By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The last time I smoked pot was Dec. 31, 1998. Weed never gave me a pleasurable high that it does for so many others — just sleepy and hungry mostly. There was this different sort of high, though — the time-tested teenage opiate of joining friends in rebelling against authority. That felt really good, and it was the only reason I smoked weed that night or any time prior until finally deciding the psychological high wasn’t worth the physical downer.
Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns probably first started smoking it for similar reasons. And like anyone who carries that on into adulthood, he no longer smokes it to stick it to The Man. It’s a drug, and adults use drugs to feel good. Or at least to not feel bad.
Football makes those who play it feel bad. Participating in weekly car crashes tends to have that effect on a mind and body. Time after time, marijuana has been testified to as a very easy, largely harmless way of combating the bad. An anonymous NFL player told The Nation’s Dave Zirin in 2012 that “I’d rather use marijuana edibles or vaporizer to manage pain over prescription pain pills. Much less addictive and less harmful to kidneys and liver.”
Marijuana makes football feel less bad. But the NFL is very anti-pot. Not in a Helen Lovejoy think-of-the-children sort of way or out-of-touch PSA thing. The league’s issue is with pushing warped masculinity and a lack of individuality on everyone.
They’ve made a rule, no matter how asinine, and they want to see if you’ll be a droid that obeys. That’s the ideal football player. He is of Tennyson’s Light Brigade.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Or just shy of 1,700 rostered NFL players in this case. They die in the figurative sense weekly, sacrificing brain and bones for the entertainment of us who suspend or deny critical thinking for a Sunday and for the pockets of owners, Roger Goodell and advertisers dealing in the legal narcotics of alcohol, junk food and erection medication. They also die literally, turning to alcohol and pills to relieve the mental and physical pain of the life of a pro athlete, becoming addicts often and doubling the internal destruction. Sometimes when abusing substances isn’t enough, when abusing women isn’t enough, a former player will prefer a sudden over a slow, painful death.
Or, what football culture would have you believe is unbecoming of a real man. Real men take the pain and live with it. They fall in line with what machismo dictates in masculine — don’t talk about your problems and don’t turn to (for now) illegal drugs. Pills and booze are cool, though, because John Wayne did that. Quietly deal with feeling painfully alone while publicly being part of the team.
And where do you get the pills? From the same place you got the needles that got you ready for the game. Pills make you rely on the league. They require you to be dependent on the group. I mean, be a real man.
Marijuana helps the pain. It helps treat concussions. It eases stress and anxiety. But marijuana isn’t regulated by The Shield right now. Goodell has been asked about possibly allowing medical marijuana use in the league.
“Instead of saying no, Goodell offered the following, ‘I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.’”
Goodell’s support for the evolution of medicine has also involved complacency in if not abetting the squashing of brain injury evidence, participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge to fight a disease that football has been known to play a role in causing or exacerbating and ignoring that two of the league’s teams play in states where marijuana — a non-performance-enhancing drug — has been legalized.
Smoking pot is rebelling against his authority. It’s stepping out from the pack mentality no matter the logical fallacies involved. Taking it upon one’s self to ease the pain that football brings is too individual and not manly.
Until the NFL can figure out a way to wrangle weed for its own benefit and/or make it look like they haven’t been illogical in banning it all along, it can’t be tolerated. And keeping Gordon, a repeat offender, out of football for a year will certainly teach him not to smoke again, just like punishing Matt Prater or Aldon Smith will make sure they don’t drink anymore, right? They rich professionals who should know better, duh.
That’s how you teach someone to be a real man, one who falls in line. A monolith like the NFL relies on such. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.