon of defensive players against wide receivers and running backs. A player at any level who deliberately uses the helmet in tackling or blocking should be tossed from the game for four quarters. American football is not rugby, where the scrum is used to advance the ball. Quick whistles should apply to all tackles. Most serious injuries are caused by lowered helmets and shots at knees and ankles as the running back is held up by a single tackler. A running back’s NFL career is now less than four years because of what happens during scrums. Sanity can be brought back to the game if it is officiated correctly to prevent injuries. Football is a physical game and players are going to get injured. But the headhunters and the bounty hunters have to be put out of the game and coaches have to civilize their coaching. There is a difference between clean hard hits and dirty hard hits. Coaches have to coach the difference at all levels. The pandemic of concussions and the mumblings and stammering of fifty-year-old retired players suffering from dementia because of helmet hits have finally gotten the attention of some owners and league officials. And the New Orleans bounty payments have put injuries and dementia on the front page. But it’s not too late to save a good game.

Big Money By Irresponsible One Percenters Has Come Close To Ruining The Game—And Other College And Professional Sports

  Peyton Manning, now of the Denver Broncos, was going to be paid $28 million to play quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts for 2013, but a neck injury intervened (according to Tony Dungy, his former coach, probably from an illegal hit and injury back in 2006). The Colts evidently did not want to take a chance on having a $28-million flop on their hands because of a spinal injury, so they released him. Now he has signed with the Denver Broncos for $18 million. If Manning had completed an average of 25 passes per game for the Colts, he would have been paid $70,000 per completion, or $1,750,000 for about 1.5 hours of work per Sunday afternoon. If he is able to complete 25 passes per game for the Broncos, he will only earn $45,000 per completion or $1,125,000 per Sunday. $45,000 is just a little lower than the median salary for a U.S. worker for a year.
   This is why big money has ruined amateur and professional sports and brought bounty hunters to life in contact sports. A $300,000-a-year cornerback can put a $21-million quarterback like the Vikings’ Brett Favre out of the game with a “bounty” hit. Saints players were paid over $1,000 for a “cart-off” hit. We pay big money for “goons” in hockey to drive skilled players into the boards. We pay hockey goons to start fights that are so popular with the football-on-skates crowd. That’s why Zygi Wilf of the Vikings pays Jared Allen, the gladiator who always raises his arms seeking fan tribute after a sack, almost a million bucks for each quarterback sack at $11.6 million.

If Lucky And Physically Talented, 245 Football
Players Will Enter The NFL Each Year

  Over 1.4 million play high school, college, and pro football each year, but only 245 out of 64,000 college players will begin play each year on Sunday afternoons in the biggest bars in the world. Just where are our priorities? The University of Georgia has over 100 “scholarship” football players. Eighty-four of the Georgia players are majoring in that intellectually challenging university major “sports management”! Boy, will those vital lessons provide us with world leadership in the 21st century! Top college football coaches now make $4–5 million, while their college presidents make about $500,000. Priorities, priorities.
   It takes character to play a physically violent game with integrity and compassion. Character prevents spearing a receiver or running back with a lowered, rock-hard helmet. Character prevents running ten yards and jumping on top of a pile of players. Character prevents a player from making self-congratulating leaps, chest-bumpings, and going to the knee in the end zone, and pointing to the sky while making the sign of the cross. Maybe God had better things to do at that time instead of picking a game winner.
   The One Percenters are ruining our society with their consummate greed, selfishness, and egos. They should be emphasizing a sense of community and ways to strengthen the nation and its families instead of creating personal memorials.