Thoughts & Views: So, ya wanna fight?

The Christmas / Chanukah / Kwanza/ Festivus holiday season is supposed to be a time when we all can take a break from the whirlpool of life.

We’re streaming in real time, you might say, if you’re one of those people persistently staring at a computer screen or smart phone or whatever electronic device happens to draw you in.

So now, just stop looking and focusing for a microsecond – if you can – and rest easy. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em; it’s okay by me and I’m a non-puffer, although I know a lot of folks would get antsy over the proliferation of those hovering gray clouds.

Just relax. Please.

I know that’s tough in the USA where, ever since colonial days, we’ve been an impatient lot, whether that meant tossing tea into the river in defiance of an unjust tax, tossing off the yoke of a British royal, tossing Native Americans off their land, tossing Prohibition out with the fermented bathwater, etc.

We’ve always been a nation that demonstrated a ton of impatience. And if we didn’t get what we wanted – and we always wanted it now – we weren’t bashful about going out and getting it.

We fought among ourselves, too. Historians estimate that more than 600,000 on both sides were killed in the War Between the States.

So aggression has always been part of our lives.

To a large extent, we could get away with that behavior trait because of our physical isolation from the European continent and much of the rest of the world … until the bombing of Pearl Harbor and, a bit later, the terrorist attacks.

Still, as the leader of the “free” world, we’ve managed to have our way so we can dictate, to a large extent, what the market will bear.

Entertainment and sports make up part of that market and NFL football, a prototypical American invention with violence being the name of the game, is something we’ve recently exported to our mother country.

Back to the homeland … and football … which many of us will be watching during the New Year procession of Bowl games. But while you’re watching, you may want to recall what happened a week ago Sunday with the NY Giants’ Odell Beckham going off on the Carolina defenders matched up against him.

The helmet banging, the tripping, the facemask grabbing and wrenching, the fighting – all the stuff that the referees didn’t call for penalties – is just plain baffling.

Never mind what may have happened before the game to trigger these senseless attacks and even assuming the defender was pushing off or worse, what was Beckham thinking?

He certainly wasn’t thinking about how his reckless, mindless actions would hurt his team.

But even more disconcerting is the fact that neither the refs nor the player’s coach did anything about it.

In a post-game interview, Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who has been coaching in the NFL since 1995, said he didn’t bench Beckham because he wanted to win the game – which would have been a significant victory since Carolina had an unblemished record.

As several commentators noted, that attitude does not reflect the Coughlin as the coach with high expectations for self-discipline and professionalism among his players.

And what about the officials’ performance? Yes, they gave warnings to the players and coaches that they would not tolerate this type of behavior and yes, they did throw a couple of flags, but, for the most part, they allowed the infractions to continue, pretty much unabated, despite the fact that they could have led to serious injuries.

What’s more, their decision to let the craziness go on is even more perplexing on the heels of the NFL being “flagged” by litigation arising from alarming medical findings – albeit disputed by some experts – about the link between the violent nature of the game and players’ brain injuries.

There’s the recently released film, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, to remind us about that apparent link.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that we ban football – or hockey, for that matter – because it’s great to watch a well-coached team that can execute plays, on both sides of the ball, do its stuff. (I do have second thoughts about boxing.)

At the same time, I’m willing to bet that many of us who decry the violence in sports are also propped up in our couches and recliners on Game Day, hoping to see the next big hit made on a receiver.

We can’t help it; it’s part of what we are.

Ron Leir | Special to the Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.