Book Compares NFL Players to Strippers

Yesterday in the newspaper opinion section, Rick Maese, a sports writer for The Washington Post, provided an analysis of two books on experiences in the National Football League (NFL).  The two books are: “Collision Low Crossers,” Nicholas Dawidoff and former tight end Nate Jackson, who looks back on his six-year career in “Slow Getting Up.”  I’ll let you read the reviews to get the gist of his review.

Most interesting to me is that despite 500 pages, Dawidoff provides little insight into the sport’s locker room and its culture. Yet, we learn something we know already, that room is Y-chromosome world with few social boundaries, where teasing is a principle of communication. This kind of humor and teasing comes across in Jackson’s book. It’s a place where one ponders the on-demand adult movies available in hotels and daydream about Playboy models. The reviewer bemoans the lack of substantive discussion Jackson offers regarding the bullying or the use of stimulants and other illegal drugs to maintain one’s career. Maese does mention that Jackson likens being a football player to being a stripper:

“Both strippers and professional athletes live on the fringes of a society that judges them for their profession, based solely on stereotypes. These stereotypes are nearly impenetrable. Both stripper and athlete stand alone behind them, and often find solace with those who know what it’s like to be there.”

Maese found the comparison intriguing and wished the book had more of this kind of thought and insight. I agree that this is intriguing but don’t necessarily accept the comparison. First, I question whether being in a life of the NFL is on the fringes of society. Really, when most men in the game have homes with nuclear families to return to during the season and afterwards as well. Can the same be said of the majority of strippers? I used to live with two women who danced and they were always hoping to find some man who would take them away from the business. Would any NFL player feel that way?

While a stereotype might be guiding the way people view both professions, is the stereotype of the NFL player, such as the dumb jock, that much different than the stereotype of a basketball player, or  a baseball player. Isn’t there a lot of camaraderie that exists among athletes from different sports. They have their pro-am golf events among other places to play and exult with one another.  Does the stripper have a similar situation? I think she and the hes that perform, stand more alone and isolated.

I do agree that the “real person” behind the player or stripper many not be seen. I also see a comparison that Jackson does not mention, that each has a short-term career, that their careers are based upon physical fitness and performance of physical tasks that become harder as one ages. Both are pieces of meat, and are in such specialized professions that it cam be hard to adjust to a different work experience.

Indeed, as one ages, it is quite likely that the owners of the team or the clubs and bars, may find it easy to replace the player or the stripper. It’s then that I see the most potent similarity to their situations. Both will lose the bonding in their single-sex world; in the locker rooms, or back stage. They feel cast off and lose the strong sense of inclusion in a team/group and the identity that goes with their profession: football player and stripper. That loss is what Jackson identifies and observes is a powerful feeling to lose that disturbs many retired players.

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