The incidents involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy have put the NFL under the microscopic recently. While these events have left the NFL with a public opinion black eye, they haven’t exactly done much to slow down the popularity of the NFL. Ratings have not taken a hit, and the league appears to be as popular as it ever was. Questions, good questions at that, have come from this and some have wondered whether they could continue to support the NFL.
If the NFL is truly meant to entertain, can you really be entertained by cheering on a player with questionable morales? Or are we, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, just really rooting for laundry?
This led me to think about sports replays.
When I play a sports game, I am looking to have fun, be entertained, and even learn a little about particular teams. I enjoy “watching” Earl Campbell run over a defense for 150 yards, but I don’t get the same emotion if Ray Rice has a great game. How do you celebrate the accomplishments of someone like OJ Simpson? Get excited if Rae Carruth catches a winning touchdown pass? These aren’t likable people. My replays are meant to be fun, but I wonder how much fun I would have watching someone like Rice lead his team to victory.
So I wondered how I could handle that in a replay. Could I take the player out and elevate the replacement stats? How would that look to see Jim Braxton (OJ’s backup) scamper for 2000 yards in 1973? Could I keep the player and change their name? Perhaps, but again…does Ray Rice become Jay Cotton?
Maybe the answer lies in war gaming. If I play the German side in a World War II game, this obviously doesn’t mean I believe in the Nazi ideology or support genocide. My goal is to employ tactics to help me win. I do believe that war games are excellent springboards to discussions about history, but in the end it’s a game. I am trying to beat an opponent, not support the asinine policies of Adolf Hitler. So because I use Ray Rice in a game, doesn’t mean I support domestic violence.
Still, in a war game, you are generally moving masses of unnamed soldiers. In a football simulation, there’s no getting around which players are getting the ball (unless you are playing Paydirt, which eliminates this issue).
In the end, I’m not sure what the answer is honestly.