There are far more people watching football being played than are playing football. Bud Wilkinson, a football coaching legend who served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness from 1961 to 1964, once said that football is 22 people on the field who need rest being watched by 22,000 people in the stands who need exercise.” That ratio has only expanded since then.
Apparently, people today show how moral they are by how loudly they cry for the NFL commissioner to lose his job over a domestic violence case involving one of the players. This is just one example of this sort of “spectator morality.” In our media culture, you see it in practically all forms of human endeavor. Expressing outrage has become the fundamental way that a person demonstrates how moral he is. If you express enough outrage about the right issues, then you demonstrate that you are a person of good character who is to be respected. If someone is less outraged than you are, then that person’s character is suspect. We’re outraged about bullying. We’re outraged about discrimination. And on and on.
I’m not saying that the NFL Commissioner’s judgment shouldn’t be questioned. I’m just saying that a high volume of people tweeting their outrage probably isn’t the fairest way to determine whether or not he deserves to keep his job. And as long as we’re talking about questioning someone’s judgment, did I understand correctly that the woman who was knocked out subsequently married the man who knocked her out?
It’s very safe to condemn the commissioner for poor judgment – some people will even admire you if can become more offended and incensed than the next guy. But no one’s getting points for questioning the woman’s judgment, so that’s not happening. In this spectator morality, someone has to be condemned. And anyone who hasn’t hit his wife thinks he’s qualified to be judge, jury, and executioner for a sports league executive. God wants husbands to cherish their wives, but we’re too busy patting ourselves on the back because we don’t hit them.
We’ve become judges of morality rather than practitioners of morality. We’ve reduced morality to a spectator sport. It’s silly. But it’s more sad than silly.