March 21, 2015
Popular Culture Mirror Essay: Football Players
Throughout my entire life I have been involved in numerous sports and have always seemed to have a particular love for football. As I made my way through my football career I slowly became more aware of the stereotype that has been put over the heads of all football players thanks to popular culture. This stereotype occurs repeatedly throughout popular culture and portrays that jocks and more specifically football players, are loud, unintelligent, aggressive, people with no regard for their peers and the community around them. There are many examples of this stereotype; three of the best in my opinion are Blue Mountain State, Varsity Blues, and finally Friday Night Lights. These three popular culture artifacts portray many similarities as well as differences. To fully understand this stereotype analyzing these artifacts will prove to be essential in bettering the knowledge of football players in popular culture.
The first example of this stereotype can be seen throughout the television show Blue Mountain State. Throughout this comical show they follow a fictional elite college football team along their journey throughout class, football, and their free time. The producers seem to leave out class and replace it with partying, bullying and finally girls. This show is meant to appeal to the young men across America and I will admit I have been an avid viewer of the show. I do not fully agree with the antics of the show and the negative stereotype it portrays of football players and therefore did not fully enjoy it. One of the details of the show that seems to be reoccurring throughout football players in popular culture is the idea that they party and screw off more than they train. This is one of my biggest issues of the stereotype because it takes away from the image of athletes. Being an athlete and more specifically a college athlete takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance and after watching Blue Mountain State you would think the exact opposite. The show paints a picture that football players get away with not going to class and causing trouble, while getting things handed to them for simply being a football player. The problem with painting this image is that the general public’s idea of football players is changed and all the hard work that is done by scholar athletes around the country is overlooked and shadowed by this negative stereotype.
Another thing Blue Mountain State does is objectify women as well as showing college football players taking advantage of them. The New York Times writes, “No more gorgeous women who strip without even being asked! We want intellectual content.”( Genzlinger, N) Obviously from a heterosexual male point of view this does not bother me, but I can fully understand why it would bother many other people with a different back ground as mine. The way the show objectifies young women is wrong, and the way they portray college football players taking advantage of them is even worse. Throughout media the stereotype of football players taking advantage of young women rather it be rape or domestic abuse is becoming very popular. With this being said, shows such as Blue Mountain State are drastically hurting the image of football players all around the country.
The next example that portrays this popular culture stereotype is the movie Varsity Blues. This movie was released in 1999 and is currently on Netflix. This movie follows a football team that is based in Texas. The entire town worships the football team and the team can get away with anything other than doing something wrong in their coaches’ eyes. Their coach is very racist and has been for generations. Racism is still very prevalent within the south especially Texas so this movie helped shed light on racism within sports. Not to spoil the movie the team gathers together and helps tear down racism within the town and make their families proud of them. One of the key components that this movie portrays that adds onto the negative stereotype is the idea that football players can get away with whatever they want. After a big win for the football team throws a huge party. Somehow a few players were able to steal a police car and drive it around town while intoxicated. Eventually they ran into the police officers that they stole the car from and there was no punishment. This portrays that football players get away with anything and just compiles another negative viewpoint on the stereotype of football players. This is portrayed negatively throughout society because it’s human nature for the need of justice. With society seeing football players getting away with crime they instantly see football players as the bad guy and then want justice.
Another point or detail that Varsity Blues portrays throughout is the idea of being a tough man and not showing any emotion. One of their star offensive linemen got a concussion and was obviously very hurt. He could barely walk and had passed out a view times. The coach and teammates helped hide the concussion and pressured him to continue and play even though there was a high risk of becoming severely injured. Another occurrence of this throughout the movie is when their best player the quarterback has a season ending knee injury. This is because the coach would not let him sit out and just gave him pain pills. The quarterback was told by the coach that if he did not play he was weak. This happens throughout all levels of sports and is a true tragedy. A study was done by the NFL to see what percentage of football players felt pressured to play through injury. The study showed, “45.7 percent of NFL players said they had sustained one or more concussions, and 82.2 percent said they are concerned about the potential long-term effects of head injuries that could result from playing football.”(NFL players poll) The reason this number is so high is because of the idea that popular culture portrays of that you are weak if you do not play. Varsity Blues helps add to this negative idea that has been occurring for decades if not centuries.
The final example that popular culture used to portray the stereotype of football players is the movie Friday Night Lights. Throughout this movie another Texas high school football team is followed. The premise of the movie is being able to face adversity and persevere throughout it. The teams best player is injured and this is when the team is tested and has to face adversity. This personally is one of my favorite sporting movies in the fact that there are a lot of truths behind the story it shows. It shows society the struggle many athletes go through just to be part of a team and to be able to strive for greatness. The idea that this movies shows that I really enjoyed was how football can be taken away from you at any instant. The star football player has a season ending knee injury and the movie showed the adversity that young man faced. Unlike many other movies it helps portray time spent in the gym, on the field, and in the classroom that is required to be part of a football team and have the chance to be great.
There are some problems with the movie that help pile on negative views upon the stereotype of football players. One of these that seem to be reoccurring is the idea of objectifying woman. Woman seems to throw themselves at the football players and the football players treat them like objects. This is a similarity that has occurred throughout all of the examples used so far. This is very sad because it teaches young football players to objectify woman, and teaches young woman to throw themselves at men as objects. We can see this throughout everyday life and this will not stop happening until someone makes a stand against it and popular cultures stops portraying it. Another thing this movie portrays is a separation between football players and the rest of the student body. Popular culture seems to show that football players think they are better than the rest. This shows football players in a negative light therefore the rest of society see football players different. Athletes do not deserve to be put on a pedestal and they are no different than anyone else unlike this movie portrays it.
After analyzing the examples throughout this essay there were many things that caught me off guard and surprised me. I knew that after reading I would notice differences but after I soon realized that there are not many difference throughout all of these examples. It seems that popular culture likes to portray football players all in the same negative connotation. This stereotype occurs repeatedly throughout popular culture and portrays that jocks and more specifically football players, are loud, unintelligent, aggressive, people with no regard to their peers and the community around them. I think it is time that popular culture starts showing football players as the way they really are rather than an incorrect stereotype that is looked negatively by the rest of society.
Genzlinger, N. (2010, January 11). A Backup Sees Plenty of Action Off the Field.Retrieved February22, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/arts/television/12mountain.html?_r=0
NFL players poll: About half feel pressure to play with injuries. (2012, September 1). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/story/2012-08-31/nfl-players-poll-concussions-injuries-pressure-fear-for-safety
Friday night lights [Motion picture]. (2004). Universal.
Blue Mountain State [Motion picture]. (2010). Lions Gate Television.
Varsity blues [Motion picture]. (1999). Paramount Pictures.