Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ready For Correction

Jerking off to June Cleaver is an early, happy memory. In a mainstream world, June was the right age to be my mother. But with my parents barely past their teens, June assumed an older erotic role. Her pearls and sharp dresses enticed, but her relaxed attitude was the hook. She played her part like a silent flute, floating through suburbia, untainted by its toxins. Compared to June, Donna Reed was dead, Laura Petrie a nervous wreck.

Leave It To Beaver provided calm during stormy family times. Ward may have been a patriarchal bore, but he was tender with his sons, even when punishing them. Wally and Beaver always feared that Ward would beat them, but he never did, at least not on camera. Maybe the show was anti-spanking agitprop, and if so, it played musically to my young ears.

In my home, yelling, tension and violence were common. When watching Beaver, I entered an alien world, bounced on its cushions, ran down its back lot streets. I came right when supper was called, for I knew there'd be no anger, no pressure to eat what made me gag. June served the meal with quiet grace and smiled, roast beef reflected in her loving eyes.

Betty Draper would hate and try to undermine June. Yet Betty wouldn't mind being jerked off to, so long as no one else watched. Afterward, of course, Betty would call the cops while piously claiming violation. Maybe that's why I've been with more Bettys than Junes. Betty's bad behavior is expected, a familiar pain. June turning on you would be devastating. Who needs that heartache?

In June's time, football helmets were becoming weapons. Once face masks appeared, the race to create thicker, streamlined helmets commenced. Pro football in the 1960s was much wilder than now. With hard plastic bars protecting players' faces, defensive backs began head hunting receivers, no rules against excessive hits, even if out of bounds. Films from that period show guys getting hammered, bodies buckling, heads slamming the turf. Today, most of this would result in suspensions and steep fines. But despite those bans, the current NFL faces its own physical and ethical dilemma.

The increasing number of helmet hits and concussions are becoming a PR nightmare for the league, which has announced stricter rules against defensive plays. Not only are helmets to the head and face verboten, so too any hit that may, as Steve Young put it on ESPN, "make you cringe." What does that mean? Few observers seem to know. It will probably be an in-the-moment/subjective call, putting defensive players at a disadvantage. Any solid hit may result in league action. Like judges at an obscenity trial, NFL officials will know it when they see it.

Many old players are bemoaning additional restrictions. "Football's a violent sport!" they shout, sharing tales about classic injuries and being carried semi-conscious off the field. Football is indeed a violent sport, which is why it's America's national pastime. But it's also corporate entertainment, raking in billions, and any threat to profit margins must be dealt with. The NFL's already struggling with crippled players from its less profitable past, when few cared about what the game did to the body. It clearly doesn't want another generation of walking wounded sullying its image. But when your fortune is made through violence, how do you police your product's chief selling point?

Some have suggested going back to leather helmets, sans face masks. With no face protection, players will be less likely to use their heads as weapons. While I dig the retro-Red Grange look, I'm not sure how realistic this is. It would certainly alter how football players appear in commercials. Would Peyton Manning be as amusing with a scarred face, busted nose and missing teeth? Maybe not. But football fans would consume all the same. That part of the game needs no adjustment.