In Johan Huizinga’s, Homo Ludens, he discusses the nature of play and the characteristics, which considers what “play” actually is. Huizinga defines play in five rules:
- “Play cannot be denied”
- “Play is distinct from ordinary life”
- “Play begins and then at a certain moment, it is ‘over’”
- “All play has its rules”
- “No profit can be gained by it”
Although play is supposed to be fun and carefree, if one does not abide by the rules, then play can no longer maintain the same meaning that it has to people.
The main point that I want to emphasize, that Huizinga also emphasizes is that play and real life are two separate entities; they cannot be combined or dragged into the other. When play is over, nothing lingers or has a lasting effect. However, today that is not true. In our society and culture, the world of sports and real life has intermingled. Our magazines and newspapers are dominated by sports information from the previous nights events. Our television has hundreds of channels based on sports reporting. Our internet is laden with information all over about sports and with the continuous development of technology, we will continue to get even closer looks into the details of sports and the athletes lives.
Sports, specifically the athletes who play and the publicity they get, are the major reason for the combination of play and daily life. Athletes are followed 24/7 by reporters and are looked upon as celebrities when fans and aficionados walk by. They are lauded for the awesome, spinning, one handed touchdown catch they had the night before or are being ridiculed for making an error in the most crucial point of the game. Play and sports have meshed more than ever today.
Recently, NFL star running back, Adrian Peterson, was put on the inactive list by the Minnesota Vikings due to his connection in a child abuse investigation. He had been cooperating with the legal system; testifying in court and providing evidence to the authorities. However, due to his connection, his team asked him to take a break. Peterson grew up playing football and only saw it as a game, a form of play as a young man, but as he got older and realized he could make a career out of playing, he took the opportunity and has succeeded. Now due to the turmoil, his career is in jeopardy. The rules set forth by Huizinga says that he is playing, which means that this is distinct from ordinary life. His real life however, is now getting in the way of not only his job, but also his play.
Now I’m not saying that he should not be punished. Child abuse is a terrible act and he should definitely be receiving legal punishment. Nonetheless, that should be left up to the legal system, not the NFL, which never had a policy against this type of outside behavior. Although the NFL is a governing system, they are governing the play. The NFL has standards that the players must fit, but when someone violates those rules, the procedure should be to direct them to the legal punishment necessary, not to the NFL governing office, which has still has not been able to give a definitive answer on what the consistent punishment of these acts should be.
The NFL as I said before should be specifically governing the play of the athletes, which includes player safety, rule changes, and marketing football around the world. Although play is not supposed to be profitable, that is another line that has been crossed in professional sports all over the world. Let the judicial system take care of the punishment, and let the NFL govern the play exclusively.