Pixies – Where Is My Mind?

Surfer Rosa
Year :
The Wrens / The Breeders / Cold War Kids

In a year that has already brought an unprecedented amount of the wrong kind of attention to the National Football League, the ugly recent scandal surrounding Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito has turned out to be the biggest sports story of the year so far. As I prepare to nestle in on a cold afternoon here in New York City and prepare for my Sunday ritual of cooking, light napping, and football, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m complicit in something rotten.

That the world has reacted with shock to the Incognito story doesn’t surprise me. I am surprised, though, that anyone who has been paying attention to Football in the last several years is actually shocked by the story. If this was going to happen anywhere, an NFL locker room was the place.

For anyone who’s unclear on exactly how brutal a professional football game is, take a look at the sheer size of the current injury list. We are only half-way through the season. Fantasy football, despite seeming to be of value for fans only, has a lot to teach the casual observer–and lends much support to the critic. Players drop out of the competition at such a rapid pace that the only way to win is to vigilantly replenish your team after each week’s melee. And the players that do stick around don’t seem to fare much better–Texans running back Ben Tate is set to take the field today with four broken ribs.

I raise this issue here, on a music blog, with the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” for a few reasons. One is personal. I love the game of Football. I’ve had some of my best moments with friends watching games unfold, cheering out loud in a crowded room, and feeling that same sense of community that you might feel at a great concert. I enjoy the way that football is uniquely cerebral, too. Coaching, strategy, and craftiness matter in a football game. Abstracted from the action on the field, it’s just an interesting game. And, at the same time, those facts reveal that it’s profoundly selfish to prop up a game where the end result is so many broken lives. Where is my mind?

I am reminded of the Pixies today for another reason. On a recent podcast, Grantland Columnist Bill Barnwell raised one of the most interesting questions I’ve heard around the Incognito scandal: What are the implications if Incognito is himself suffering from traumatic brain injury? We know now that victims of chronic traumatic encephalopathy exhibit both extreme moods swings and profound aggression. If we presume it might be the case with Incognito, it would not absolve him of personal responsibility, but it would also implicate the game of football itself. Incognito has a well documented history of this sort of behavior going back years. His injuries may have been sustained while still in high school…or even earlier. It’s convenient and comfortable to simply write him off as a monster–it’s another issue entirely if the monster is one that was created by the very sorts situations that we are now condemning. I’m not defending him, but I do pity him. Where is my mind?

I do believe that someday in the not-too-distant future, we’ll look at football (or at least the way the game is played today) in the same way that we once looked at smoking. The evidence is right there in front of us (we’re breathing in smoke!) but the habit is too strong to quit. We simply don’t want the brutal facts to be true, but the NFL will ultimately have to change change radically or else collapse. I continue to be complicit… I don’t want it to be true. Where is my mind?

What are we thinking?

Where is my mind?

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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